Robert Charles has written a book of memories. If you grew up in a small Maine town, it will bring up some of your own.

Bobby grew up in Wayne, and his book, “Eagles and Evergreens: A Rural Maine Childhood,” includes awesome descriptions of everything from campfires to Christmas traditions.

Although Bobby is younger than me, I did grow up next door to Wayne — in Winthrop — and I spent a lot of time in Wayne, where my grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins lived. My dad also grew up in North Wayne and dad and I spent a lot of time hunting there; we smelted in the same place Bobby did on the east shore of Androscoggin Lake.

And nearly every one of Bobby’s stories brought back my own wonderful memories of growing up in Winthrop. From the town’s general store to the Memorial Day parade, he captured my childhood right along with his.

You will be especially impressed with Bobby’s stories about Wayne’s veterans, many of whom fought in World War I or II. I knew most of the families in Bobby’s stories, and I was particularly fascinated by his chapter on and interview of Priscilla Stevenson. Her son Doug was a friend of mine and in my high school class.

Phyllis, 101 years old, is an amazing lady. Her sons Ford and John had recently returned from Italy, where they found their uncle’s grave and battle site.

I, of course, enjoyed his stories of encounters with wild animals, including the ermine that he discovered hanging out in their shed. That reminded me of the ermine on my woodlot that ran up my leg and stopped on my chest, thinking that I was a tree. Luckily he figured out he was wrong and jumped off.

I think Bobby is lucky to be alive given that he fell through the ice into a river, far from home or anybody that could save him. He did manage to get out and get home, but his clothes were frozen solid by the time he got there.

Bobby shares lots of great family stories and tells us about his chores shared by his brothers and sisters. For example, they were in charge of coming up with the wood that heated their house in the winter. Been there, done that.

Bobby and his family raised rabbits, as my family did until one nearly bit off my sister’s finger. If I remember right, we ate that rabbit.

Former Sen. Bill Cohen, on the back of the book, wrote, “This inspirational book by Bobby Charles of stories honoring veterans from rural Maine speaks beautifully to America’s core values of both greatness and goodness. Bobby has captured the essence of small-town American virtue which we are losing too quickly and need to remember and appreciate.” Well said, Bill.

Other quotes of praise in the back of the book come from several important people, including George Mitchell and Buzz Aldrin, who flew to the moon with Neil Armstrong.

Bobby has had an amazing career serving in the judicial, legislative and executive branches at the national level. He now runs a small company focused on national security, but he returns to Wayne often, where he did a book talk at the library in August.

I want to share some of Bobby’s thoughts from the book’s epilogue, because I think they are profound.

“Small towns are not perfect. Nor are the people who live in them, in any generation. Our town is not devoid of trauma, tension, tragedy, testing or periodic debate. But those who called our town home comprehended a larger reality, whether they spoke of it or not. They seemed to feel privileged to share in it. It lifted them daily above inevitable disappointments and differences. They were strong, and by their personal resolve part of ‘one.’ In my youth, as in other times, America understood this idea — the binding force of ideals, personal sacrifice, conscious and difficult resilience, required to be ‘one.’

“In nature, as in life, there are downdrafts, recurring storms. Life dashes and disappoints, tosses, stresses and tests. It also surprises and eases, elevates and empowers. The timeless challenge, from my perspective, is to see the goodness and use of freedom, to understand the blessings given, and thus to give and live fully while we were able.”

At the end of the epilogue, Bobby notes, “in short, growing up in small-town Maine made me one of the luckiest kids on earth.”

Me too, Bobby. Me too.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon, ME 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

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