With Christmas coming on fast you may be scrambling for gift ideas for some lover of the outdoors. To me the next best thing to experiencing the outdoors and all its treasures is reading about it. So if you want to give someone hours of pleasure by curling up with a good book on a cold, rainy day let me offer some suggestions.
Every hunter and fisher needs to read “The Old Man and the Boy,” by Robert Ruark. It was originally published in Field and Stream magazine, and is an excellent read for all ages. It is a collection of stories from Ruark’s youth, spending time with his grandfather, who taught him a lot about hunting, fishing and life in general. The book is considered a classic, and you may end up reading it over several times. It is available from Amazon Books.
There is a follow-up book titled “The Old Man’s Boy Grows Older” which is not as flavorful as the first, but still good reading. “A sportsman, the Old Man said, is a gentleman first. But a sportsman basically is a man who kills what he needs…or wants for a special reason, but he never kills anything just to kill it. And he tries to preserve the very same thing that he kills from time to time. The books call this conservation. It is the same reason we don’t shoot that tame covey of quail down to less’n ten birds. I never knew a bad man who was what I’d call a sportsman, he said.”
All outdoorsmen/women have Theodore Roosevelt to thank for convincing our nation about the importance of our natural resources and their conservation through proper management. He was not only an avid hunter and outdoorsman, but also a prolific writer and published several books on hunting and the outdoor experience. Not many are still being published, but one (again from Amazon Books) titled “Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter,” first printed in 1905. It is a collection of hunting stories, and is an interesting look at the American West during the turn of the century. This book was written by Roosevelt himself, with no help from a co-author. “No one but he who has partaken thereof, can understand the keen delight of hunting in the lonely lands.”
Another good book written by another American president is “An Outdoor Journal,” by Jimmy Carter (Amazon Books again). It is a collection of hunting and fishing ventures Carter experienced as a child and later as an adult. His reflections are from the heart and enjoyable to read. “While hunting recently I lost one of my bird dogs, a black and white English setter named Sport. I finally saw a small patch of white above a fallen log and found that it was Sport, lying flat on his belly with his head propped on the log. He had held an immobile point until he could stand no longer; then, as his muscles tired, he just gradually sank down on the ground. When I patted him on the head he stood up, a little shakily, and moved forward with us. Fifty yards ahead, out of gun range, the covey of quail flushed.”
Hope your Christmas is a good-un!
Steve Roark is the Area Forester in Tazewell, Tenn. for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Forestry Division.