After a kidnapping, Jackman’s highway “patrolman” is back on duty.
Twisting its way through the forests of western Maine, Route 201 eventually funnels northbound travelers into the small town of Jackman, just fifteen miles from the Canadian border. Perhaps drivers feel a rush of excitement as they approach this outpost of civilization because they unfailingly barrel past Jackman Trading Post at ten, fifteen, or even twenty miles per hour over the speed limit.
One day in 1983, Trading Post owner Jim Hegarty decided enough was enough. He drove downtown to Achey Autobody, threw down $300 on a creaking vestige of a police cruiser, and watched as a tow truck plopped it on the side of the highway near his store. After painting the body in the image of a Maine State Police cruiser, he pulled together a foam head, fishing hat, light blue shirt, and smattering of straw into what he considered at the time to be a finely constructed mannequin. “I just wanted to slow the traffic,” he says with a laugh. “And let me tell you, it slowed the hell out ’em.” As the new guardian of 201 gazed vigilantly over its domain, Hegarty scarcely imagined that a state landmark had just been born.
Over the next three decades, hundreds of passersby dropped into the trading post, often laughing about the startle the mirage of authority had given them as they came roaring into town. Hegarty was particularly pleased with his handiwork one summer night as a woman rolled up alongside the dummy to engage it in conversation.
The stoic policeman’s reign ended, however, in the late hours of April 9, when a band of young men passed though town in the throes of some Tuesday night partying. They chained the old cruiser to their truck and, ripping half the frame from the clutches of the still-frozen earth, took it on a three-mile joyride. Police found the old vehicle mangled and twisted on the side of the highway.
Residents were distraught, and Hegarty lost track of the phone calls and messages that came flooding into the store with condolences. However, he is not one to let a good idea die. Within weeks, he had replaced the beloved landmark, and the silent watchman of Jackman gazes once again down the long highway. — Barrett Limoges
Photograph by Virginia M. Wright