Greenville, Maine WEATHER
People of the Lake
From the 11/15/23 Edition of the Moosehead Lakeshore Journal

By Emily Patrick

When my mother said she was going to do a “People of the Lake” column in the newspaper, one person immediately came to mind, someone who truly embodies the lake and the spirit of the area. Casey LaCasce has lived and worked in the Moosehead Lake area his entire life and is turning 82 the day I write this story; Happy Birthday Casey! Though Casey worked as a Maine Guide for over 50 years, once owned a barber shop in town, and now works as a florist of sorts at Leslie’s Backyard Blooms, his daughter’s floral business in Greenville, I most remember him (as I’m sure many others do) as the owner of Casey’s Spencer Bay Campground on Moosehead Lake.

The campground was very formative to my childhood years and certainly had a hand in shaping me into the woman I am today- good or bad! The campground is where I have my first memories of Casey, though he’s technically family. Casey was married for many years to my Great Aunt Nadine, and together they had two daughters, Leslie and Lani of Greenville. Though Nadine and Casey eventually went their separate ways, my father, Scott, and Casey stayed close and my father worked at the campground for many summers while I was growing up.

Casey’s Campground was truly a wonderland for a young child and was the backdrop for so many of the childhood memories I still treasure. It’s where I learned to catch frogs and crayfish with my bare hands (a skill I still possess and one of the few things about me that impresses my kids) and to fish. When I was fortunate enough to get a couple of dollars as a kid through means I can only guess at, I would make a beeline for the campground store and walk right past the candy and the trinkets to the section in the back corner with the fishing lures. One New Year’s Eve, as soon as ice fishing opened at midnight, my father and I checked the traps we had set earlier out in Spencer Bay. The flags at each trap were up all night, and we ended up catching about 60-70 cusk by sunrise. We cleaned them in Casey’s sink that morning. That night was and always will be the peak of my career as a fisherwoman and I hold that memory close to my heart.

Though the campground was a magical place for me as a child, Casey’s presence was always there, watching with a gentle but discerning eye. I wouldn’t say I was afraid of him as a child, but he certainly was an intimidating figure. He didn’t talk much to any of us kids as far as I can remember, except to scold us for peeling birch bark off of the trees or some other equally egregious offense. Still, there was always something about him that made me want to earn his respect, and I think that kept me out of a lot of trouble!

Casey’s Campground is the first place I drove a truck- and if I remember correctly, it was Casey’s, which made the experience all the more terrifying but thrilling. Every weekend we would chow down on Casey’s famous bean-hole beans (with a side of red hot dogs, of course). Casey’s famous beans are still available from time to time at the Masonic Temple in Greenville, so keep an eye out. If you’ve never tried them, you absolutely are missing out on a truly authentic Maine experience.

When I decided to sit down with Casey for an interview, I must admit I was still a little bit intimidated, even at 32, not because Casey had ever been unkind to me, but because he had become more myth than man in my mind. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. I was welcomed into Casey’s warm, cozy cabin like an old friend and he said he did remember me- I was “Scotty’s daughter.” Perhaps time had softened him, or hardened me, or a combination of both, but I did walk away from our talk with a sense there was more to Casey than I ever realized as a small kid riding bikes and searching for fossils on the shores of Moosehead.

As Casey tells it, he was born in Rockwood, delivered by his grandmother as all three of his brothers were. Though Casey has been an avid outdoorsman his whole life, he says the biggest salmon he ever caught was a 5-pounder on the Moose River as a kid. The biggest buck? 252 pounds at Ronco farm. 

I remembered people calling Casey “Coyote Casey” growing up. There was even a fly at the Guide Shop downtown named Coyote Casey, and I remember thinking as a kid I basically knew a celebrity. It’s obvious why he earned the alias; Casey recalls shooting 43 coyotes in one winter. He mainly hunted and trapped to sell the pelts. For a reason I now can’t recall, I did go into Casey’s basement once as a kid and the shock of seeing all of the coyote pelts hung up on racks like clothes at blowout department store sale still sticks with me today. I asked Casey about the nickname and who came up with it, and he just chuckled. Casey also had a penchant for making coonskin hats. The one he made for me I still have today! I asked him how he learned to do it, and he laughed and said he just started putting pieces together and the “more pieces we put on, the better the hats were.”

Though few can rival Casey’s outdoorsmanship, in the Moosehead area or beyond, I of course had to talk to him about the campground, which he sold a handful of years ago to a private interest. When asked what went into that decision, he simply said he was “too old,” though he’s probably more active than I am even into his eighties. He says he spent two summers on the St. George River right before he bought the campground and when he came back into town someone told him, “Why don’t you go up and buy those old Spencer Bay camps.” Apparently, a single mother was running the camps and it was too much for her. I won’t disclose how much Casey bought the 12-13 acres for, but I will say it would be hard to find even a couple acres of land now for that price, and certainly nothing that could rival the campground’s beauty. 

A few memories of the lifetime he spent at Casey’s Campground stand out. He says he met lots of interesting people from all over; he even had people from Germany that would come year after year. He says he had the opportunity to guide for Teddy Roosevelt III, grandson of the famous president, during that time. 

Casey had a “pet” raven whose friendliness would terrify campground guests; this fact he seemed to get quite a kick out of, even today. He says the bird would land on the shoulders of unassuming campers and give them the fright of their lives. I remember Casey also had a gaggle of ducks that would come for breakfast every morning as Casey would throw stale cereal into puddles for them to eat. 

Casey also recalls having a lot of “rescues” during his time up in Spencer Bay. He says he helped the game wardens find many a lost visitor to the region in the middle of the night. One particular instance especially sticks out. He says he and Sarah (his wife at the time) went down to the shed to turn the generator off, as they did every evening. They heard a voice, brushed it off, and then a scream. Casey said to his wife, “Sarah, this place is haunted.” Soon, however, they realized the voice was coming from the lake and it was the voice of a man, not a specter. They followed the voice and found a man who was lost and whose snowmobile had gone through the ice in the Spencer Bay narrows. It was pitch black and the man had no idea where he was. Casey took him back to his home and “warmed him up, fed him.” Casey says if he hadn’t happened to hear him when he went to turn the generator off, or if the snowmobiler had gone out into Spencer Bay and not lost his sled in the narrows, he certainly would have frozen to death. 

After talking for about an hour, it was time for me to leave Casey’s cabin and go about my busy life, so much more complicated than it was when I knew Casey as a kid. I did want to ask him one final question, though, and said shyly, “What do you think about all of this development and how things have been changing? Do you think Moosehead will change?”

After thinking for a few moments, he said, “It’ll change… It’ll change for the better. Can’t keep things the same all the time.” I was really taken aback, as it wasn’t at all what I expected the avid outdoorsman to say, but upon reflection I’ve realized he’s right. Things do have to change. Casey has changed, I’ve changed, and Moosehead is changing. Time tends to carve us in new and sometimes unexpected ways, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Like Casey, there’s something timeless, strong and wild about Moosehead that will see her persevere and maintain her character for all time, and that’s one of the many things that makes her special.

Thank you, Casey, for your time and letting me write about your life. It’s truly been a privilege! Thank you to Leslie and Lani for the pictures, as well. I know for sure Casey isn’t the only character this area has to offer; please send us your nominations for the next “People of the Lake.”

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