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Game warden recalls 40 years in North Country

Journal Opinion of Bradford, Vermont

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NORTH HAVERHILL — Inhisnewly published book Behind Badge 32, North Haverhill resident Charlie Barry recounts his experiences from the 1940s through the 1980s with tales of his father's days as a game warden with the New Hampshire Fish and Game department to his own often dangerous, sometimes humorous and even heartwarming missions. The face of fish and game has changed drastically over the years, and Barry provides a link from the department's early days to the present. A "natural-born storyteller," the retired executive director of New Hampshire's Fish and Game department was repeatedly urged to put his entertaining stories into book form.

"People that have been here beg him to tell his stories," his wife Becky said during a recent interview when the pair spoke with the Journal Opinion. "Their eyes are wide when he's telling them in his native New Hampshire speech pattern."

With help from Becky, who has a writing career of her own and is familiar with the publishing process, Barry selected and recorded 36 stories from the 22 diaries he kept throughout his career. Becky then transcribed the stories.

Barry grew up learning the ins and outs of the game warden's life from his father, Everett, who worked as a fish and game conservation officer beginning in 1940. Born in Warren, Barry was three years old when the family moved to Franconia where Everett began his career as a game warden.

Over the course of his career, Barry has been called out in the middle of the night countless times for search and rescue missions and participated in stakeouts of deer poachers. He patrolled for fishermen taking over-limits of fish, was involved in a search and rescue of the "worst aviation disaster in New Hampshire history," and participated in a dangerous mission to rescue young members of an Outward Bound hiking expedition who were caught in a dangerous lightning storm near the summit of Mount Lincoln in Franconia Notch.

The 238-page book also contains previously unpublished photos, including some from the 1950s 'Missing Doctors' plane crash in Lincoln.

The most satisfying moments of his career, however, were the times when a young child was reunited with his or her parents, often the outcome of a reported missing child was tragic. "I would get a call that a three- or four-year-old kid hadn't come home. To get a call that the child was found and to see that child scooped up by his mother and father is rewarding," he said.

Barry didn't always thinnk he would follow his father's footsteps. Throughout his education at Plymouth State College, Barry studied toward becoming a teacher. But the fish and game Department persuaded him to work for them as a conservation officer. 'They were hard pressed to find young people and urged me to work for them," he said, explaining that many of the officers, including his father, were nearing retirement. The department sought younger officers since a large portion of the work involved arduous mountain rescues. And his youth, coupled with the knowledge he had gained from his father, made him a solid candidate for the field.

Barry eventually jumped on board, and the day after his graduation, he reported for duty in Pittsburg, the northernmost town in the state. He was later transferred to nearby Errol, along the Maine border.

For three years Barry patrolled the North Country, occasionally accepting temporary transfers to other parts of New Hampshire if coverage was needed while an officer was on leave. When a few of the older officers eventually retired, including his father, he was offered a transfer to cover the Haverhill area.

By this time he was married to his first wife. They settled in North Haverhill and had two children, Robert and Amy.

Barry began noticing that he was given different training than the other officers and was sent to places like Cincinnati and New York City. Eventually, he was asked to transfer to headquarters in Concord, but he declined.

"1 had kids in school and I liked it here," he said.

But in 1978 he was offered the agency's top post as the executive director of the fish and game department. This time he accepted.

With his daughter Amy still in high school, Barry stayed in North Haverhill and drove back and forth to Concord each day for the next eight years, his weekly mileage totaling 1,000. The demands of his job took its toll on his marriage, and eventually he and his first wife divorced.

Later, he met and married Becky who was in charge of hunter education in New Hampshire.

Since 1940, when his father began working as a game warden, through to the present, Barry has seen the department evolve and adapt to a demand for a well-trained, advanced mountain rescue team, changes in technology, and changes in the way people use the land patrolled by fish and game.

During his father's tenure, conservation officers owned their own cars and were compensated for their mileage. They didn't have two-way radios or cell phones, and in remote areas even land lines were hard to come by.

Since those days the role of conservation officer has broadened to include enforcement of snowmobile and off-road vehicle laws. In the 1980s, Barry had one of the first state-owned snowmobiles.

"Nobody knew who would enforce the laws," he said. As snowmobiling increased in popularity, eventually enforcement of the pastime was given to game wardens along with an expansion of police powers.

"Now a [conservation officer] can arrest a drunk driver. We couldn't do that," Barry said.

The prevalence of poaching has also changed. In the early days of his career, poaching was a means of survival for some.

"A lot of people had to provide for their own welfare," he said. "If they had to shoot a deer out of season to feed their family, they did it." At that time there were no sporting clubs, and people who were aware of a fellow neighbor's poaching activities wouldn't "rat."

"The type of poacher we used to deal with lived on what they could steal from nature," Barry explained. "The next generation didn't hunt and fish like they used to. Around town where people used to hunt, now there are houses."

In the earlier days loose dogs were a huge problem, Becky recalled. The free-running dogs would form packs, chase and kill deer.

"A conservation officer could shoot dogs if that was happening," Barry said, explaining that it happened in the winter when deer were slowed down by the deep snow. "You don't see that anymore." Dog licensing and leash laws "lowered the boom."

Search and rescue is another area that has expanded. With the popularity of snowmobiling came an increase in snowmobile accidents. The number of calls related to snowmobile accidents has increased from two per season to at least two per week, Barry said.

Because of this, fish and game now has "real rescue teams." Although there were rescue teams in Barry' s day, they were not trained as EMTs like they are now. Professional dive teams with the latest equipment and top-notch communications gear are also a part of the present fish and game department.

After eight years as executive director, Barry was forced to retire after developing a debilitating back problem that only would have worsened with the daily commute to Concord. After a year of therapy, he recovered and was able to serve as the interim sheriff of Grafton County. The county urged him to run for the position in the next election, and he ended up serving eight years in that position.

Now fully retired, Barry and his wife enjoy canoeing on the Androscoggin River, scouting for wildlife, and visiting their favorite

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Original Publication Date: April 8, 2015

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