Friday, September 19, 2014

Warden and trooper delight large crowd at Raymond Village Library at book signing - By Michelle Libby

To a full library, John Ford, Sr. and Mark Nickerson told stories about their careers in law enforcement in Maine. Both men are authors. Ford wrote Suddenly, the Cider Didn’t Taste So Good: Adventures of a Game Warden in Maine and The Cider Still Tastes Funny!: Further Adventures of a Game Warden in Maine. Nickerson wrote Blue Lights in the Night about his adventures as a Maine State Trooper in Northern Maine.

Library director Sally Holt introduced the pair as “These two are the rage of the State of Maine,” and she was right. From audience members 14 to 80, everyone had a smile on their face and laughed at the comedy of errors these two lived through. 

Ford grew up in Shapleigh in York County and knew from an early age that he wanted to be a Game Warden. He came from a long line of police officers and his mother was a wildlife rehabilitator meaning that he had unusual pets growing up. Like a skunk and a raccoon. 

He joined the Air Force to see the world and was surprised to be stationed in Topsham, 60 miles from home. He took the Warden’s test before he turned 21, when he could officially join up. He was excited about his second station in the Air Force, until he got the orders…Charleston Hill…just north of Bangor. When he got out of the Air Force, he was given $2.50 in travel pay. 
Nickerson’s grandparents lived eight doors down the road from Ford’s grandparents in Sanford. From the time he was 7 or 8 years old, he wanted to be a state trooper. “Back then, it was seven days a week, 24 hours a day. I never saw my dad growing up,” Nickerson said.

As soon as Ford turned 21, the Warden Service called him up and asked him “Are you single?” That was the first question they asked, he said. They offered him the Burnham district, a place where they hate Game Wardens. “It was the poaching capital of the state. I thought to Christ I’d won the Powerball,” Ford laughed. He thought it was going to be an exciting 20 years. “I really loved it. It was everything I’d dreamed of.” 

Ford’s father was the one who suggested he keep a diary of his day to day adventures. He was on duty in 1970 when snowmobiles came on the Maine scene, and then in 1971, he was introduced to Miranda Rights. He worked 110 to 120 hours a week for $78. 

“We actually did get training,” said Nickerson. In 1990 he retired from the State Police and ran for the high sheriff of Waldo County. Ford started visiting him there, since they had worked so closely together over the years. 

“He had an office,” Ford said. So that is where they told their “war” stories. The first story Nickerson wrote was about a middle aged driver who had been driving while drinking. “He’s what we call a keepa,” Nickerson said. The man was shown the front seat of the cruiser. At one point the man asked to borrow the Vicks Nickerson was using for a head cold. He said “sure” and the man proceeded to smear Vicks on Nickerson’s uniform from knee to shoulder. Nickerson said he went after the man, breaking the seat, knocking the guy’s glasses off and landing on Ford who was sitting in the back seat. 

“I had to take him to jail and I hate taking people to jail,” Nickerson said. The man kept saying “I think you’ve hurt me. I can’t’ see a thing.” Ford was snickering in the backseat. 

Nickerson was beginning to get nervous. The man couldn’t see and then at the jail he ran into a wall. He turned on Ford to find out what was so funny. 
“I smeared Vicks all over his glasses.” 

“It went by just as fast as my father said it would. We had a ball working together,” Ford said of his career and Nickerson.

Law enforcement and their training they are required to take has changed dramatically over the years. “Maybe it’s people like me who are responsible for all the training they have to do,” Ford admitted.
The night was entertaining and it is recommended that when Ford and Nickerson are speaking don’t miss the show.

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