Everett Headley 01.11.23
Winter can set in quick and stay for a turn in the Northern Rockies. Still waters freeze and migrating waterfowl move on leaving the very wise and infuriatingly difficult to hunt residents. The big game seasons remaining are management hunts and if you have been blessed during the regular season, your freezers are already full. Mountain Lion and wolf begins in earnest, but those are often long days spent glassing in the cold that I like to end with a soak in the hot tub. There’s no shame in resting for a spell and picking up a tome you’ve meant to read alongside a fire and whiskey is a fine way to cap a season. The following are books I return to often and worthy of a permanent place on your bookshelf.
Meditations on Hunting.
Jose Ortega y Gasset was a Spanish philosopher and not especially well known outside those circles. But the short read that he penned nearly eighty years ago is packed with sentences that are immediately quotable. His most oft quoted line elevates hunting and what it means to life, “one does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted.” His thoughts range from why hunting brings happiness to how it sustains everything primal in us. Truly timeless, most of his thoughts have application to our own battles to maintain and preserve our hunting heritage. This is a book that you wrestle with as you exposit the words. I have read through Meditations at least twice for years now and I still have to reread paragraphs. But the wisdom gained and thoughts pondered make it number one on my winter reading list.
I grew up and still live in the footsteps of the Corps of Discovery. There aren’t many places I can go in Montana and not know that they were there before me. Stephen Ambrose’s narrative is probably the best introductory work for those who have heard of Lewis and Clark, but don’t know the details and trials of this journey. Returning home was a miracle in itself, but cataloging the tribes met, flora and fauna documented, and the opening of a new land brought the Corps into a celebrity status that continues 200 years later. My favorite story is the reuniting of Sacajawea with her brother Cameawait and the ensuing English-French-Hidatsa-Shoshone game of telephone that was necessary for Lewis and Clark to communicate with Cameawait. Do yourself a favor and read the footnotes and follow up on some of them. The nuggets found will be well worth the search.
Nick Adams Stories
What I enjoy most about the Nick Adams saga is the mystery that it opens into one of the greatest pens of outdoor (and all) writing. Hemingway’s stories offer a glimpse into his own life from his earliest days. For those more familiar with his history, when ready the Adams’ stories insight into his feelings and thoughts help to bring this Hemingway closer to the reader. Entertaining on their own, I appreciate the earlier stories (in Nick’s life) because they are relatable to our own coming of age and learning the realities of the world. The author clearly had trauma of his own and writing perhaps helped him to process them. It makes you wonder why he chose those stories and what he had hoped to fully communicate if he had finished and published them. The collection was published four decades after his death when eight more were found among his works. I’d encourage anyone to read The Old Man and the Sea afterwards, which is my favorite work. I especially appreciate the audio version read by Donald Sutherland.
A Hunter’s Heart
I am a philosopher and this book marries my love of thought with hunting. The subtitle alone should be enough to entice a sportsman to read Petersen’s book: Honest Essays on Blood Sport. The pendulum on hunting media has swung wide from the early twentieth century with classic writers to the video of the late nineties. What has been lost is the reverence and respect for the taking of life, but this book helped to recapture many of the ideas that will ensure hunting is preserved. Notable authors are present as well as those obscure that introduce you to the various writing styles available to sportsmen. This book will make you think more about why you hunt and how you represent hunting.
Tough Trip Through Paradise.
I imagine if you ask a hunter what time he would feel most comfortable in and where he might want to be if he were offered another life, the answer would be in the West two hundred years ago. The generation of mountain men was brief and declined almost as soon as they arrived. This story is recorded by one of the last of his kind aware that his way of life would be no longer. Andrew Garcia arrived in Montana with his uncle, only to have his horses and belongings stolen. This forced him to stay and find his way, which he did hunting and trading with the natives. I especially enjoy this read because I have been to some of the areas he traveled and looked over the landscape wondering what he saw and how it changed. Of special interest, his family thought the manuscript was too risque to publish and held on to it for fifty years before publishing it.