Hastie’s Hut

By V. Paul Reynolds


“There. Right there on that point. I’m gonna build a camp there,” my ice fishing buddy exclaimed as we drove our snowsleds up and down the south shore of Seboeis Lake. It was February of 1967. I was a young man just out of the Navy and back in Maine, ready to make up for lost time. My wife’s cousin, Ron Hastie, and I had fished the north end of the lake after accessing it by snowsled from the highway between Brownville and Millinocket. In those days, the lake was all but uninhabited.

Hastie was a determined, purposeful guy. By spring he had a shore lease from Prentiss Carlisle. He hired a skidder to cut a rough trail to the lake from an old cutting road. The skidder brought in construction material. Soon Ron and I and Dana Young were sawing 2X4s and driving nails and sleeping in a nearby trapper’s shack. By August, Hastie’s Hunt was a reality: a 16’ X 24’ camp on the lake shore with a breath-taking view of Mt. Katahdin.

New Camp

Come every November, a bunch of us spent a week at this camp deer hunting the nearby beech ridges. We put deer on the pole, and we had a grand ole time at this new deer camp. Soon we formed a club, called the Skulkers of Seboeis. The hunt became a much anticipated annual affair. Our friendships deepened. We even composed a signature song…”in Hastie’s Hut we map our day, to slaughter those whitetails as they play. Our food is bad and our water is worse, but venison soon will grace our fork, sauteed gently with a little salt pork.”

Yes sir, over the years, 56 to be exact, Hastie’s Hut became more than just a camp. It was a founding place, a repository for irreplaceable memories, all of which revolved around hunting, fishing and lasting fellowship. For Ron Hastie, its owner, it was his “place in the popple” and a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of metro Massachusetts.

In time, the Skulkers of Seboeis outgrew Hastie’s Hut. We found a bigger place down the lake a ways. Father time stepped in, as he always does, and old legs and hips began to take a toll, especially on habitual outdoor activities. Ron had a few years on most of us, and in later years, much of his time was spent with a pipeful enjoying the long views from the camp porch.

But most of us never failed to enjoy revisiting the hut and swapping lies with Ron on his porch. Hastie’s Hut became fabled among outdoor folks for its rough-cut authenticity and personality. To a first-time visitor not familiar with the camp’s history, it might have looked a shambles. Nothing, absolutely nothing ever got thrown out. It was an outdoorsman’s museum or junk yard, depending upon your perspective. Old spark plugs. Pipe cleaners. Fishing lures. Outboard parts. Empty wine bottles. You name it. But the “proprietor” knew where it all was, if he needed it. True story: a man from Brownville Junction brought a Tennessee acquaintance into Seboeis for one purpose: to simply see the inside of this unique hamlet in the hardwoods.

Palace in the Popple

Hastie’s hut still stands. But the place’s namesake, who is just this side of ninety, has had health issues. As you might surmise, some of us wondered what would become of this man’s citadel from the city. Would he leave it to family, or perhaps a friend? You wonder, but you don’t ask, even of a close friend.

The answer came this week in a text from my friend. He wrote: “Big changes in store for Seboeis, Paul. I just sold my camp holdings.”

The sudden liquidation came sooner than any of us had expected. The owner is also selling his Massachusetts home and moving to Florida.

Selling a camp, however steeped in memories it may be, is not a death in the family, but there are similarities, especially if it is where some of life’s most profound and precious memories were piled on one another like gold coins.

After 56 years, Hastie’s Hut has left the family. Nothing is forever. We must be grateful for the time we had at this old camp, and for the wonderful characters who shared it, without whom there would have been no memories.

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