It’s hard to get good directions. Last October, I was upcountry and asked a local where I might find some partridges (yeah, I know there are no partridges up there). But, ask about grouse, and you’re sure to be instantly labeled as “one of them highbrows from down country.”
Anyway, Alton, at the Lincoln Mobil Station, gave me very detailed directions as I pumped my own gas. “If it’s birds you’re lookin’ for, you wanna go to the Bent Culvert Road over to Loon Lake. Just take this here road ‘till it almost ends, then keep goin’ about two, two and a half miles.”
I was having some trouble following Alton’s directions, especially since I was so distracted by the Swisher Sweet Cigarillo he never removed from between his lips. He held it dead center in his mouth, and it bounced like a maestro’s baton during the “William Tell Overture”.
“Yessah, just about a quarter mile before you get to a wicked sharp right hand curve, you take a left on the Bent Culvert Road, then you go to the Y in the road, and take that left. Don’t take the right ‘cause that ain’t where the birds are. Good deer huntin’ out there, though. My uncle Royce shot a ten pointer out there in ’67—ain’t no birds though.”
After about five minutes, I was wondering how long that Cigarillo could burn, and how much brain damage does one suffer when his only fresh air is inhaled during sleeping hours. I thanked Alton, and off I went in search of the Y on the Bent Culvert Road.
Three hours later, I was back at the Lincoln Mobil Station with 120 more miles on my truck, no birds, and no clue about the location of the Bent Culvert Road. I explained that I had taken this road two and one quarter miles past where it almost ends and the only left, which was, indeed, a quarter mile before a sharp right curve, was marked with a sign that read Norton Trail Road.
Alton, sucking on a fresh Cigarillo, replied, “Yup, you found it. The state calls it Norton Trail Road, but that ain’t its real name. That’s the Bent Culvert Road. Any birds out there?”
I rubbed my face with my hand. “I don’t know.”
“You took the left at the Y didn’t ya? ‘Cause they ain’t no birds to the right, just an old culvert that was stove up by a loggin’ truck.”
“Yup, I took the left,” I lied. “Just no birds today. Maybe I’ll come back in November and go to the right to look for deer.”
Alton’s Cigarillo danced again as he offered more assistance. “Well, stop in then, and I’ll tell you how to get to Bald Archie’s Cutoff. It ain’t but three miles this side of the Five Corners on Lost Indian Trail.”
I could still see Alton’s Cigarillo bouncing and his flailing hands pointing out directions as I glanced in my rear view mirror and headed for home. I made a mental note to myself: Pick up new DeLorme and GPS.