Rowell moved from Rutland to Wilmington after being assigned to the area as a fish and game warden in 1957. While Rowell says every day on the job had the possibility of being an adventure, it was fun recounting stories for Price, knowing they would be put to use in her book. “I’m a stickler for facts but I’m not an author,” said Rowell. “So I told her the stories and she wrote the book and made them interesting and enhanced them.”
One of Rowell’s stories takes place in Woodford and tells of a run-in with some tricky beavers wrecking havoc at an old water-powered sawmill, while the other, another struggle with a pack of beavers, occurred farther north on a logging road in Glastonbury.
Rowell’s stories are just two of the 22 stories featured in Price’s latest installment, and, to Price, documenting the work of Vermont’s wardens is important. “I think it’s important to save these stories, I think we all owe them,” said Price. “If you like wildlife like I do, you can appreciate what these guys did. They’re quiet heroes living among us, they’re everybody’s neighbor, and they didn’t get rich doing this hard job, but without them, we wouldn’t have the wildlife we have now.”
Price began collecting stories for the series when she worked with Warden Eric Nuse, the warden featured in volume one of the series, putting together an outdoor program for women in Vermont. As Price heard the wardens involved with the project telling their stories, she found their stories had both comedic value, and a rural, gritty truth that Vermonters could all relate to. Someone had to write these stories down, and Price felt inspired by her own fascination. “It’s a big deal in a small way,” said Price. “My goal is to promote these guys, what they did, and the Vermont that I love. It’s the rugged outdoors with no cell phone in your pocket, no radio, and you deal with it or you can get killed.”
Price was born and raised in Vermont, and was an award-winning journalist for many years before being elected to three terms in the Vermont House of Representatives. In her books, she uses a specific formula of humor and first person narrative that she likens to a warden talking to you around a campfire. “Each story is a combination of outdoors Vermont action and adventure, featuring real people, wildlife, and locations.”
Price also says that these stories aren’t stories about hunters chasing 20-point bucks to stuff and hang on their wall, but rather the unpredictable side of Vermont’s nature, and those tasked with protecting it. So far the books have been a Vermont best-seller, topping the list at Bartleby’s Books in Wilmington, as well as Middlebury’s Vermont Book Shop. Price says the book is one that children read front to back, as if it was “Harry Potter,” older folks read to remind them of the simpler Vermont they knew, and men in camo and mud boots, who don’t typically browse the bookshelves, can climb out of their trucks to buy.
About a quarter of the book celebrates the stories of legendary Northeast Kingdom Warden Red Hooper. Price says every warden she meets has a story about him. Hooper thought deer to be sacred, and would go as far as to shoot out the tires of the poachers he chased, or sleep in his truck in between protecting wildlife.
For Price, writing the stories of Vermont’s wardens is not easy, with some stories being half a century old. She sifts through a story until she finds something she can do justice to. That is her main goal. “I’ve been a writer all my life, and wardens aren’t writers, so it works if someone writes their stories, but it’s still not easy. It takes a while to put a story together.”
Some wardens are directly responsible for saving species in the area, and for Price, writing these stories helps her share her appreciation for their work, work that can resonate for all ages. “Unless they do the work to protect the wildlife and make the game fair, it won’t work. Somebody’s got to be on the front lines, and these guys were the front line.”
“Vermont Wild: Volume Three” is in stores now.