Friday, June 19, 2009

Stories of Maine’s Survivor

By Chip Schrader
Book Review Editor
Sometimes a rainy day makes a good book better. Making Waves: The Stories of Maine’s Bob Crowley is a great book in the rain, or on a sunny Maine morning with the smell of the North Atlantic not too far away. One word of caution, this book about the 2008 Survivor winner will be read in one sitting, rain or shine.
In the preface, author David Ladd gives a context in which this book is written. He and Bob Crowley have commuted to work and listened to a thousand of Crowley’s stories. Ladd compiled the endless miles of conversation into this pocket sized book that reads like the tales of old Maine mythology.
Crowley’s father was a Protestant, a marine engineer and a lobsterman who rode his Indian motorcycle in a leather jacket. His mother was Catholic and married the elder Crowley who was “beneath her social class,” according to her father. They met during their service in Manila in World War IIwhere she rebelled by not only being a nurse, but by serving her country. Her successful father believed any sort of servitude was beneath his daughter.
The influence Crowley’s parents had on him was immeasurable. His father’s integrity, prudence and service to this country were beyond Crowley’s fathoming, and his mother’s traditional sense of hospitality was legendary. Vagrants, fishermen, and passersby were invited to stay with his family and to enjoy a home cooked meal at any time. Crowley recalls a guestbook that represented a language from every continent except Antarctica.
At the age of fifteen, Crowley’s parents left him on the island cottage in Casco Bay where his father checked on him weekly. This unique parenting gave him an early sense of independence and plenty of opportunity to cause mischief, particularly building pyrotechnics that one day scorched a good portion of his face when building a pipe bomb.
Crowley’s sense of curiosity led him to jobs as a forester, fisherman, lobsterman, a moth eradication expert, an archaeologist for the Smithsonian, and finally a physics teacher who fully admits he is more incorrigible than his own students.
A particularly amusing story comes about when Crowley goes to Labrador to participate in an archaeological expedition with a group of Inuit people as guides. A favorite Inuit pastime, Crowley states, is to torment the “white man” and scare the living wits out of him. Among the mischief was a close encounter with a polar bear where an Inuit feigned bad aim.
At the end of the trek, Crowley recalls these gentle people fondly and their practical jokes scarring, but also a kind means of including their guest into their community.
Crowley eventually settled in to a job teaching physics. The politics and procedure of public education only brought out Crowley’s rebellious side as his antics compiled into a file that was “thicker than a stack of sandbags meant to hold back a tsunami.” After years of being an independent thinker, he lets us in on the insight that “people are not respected for who they really are and what they actually do, but the position and authority they hold.”
This biography reads like a collection of tall tales of a modern day Paul Bunyan. They are believable, funny, spirited and kind stories about a life that is very interesting while purely Maine. Even for those who haven’t seen Survivor, this book is a clear winner.
Photo caption: Book cover of Making Waves: The Stories of Maine’s Bob Crowley as told to David Ladd. (Courtesy photo)