By V. Paul Reynolds
Maine’s rich and colorful outdoor heritage has, over the years, produced a parade of prominent and not-so-prominent personalities, all helping shape and imprint this memorable and lasting legacy. Greenville bush pilot Dick Folsom was a man who left his mark in the annals of Maine’s outdoor history.
After serving during World War II in the Army Air Force as an aviation mechanic, Folsom returned to his native Greenville, borrowed some money and started his own back-country flying business. His timing could not have been better. Maine’s north woods were still relatively remote, game was abundant, and people were eager to start enjoying life again after years of stress and privation. Folsom’s flying service flourished from flying fisherman, campers and hunters into remote sporting camps. In fact, Folsom’s flying service eventually became the largest seaplane operation in the eastern United States. Among bush flyers, Folsom become known nationwide, including in Alaska, where bush flying is a way of life.
So it is fitting that Jake Morrel, a former bush flyer who worked for Folsom and became his friend, decided to get Folsom’s recollections in book form before it was too late. According to Morrel, he convinced Folsom to sit down with a tape recorder and share his memories of treetop flying in the Maine north woods for 50 years or more.
Logic dictates you don’t make a living bush flying Maine without some tales to tell. Folsom had more than his share. Morrel’s new book is called “Dick Folsom: Bush Pilot, A Legend Reflects.”
Some of the chapter titles hint at what’s in store for readers of this book — My Own Close Calls, Airplane Crashes, Woods Hermits I’ve Known and Early Planes on Moosehead Lake.
Folsom put a number of float planes into the treetops over his career and walked away from them all. In one crash, he was taken to the emergency room after he rescued his passenger from a crash by lowering them to the ground on a rope. With his clothes gas-soaked from the crash and burning his skin, Folsom got impatient with the admittance nurse who was cross-examining him on his medical insurance. Morrel says Folsom stripped down naked right in the lobby. “That sped up the admittance process,” he quips.
Folsom also recounts the story about a low-time float pilot, who took off from the Folsom base in a Cessna floatplane on a beautiful bluebird day never to be seen again. “God, he never came back!” exclaimed Folsom. “We don’t know where he is. We looked for a week. Some people thought he ran off with the plane, but I don’t think so. He may have sunk in Fitzgerald Pond. They got things to locate today; that could find it. We ought to try that (the airplane) sometime,” said Folsom.
The great thing about this book is that it is a nearly a verbatim record of what Folsom actually said in response to Morrel’s excellent interview with the iconic Maine bush pilot. Included with the book purchase is a CD recording of all the interviews. The book is available through Amazon or directly from the author. His telephone number is 207-462-8191.
The book is not only informative and entertaining but also serves as a valuable historical record of an important era in Maine’s outdoor legacy. It may be a cliché, but it applies — people have stories to tell, and if we don’t somehow capture those stories, they die with the people who lived them.
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com.