George Smith's blog

Paul Betit writes great novels

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If you thought a sports writer could only write about sports, I’ve got news for you. Veteran sports writer Paul Betit is cranking out some great novels. And the best news of all is this: he retired from the Portland Press Herald in November and can now devote even more time to writing these novels.

I just finished Paul’s first novel, Phu Bai. The novel is well written, a good story and compelling read. Honestly, I couldn’t put it down.

Normally, I am skeptical about self-published novels. They generally suffer from poor or no editing and are too long. All of us who write benefit from good editing. Paul’s first novel is just 214 pages long, easily consumed in a couple of evenings. But I do have to confess that it kept me up an hour beyond my normal bedtime the second evening, because I just had to find out how it ended.

Legislature tackles issues from brook trout to bears to boa constrictors

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When the Maine legislature convenes in early January, things promise to be ugly. It’s an election year, the Governor and legislative leaders are feuding, the budget is short at least $40 million, and there are lots of problems at the Health and Human Services Department. I plan to hunker down in Room 206 where the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee will tackle some very interesting issues.

This is the second of a two-part series looking at some of those interesting issues. Part one was posted on Wednesday of this week.

Brook Trout

A management plan for wild brook trout in waters that haven’t been stocked in 25 years, the so-called “B list,” along with a list of those waters, is due for delivery to the IFW Committee by January 15. This will be a hot topic, focused on the use of live fish as bait in some of those waters.

Legislature will tackle lots of outdoor issues

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                The legislature returns to Augusta in early January with an interesting agenda of outdoor issues. Sure, the session will be all about the budget, health care and human services, and taxes, and election year politics and posturing will dominate, but in Room 206 of the State Office Building, the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee will tackle issues from book trout to hunting licenses.

                This is the first of two columns on legislative issues of primary interest to sportsmen.

Our grandsons will get these books for Christmas

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Please don’t tell my grandsons. We’re giving them these books for Christmas.

At the ages of 6 and 9, both Addison and Vishal are avid readers. Linda and I enjoy giving them books and both reading to them and having them read to us.

They’ve both been helping me review kids’ books too. For some of those reviews, just flip back through the book reviews posted here. There are some great choices for Christmas gifts there, in addition to the books reviewed in this column.

After plowing through a stack of kids’ books, here are the ones that Addi and V will find under their Christmas tree from Grampy and Nana Smith.

Mert the Anxious Evergreen

This is perfect for all Maine kids. The story and message hits very close to home.

Written and beautifully illustrated by Clair Bowman, the story features the young evergreen tree, Mert, and his desperate effort to save the farm he’s on and become a Christmas tree.

Nic and Nellie delight my grandson

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 My six year old grandson Vishal loved Nic and Nellie, Astrid Sheckel beautifully written and illustrated story about a girl’s summer adventure with her grandparents on a Maine island.

But Nic’s idyllic summer brings loneliness and tears, until she discovers some unfamiliar things that turn the summer into a joy-filled adventure. Vishal got the adventure part right off.

“If I was on the island, I would like catching fish,” he said. That’s my grandson!

He also reported, “I would do the eating ice cream and roasting marshmallows.” Of course he would. Boy, this kid is a chip of old Grampy’s block.

Islandport Press is also anchored in Maine and publishes many of my favorite books. Ten percent of the initial sales of Nic and Nellie went to the Island Institute, a nonprofit organization supporting our state’s 15 year-round island communities and working to conserve island and marine biodiversity. A good cause, for sure.

Harvest Festival Celebrates Maine's Best Producers

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 The Maine Harvest Festival in Bangor featured over 120 of Maine's top producers with cooking demonstrations, lots of tasty treats and many great stories. We were impressed!

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Deer Dying in the Dakotas – Is Maine Next?

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During my annual pheasant hunt in North Dakota, I usually see lots of whitetail and mule deer. But two years ago, most of our whitetail deer sightings were of dead deer. On one farm, I saw eight freshly dead deer in four days, including the biggest whitetail I’ve ever seen in North Dakota.

I learned that the deer died of HD, hemorrhagic disease. Whitetails die within 96 hours of being bitten by a midge. The virus doesn’t impact mule deer.

Dr. Dan Grove of North Dakota’s Game and Fish Department told me the virus is present throughout the United States, is especially prevalent in southern states, and flares up in North Dakota every four to seven years. That year there were HD outbreaks in many states including South Dakota, Kansas, and Montana.

“The whole (whitetail) population is at risk,” Grove told me in a telephone interview. “There can be large-scale die-offs.”

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