I was trying to get through frying the morning’s batch of doughnuts for the bakery. The phone man was assembling his gear for the first Field Service Technician call of the day, a day already setting up to look busy. At about 10 past 8:00 a woman came in, clearly from “off a boat” and having hiked some distance to get here. She announced that she had discovered a badly injured loon somewhere in the vicinity of the harbor and, with the sincerest smile, inquired rather seriously as to what I was going to more or less do about it. She was earnest, and worried, and committed to making things right. We discussed getting advice from Avian Haven, the wild bird rehabilitation specialists, but she was already texting with them. She must have had one helluva good cellphone.

There had been some disturbing chatter on social media the week before suggesting that the people of Matinicus Isle routinely ate Loon Fricasee for breakfast, and I felt the need for some reputational damage control, so I did not refuse her request for support. Comments such as “let nature take its course” were shushed before they escaped my — or the phone man’s — mouth.

Anyway, the woman explained that Avian Haven had, by text, advised she find a box and a blanket and to bring the bird along aboard her vessel. But, she explained, in her sailboat it would be easily six hours to their next port. “No, that’s crazy,” says I. “If somebody needs to get to the doctor on the mainland, you send them on the airplane.”


The phone man found her a cardboard box, the kind we have groceries delivered in. Our friend Tim, who was on the island to serve as that week’s volunteer summer minister, was out for a morning walk and was headed up the steps for a coffee. Figuring that his formal role on the island this week obligated him to all manner of hand-holding and community service, I immediately drafted him into this mission of mercy. More to the point, I knew Tim drove a stick shift.

Assuming it unlikely that our kindhearted bird-rescuer would do well lugging a full-sized, incapacitated, and no doubt highly indignant loon the better part of a mile up hill — that being the only way from harbor to airstrip — I sent her off with Tim in my truck. (I couldn’t resist looking it up, so I googled “weight of your average Maine loon.” The internet puts them at somewhere in the 10-to-13-pound range). The only truck around here that didn’t bear the legend “telephone company” in some sense had a standard transmission. One never knows about total strangers and one’s clutch, so Tim was conscripted to drive for Operation Loon Airlift. Down the road he went, with the woman and the box and one of my large towels, looking for the patient.

I called Sally the dispatcher at Penobscot Island Air and asked whether there was room on the morning mail flight for a loon in a banana box. “A live loon?” “Uh huh.” “Yes,” she replied, “but you don’t want the mail flight. There is already a dog booked on that flight.” I asked when the next plane off Matinicus might be. “10 o’clock.” I reserved the loon a spot on the 10 o’clock and promised we would have a volunteer from Avian Haven collect the injured medevac patient at the Knox County Airport. “Have them get here on time because this place is crawling with dogs today.” The woman who’d found the loon was listening to me and trying to text all that to somebody at Avian Haven.

By the time they got back to the harbor (maybe three minutes’ drive from here) our poor sick loon was gone. Such is what Tim reported, anyway, when he returned without the woman and ready for another coffee. Tim is, after all, a Lutheran pastor.

At about that time, Jim, another regular, showed up for his morning coffee and doughnut and our usual neighborly chit-chat about obscure and arcane minutiae. After a conversation with Jim one is all primed to win big at barroom trivia. Tim and Jim had a good time sounding scholarly while I fried doughnuts and took notes. Jim finished his coffee, paid for it in gold dollar coins, and left. The next kids through the door chose their bakery goodies and took their change in gold dollar coins. I called up Sally at the flying service and canceled the loon’s Matinicus-to-Rockland reservation and just hoped the woman from the sailboat who’d been doing all this texting headed off the Avian Haven volunteer on the mainland. Tim knocked back the last of his coffee, grinned and said, “I always tell people, ‘Embrace the chaos.’”