The Silhouette Man – A Soggy New England Story

Oh that I wish I would have heeded the words of the Silhouette Man on that summer evening on the coast of Maine. I would have avoided the traumatic experience altogether!

Annually our family would take a vacation from North Central Pennsylvania to Bangor Maine, where my mother had grown up. Our journey usually took place in the sweltering heat of August; just a few weeks before school started. Anticipation would build all summer long as we neared the day of departure.

 

The trip would take place in the old Chevy station wagon; loaded to the brim with camping supplies, snacks of all kinds, and luggage strapped precariously to the roof. Mom and dad, along with me and four sisters all packed in and ready to roll!

 

We would begin our yearly adventure by heading east, out across Pennsylvania; turning northward up through Schenectady, New York, and then veering eastward again, stopping in New Hampshire for the night.

 

Pulling into the campground, we would unpack the tent, dad making sure it was all up and secure. Once the tent was up, dad would get the fire going and mom would start getting the food ready; normally hot dogs and burgers, some beans and of course, marshmallows for dessert!

 

Up early, we would be off to Bangor, where we would spend a week with family; often taking a trip to Bar Harbor to see the ocean; it was a highlight of the trip. The sights and smells of the Atlantic Ocean would overload our senses.

 

I remember the deep throaty blast of the tugboat blowing, as it pushed big ships into the docks. The smell of the salty sea air and the crashing of waves against the craggy shoreline brought fanciful memories of stories I had read as a young child; Moby Dick, Robinson Caruso, and of course Pirate stories!

 

I was always fascinated by the ocean and found myself drawn to it. I recall gathering stones, seashells, even seaweed to take home, making the car smell awful; mom drew the line with my seaweed; it had to stay behind!

 

After a week visiting relatives, our journey home would begin. We would go home a different route, maximizing our ability to experience new sights and sounds; often visiting a lighthouse or two, as we traveled down the coast of Maine.

 

One particular trip home, we stayed at a small campground near the coast; Salty Acres Campgrounds, near a place called Goose Rocks Beach.

 

We arrived in the late afternoon, and by the time we got the tent set up, it was nearing 6:30 in the evening. I could hear the waves crashing nearby, and wanted desperately to go and see them before we went to bed. I was 14 years old at the time and felt sure I could get to the beach and back before dark.

 

Mom and dad reluctantly allowed me to walk around the campground to see if I could get a look at the beckoning ocean. They warned me not to be too late; I agreed, confident that I would find the beach, gather some shells and be right back; things did not go according to plan!

 

As I headed toward the sound of the crashing waves, I came to a forested area; undaunted, I began to look for a way through the forest; I was sure the ocean was very close. The sun was beginning to set, long shadows from the taller trees began to soften the lighting, and I knew I needed to hurry.

 

I saw a small trail heading into the woods; I was certain that this was the way in, so I began to hurry down the path. I took a small turn, about 50 feet into the woods and paused to look around.

 

As I looked to the right, something caught my eye; standing about 10 feet from me, was an old man. He reminded me of the dark silhouette man you might see standing by a tree as a decoration in someone’s yard, only this silhouette, was a real man.

 

He was a thin man of slight build with white hair flowing down from under the Scottish hat he wore on his head. He was smoking a curly pipe, the kind that the great detective Sherlock Holmes used to smoke. He was leaning against a tree. When I saw him, I nearly jumped out of my skin!

 

I stopped, my heart beating a mile a minute; he took the pipe out of his mouth and began to speak to me with a pronounced New England drawl, he said;

 

“Wouldn’t be going out there if I was you. Tide does be coming in soon, and fog with it; nope, I wouldn’t be going out there if I were you.”

 

He put the pipe back in his mouth and clicked the stem with his teeth.

 

I heard those words, but I was still tingling from the scare he gave me, and I said quickly; “Oh, I won’t be long” then I went quickly into the woods.

 

As I sped down the path, still shaking from the encounter with the old man, I quickly lost track of the twists and turns I had made. I did not notice the other trails crossing the one I was on either.

 

I stopped and listened for the sound of the waves and they seemed to be very close. However, the sun was now down low, and I knew it would be dark within a half hour, so I needed to get back, but I was lost!

 

I walked quickly in the direction I thought would take me out, but the woods got thicker and thicker. I went in another direction; more trees, and now, it was getting darker; I began to panic.

 

Finally, I saw what looked like field through the trees and I headed toward it. As I broke out of the trees, the field I saw was actually a salty marsh. It was about a quarter mile across; I could see a highway and a small store of some kind on the other side.

 

It was getting darker and becoming hard to see where I was going, but I decided my best bet, was to go across the marsh, so I started across. As I headed out into the marsh, I quickly realized that the whole swamp was full of channels of seawater. The channels were not very wide so I jumped over the first few.

 

After about 15 minutes, I was nearly halfway across. As I looked at the little channels, I realized the water was beginning to swirl and the channels started looking deeper and wider; then the words of the old man came rushing to my mind!

 

“Wouldn’t be going out there if I was you. Tide does be coming in soon, and fog with it; nope, I wouldn’t be going out there if I were you.”

 

The tide was coming in quickly, so I got a run for it and tried to leap across one of the channels, but it was too wide. I landed about 2 feet from the other side and went in over my head; the water was deeper than I thought and the bottom that I hit, felt like bottomless mud.

 

I panicked, I came up out of the channel like a wild-man, clawing and scraping to get out, then I just started running, jumping and splashing my way across the swampy marsh, until I reached the other side. I must have looked like a swamp creature coming out of there.

 

I recognized the little store and realized the campground was not far away and I started walking toward it. I saw a car coming down the road; it was my mom and dad, worried and looking for me.

 

They stopped and asked what happened, and I pointed to the marsh and told them of my harrowing ordeal. Dad just shook his head and told me to walk to the campground; I was too messy to get in the car.

 

When I got the campground, I took a long hot shower. I came over and sat by the fire; still shivering, not because I was cold, but because I was still somewhat traumatized by the whole ordeal.

 

Had I only listened to the wise old man at the edge of the woods, I would have avoided the whole thing!

 

I still love the ocean, and whenever I get a chance to spend time there, I cherish every moment. One thing I have never quite gotten over is a certain “feeling” I get whenever I see one of those silhouette men in somebody’s yard.

 

When I see one, especially in the waning hours of the day, I get a little flutter in my heart and I remember the old man at the edge of the woods.

 

As I remember this story of my youth, I can recall many times, words of wisdom came to me, and I refused them. The Bible give amazing direction regarding wisdom; one of my favorites from the Book of Proverbs ring loud and clear . . .

 

Proverbs 2:1-9

My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,

2 So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;

3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,

4 If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;

5 Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.

6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;

7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;

8 He guards the paths of justice,
And preserves the way of His saints.

9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice,
Equity and every good path.

 

Oh that I wish I would have heeded the words of the Silhouette Man on that summer evening on the coast of Maine. I would have avoided the traumatic experience altogether!

 

Heed the words of wisdom given to you; even those words of wisdom coming to you by surprising people you encounter on your journey of life. Ponder those words, consider their value and avoid discarding them.

 

If you choose to rebuff those words of wisdom given to you, do not be surprised if you find yourself looking like a swamp monster some evening, walking aimlessly though life, smelling like seaweed!

 

By all means, go see the ocean, explore the world, be daring and adventurous; but do so with all the wisdom you can gather; it will make the adventure so much more enjoyable and fruitful.

 

I hear the waves crashing, and a tugboat horn blasting; I think a new adventure is in store for me . . . Mr. Silhouette man, where are you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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