Maine’s North Woods and the Allagash are home to writer Cathie Pelletier. She wrote a loving tribute to her small town rural heritage in “Christmas in the Allagash.” Her second book, “A is for Allagash: A Lumberjack’s Life,” is another full-color hard-back collector’s book, co-written with her 90-year-old father, Allagash native Louis Pelletier. 

Written in an oral history format, “A is for Allagash” relays personal and poignant stories about growing up and working in the woods of the Allagash during the last century.  Each journal entry is given a sequential letter of the alphabet from A to Z. Twenty-six full-color illustrations and photographs by Lulu Pelletier and Carl Hileman are included with the personal stories.             

Beginning with “A for Allagash,” Pelletier talks about the small town where he was born in 1920, in the house built by his father. His mother was a Thibodeau from St. Francis. “She spoke only French until later years,” he writes. His father, Tom Pelletier, ran the river ferry across the Allagash in the summer during the years when there were no bridges. “The ferry was part of our lives,” he recalls.

Although each story tells a personal experience, they collectively reflect on nearly a century of life in the Allagash and its cultural history. For example, in “C is for Crosscut,” Pelletier describes logging in the years before chain saws. He cut trees with other woodsmen using crosscut saws when he was only 14 years old. Those were the days when lumberjacks traveled with horse-drawn sleighs while working during the winter in the Northern Maine woods.

All 26 stories are rare first-person accounts about a way of life some might find either old-fashioned or nostalgic, but it was day-to-day reality for Pelletier and his family. They created a special culture focused on family, work, music, nature and their faith as parishioners of St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church. Visits with older family members were special occasions because it took an entire day to travel less than 10 miles to visit Grandmother Thibodeau in nearby St. Francis.

A few stories will stir memories for readers who probably share some of the traditional experiences, like nighttime winter ice-skating, as described in “S is for Skating.” 

A particularly entertaining story about airplane travel in the Allagash is told in the book’s Afterward, an entry written by Pelletier’s son, Vernon. His father was working in woods from 1952-1953, when he found local airplane pilots to fly him home a few times, because travel was difficult due to a lack of trucks. They used visual landmarks observed from the air to figure out where to land the airplane, even managing to land safely in a snowstorm on a field near to his family’s Allagash house. One landing, in fact, occurred on the frozen Allagash River rather than the field. Pelletier writes, “… the old plane bounced and hopped all over the place before it came to a stop.”

Among the well-told stories are a sprinkling of fresh poetry and a recipe for Ethel’s Mustard Pickles. 

“A is for Allagash” is dedicated to Pelletier’s deceased wife of 59 years, Ethel Tressa O’Leary, to his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and his parents.

This artistic autobiography invites readers to learn about the Allagash. We are introduced to the Pelletiers as individuals, as a family, and to their especially beautiful Maine where people nurtured the quality of their lives and relationships. 

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