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. <

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