“Hard Chance” seeks to explain both the how and the why of becoming an independent tree farmer in northern Maine. The how addresses the dangerous challenges of a solo logging operation as well as how to make a living working in harmony with the forest. The why includes a history of the local back-to-the-land movement during the turbulent 1970s and the subsequent satisfactions of living in a backwoods community. Author Peter Pfeiffer will present the story of “Hard Chance: Tree Farming in Troubled Times” at the Camden Public Library on Thursday, March 12, at 7:00 pm.
Pfeiffer grew up in Waterville, Maine, and after traveling the world, moved north to Somerset County in the early 1970s. He has been an independent logger ever since, twice winning Tree Farmer of the Year for Somerset County, and successfully completing the Certified Logging Professional course. He has also written numerous plays for the In Spite of Life Players Theater company.
In a review in the Portland Press Herald, Mary Pols reports, “Pfeiffer’s rebellious youth led him to Berkeley, riding his old BMW motorcycle cross-country in the winter of 1970-71, determined to bring ‘imperialist Amerikka to its knees.’ He picketed fruit farms on behalf of striking Chicano farm workers. He protested the Vietnam War and looked for a revolutionary group that suited his purposes. He took classes (including in carpentry) at Merritt College in Oakland. And eventually, he came home and heard Scott Nearing speak at a country fair. That’s when he got serious about homesteading on land in Solon that had been abandoned by a farming family in the 1920s.
“What are the retirement plans for a 67-year-old tree farmer who has given away more copies of his memoir than he has sold? ‘I’m going to cut wood this winter and maybe I’ll cut some at my brother’s place next winter,’ he says. ‘I’m getting kind of worn out to tell you the truth. I really love this kind of work. I am not the least bit disappointed or bitter. I don’t wish I had bought Microsoft for $8. I just wish I could keep going until I dropped, and have the coyotes drag me off.’”
William N. Browning says in a review on Amazon, “Peter Pfeiffer has written an exceptional book. . . . his prose is understated and lyrical; often lovely and captivating; frequently hilarious and then suddenly, marvelously serious. He wanders, just as he recounts his wandering through his own early adult life, from stories of one incident to another. Here, he is clinging to the edge of a cliff hoping a huge pine will not pitch down onto him toppling him into oblivion; and then he is in prison reading Robert Musil’s Man Without Qualities and helping us remember, or discover, what a splendid book it is; and then onto a sober reflection on the American penchant for sending huge numbers of (mostly black) young men into these prisons. All the while, we, nearly any of us anywhere near his generation, will be recalling our own reflections on the history he gently and gracefully unfolds for us. His comfortable, fireside recounting of his early wanderings back and forth across the country put Steinbeck to shame with their richness and detail. You will certainly imagine yourself traveling with him. This book is On The Road without any of Kerouac’s self-consciousness. It’s wittier and it’s better.
“. . . Pfeiffer holds our attention with his fine-grained description of managing the dangers of cutting trees alone in deep winter and then leaps adroitly to a wider, thoughtful reflection on how we all manage our ambitions. Work madly to get ahead, or work easily and survive for another day? In the woods, these are serious questions.”
Books will be available for purchase and signing at the event on March 12
Paperback, 6” x 9”, 325 pages with some b/w and color images