John Ford, Sr. dedicated 20 years of his life to the protection and preservation of our natural resources.
John began his career in September of 1970, serving the State of Maine as a District Game Warden assigned to the central Maine county of Waldo, in an area known as the Burnham, Unity district. Burnham was located in northern Waldo County.
In those days there were no schooling required in advance prior to a new warden being turned loose on a wary public. The hours were long, and the responsibilities many.
District wardens were expected to cover all complaints within their district, 24 hours a day, 6 days a week, with 2 days off at the end. There were no possibilities of over time pay, nor did the wardens of that era ask for or expect it. The pay was a mere $78 a week, but the benefits over the long haul were quite intriguing to a young man looking for a new career. Especially one with good health benefits and a twenty year retirement.
The warden John replaced was quickly transferred away from the area after his wife and daughter found themselves under seige by gun shooting thugs who blasted the windows out of their small but quaint little wardens camp they called home in the middle of the night, as the warden was working far away.
The Fish and Game Department was looking for someone single to move into this rather ruthless area of the state. An area that was highly noted for its great abundance of deer and, more so, its poaching. Law Enforcement was not a popular position or career positively looked upon by those who lived in the region and those who considered deer poaching as a way of life. In some cases, illegal as it was, it was simply a matter of a families survival. The times were very different in those earlier days of the young wardens career. The welfare benefits of today were nearly nonexistent, and what programs were, most folks were too embarrassed to participate in.
The challenges facing a rookie warden moving into a hostile area were many, but it was a career that John proudly served until his retirement in June of 1990. Thankfully and very wisely, John kept daily diairies of many of his patrol episodes, trying to recall the humorous and rather intersting events he encountered on a daily basis while trying to forget the many tragedies he would encounter during those twenty years he served the people in his district.
Upon his retirement, John was elected as Waldo County’s High Sheriff, serving the county as its Chief Law Enforcement officer. It seemed only natural that John would pursue a law enforcement career, seeing that his entire family had been involved in the profession for years.
John’s grandfather was a Maine State Trooper in Southern Maine during the late 1930′s through to 1954. His dad was a part time Deputy for the York County Sheriff’s Office and his step father, Vernon Walker, was a Maine Game Warden serving the York County area.
John’s mother was a wildlife rehabilitator for the Fish and Game Department. So it was only natural that John pursue a career along the same profession that he had grown up in.
As a district game warden, John studied and closely observed the animals that he enjoyed. As a hobby he ended up drawing and painting many of them. His love of the outdoors and the many wild creatures he encountered became the main focus for his artwork.
Sketching his objects first in colored pencils and then highlighting their features with pen and ink allowed him to produce a variety of wildlife scenes. John spent countless hours studying the very wildlife that he attempted to portray.
For example, The wild turkey depicted in his print has had a special meaning in John’s career. In the early 1980s, the state wildlife division decided to introduce this newest game bird to the Waldo County area, with the hopes that they would establish themselves. Late one spring, along with other wardens and biologists, John assisted in releasing a flock of 32 wild turkeys on a tract of remote farmland in the town of Waldo. These efforts were highly successful.
Today, large numbers of wild turkeys can be found throughout the entire region. The success of this questionable project now allows for a controlled spring and fall hunting season.
John is reminded of a location on the top of the nearby Frye Mountain Wildlife Management Area, as he sketched this scene.
John’s art has been produced and sold nationally in the form of the Sportsman’s Wildlife Calendar, which he produced for several years. These popular calendars were a big hit with many of the sporting enthusiasts that he served. He hopes his work will inspire those who enjoy the countryside to value the precious wildlife that inhabits the world around them.