Saturday, 28 December 2013

Henry Abbott - Camps and Trails

Here I am, still alphabetically reading the books from the public domain which I have found on the Gutenberg Project website. This means I basically read things written by people whose last name was Abbott. I should rename it as my 'Abbott Project', rather than 'Gutenberg Project Project'.

This little marvel was one of 19 little tales written by Henry Abbott which concern mostly his hunting and camping expeditions up-state New York with his partner Bige. The whole collection is called 'Bitch Bark Books', although I think 'The Sketches from a Hunter's Album' would be more apt. That, however, was already taken by Turgenev.

 
What did I learn from Camps and Trails?

I learnt that picnickers have always been littering, noisy assholes, even back in 1915.

I also learnt that goshawks are even worse assholes.

"Every guide and hunter of my acquaintance in the North Woods, is the sworn enemy of this bird of prey. No man is thought to have performed his duty if he allows one of these hawks to escape. The goshawk destroys many song birds, but his particular object in life is to kill partridges. The partridge is one of our most desirable game birds. He has many enemies among the four footed residents of the forest. The owl also, will kill a partridge at night, while he is roosting in a tree; but the goshawk (sometimes called partridge hawk) pursues a policy of frightfulness amounting almost to extermination of the partridge. He will sit all day, and day after day in a tree in that part of the woods where a flock of young partridges live, watching his opportunity to pounce upon and kill them one after another, until the last one is disposed of; when he will go on a hunt for another flock. [...] I suspect that our feeling of enmity toward the goshawk is not entirely due to sympathy for the defenseless partridge. Mixed motives may inspire us to acts of revenge. We, ourselves sometimes eat breast of partridge.

More usefully, I learnt how to blaze a trail which will come in super handy post the apocalypse.

But the most beautiful part of this tiny thing was this great paragraph about getting lost in the forest. Because getting lost in the forest is at the same time the best and the worst thing that could happen to you in the forest.

"The first impulse of one who thinks he is lost in the forest is that of haste. One is always in a desperate hurry to get somewhere quick. If this impulse is obeyed and the now alarmed traveler rushes off at headlong speed, the danger is, not only that of going in the wrong direction, but in nine cases out of ten, the victim travels in circles. The psychology of deliberation is like first aid to the injured and the victim soon begins to realize that he is not really lost. He is only temporarily mislaid and will soon pull himself out and locate some familiar landmark."

"I have also, many times been misplaced in the forest while hunting or exploring and am always on such occasions reminded of Bige's advice to "never argue with your compass while in the woods." Whenever my compass tells me that camp is in a direction opposite to that which reason and memory and the lay of the land indicates, my practice is to sit down on a log, lay the compass on the log, stand the gun up against a tree far enough away so the steel of its barrel will not influence the compass needle and try to arrange in mind the topography of the country I am in. After a reasonable rest I am always willing to follow the pointing of the compass at least for a limited distance.'
 

2 comments:

  1. >>>This means I basically read things written by people whose last name was Abbott. I should rename it as my 'Abbott Project', rather than 'Gutenberg Project Project'.

    I laughed out loud when I read this! I started a project once to read all the books in the library (it was when I was fourteen, right after I'd gotten my "grown-up" library card), and I read twenty books by Abbotts and Ackroyds before I got tired of it.

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    1. Ha hahaha! Ah my astral twin! I did the same thing when I lived in Poland.
      There was a very small local library which I went to and everything was organised first by countries and then by last names. So I started reading english literature (in Polish 'angielska'), so I read Abbots, Ackroyd, Austen, then Brontes and Julian Barnes.. I stopped around early C because I actually moved to England. I joined a library in London and decided there was no way I was starting again from A. :)

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