PLEASANT POINT – The kids were excited – some even skipped school – and tribal elders gave him a hug.
Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon was on the reservation Wednesday.
Clara Neptune Keezer, 76, one of the tribe’s premier basketmakers, was there. A celebrity in her own right – Keezer won the National heritage Fellowship from the national Endowment for the Arts in 2002 – she was among many who walked away with Papelbon’s autograph.
Papelbon visited with tribal elders at the elderly meal site and spent time at the Beatrice Rafferty Elementary School meeting with kids. From there he went to the tribal Youth Center to meet and greet more people. Several youngsters from Eastport were there, even though it was a school day.
Asked if she had skipped school, one 9-year-old girl was mum on that subject. She said she liked baseball, but had not seen Papelbon pitch, though the baseball he’d signed was clutched tightly in her hand.
Passamaquoddy Police Chief Joseph Barnes said his 11-year-old son, Joseph Jr., was so excited he hadn’t slept in more than a week.
“He’s through and through Red Sox,” the chief said of Papelbon.
Papelbon visited the reservation Wednesday and after going to Indian Township Reservation on Tuesday to meet with tribal members prior to setting off on his own personal moose hunt – and to raise money for the Chief Melvin Francis Memorial Fund.
This is the first time a non-tribal member has hunted moose on Passamaquoddy land in Jackman. Papelbon said he usually hunts smaller game – deer, ducks and hogs.
“This is my first big-game experience,” he said.
Tribal attorney Craig Francis is the one who came up with the idea for the fundraiser. “This is an amazing opportunity for the Chief Melvin Francis Memorial Fund,” he said.
Melvin Francis, who was governor of Pleasant Point, died in a car accident in January. Organizers have put together a raffle – the winner will hunt with Papelbon on Saturday, Oct. 21. The winner will be drawn on October 15.
Papelbon, who hunts with a bow and arrow, said he was looking forward to his trip into the woods today, but said it was his visit to the reservations that was so “awesome.” “The way they’ve welcomed me and the gifts that I’ve gotten it’s amazing, I never expected any of this,” he said. “I feel like I’m part of the tribe, almost.”
The relief pitcher will hunt moose with a bow and arrow.
But the police chief questioned the sanity of hunting moose without a gun. “When you call a moose the thrill of it’s unbelievable … and they start answering back and they do the things they do when they’re in rut,” Barnes said. “When you have to get them into the range he needs to get him in [with a bow and arrow]…you’re talking about a 1,000-pound animal coming at you and he’s either looking for a fight or his wife.”
Papelbon said he wasn’t worried. “I’ve been in the woods plenty of times,” he said. “Offseason, I basically live in the woods and hunt. It’s just one of my passions and has been since I was a little boy.”
Anyone who like to purchase a ticket can send checks or money orders to Carol Francis, executive director, of fund at 55 Perry Road, Easton 04740. Make checks payable to the Chief Melvin Francis Memorial Fund. There also is an opportunity to bid on a ticket on E-bay.