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The moose at the door

IT startled me enough so I came right up straight. I misheard the name of a guest on ``The Merv Griffin Show,'' and I thought he said we would now welcome Argie Clark. Turned out the guest was named Margie Clarke. So there was a comely woman with silver hair doubtless allied with the performing arts, and I was mightily disappointed. Had Argie Clark been on that show, the bland consistency might have given way to a new dimension in television entertainment, and Merv Griffin could well have won an award. Argie Clark is a very special person, and now that her name has come up I suggest the Merv Griffin people seek her out and sign her on.

I saw Argie in her native lair of Greenville, Me., in the spring, and I said, ``Looks-if you wintered all right -- and maybe you've trimmed down a mite.''

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Argie said, ``That's the nicest thing been said to me this year.'' Argie is not, or was not then, streamlined enough to resemble this Margie Clarke, about whom I know nothing, but Argie is a happy and abundant personality of good humor, with a quick tongue that can turn a riposte worthy of TV's attention. It will be a great day when she is turned loose on the tube.

Back some years ago the owners of the uppermost Maine wilderness embraced the ``multiple use'' idea and formed a joint venture to open the woods to hunters, anglers, campers, and whatever other ``recreational users'' might be thought up.

Since those far-up acres are really a great tree farm with constant harvesting going on, there was need for regulating the visitors and keeping some account of their whereabouts. Well, a tandem truckload of tree-length logs tooling its way to the mill, the tips of the trees flopping about as they go, is a poor thing to tangle with a tourist snapping pictures of red-eyed vireos. So checkpoints were established, rules and advice put in print, and a schedule of fees set down.

One of the checkpoints was established at Caucomgomoc Landing, a place where timber was dumped into the water in the old days of river drives, at the upper end of Caucomgomoc Lake. After driving a good many miles through uninhabited wilderness townships, over private logging roads, the visitor arrives at Caucomgomoc Landing to find a barrier across the road and Argie Clark waiting to greet him. Argie and her husband, who is a veteran woodsman, have a comfortable cabin there and pass the summer. Argie is the official keeper of the gate.

Her husband occupies himself with a small garden he starts as soon as the snowbanks have shrunk enough, and in the brief Caucomgomoc (pronounced cock-m'gommick) summer manages a remarkable crop. I asked Argie if the woodchucks were a nuisance in the garden, and she said yes, but her husband is too tender-hearted to do anything about them. She added, ``And he doesn't do anything about the bears, either.''

I suggest the Merv Griffin people get Argie to give her opinion of the moose matter. Years ago the hunters had whittled the Maine moose herd down to a few pairs, and a ``permanent'' closed season was enacted. As the moose herd built itself up, the day came when the sportsmen wanted to shoot moose again and the permanent closed season was repealed.

Argie was among the minority on the side of the moose. In the years of closed season our moose had lost all fear of humanity, and shooting one was fully as sporty as taking fish from a rain barrel. But Argie, like many others, refrained from making a big touse because our governor had said he would veto a moose law. Then, and let Argie tell it, the moose bill passed and the governor signed it.

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Just about any morning Argie can step off her cabin porch and slap a moose with a fly swatter. She tells how these people drive a thousand miles and pay good money to look at a moose, and she says, `` . . . meantime the moose mothers bring their little ones around to see me!''

I didn't stay with this Margie Clarke. Our Channel 13 plays Merv Griffin just before the supper-time news, which is how I chanced to have him tuned, and since it wasn't Argie I went back to my magazine. Some blessed evening they may get to Argie, I hope.

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