Veterans, House in the Woods, and a Camp on a Lake

About six years ago George and Terry Gallagher drove to Lee and knocked on a door. That knock helped improve many lives.

The Gallaghers were looking for someone to share their beautiful camp on Upper Sysladobsis (Dobsis) lake in Lakeville Plantation. They were specifically hoping to open their camp and hearts to veterans. At House In The Woods in Lee, Paul and Dee House needed a location to host veterans and their families. You can read more about the Houses and House in the Woods on their website. George Gallagher read an article in the paper about House in the Woods and before long he and Terry, along with friends Mimi and Joe Baker, were at the door step. “God had his hand in it all,” Paul house told me.

Steve, my husband, called me late Friday morning to tell me he’d been talking to Peter Shay, owner of Molunkus Stream Camps in Molunkus. “Peter told me he has veterans on a bird hunt up to camp.”

I have a soft spot for veterans. There are a lot of them in my family. My Dad, brother, uncle, grandfather, great grandfather, great uncles, great great grandfather…a lot of vets in my family.  Crashing parties isn’t my thing. Really, it’s not. But they’re veterans. They deserve recognition. “Do you think I could drive over and write a story?”

Peter didn’t think they’d mind. “They’d probably like that,” he said. They were with Paul House. I knew of Paul only by name but I’d heard a lot of great things about him so I stopped splitting firewood, grabbed pen, paper and camera, and headed toward Molunkus. With a little more than an hour to think about it, I started wondering what I’d been thinking. Strangers. All of them. What was I thinking going in unannounced and uninvited to say “Hey, my name is Robin and can I write a story about you?”

Partridge, ruffed grouse

(file photo)

As I arrived at camp Dan Armiger, a Registered Maine Guide and owner of Armiger’s Guide Service, LLC was leaving with two veterans and three dogs. After a quick introduction Dan led me to Paul. And after another quick introduction Paul told me their bird hunt was over and they were on their way to George’s camp on Dobsis. He asked if I knew where that is, and yes, I do. George’s camp is two doors down from ours. Mimi and Joe Baker’s camp is in between. Small world. Paul graciously invited me to have supper with them if I had time.

George Gallagher had appetizers and supper waiting. I heard many times what a good cook George is and how well he takes care of everyone. George is a modest man. He doesn’t say much when the compliments on his accommodations and cooking roll in. He says he has a couple more years of hosting and cooking in him still, “God willing.”

“It’s a lot of working standing on their feet all day,” Paul said of George and Terry. I sat down to supper with George, Paul, Ted Clark, a Maine Guide who helped with the hunt, TJ Emerson and his father Jim Emerson, and Andrew Quinn. Dan was headed home with his yellow lab, Brittany spaniel and vizsla dogs. Gracious people to have invited a stranger to their last supper together before heading home. Ted’s German shorthaired pointer pup curled up on the ottoman for a nap after a long day of bird hunting.

Paul told me about losing his son, Sgt Joel House, and what being with other families going through the same experience meant to him. He now offers a similar experience to veterans and their families and Gold Star families, giving them the opportunity to spend time outdoors with people who have similar situations, at no cost. “There are a lot of good people who help and volunteer. They make donations and hold fundraisers. It all comes together. God provides money when it’s needed.”

Paul is grateful to a number of people who help make House in the Woods possible. Jerry James sets up a bird hunt in Oxbow. Everyone gets together on Sunday and they hunt from Monday through Thursday. People donate money, time, guiding, accommodations, lobster, and more to these hunts. When there are back to back weeks of hunting the veterans and family members have a meal together on Sunday as some prepare to leave and others are arriving. There are sometimes 15 to 20 veterans together.

Peter SeeHusen organizes hunts. He knows farmers who can use some help keeping the populations under control to protect their crops.

TJ and Jim Emerson hosted a spring turkey hunt in Corinna. One veteran shot both of his turkeys in one shot! This was the fourth year for this hunt. There have been hunts in Corinna, Harmony, Unity and Newport. After the hunt in Newport there was a supper at the Legion Hall so well attended they ate six turkeys, and they weren’t small, wild turkeys. Doug McDonald organized a cookout after the Harmony hunt.

It takes a lot of of work to put this all together. We talked about just a handful of the people who make this possible. There are bear hunts with 18 to 20 people participating between two weeks. And there are bobcat hunts (more about this at the end). Two veterans tagged two bobcats in a three day hunt. There are hunts for women as well as men.

This bird hunt is now an annual event. They were looking for partridge, woodcock, and if one happened to show up, turkey. They hunted on public land on Wednesday and Thursday and at Molunkus Stream Camps on Friday.

Andrew Quinn started with a turkey hunt. He shot more partridge on Friday than anyone else. “Shooting a bird was a bonus. Everyone involved is wonderful. They’re knowledgeable so they improve the quality of the hunt,” Andrew told me. He’s there mostly for the camaraderie. He’s not a talker until he’s spent time with other veterans. They understand at least some of what he experienced at war. When he started talking I put my pen down and listened. It’s hard to imagine. I can picture it as though it were a movie on television but that’s not comparable to being there. Andrew is so kind, honest and well spoken that I wanted to say “tell me your story.” I think I want to know but one, that’s a lot to ask, and two, I’m not sure I really do want to know. What he shared with me gave me a greater appreciation for veterans and made me think back to when my brother was in Kabul. I’m grateful that people like Andrew, Tj and Jim have places to come together to share camaraderie.

As you’ve read and probably already knew, these opportunities happen because of the generosity of people. House in the Woods can use a few things. Money. Donations are always accepted and hugely appreciated. They are truly a non-profit, not just a legal non-profit. Time. Is there some way you can pitch in to help in the area of Lee? A bit of driving is just fine. (Penobscot County, outside of Lincoln.) And, an affordable bobcat hunt. If you have a camp or run dogs or do anything related to bobcat hunting and are inclined, please let us know. You can get in touch with Paul and Dee House here.

Robin Follette

About Robin Follette

Maine Press Association award winner, 2013. Robin's Outdoors, Bangor Daily News, third place in Sports blogs. I grew up with a fishing pole in my hand and have always loved the outdoors. From gardening to hunting and fishing, kayaking, camping, hiking and foraging, most of my time is spent outdoors. I teach outdoor skills as a volunteer instructor for Hooked On Fishing - Not On Drugs and Becoming an Outdoors-Woman. Pro-staff at The Limb Grip. My personal blog is here. I'm currently working on my first book, a collection of short stories based on my outdoors experiences.