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Wilderness Camps in Maine | An Allagash Love Story

Wilderness Camps in Maine | An Allagash Love Story
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Go anywhere along the Allagash today and ask people about Allen Nugent and the first thing they’ll mention will be his strength. Once it took five men to load a cookstove into the boat at Telos. Single-handedly Nuge got it out of the boat, over the knoll, and into the kitchen. He filled the icehouse with 400-pound blocks of ice, hauling them on a sled harnessed to his broad back as if he were a team of oxen. He’d pick up 500-pound gasoline drums, roll them along his leg, and set them into his boat…

She laughs, a congested, throaty laugh always on the edge of a cough. “Nuge was powerful, but when guests got rowdy I took care of them. You never saw that man without a smile. He’d get up in the morning and it’d be raining or snowing and he’d say ‘It’s a beautiful morning.’ I’d say, ‘Nuge, what’s so beautiful about it?’ ‘Any morning you wake up, darling, is a beautiful morning,’ he’d say. That’s how he was. No matter what happened, he always said, ‘Just right. Just right.’ He wouldn’t fight with me even when I’d fly off the handle. So I gave in. On the 17th of September 1942 we were married. Just a couple stood for us in Lincoln”…

They entertained governors and celebrities and outdoorsmen from around the country. Nuge was a gifted storyteller and at night, after the meal, everyone gathered in the dining room in the glow of the lanterns and listened to Nuge while Patty rocked and knitted. They were taking in over $1,000 a day now, and they bought a house in East Millinocket and a Winnebago for getaways right after deer season. And without telling Nuge, Patty bought a second set of camps up the lake a bit because she knew they would fill them, too, as long as the name said “Nugent’s.”

“Every day lasted so long,” Patty says, “yet time went so fast. People who don’t know the woods will never understand. It’s the first thing they ask me. And I tell them. We were never lonely. Never. Never.”

It is evening now of another day. In the morning, a plane will arrive for the visitor. Eight years have passed, but it is still difficult for Patty to talk about the tenth of February 1978 when Nugenpatty became simply Patty.

“It was a Thursday, his 75th birthday,” she says. “I was frying molasses doughnuts that morning. Nuge was hauling wood and he came back in for some doughnuts. They were his favorite. We talked awhile, then he went back out. After a bit I realized I couldn’t hear his tractor anymore. We found him sitting right there in the tractor. It was a massive heart attacked. Nuge never had a chance to call for help.

“They didn’t want me to fly out with the body,” she says, her eyes taking on the memory, “but I said, ‘I am flying with Nuge.'”

It was the biggest funeral they ever had in the church in East Millinocket. Patty wore the otter coat to the funeral, and when it was over, she took it off, put it back in her closet, and hasn’t worn it since. People from way downriver and up in Aroostook come to look at the stone Patty got, and as she says, “to call on Nuge.” There’s a tree-lined pond on the front and a lone fisherman and both their names, one on each side, and their nicknames, and in the middle the words, “JUST RIGHT”…

“Everywhere I go people tell me I’m a legend,” she says. “A movie man wanted to come and make a movie of me. It don’t make me feel any different. It’s just my home. You know something,” she says, stepping out onto the ice for the first time that week, “I’d give everything back in a minute for just one night to do over, the night me and Nuge pushed off and floated so slow up this lake, and in the dawn I looked across and saw that little green knoll.”

Mel Allen


Mel Allen


Mel is the fifth editor of Yankee Magazine since its beginning in 1935. His career at Yankee spans more than three decades, during which he has edited and written for every section of the magazine, including home, food, and travel. In his pursuit of stories, he has raced a sled dog team, crawled into the dens of black bears, fished with the legendary Ted Williams, picked potatoes in Aroostook County, and stood beneath a battleship before it was launched. Mel teaches magazine writing at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and is author of A Coach’s Letter to His Son. His column, “Here in New England,” is a 2012 National City and Regional Magazine Awards Finalist for the category Column.

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