"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Monday, June 29, 2009

Riding Along

The members of the House of Representatives Fish & Game & Marine Resources Committee have the opportunity to sign up for a ride-along with a Conservation Officer (C.O.) in their area. The C.O. duties include being game warden, conducting law enforcement, responding to emergency calls, stocking the waters with fish, search and rescue, handling inquiries from the public, education and trainings. And more.

Today was my ride-along day. At 9 a.m. in the pouring rain I met my C.O. and climbed into big his green F&G truck with the F&G logo on the door.

First order of business was checking his pager and messages. There was information about dead deer carcasses along the highway from auto collisions. It was the morning after a local NASCAR race and the traffic--mostly RV's--was heavy along route 4 as went went to find and collect the first deer.

We didn't find it. Somebody else got there first and hauled it away.

So off we went to Rt. 106 north, practically to the gates of the Speedway (from the traffic you'd think the race had finished up this morning instead of yesterday afternoon!). No sign of a dead deer there, either. Here's the C.O. heading back to the truck.

I felt sort of relieved and sort of disappointed. Watching him load a wet dead deer into the back of the pickup and dump it somewhere would have been kind of cool and kind of gross. I'm one of those people who averts her head when she sees road kill, it really depresses me. So I guess I was more relieved than not.

We made our way to a more rural part of his territory with lots of lakes and streams where he could check fishing licences.

Despite the rainy weather, we did find some fishermen. The C.O. examined their licences, asked about their catch and made sure they didn't have more than the limit. It was so interesting watching him interact with folks. He was very friendly and personable and respectful. But the officer is armed, and has the authority to exact fines and write up complaints and stuff, so nobody gave him any grief. Some people were more talkative than others. I sure learned a lot about good fishing spots!

We went places other people aren't supposed to go!

A very pretty brook in one of the state parks.

At one state park we had a long conversation with the park director about Canada geese. The geese had young, and became really aggressive with people on the beach in recent days. While we were on the scene, there weren't any geese around. I guess they wanted to get out of the rain.

At the same park we were walking the shoreline looking for fishermen when we found a different fish-eater, this great blue heron. It was at the waterside but then walked inland as we approached.

And it kept walking into the woods.

I got pretty close.

It's looking towards the lake.

We think there might have been a nest site nearby and it was trying to draw us away.

On every body of water we saw a heron today, including right beside the roaring outflow from a dam. They are wonderful birds.

One of our last stops was my own little lake. The C.O. wasn't really familiar with it. The regular fishermen were there, close enough to the shore that he waved them in for a licence check.

I gave him a tour of our shoreline. I think he liked it here, asked if any summer cottages were for sale. Not at the moment, as far as I know.

The last stop was to check out a brush fire we spotted from the highway. On Friday there was a really bad rain and wind storm--in almost exactly the same location as the terrible tornado of last summer. I did hear the notorous "freight train" sound here at the Lodge and my power went out for a few hours. On the news that night we found out the massive damage done in the next town. Giant trees knocked down, leaves sheared from the trees by hailstones. The property where people burned brush today had some of the worst damage--I'd seen that house and the toppled trees on the television, I recognised it as soon as we drove down the driveway. The fallen trees hadn't hit the house or cars but the place was a real mess. They were burning some of the wood.

We covered a lot of ground. We didn't have any dead deer to handle. The fishing community, I now know, is undeterred by rain. But lately all it ever does is rain in NH. So if we waited for sunshine to go outside and do stuff, we never would.

It was a great ride-along, exceeding my highest expectations. I was invited to come back on a more "normal" day. Does that mean a dead deer day? The scanner was pretty quiet, even I could tell that. The C.O. also does stake outs at night to catch poachers and intercept other illict activity. I'm not sure I'd sign up for night detail (I had to sign a waiver releasing F&G from responsibility if anything happened to me. And the night work sounds more dangerous.) But I'd definitely do another daytime ride-along!

I had a lot of respect for the C.O.'s before this experience, and now it's increased. I couldn't have asked for a more informative, pleasant, or experienced guide.

I'm drained tonight, though. I enjoyed the walking we did but didn't have a lot of stamina due to this stupid cold. I haven't been able to shake it off because I have been so busy--yesterday was just insane, I was zipping across the state from one church to another. The rest of the week will be less hectic.

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