A Review Of Hardscrabble Lodge in Journal Tribune - by Pat Davidson Reef

Hardscrabble Lodge True Maine Bush flying Stories by Jake Morrel | Published by Maine author’s Publishing 2019

This is a refreshing memoir about the northern Maine woods. It is about a couple who dared to follow their dreams. Jake Morrel was a rebel in school but liked math and graduated from the University of Maryland in their engineering program. Jake was not your average 9- to- 5 executive. ”After working for DuPont for three years it was clear engineering was the wrong choice,” said  Jake in his book. He had to search for something else.

So, he and his wife Beth decided to apply for teaching jobs in private schools. Beth had gone to the Maryland Institute of Art. She applied to schools to teach art and Jake applied to teach math and physics.

The Hinckley School in Maine accepted him. They moved there and enjoyed their experienced at Hinckley. One day a maintenance man at Hinckley, who had a passion for flying, arranged for Jake to take a ride in a small old Taylorcraft BC 12D, a  65 horsepower side- by- side tail dragger plane. He loved it.

Flying became his calling and he  decided to take lessons. After five years at Hinckley, and receiving a license in flying, he moved his wife and two children to Greenville,Maine, the seaplane center of Maine. As a licensed pilot, he got a job with Dick Folsom, who operated a bush pilot company called Folsom Air Service.

Each chapter tells of the adventures he had flying to isolated places in Maine to help save people. Sometimes his engine would stop and he would have to glide into places on the water. By the fall of 1979 he was working as a commercial floatplane pilot in northern, Maine and loved the wilderness.

In the early 1980’s, Jake and his wife decided to build a rustic camp with a series of cabins to be rented out for people who wanted to go back to nature, fish, and hunt. There is a small industry like that today in northern Maine but not well known in the 1980’s when Jake and his wife Beth decided to build their own hunting and fishing camp which they called “Hardscrabble Lodge.”

The next chapters describe the obstacles they me building their dream lodge and cabins in the wilderness. For example: no passable roads, difficulties in cutting lumber and getting trucks through to the location, building large stone fireplaces for heating, and  connecting with people who were looking for a rustic hunting and fishing lodges in the wilderness, were obstacles they had to overcome. In addition, they had to fly in food, medical supplies, water and suitable clothes for weather changes. Natural disasters like, bug infestation in the spring, black flies, caterpillar invasions, and wild animal attacks were some more obstacles they overcame.

For example, Jake’s wife Beth heard strange noises in a shed one day. She went to investigate and found a wild bobcat holding the family pet cat, Krispy, in his mouth. She grabbed a broom and attacked the wild bobcat immediately, who  dropped Krispy and ran. Jake said in his book,”We talked many times about the fact that the bobcat could have killed Beth as easily as a deer. I can only assume that Beth put the fear of God into that animal!! So don’t mess with Beth!”  Every story is heart warming. It is about mankind conquering nature without modern conveniences. These are back to nature stories that are inspiring.

When they retired, they became part-time caretakers of an island camp and Jake was encouraged by the owners of the camp to write about his experiences. The title of the book, ”Hardscrabble Lodge, True Maine Bush flying Stories,”  might indicate there are more short stories to come. I hope so. The topic would be an exciting series.

These are genuine stories of real experiences in the northern Maine woods. They represent real people who had the courage to follow their dreams. It is an authentic account of northern Maine culture unspoiled by modern conveniences and advertising billboards. It is about the adventures of a man and family who lived these experiences, right here in Maine. It is well written with a dash of humor, colorful language, and depicts reality with its strengths and weaknesses but most of all its great beauty. It also has an extensive glossary explaining sportsman terms, plane vocabulary, and Maine forest terms.

In addition, the book has a wonderful selection of photographs of the old 1941 Taylorcraft plane he learned on, and many photos in color of camp sites and activities surrounded by the natural beauty of Maine.  I loved the book and found it refreshing and uplifting. It gave me new energy. I recommend it highly.

— Pat Davidson Reef is a graduate of Emerson College in Boston. She received her Masters Degree at the University of Southern Maine.She taught English and Art History at Catherine McAuley High for many years.She now teaches at the University of Southern Maine in Portland in the  Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Classic Films. She recently wrote a children’s book,”Dahlov Ipcar Artist, and is now writing another children’s book “Bernard Langlais Revisited.”

Original Publication: https://www.journaltribune.com/articles/ae/the-book-corner-23/