While many people talk about how they are going to spend their AMEX points or Delta Sky Miles, more daring individuals debate the use of their Marlboro Miles. From 1994 to September 30th 2006, Philip Morris, Marlboro Cigarette’s parent company, had a merchandising promotion program whereby a satisfied costumer could mail in their proof of purchase coupons (5 “Marlboro Miles” per cigarette pack), and buy various products ranging from licensed Marlboro Zippos to denim jackets and sleeping bags from the catalog or the Marlboro Country Store.
The products in the Marlboro store are an extension of “The Cowboy Code: A cowboy is courageous. Keeps his word. Pulls his own weight. Returns what he barrows. Closes gates behind him. Is always on time. Minds his own business. Sometimes exaggerates, but never lies. Doesn’t cuss another man’s dog.” The archetypal American Man.
Everything a cowboy or cowgirl needs put in cigarette pack denomination. I would go with the Stetson, the Time Track by Swiss Army, the Canvas Coat and the Blues Harp with my stockpile of 2000 packs of cigs. I also find the satirical allusions to jail culture where people use cigarettes as currency amusing, but that’s a different matter all together.
Few ideas are more American than buying products, often made in China, created as extensions of a marketing campaign with proof of purchase coupons for an expensive, carcinogenic, addictive product.
After talking with Millard for ten minutes or so his eyes lit up, “Let me show something.” I eagerly followed him to the garage with no idea what was in store.
The garage door slid up exposing a room full of hunting and trapping gear. For the next twenty minutes, Millard walked me through his gear. Starting on the left: Millard’s trapping backpack, Conibear traps, a jaw trap and the wood things are pelt stretchers. According to Millard, peanut butter is the best all purpose bait and works on animals from squirrels to beaver and foxes. The Conibear traps are on the left and the anchors on the right are used to secure the traps into the ground.
Millard raved about these Conibear 120′s. They can catch a variety of animals ranging from fisher, fox, rabbits, weasels and beaver and are easy to set.
Millard used this set up to catch fishers, their pelts go from $40-$100 at auction. As you can see the traps exert a tremendous amount of force and kill the animals instantly. One winter, Millard used these very snow shoes to track and kill 96 porcupines. In the spring, he collected the 50¢ bounty and bought a Smith & Wesson Competition Revolver for $45 new. That must have been some time ago.
Millard uses these pieces of wood to stretch the skins before he sends them off the to local tannery. Starting on the left; hares, red squirrels, fishers, and foxes. After tanning the pelts, Millard would send them to a consignment auction house in upstate New York and await sale. “Every month or two I get a check in the mail for one of my pelts. Its a pleasant surprise.”
These larger, two-piece stretchers are used for coyotes. Note the sign, “Coyote Traps Ahead.” One winter Millard got 26. Millard does note like Coyotes. “Red Squirrel pelts will get 1$ in Russia. Apparently they use the dinky furs to line fancy woman’s coats. Who would’ve known.”
Three years ago Millard was diagnosed with bladder cancer. After a successful surgery, Millard’s catheter clogged and a failed cleaning led to a near-fatal infection. Three months later, Millard recovered, however his sense of balance never recovered, severely limiting his mobility. Today Millard struggles to walk and can no longer maintain his trapping lines. His eyes teared up, “This is just bringing back a lot of good memories.”
I will never forget Millard, and I hope that my generation will keep this fleeting Maine tradition going.
Heading toward Stonington along back roads Friday afternoon, I spotted a garage laden with fourteen pairs of antlers and an American Flag. I asked my dad to stop and grabbed my Canon to take a better look. While framing the shot through my view finder, I heard a deep voice with a a Maine accent as thick as maple syrup pipe up, “There used to be a lot more of those (white-tailed deer) around here before the coyotes got out of control.”
Startled, I looked over to the deck and spotted a man sitting in a chair wearing a camouflage shirt drinking and cup of coffee. I walked over to the deck and started talking about the one thing that I knew the American flag wearing sportsman would like to talk about, guns. “What did you get those caribou with?” I chimed. The man’s eyes lit up and he opened up in the way only an isolated backwoodsman can. We struck up a conversation that lasted forty five minutes and ranged from the current prices of martin pelts, Maine hunting and trapping legislation, and ethanol’s effect on his truck’s MPG.
I left my job in New York in the summer of 2011 and moved into a camper. Since then, I have driven 100000 miles around the west, surfing and camping. During the summer of 2014, I set up a home base in the Columbia River Gorge. These are some of my stories and photos.