Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Hospitality of Old Chief Pierpole

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Hospitality of Old Chief Pierpole

Article excerpt

EDDIE and I were sweet 16 the summer we called on Chief Pierpole. We were on our usual late summer hike to nowhere and were walking along Maine's Sandy River. The Sandy is a lovely stream, flowing out of the Sandy River Ponds and coming leisurely to join the bigger Kennebec River at Indian Old Point, where Father Sebastian Rasle held sway in his time. Eddie and I gathered in all the lore we could about the places we went, and now in the vicinity of Maine's town of Strong, we had heard of Chief Pierpole. His feats were prodigious and his reputation enormous. About 1801 he had pulled up his tepee stakes and gone to Canada because he didn't like the way people were moving in and crowding his serenity.

The town of Strong was named for Governor Caleb Strong of Massachusetts. In his first term, about the time Pierpole was going to Canada, Governor Strong had signed the order creating this new community up in Maine - the first official act of his office - even though he had no idea where Strong was.

At the time there were those who felt the place should be called Pierpole and not Strong, and it has been suggested that a second reason Pierpole moved along was his displeasure at being second-fiddle to a governor. As if to compensate for this, the good folks of Strong have always had their own version. Namely, that the town is named Strong not for the governor, but because that's the way Pierpole smelled. Somebody we met along our hike told us about Pierpole, so Eddie and I went looking for his one-time camping place.

It wasn't hard to find. As we came along the west bank, working upstream, we saw the place where a small brook weaves into the Sandy - just as the spot had been described to us. Our side had a steep bank and a swift current, whereas across the stream we saw a sandy beach and still water where the brook made in. It was appropriate, we felt, that a trout splashed for a fly in that still water, as if to welcome us and speak highly of Chief Pierpole's hospitality.

Eddie said, "What-d'-y-think?"

I said, "I think we're on the wrong side of Sandy River."

Eddie said, "So we have a choice - downstream or upstream, we need a place to wade. …

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