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The Lucarellis of Maine

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    Through the hospitality of the Lucarelli family of Jay, Maine, Lisa Price was able to down a doe on their farm. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

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    Dido and Janet Lucarelli were happy to help Lisa Price get a doe on their property. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Published December 08. 2018 12:46AM

First, the Big Spring Freeze of 1931 wiped out 330,000 apple trees in the New England states. Orchard owners didn’t have much time to regroup before an extremely severe winter from 1933-34 took nearly all the trees that remained.

Of course, Maine, the most northern of the New England states, was hardest hit. Apple trees from Europe had been planted and producing in Maine since the 17th century, but after the Big Freeze and the crippling winter, producers were slow to restart. It began to seem that there were a lot better places than Maine to grow apple trees.

Nobody told the Lucarelli’s.

Olindo Lucarelli Jr., “Dido,” son of Italian immigrants, launched an orchard venture near Jay, Maine. He and his wife Janet started out by planting about 1,000 trees, and in the years to come, they replaced any trees that died and added more varieties. They built their home, expanded the farm, cut their own firewood, planted their garden, raised their family and filled their freezer with game and fish. It’s never easy to live off the land; I’d wager a bet that it’s a little tougher in the northern states. Janet gained quite a reputation as the deer hunter of the family.

When I visited Maine in October to hunt grouse and deer, I met the Lucarelli’s. Dido and Janet are in their 80s now and hunting is a challenge. Now, Dido enjoys helping other people get deer, and it became predictable – early every afternoon, the phone would ring. My friend Rich’s dad Alden would answer the phone. “Lucarelli!” he’d say, and then listen a few moments. “He says you and Rich should come over and hunt at his place this afternoon.”

Lucarelli would give a report of all animal sightings and happenings at the farm from the morning – flock of turkeys in the front yard, group of deer seen skirting across the fields behind the house. That’s how it happened that on several afternoons we drove over to the Lucarelli’s farm to do a little deer hunting.

Alden and Rich told me that Janet was starting to show early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. She had trouble with her short-term memory, they said, cueing me in so I wouldn’t have cause to wonder if she asked me the same question a couple times. Each time, after we hunted, we’d stop in the cozy kitchen to visit with Dido and Janet. Dido loved to brag about Janet’s hunting ability; Janet would smile but I could tell that although she liked the story she’d just heard at that moment, she didn’t really remember it.

Hunting gives you lots of time to think and as I waited and watched for deer on the Lucarelli’s farm, I wondered. What hunting experiences would I remember best? What ones did I already treasure? My dog Josey coming towards me in South Dakota, carrying his first wild pheasant, both of us jumping around in the cut corn field in celebration. The Iowa family that let me to hunt their farm after I found that the “outfitter” I’d booked at a sporting show didn’t exist – I had the experience of a lifetime with pure fun and great hunting. Sunrise over a river leading into Currituck Sound, the dawning of a first duck hunt for my dog Jamie and I.

I found myself wishing I could sit at the kitchen table with Janet and share our hunting memories. It made me sad to know we could not. I dropped a doe in one of the Lucarelli’s fields one afternoon. They heard the shot and like magic Dido appeared to help with the field dressing.

“Don’t you want that?” he said, as I pushed the entrails aside. He pointed to the heart. “Don’t you want to eat that part?”

I told him I didn’t want it. By then, legal shooting had ended, Rich had come in from hunting and we hoisted the doe onto his tailgate. By the time we got into the kitchen, Janet had already cleaned off the heart and was soaking it in the sink. She turned to me with a huge grin. We couldn’t share memories, as it turned out, but there was something at our cores that we would always have in common. In more ways than one, we could share a heart.

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