Headed home in the morning


HAILING YOU FROM MAINE, and that’s all the Maine there is. In the morning I’m headed south to Little Rhody. I’ve done the task assigned by the bride: Drove up here to fetch her mom, took her to Rhode Island for a few days, took her back up here, now it’s time to go home and get back to work.

On this second stay in Maine I moved my camp off the east bank of the Stillwater and set up on an island in the river.

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Much more private on the island, I find.



I snowshoed over, had a look around, decided to stay. This is the far side where everything’s starting to thaw. Pretty soon it won’t be possible to walk on water until the winter of 2015-16.

I’m goofing off, but the emails know where to find me. This morning I heard from “JH,” an overseas reader of Lee Falk’s Phantom, the comic strip I write for King Features Syndicate in New York. This fellow hails me once or twice a year, with criticism he’s thought about, so I give it due consideration. He’s not one of these clubby internet trolls who takes cheap shots at you every morning, playing the class clown to impress his fellows.

JH wants to know when Kit and Heloise Walker, the Phantom’s twins born in 1978, are finally going to start looking like teenagers instead of 12-year-olds. (Ah, that comics universe time warp!) I smiled to see JH’s comments hit the inbox today, out of the blue, because the daily artist, the editor and I had this very discussion only recently. Big changes are coming for Kit and Heloise over the next several years, and not just in how old they appear. JH must have picked up on the vibe in the ether.

He gave us his confidence on the current yarn, which has the Phantom out of his head with fever, alone in the jungle, dying (it seems) from a puff adder bite. Only Devil, his faithful mountain wolf, witnesses the masked man’s apparent demise. Legend has it the Phantom’s an immortal but in reality (say what?) the role has passed from father to son since 1536. It’s great fun writing these yarns, and to be only the second hand at work on it. The great Lee Falk wrote it from 1936 until his death in 1999.

In this current story of mine, the Phantom hallucinates that his son is there in the jungle with him, and it’s time to pass on the mantle. The Phantom drops his rings in the sand, thinking he’s handing them to Kit. These are the six key days that follow: (Notice how Devil never looks at Kit! Because he’s not really there. Nice work, Paul Ryan.)

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I’m an oaf, let the record show. Got back up here to Maine on Sunday and realized that the pics that were the very point of my previous post—my reason for driving 1,200 miles to begin with—they were still in my camera! So here they are now.


The point was to get a four-generations photo, three moms & a baby. As you can see, Daughter #1 of Daughter #1 is thoroughly unamused by our quest.



She’s not impressed by anyone’s attentions, not even her great-grandmother’s.



Her mom rebuffed, the bride turns to the bottle, so to speak.



Do you think this will work? Nope. Do you? Nope…



Freshly fueled, D1D1 attempts to make a break for it. Tries a judo move but grabs her own thumb instead of the bride’s. Eye-hand coordination isn’t fully developed at 10 weeks, goes without saying.



Baby tries Kung Fu next. No result.



Wore herself out with escape attempts, then fell asleep in Aunt D3’s arms.



Paul Bunyan dropped by, little girl missed it.



Really zonked! And before we knew it, it was time for her to head north to Massachusetts with D1 and SO1, where she had other family to meet.

And it was time for me to bring Margene back to Maine.



So, 300 miles later, I resume the opportunity to goof off at the river house. Put on the snowshoes and go walking on water, have a look around the island. With telephoto lens, I stalked a nesting pair of bald eagles over there, to no avail. Wily birds, I’ll leave it at that.



My camp nestled among the cedars. Nobody else around now or all winter, I would guess. I snowshoed most of the island, no tracks to be seen, so that automatically inducts me into the Royal Order of Craftiest Sumbitch on the Island.



I bed down to the sound of wind and river roar. It is good to be a free man on the earth. Got a little reading done before lights out. Dispatches, by Michael Herr. Had a reserve book hanging up there in the net on the ceiling. Gotta get that iron piggy running, don’t I?



Awoke to fog this morning. You can see where the ice is starting to soften up this side of the open water. That’s another island over there on the left.



As the Mainers say, Cant get theah from heah.



Here’s a tree thinking about falling into the river when the thaw comes.



Breakfast this morning. I scoop out a little cook pit on the ice and pile snow around it for a wind break.



Hearty oatmeal. I throw in a handful of walnuts, dried cranberries and, just for luck, my last Fig Newton.



Eat, wash the pot, leave my gear on the island for another night, walk back across the Stillwater to the river house. This channel I’m crossing is the one local kayakers call “the typewriter.” It has a standing wave when the river floods in the spring. Novices come here to practice and build confidence while floating atop the roller in one spot. Then they venture out into the main channel. When University of Maine students come down here to learn kayaking, Julie in the woods serves hot chocolate and bath towels. Anyone with chattering teeth is welcome to come indoors and stand by the wood stove.


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Maybe not “everyone”…



The river house is quiet when I get here. Impersonating comfort-loving Modern Man, I make coffee in the kitchen instead of out on the ice.

Tony DePaul, March 11, 2015, Stillwater, Old Town, Maine.



About Tony

The occasional scribblings of Tony DePaul, 63, father, grandfather, husband, freelance writer in many forms, ex-journalist, long-distance motorcycle rider, motorcycle wrecker, motorcycle rebuilder, collector of surgical hardware, blue routes wanderer, outdoorsman, topo map bushwhacker, handy with a wrench, hammer, chainsaw, rifle, former photographer, printer, logger, truck driver, truck mechanic, jet fueler… blah blah...
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21 Responses to Headed home in the morning

  1. Mother Teresa said..”the problem with the world is that we draw the circle of our family too small”. Our friendships and family, our marriages and work relationships, all of them are circles begging for more spacious boundaries..these past few days, the edges of my family circle, was gently pushed wider, with Tony coming to visit us in Maine..we have known Pam, Tony and their three beautiful girls for some time..but time has a way of moving so swiftly that in a glance, we are older,we become parents, and then….grandparents..and like the proverbial pebble thrown in the river, the StillWater River..as the circle widens it will ripple out and set a widening pattern in motion for the world, and for our children, and their’s..so, we are blessed to call you “family”.,and so glad that you touched our lives with your humor, your stories, and your joyful presence…and wish you safe travels Home, till we meet again!

    • Tony says:

      Many thanks for your hospitality here at the river house, Julie. Free grub, free prints, huzzah!

      • Ellei McCarthy says:

        Thanks for the photos of your beautiful family. Your little granddaughter gets more adorable with each photo.
        And it was wonderful of you to drive to Maine to pick up Pam’s mother. I love the 4 generation photos. Please keep them coming.
        By the way, I didn’t know you wrote a comic strip. I just can’t keep up with all your talents

        • Tony says:

          Thanks for your kind words, Ellie. Dunno how allegedly wonderful I am, though; I did charge four nights of camping (goofing off) as payment for all that driving!

  2. Jon Brush says:

    Great to see the Fantom. As you know, I was a great fan from about 1955 until the early 60s. Classic Lee Falk days, I still can’t believe I know the current writer. I also liked Steve Roper and Mike Nomad. Mike was a Limey biker IIRC.

    Now, about Zen etc. The only problem is that Epicretis (?) and son rode a Honda Superhawk. But I guess your Patagonia ride is a distant relative. Heh.

    • Tony says:

      Phadrus! His troubled son came to a tragic end. Poor kid had no luck in life, start to finish.

      I remember Mike Nomad as the two-fisted All-American type.

  3. Tarquino F. Flores says:

    First: what a beautiful baby girl! Congratulations!
    Second: i can’t believe that you are camping outside with that weather! OMG, here in Matamoros we are at 45°F and even under two blankets I feel like inside a freezer! I really love snow, but only one or two days per year…..I really admire your courage to ride trough those white landscapes!
    Third: Is great to know that The Phantom stories are “going somewhere” in the future and that is not only “filling a space” on newspapers, as a fan I really like what you and Paul Ryan are doing with the character, and with this notice I’m sure that when the new film is announced, you’ll have an input on the script!
    Blessings for your growing family!

    -Tarquino & Layla

    • Tony says:

      Many thanks, amigo! Someone (can’t remember who) recently told me that Billy Zane is trying to drum up interest in a second Phantom movie. If so, I’m out of the loop. Will have to educate myself and get up to speed.

      Been hanging out at the river house and talking with our friend Greg Miller all evening. Now I’m about to walk across to the island and crawl into my sleeping bag for the night. Cheers from Maine!

      • Tarquino F. Flores says:

        Well, it looks that I’ll have to become a millionaire as soon as I can, to produce the film by myself.

  4. brad says:

    Tony, just loved this blog post. Lovely women of many generations (I’m envious of the layers of love in your family), the great outdoors, quiet solitary existence illustrated, hallucinating Phantom comics and two Sasquatch sitings. You rock.

    • Tony says:

      Thanks for following the scribble, Brad. Will hope to see you and the speedy motorcycle on the Bonneville salt flats in 2016. Keep cranking those wrenches, brother!

  5. CCjon says:

    Thanks for renewing some great memories of the Phantom. Since we don’t get a newspaper, can I follow the current Phantom on-line???

    Lovely shots of the four generations. So does Margene live alone in that Icebox called Maine? My grandmother visited Harrington, Maine every summer for years. Loved the people, the fresh seafood and the cool breeze off the ocean.

    Stillwater River is an interesting name for a serious kayaking destination. Speaks of hidden dangers .

    Now that about your furry shadow, going to South America with you? Sasquash of the Andes?? Wonder how the penguins will react to that sight.

    • Tony says:

      The South American bigfoot wears twin bandoliers, Jan, that’s how we always used to tell the difference. Pistolero Sasquatch.

      I didn’t know you had Northeast or New England family connections. (I’m assuming your grandmother didn’t drive up from Houston for the Downeast lobstah.)

      Check out Comics Kingdom, amigo, a King Features site. Pistolero Sasquatch gives it high reviews and declares it muy el cheapo.

  6. Alix Willliams says:

    Squshing across the Stillwater River. Hmmm. Certainly gives you a great perspective on the river, then lots of fun shoeing around on the island. Your family looks well and happy, and the DI of D1 is gorgeous. I enjoyed the cutlines. Thanks for sharing those images, and some Phantom strips. It seems now I will subscribe to the BDN…or snatch a peek at the ones that are passed around downstairs. Thanks for stopping by, Tony. I agree with Julie. You have a very special presence. Looking forward to your future blogs. (I see you picked up a copy of Zen and the Art…)
    All the best.

    • Tony says:

      You can follow the Phantom and a hundred other comics online at Comics Kingdom, Alix. That’s a site run by King Features. Dunno what it costs to subscribe nowadays but it’s inexpensive, a buck-something per month.

      “Zen” is one of the great books, isn’t it? I’m sure I’ve read it half a dozen times since college. Same with “Dispatches.”

  7. Ulf Granberg says:

    Beautiful family pictures and great outdoor scenes (which could have been shot outside our mountain lodge up in North Sweden).
    Will phone when you’re back home in Cranston, Grandpa!

    • Tony says:

      Thanks, Ulf. I think we may have talked of this years ago, but someday I hope to get snowed-in at the lodge on purpose and have nothing to do but write for about 18 weeks straight.

      • Ulf Granberg says:

        Not only snowed-in. You’ll get a chance to really be blown away too. A month ago the tin roof of a lodge just 200 metres away from ours was blown off and draped like a slice of cheese over a smaller cottage in front of it. Luckily no person was injured, but a parked car was busted up.

  8. Vincent Ogutu says:

    You brought back fuzzy old memories of me as a child, teenager then adult, reading the Phantom back home in Africa. It was serialized every Sunday and I couldn’t wait for the following week to come so the story would advance. I couldn’t in a hundred years have predicted that someday I’d be talking with the guy who wrote the Phantom in my latter years of reading it.

    And I can’t express what a truly beautiful thing it is to see these four generations of love, captured ably by you and your camera. You are blessed my friend.

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