Hard Chance by Peter Pfeiffer

Hard Chance

Tree Farming in Troubled Times
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In this debut memoir, Pfeiffer recounts his journeys to various parts of the world before he returned to Maine to become an independent tree farmer.

In the winter of 1970, the author left his central Maine commune to travel to Berkeley, California, to protest the Vietnam War. After a series of anti-establishment scrapes, including battles with police, Pfeiffer headed back east and ended up in Boston, driving a taxi. The tension of the job, during which he was robbed at knifepoint, and the increasingly lunatic atmosphere of the collective where he lived sent him fleeing back to rural Maine, where he talked an old friend into selling him a hundred-acre woodlot. With his girlfriend, “the Feminist Fatale,” he built a cabin on the shore of a pond on his new woodlot and drifted into a logger’s life. After a number of false starts (including a six-month stint in jail for “gardening to endanger”—growing a large crop of marijuana in the potato patch), Pfeiffer managed to purchase the equipment he needed to become an independent tree farmer. A hard chance, in logging terminology, refers to harvesting a bunch of thinner trees rather than one or two big ones. It’s the most difficult way to collect a given amount of lumber but it's often the only option. Pfeiffer’s life, as recounted here, is a reflection of hard chance, as he generally pursued the riskiest courses of action instead of choosing smoother paths. The memoir occasionally drifts into pretentiousness, such as when it conflates the author’s life with that of Moby-Dick’s protagonist, Ishmael. Overall, however, Pfeiffer’s voice is strong enough to deliver a rollicking and sometimes painfully honest tale of self-discovery. In it, he shows how he matures from the rage-filled radical of his youth to a peaceful (or at least resigned) adult, thanks to the serene Maine woods and the support of his circle of local and back-to-the-land friends.

A riveting, often hilarious story of an adventurous life as an anarchist drifter and tree farmer.

Pub Date: Aug. 18th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-63381-020-4
Page count: 357pp
Publisher: Maine Authors Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
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