[V]ermonter Megan Price rewinds back a decade to the time a state fish and game warden shared a string of work stories he said belonged in a book. Take the one about a cow-courting bull moose whose tranquilizer wore off while being trucked away. A bear that decided to play hide and seek with authorities in a cornfield. A family of raccoons that sprung its cage in the back of a speeding cruiser.
Price, a former reporter and state legislator, wondered: Would people buy such true yet seemingly tall tales?
Fast-forward to her coming author appearance and a call from a local-boy-gone-Hollywood producer.
So begins the latest chapter of Price’s “Vermont Wild: Adventures of Vermont Fish & Game Wardens,” a menagerie of memories turned into a book, then a five-volume-and-counting collection and now a potential television series.
Browse Middlebury’s Vermont Book Shop and you might sniff at seeing the self-published paperbacks’ cartoon covers next to tony hardcover tomes. But talk to owner Becky Dayton and she’ll tell you the “Vermont Wild” volumes are not only her store’s bestselling state titles but also bigger than such global blockbusters as Harry Potter — in part because they appeal to “reluctant readers” who usually hunt for entertainment elsewhere.
“They sell big numbers for a small bookstore,” Dayton says. “We just keep reordering them.”
Price, a former Rutland Herald-Times Argus reporter and three-term member of the Vermont House of Representatives, wasn’t aiming to be an author when, attending a Becoming an Outdoors Woman program, now retired Johnson warden Eric Nuse shared his stories of more than three decades in the field.
“There are a ton of wildlife books, but they’re written really seriously,” she says. “I thought I could do something different.”
Price asked a school librarian what young people requested most.
“She said the book they check out again and again is ‘True Stories of Bear Attacks.’ There’s sometimes an elitist attitude in the literary world. I thought I’m going to write for people who don’t read — like boys who read for their driver’s permit. Nobody writes for them.”
Price collects and shares harrowing yet humorous stories accessible to all ages.
“You’re supposed to go by the Chicago Manual of Style, which I bought and sits on my desk,” she says. “I try to stick to the way people talk, as long as it makes sense.”
Spot Price’s table and shade tent at a local fair or festival and you’ll hear her hawk books with the bravado of a carnival barker.
“Do you like the outdoors?” she asks one passing father and son. “Take this to hunting camp and read it out loud. You drink a beer and he drinks a soda and you’ll laugh like crazy.”
One woman promised to send the book to her son in Hollywood.
“I figured he parked cars or delivered coffee,” Price recalls.
Then the author heard from Geoffrey Sharp, a Middlebury-raised producer of such Emmy-nominated projects as the Showtime film “Walter and Henry.” Now working on television documentaries with actor Morgan Freeman, Sharp is shopping the “Vermont Wild” books to studios as a possible series.
Price, for her part, isn’t counting her chickens just yet. Set to appear Sunday at Phoenix Books in Essex, she’s collecting more stories for a sixth volume to be published next year.
“I’ve come to believe these adventures are more than entertainment, they’re an important part of Vermont history,” she says. “They are true working-man outdoor stories filled with independent Yankee, can-do spirit.”
Price tells skeptical teenagers her books could even make them smarter.
“I believe reading opens your mind and you think more,” she says.
And if not?
“It can’t hurt,” she reassures.