Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Before the memory fades: Windham’s smallest Biggest Buck of 1957

By Walter Lunt

This story comes to us from a trusted eyewitness to an event that occurred 65 years ago this month at the height of Maine’s deer hunting season, November 1957. It seems a local resident, well-known to all around Windham as a good guy and an affable school bus driver, walked into the side entrance of H.H. Boody’s general store in North Windham and headed straight for the proprietor, Pete Philpot. For purposes of our story, we’ll name this customer Mr. Hunter.

Many of the antiques displayed at the
Windham Historical Society's Village
Green museums bring stories with them.
This old platform scale, once used to break
down bulk weight items like flour and
molasses, is exhibited at the Old Grocery
Museum and is likely the same one
referred to in this story.
Philpot recognized the man who approached him as a regular customer. On this day he was wearing a hunting jacket; a knife tucked into a brown, leather sheath hung from his belt.

The two exchanged friendly greetings, then Mr. Hunter got right to the point: “I just bagged a 10-point buck – she’s a big one and I need to weigh her out.” He went on to explain that none of the local tagging stations had weigh scales, but he remembered that Philpot’s store still had a set of old-fashioned industrial scales. Could he use them to weigh his deer?

Philpot confirmed that he still had the scales, though seldom used, in a back room of the 80-foot-long general store that stood on the corner of Roosevelt Trail (Route 302) and Tanberg Trail (Route 115 ) – now occupied by the Bangor Savings Bank and Cross Insurance building).

Hunter said he was certain the deer would top 200 pounds, thus qualifying him for membership in the prestigious Biggest Bucks Club of Maine, an elite group of deer hunters readily identified by a bright red and orange arm-patch on their hunting jacket.

Minutes later, Hunter and three of his hunting buddies carried the big white-tail through the large side doors, holding the carcass well off the floor as they proceeded through the retail space towards the rear of the store. “She’s a heavy, heavy one,” said Hunter, “…and we didn’t want to mess up your floors during store hours.”

Philpot, a former meat-cutter, looked askance at the large deer and exclaimed, “Hate to disagree with ya’ friend, but I’d say it don’t go much more’n 175 pounds.”

Hunter stiffened, as if the words had somehow produced an electric shock. “Oh no sir, she’s more than 200 pounds, for sure.”

Philpot, still with a look of skepticism, helped lift the carcass onto the old platform scales. He then adjusted the counterweights until the exact weight revealed “…a minute over 175.” He shot Hunter a knowing look.

Hunter, known generally as a calm, even-tempered man suddenly changed his voice tone, declaring, “No, no, that ain’t right! Can’t be! Somethin’s wrong here.” He pointed at the deer’s legs and hooves which rested on the floor. “Let’s get ‘im off the floor. That’s robbin’ some of the weight.”

Philpot obliged by securing two 2x4’s that he placed cross-wise on the scale’s platform. The deer was lifted back onto the scales and the new weight determined (minus the weight of the 2x4’s). “Well,” said Philpot, “looks to be about…almost 179 pounds.”

Hunter, now noticeably more aggravated, proclaimed in a stern voice, “Those old scales ain’t accurate. They been checked (certified) lately?”

“No, not lately,” replied Philpot, “but I can vouch for ‘em. We’ve never had a problem with them. And anyway, they couldn’t be off THAT much!”

Hunter, now nearly shouting, produced a new argument: “You gotta allow for the innards. This deer’s been field dressed (removal of entrails, stomach, organs, etc.) so you got to add at least 15 percent, that’s what the old-timers do.”

“Well, I don’t think so,” responded Philpot, “now you know, as well as the rest of us, what counts is field dressed weight, NOT live weight.”

The three other hunters (and the young witness to this story) fell completely silent as Hunter and Philpot argued the state’s game laws.

Finally, an exasperated Philpot insisted that Hunter pay a fee for the use of the scales (and his time and patience).

That ended it. Hunter’s anger turned to near rage, whereupon he wrapped one arm around the deer’s neck and grasping an antler with the other, alone, lifted the animal from the scales, proceeded to tow the carcass out of the storage area, hind quarters dragging along the floor, right through the clothing and dry goods retail space and out the side entrance to his truck.

Thus, ended it all: the need for four men to carry the buck, consideration for clean retail floors and Hunter’s entry into the Maine Biggest Bucks Club. <

Friday, November 18, 2022

WCA students host special recognition breakfast for veterans

Freedom makes a huge requirement of American citizens and following a special Veterans Day event at Windham Christian Academy, students are now aware that we all have a responsibility to recognize the sacrifice of veterans on our behalf.

First- and Second-Grade students at Windham Christian
Academy held a breakfast for veterans on Tuesday, Nov. 8
to thank them for their service and to learn more about their
military careers. The students were involved in every aspect
of the event and were able to connect it to their classroom
activities. SUBMITTED PHOTO 
Students in first and second grade at Windham Christian Academy staged a special breakfast for area veterans on Tuesday, Nov. 8 and teachers say they were involved in every aspect of the event.

WCA Second Grade Teacher Lynn Dodd conceived the idea for the breakfast and collaborated with WCS First Grade Teacher Natalie Edmiston in making it a memorable activity for students and veterans alike.

Dodd’s husband was a Vietnam veteran and said she saw first-hand the effects that life outside of the military had upon him.

“We need to make sure children understand what our veterans have done for us and learn to honor them,” Dodd said.

Students began planning for the event by interviewing a local veteran and asking them questions about their military service.

The questions ranged from what the veterans liked the most and the least about their time in the military, as well as what qualities they felt a person needed to be a good soldier.

Their answers included travel as something soldiers liked the best and time away from their family as what they liked the least. They responded that the qualities required to be a good soldier are integrity, teamwork, and having a sense of humor.

The students then compiled a guest list of area veterans to invite to the breakfast, assisted in creating and planning the breakfast menu, lining up volunteers for the event and creating decorations for the breakfast. The planning activities also connected to schoolwork and lessons.

“There was a lot of math happening on the board as we were planning how many tables we needed to set up,” Dodd said.

On the day of the event, students waited patiently for their guests to arrive so they could bring them to get a cup of coffee and escort them to their table.

Not only were each of the veterans treated to breakfast, but the students shared a poem with those in attendance and they also sang each of the service songs for the different branches of the military while inviting the veterans to stand and be recognized while their service song was performed.

The event ended with each veteran who participated receiving a homemade gift from the students thanking them again for their time spent serving our country. <

Friday, November 4, 2022

Before the memory fades: The hauntings on River Road

By Walter Lunt

Ian Dixon was driving home from Westbrook on River Road headed for Raymond. Having just passed the intersection at Anderson Road and approaching the entrance to Smith-Anderson Cemetery, he spotted a blurred figure a short distance ahead crossing the road from right to left toward the cemetery. Dixon slammed on his brakes and lurched forward as the car came to a quick stop.

Some people driving on River Road in Windham tell
hair-raising tales of mysterious encounters.
“It appeared to be that of a young boy, but I couldn’t be sure. I looked for him after I stopped, but just like that, he vanished – suddenly in front of me, and then gone. Its features were grayish and blurred, and you could almost see right through it. Almost unreal. I drove on, and during the whole trip home I tried to process what I saw – not an animal, a child I think – suddenly in my vision, then out of my vision. When I think about that night it comes back more like a strange feeling than (as) a memory. I just can’t rationalize what I saw.”

Unlike others who have claimed eerie sightings on the old settlement end of River Road between Mallison Falls Road and the Westbrook boundary line, Dixon has told his story to family, friends, acquaintances, and anyone interested enough to listen.

His strange encounter may not be an unusual occurrence. Others, who prefer to remain anonymous, have reported seeing disquieting shapes and figures during night-drives on River Road in the vicinity of the ancient Smith-Anderson burial ground, the resting place of many of Windham’s earliest settlers – the town’s founding families from 1737 on. The stories describe various shadowy forms, apparitions, specters, all ghost-like in appearance with indistinguishable faces. Some were said to have been semi-transparent, dressed in flowing white garb.

The Smith-Anderson Cemetery, usually referred to as just the Anderson Cemetery, has long been the site and the subject of paranormal activity. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of visitors have reported haunted happenings of every kind imaginable: orbs, small spheres of lights hovering about the headstones, undead figures lurking in woods just beyond the cemetery grounds, male voices speaking in low tones, strange knocking sounds emanating from the Anderson crypt and cars that were moved from their original parking spot. Paranormal groups regularly investigate the site and describe it as “the most haunted cemetery in the state.”

In October 2022, a South Windham woman who prefers not to be identified and who says she is “fully convinced River Road is haunted,” shared with the writer what is probably the most recent roadside encounter with an apparition.

She said it was a clear night just two or three years ago; she was returning home on River Road with her boyfriend. As they neared the Anderson Road intersection there appeared the figure of a woman wearing a silky, white garment below a featureless face that seemed to stare straight into the oncoming headlights.

“You could see right through her; it was frightening – I had goosebumps all over. When I recovered, I asked my boyfriend, ‘Did you see that?’” He responded with an unprintable remark and told her to just keep driving. The woman says her boyfriend has since refused to discuss the event.

These stories, and many others like them, have been told since time immemorable. Their veracity is matter of faith. Dixon is a skeptic but maintains an open mind. The South Windham woman is a firm believer.

The writer knows both individuals and can attest they are both stable and clear-thinking individuals.

Skeptics will cite the lack of witnesses, or that the mysterious figures could have been mistaken for something else. Perhaps, but the stories are sure fun to tell.

Here’s hoping our readers had a happy and believable Halloween. <