Tom Hennessey has combined a talent for art and the skills of an outdoor writer to create his own special place in Maine. In Leave Some For Seed, his newest book published by Islandport Press, he’s done it again, with wonderful stories and amazing drawings and paintings.
I treasure both of Tom’s previous books and eagerly awaited this new one when Islandport’s owner, Dean Lunt, told me about it. I actually grabbed one before the book was available to the public, because I couldn’t wait to read it.
Tom was the outdoor writer for the Bangor Daily News for many years. But before all of that, Tom Hennessey was a sportsman. Here’s how Tom describes it:
“If I were asked if I’d like to relive my life as a Maine sportsman, artist, and outdoors writer, my immediate answer would be, ‘Yes, but only if I could relive it with the same people, in the same places, and with the same dogs.’ The way I see it, I was blessed from the beginning. For starters, my birth certificate was stamped with the State of Maine seal. Then came the enviable distinction of being raised in South Brewer, with the Penobscot River’s Atlantic salmon, striped bass, smelt, and smallmouth bass fisheries at my front door and game-abundant covers at my back door, literally. Thus, long before I began shaving, I became addicted to the outdoors traditions cultures, and heritage that earned Maine its reputation as a sportsman’s paradise.”
Man, I could have written that! And wish I had. All I would have had to do was change the location to Winthrop. And while Tom’s mentor was his grandfather, Dunc MacDonald, mine was my Dad, Ezra Smith.
And this is what I most enjoyed about Tom’s book: his memories are my memories. While I found myself racing through the stories, I had to pause often when a special memory of my own would pop into my head. Tom’s first bird dog was a springer spaniel – my first dog was a springer. A coyote burst out of the brush and nearly ran Tom over – a coyote jumped out of the bushes and landed right on top of my turkey decoy.
Tom’s painting of two hunters and a bird dog in a field, a pheasant lifting out of the deep grass, one hunter with his gun lifted – brought back the memory of my very first pheasant, shot with our English setter pointing the bird, the pheasant rising out of the field, my shot, and Dad right beside me. Boy, I lingered over that story in this book for a long long time.
Leave Some For Seed is broken into three sections: Hunting, Fishing, and The Outdoor Life. And while there are many wonderful stories in each section, Tom also offers insights and advice throughout the book.
“I never thought, never imagined, I’d see anti-hunting activism in this state. ‘Course, we all know where it came from, and more of it is arriving every day. I was really fortunate to have been born and raised here when this state was truly and traditionally Maine. This state was a much better place fifty years ago. Much better,” he writes.
Or how about this: “What soured the chowder, though, was the so-called ‘Marketing of Maine’ and the attendant loss of public access to hunting land – not to mention lakes, ponds, and streams – which occurred in the early 1980s. Consequently, in a state where, historically, NO HUNTING and NO TRESPASSING signs were scarcer than woodcock in winter, such postings appeared almost overnight in fields and woodlands, statewide. Clearly, owing to changing times, unrestricted public access to privately owned land, which generations of Maine’s native stock sportsmen had quietly enjoyed and taken for granted, was fast disappearing.”
These thoughts reminded me of why I admired Tom’s Bangor Daily News columns so much: they combined wonderful stories with some serious truth telling. He always told it like it is. And still does. The chapter titled Climate Controversy is an important one, as Tom spells out very clearly all the things he’s experienced that demonstrate that the climate has already changed with great significance to sportsmen.
While Tom experienced the best of hunting and fishing in spectacular places outside of Maine, this book is all about Maine. “The outdoor memories I treasure most, and paint and write about most, were made here in Maine,” he says. “Of equal value, though, are the unbreakable bonds of friendship that were forged in hunting camps and fishing boats, not to mention the lessons in responsibility, discipline, and respect for elders that I learned first hand.”