Big Red-Cedar Sanderson

Big Red-Cedar Sanderson


Sometimes when you go back and re-read a book you can see the bones. Both my First Reader and I loved anything by Jim Kjelgaard when we were growing up – the wonders of public libraries, that childhoods separated by 20 years could supply the same books to be read and adored. I brought home copies of Big Red and Irish Red from a recent used-bookstore foray, and while I was making a stack on the bed of to-read books, he came in and saw Big Red. His eyes lit up, and he wordlessly snagged it out of the pile. I laughed, talked to him for a minute about the children’s book(s) I’ve been contemplating writing (for my mother and son, which is funny but really works). He went back to the office, I curled up with Agatha Christie and my sore throat (I binge-read when I’m not feeling well) and forgot about it.

In the morning, though, he waved the book at me. “You know, I have remembered why I liked this so much as a boy.”

It turns out that, much like myself, he’d grown up knowing people who lived like the main character in the book and his father do. Odd jobs, hunting, fishing, trapping… it seems an idyllic existence to a child of a certain age and temperament. Both of us, it turned out, had tried our hands at trapping. Him for mink and muskrat, me for ermine and fox in the Alaskan wilderness. We never had much luck, and wet boots from slipping in the creek weren’t exactly fun, but there was a connection to the land we shared.

It seems to be a lost thing, now. Where once you could find folks who didn’t hold with a regular job, who could exist with the work of their two hands and the plenty of the land, now… Now, if you find someone living homeless, it’s likely under a bridge and with drug problems. We neither of us have our rose-colored glasses on when it comes to looking at the past. There were miserable existences that centered around finding enough to eat, and heat in the winter. I well know the effort you can pour into making enough wood for the stove happen, not to mention the garden and hunting for the family’s meat. It’s not easy.

But there’s an allure to it. To going out and getting it yourself, doing what needs to be done, and not worrying about a boss, or regulations, or… One of my favorite books on a similar theme and written in a similar time period is Gene Stratton Porter’s The Harvester. It’s not about farming, but a man who cultivates medicinal herbs and sells them to companies back-East who use them in medicines. By the standards of the day, he makes good money with the delicate niche harvest he cultivates. And the book is a sweet romance, if rather improbable when viewed through modern eyes. I still really love it.

Neither book rings as true now as it did then, for several reasons. We are further from the ages we were then, having grown from child to looking at ‘old’ with wary eyes. We are further from the Land than we were, and at that, I am closer than most, as I will still forage for wild things to eat when practical, not out of need, but because I enjoy it. When I discovered we had wild onions in our yard, for instance, I was overjoyed (I’d never lived where there were wild alliums before). But how many modern Americans would even entertain this as a possibility?

Another thing that has changed is attitudes towards sex. The First Reader remembered the main character to be perhaps 12-14 years old, and was slightly incredulous on re-reading and discovering the lad in the book to be 17. Seventeen, and not in the slightest interested in girls, his world revolved around a dog. It would stretch credibility in a modern novel, yes. The Harvester is about grown adults, who are all tension and blushes over a kiss. Sweet… and so far we have come from that time and place.

But no matter how much distance there is between our fondness then-and-now, the books are still worth reading. I plan to give the Kjelgaard books to my son when we’ve read them, to hopefully inspire another generation. And as we read them, we look back, and remember ourselves as we once were. There is still a lot of value in the old stories, they capture a picture of what once was an ideal. We shouldn’t entirely lose sight of that.

148 thoughts on “Big Red-Cedar Sanderson

  1. …he’d grown up knowing people who lived like the main character in the book… Odd jobs, hunting, fishing, trapping… it seems an idyllic existence to a child of a certain age and temperament.

    The Spouse, who took up reading to me while I drove on long trips, read Rascal to me. Then, later, to The Daughter and I. After thinking about it we realized that in our modern world Sterling North would not have been building an eighteen foot canoe in the living room, hunting summer berries to sell for pocket change, and generally mastering boyish self-sufficiency. No he would have been in Child Protective Services.

    1. Yes, sadly. Another one I love – ok, there are two, I lie – is Two Little Savages by Ernest Thompson Seton and of course, Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. Both tell stories of children allowed to run wild, only returning for ‘raids’ of supplies in between their adventures. I was lucky enough to be able to do some things like that. My kids weren’t. Their kids? Probably not either.

      1. I did not read Swallows and Amazons until I was an adult. It was wonderful. I would have loved it as a child.

        I recall the heady feeling of the freedom of running around my suburban neighborhood on magical warm summer nights without direct adult supervision. Later having similar freedom to explore the area around the rural east Tennessee boarding high school. Sadly, I doubt that it will be an option for many in the future.

      2. I roamed the area around my house all summer long, without supervision. I had to come home for dinner. And even though as I understand it, violent crime has dropped dramatically since those times, our paranoia about what might happen has risen so high that we’re certain all unsupervised children will be kidnapped and/or assaulted. And if they are not, their parents will be charged will neglect and/or abuse.

        1. Two things to keep in mind for the lies, damned lies and statistics angle: what’s the violent crime per age group? And how many kids are violently targeted by other kids, and it never gets reported? (Never mind that the possibility of it being a “why are so many people in jail when crime has gone down” situation.)

          Plus “little” things like it being socially acceptable for 13 year olds to be groomed, impregnated and taken for an abortion by adult men, to the point of not being reported as rape by the abortuaries, and the dangers are simply different.

          I understand the disgust with smothering kids, but I also get really freaking tired of folks making blanket attacks on specific situations where they do not know what the situation is, and did even before the idiot decided to let loose on me for not letting my kids play in the front yard… which has no fence… and was on a major road where people routinely sped, drove high and threw beer cans and/or vodka bottles out the window in the early afternoon.

          1. And differences in situation have to be accounted for of course. But my wife, who rode the New York City subway by herself at age 12 is hesitant about letting our 12 year old son walk to his friend’s house in suburban (really semi-rural) Utah. I guess my complaint is that everybody now assumes that every area carries equal risks, as though rural Idaho had the same problems as downtown Detroit, and forever more will.

            1. I live in a very safe are—full of cul-de-sacs and long-term owners. The school backs onto a park and some parents don’t pick up their kids until an hour after school on nice days, enabling them to play without much adult supervision (I’ll sometimes be the only adult there when there’s twenty or thirty kids.)

              And yet—go three blocks away and you can see the memorial to a kid who tried to shoot the gap between a truck and its fifth-wheel trailer. You can have a safe, safe neighborhood and bad things can still happen.

              I’d prefer that more people would be free-range parents—for one thing, there’s safety in numbers—but I’m not going to pick on someone for realizing that a particular risk is too high. My older child will probably not get certain free-range privileges until his sister is ready for them, and possibly not until after, because they’re on different paths.

              1. I was about to tell of a certain presentation given at our school on the dangers of particular stunts, then decided not to give anyone ideas. Yes, it was dangerous as all rip. And one teacher said this was the only school where she’d heard of that being a problem.

                The guy who drove the beer truck used to park off campus and give out Budman stickers. It was that sort of place.

          2. Please know from the start that I’m not getting in your face here. Every situation is different, and I don’t know what things are like where you live. I will only observe that I grew up not only beside a highway in the days of 60 MPH speed limits, but in the woods where all sorts of critter prowled, from rattlesnakes and cottonmouths all the way up to catamounts and bears. Somehow I managed to be neither run over, bitten, or mauled. And considering the reputation of the nearest “home town,” I grew up neither stabbed nor shot.

            Yes I knew a girl who was bitten by a rattlesnake and lost her foot. I knew a man killed in a hit and run. I knew a law enforcement officer killed in a hit. I had a friend shoot and almost kill another in a hunting accident. In elementary school a friend caught hepatitis after we found a partially full beer bottle in front of the school and he took a sip. We knew the dangers. But I guess growing up on a farm around dangerous animals and equipment (a friend lost his legs to a grain auger), we expected things to be somewhat dangerous.

            No, we didn’t have child snatchings and we were too poor to worry about kidnapping. No meth in those days of moonshine, wacky weed, horse, and magic mushrooms. No crack houses. Yet, in general, I suspect some fears are overblown.

            1. Ranch kid here. I’ll take animals over pot smoking idiots– animals are risks in predictable ways, ditto machines. (It took me a while to figure out that no, an abnormal number of the total lunatics driving dangerously on the road had NOT hit skunks, that smell was pot.)

              I got pegged in the back of the head with a beer can, walking back from the library. If there’d been more, or if it had been a bottle, I could be dead.

              We set up the back yard for not-under-direct-supervision play, and the eldest kid is five, but I’m really glad to not live there anymore.

              1. The first home my wife and I lived in had drunks staggering by during the daylight hours. I made it a point, every so often, to trim the shrubbery with a machete. Had no problems.

              2. There is a disdain expressed by the locals of the legendary idiots from the cities who would supposedly come into the mountains thinking it would be fun to drink some brewskis and then go a huntin’ … I don’t know the truth of the matter, but suspect it was more informed than the disdain the intelligentsia has expressed for all the hard working people who produce their food.

      3. The only way this happens these days is as in my hometown area: Small town USA, Flyover country, the family owns or lives on a large plot of land (100 acres or so), and there are more wild critters than people (especially nanny gov’t type people). Even that has its limits these days. My area I grew up in now has wolves and cougars to go with a larger population of bears. We only got the occasional warning to not go to a certain section of the woods as there was a sow bear and cubs in the area. Now, the added critters have some who would let the kids “run feral” keep them close to hand. Still, just keeping to the roads and well worn trails kids are still out running in the woods back home, just not the numbers of when I was a kid doing that. The other limiting factor is how many kids seem to live in front of a screen with a game controller in their hands. My cousin’s kids and stepson’s game time, when they are visiting the family “farm” (it was always more of a small apple orchard and truck garden with trees, trees, and swamp trees than acres of crop or grazing) only seems to happen when it is raining and even his stepson (city born and raised until 11 or so) now loves wandering the land (the oldest armed as there be wolves in the area).
        With the only internet dial up, the kids got used to basically being offline for the duration.
        At home, they do not have that liberty. They live outside Detroit. They can’t hardly leave the yard without someone being a nosy parker.
        That is how everything seems to work today. We had CPS show up here when former renters were showing their daughter’s teacher around the place and one daughter got side kicked by a horse. The fact there were actually more adults than kids in the group, Everyone living here in that group had helped in the feeding and care of that horse so they had riding privileges, seemed to mean nothing. The kid complained of little pain but they felt something wasn’t right so they went to the ER and found a ruptured spleen, and this was obviously proof the kids were unattended and abused, and all sorts of other crimes to the first inquisitor investigator. They had the teacher call and complain to get someone else to come out and get CPS off their backs. Like most EHS people in corporate America, CPS seems to hold mostly petty tin gods who want to lord over others, and seem only to harass the innocent while letting the real atrocities go unnoticed.

        1. I will say here, for justice, that I have a friend who recently had CPS called on her by a nosy parker, and not only did CPS find the charges baseless, they flat-out stated that she was “a good mom.” So sometimes it’s not CPS who are the petty tyrants; sometimes it’s the people who call them in.

  2. When I discovered we had wild onions in our yard, for instance, I was overjoyed (I’d never lived where there were wild alliums before). But how many modern Americans would even entertain this as a possibility?

    There are Ramps festivals throughout the Appalachian Mountians celebrating the pungent wild Allium tricoccum. 😉

      1. I gather you home educate. Maybe someday you can incorporate your long woods-rambles with that. When The Daughter and I did most of a year regularly hiking the same trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway observing the plants — even managed to find Doll’s Eyes in bloom.

  3. Your mention of the age of the kid in Big Red reminds me of something Charlton Heston mentions in his autobiography IN THE ARENA. He played Long John Silver in a 1990 film of TREASURE ISLAND. The decision was made to cast Jim as a late teenager instead of the younger canonical age, dimly because a young Jim has to be protected too much by Silver or modern audiences would freak.

    The thing about sex in these books has a lot of dimensions. My take on the Victorians is that they were both less sexualized in general, and less interested in reading about sex. The modern view is that this means they were sexually repressed, but I am increasingly of the opinion that it is more that we Moderns are obsessed with sex to an unhealthy, or at least tiresome degree.

    Not totally sure what, if anything, should be done about that. I do think that, in light of how messed up the teaching of even relatively straightforward subjects is in the public schools, it might be a good idea to get them out of the business of teaching anything as complicated and nuanced as sex-ed. They CAN’T be doing it well.

    1. You leave out those of us who maintain that the sex was there all along, but they were just too innocent to see it.

      1. Oh, they saw it, all right. It’s in their literature, if you bother to look closely (which can be tough, the rhythms are different amd temberbosity can be heavy going). They simply didn’t feel the need to wallow in it 24/7. They didn’t suffer from the compulsion to detail every bit of bedsport any character might have. They felt that some things were private, and explicit descriptions of people playing hide-the-salami were confined to books dedicated to that kind of thing.

        We don’t, for the most part, write detailed descriptions of our characters passing a stool. Who’s to say that some future, bowel movement obsessed, culture won’t label us “repressed” for that very reason?

        1. They saw in some places. Some moderns are firm that wherever THEY see sex, it was sexual, and the Victorians were just too innocent.

          1. Freud was a stopped clock, but not the sort that’s accidentally right twice a day; no, he was a clock stopped at 63 minutes past 13 o’clock.

            1. Frued is the father of modern pyschology because so much effort has been put into proving how idiotic his theories were. Piss off enough of your colleagues and you to can live in infamy! 😉

    2. My take on the Victorians is that they were both less sexualized in general, and less interested in reading about sex.

      The Victorian take was there are things simply not discussed in polite company. But it was there. There was no shortage of porn or bawdy houses, and even skin flicks in the form of racy kinetoscopes. Even Victoria herself was a bit more racy than some like to think.

      1. Yes. The modern (and needless to say Liberal Left) view of the Victorians is largely tripe. I’m not saying they were uninterested in sex, or that they never wrote about it. Just that they felt it was one small aspect of life rather than the driving force behind everything.

        Were they “repressed”? Maybe a little. I could wish we ourselves were a little more than we are.

  4. I’ve never tried my hand at trapping, though some friends have to supplement their income. Mostly it’s rabbit and raccoon, and they have to leave one paw unskinned so neither is confused with domesticated animals. Never knew anyone who trapped for pelts. But it was once common to hunt and fish to stretch the food budget, and once at every bridge you were bound to see someone with a cane pole down at the banks.

    When the pressures of work mount, most of us here one time or other think of heading for the swamps and just chunking it all. We don’t because of responsibilities, and it would mean paring our lives down to the bare minimum, without so much as electricity. Certainly no cell phone or Internet. After a week like this one, though, that looks mighty attractive.

    This is out in the boonies, anyway, so while the teens might not build a canoe in the living room, they might be putting together a jon boat under the shelter, or going hunting, or other things that would make city folks flitter. I hope that freedom never passes away.

    1. I’ve got a friend who traps professionally – coons, fox, coyotes, beaver, mink. He makes 5 figures almost every year, even the bad ones. Not bad for a part time job.

      1. 5 figures is a wide range, from 10,000 to 99,999. Top end of that range is a pretty good living. Bottom end of that range is only worth it if doesn’t take too much of your time, or if you enjoy it.

        1. Depending upon the year – 4 years ago Russia was buying fur like crazy and he made ~70K, last year it was more like 15K or so. But as I said, not bad money for a couple of months of work he really enjoys doing, even in the really crappy weather. he calls it “American Heritage Sports.” Hunting, fishing, and trapping. He only traps from November to January when the furs on the animals are the thickest.

          1. This year the Russians aren’t buying (if you think our economy is bad, check out theirs) and practically everything that goes to Greece and Italy ends up in Russia, so they aren’t buying either. This pretty much leaves the Chinese, since the Koreans decided it was easier to buy the pieces they want from the Chinese than to buy the furs themselves. Coyotes are bringing good money, but pretty much the rest of the fur market is tanking at the moment.
            I have followed it all my life, and you can easily look back on fur market prices for the last 150 years. This is normal, the fur market is cyclical. Prices will come back eventually, but first it will weed out a bunch of the newcomer hunters, trappers, and mink ranchers.
            This is why there are so few people that make a living off it. In practicality you have to have other sources of income, in the good years, when your hunting or trapping produces well and the fur market is up; if you work like a dog you may be able to make enough to live on (although probably not a “living wage” if you figure out your hours) but then come the bad years, I remember not so long ago when you couldn’t give a bobcat hide away for several years.

            By the way, if your friend is making that kind of money just on the furs you mention, he has my compliments. Putting up beaver properly is work, and while the others mentioned are less time consuming, none of those mentioned are particularly high dollar or with the exception of mink, low effort furs to put up.

    2. In my state it’s still relatively common to hunt for the table to stretch the food budget. I knew families growing up where every kid got a hunting license as soon as they could and bagged their limit each season. Quite a few still do.

      1. I personally know of a family of four, parents both professionals making a six figure income each, where the mother brags about her husband filling their large chest freezer with venison every fall.

  5. …I am increasingly of the opinion that it is more that we Moderns are obsessed with sex to an unhealthy, or at least tiresome degree.

    My step-mother gave The Daughter, a precocious reader then in grade school, what I believe was a new Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys mystery. She read it and announced with disgust that at the end some one got kissed for no reason necessary to the story, and that she didn’t want anymore.

    (Besides, Poirot were better mysteries.)

  6. This post reminded me of a book I have been trying to find off and on for several years, but I apparently don’t remember its name. I hardly remember anything of the book, except for the fact that the MC, a boy who was probably 12 or so, went off on his own, and I remember a description of how he hollowed out a tree to use for shelter in the early part of his adventure: He found a large tree with a small hole already in the base of the trunk and built a fire there. Then he scraped away the burnt part and did it over and over until he had a large enough hole for himself and his small bundle of belongings. I’m not even sure I ever finished the book, but I would like to see it again.

    Does that description sound familiar to anyone? And can they remember the name of the book?

        1. IIRC, that writer was my favorite for a time. (Swiss Family Robinson was my favorite book, but she was my favorite writer.)

          Eventually, I realized I hated the environment, and Green wasn’t so much my taste.

          I mean to check out a full copy of SFR from the library, and reread.

        2. That’s what I thought the last time I tried to find it, but I SWEAR that the description I read on Amazon did not sound like the same book at all, but now when I go look it up, it’s apparently the same book. I’m confused.

    1. Yep – My Side of the Mountain. My brother and I loved that story – it was serialized on a kid’s radio program that we used to listen to, religiously. Mom bought us a copy. Sometimes I entertained the thought of running away and living off the land, but alas, where I lived there was little scope for that kind of thing. (IIRC, one of the boy’s reliable food sources were cattail roots, which are described as tasting rather like potatoes.)

      1. My book on edible wild plants says that you can eat every part of the cattail plant, even to using the heads of the mature plant for a flour substitute.

          1. Yep! A lot of wild edibles are still wild for a reason. I’ve been offline most of the day with genetics homework to do, which ties into this: a lot of food plants were genetically manipulated for ‘tasty’ through prolonged breeding. So the wild-types are lacking in comparison. This isn’t universal, but it certainly explains the difference between a seedling apple, and, say, a Gravenstein.

            A fun book for learning more about this is Stalking the Healthful Herbs by Euell Gibbons, where he took a lot of wild plants and had them assayed for nutritional content. As you’d expect, a lot of the modern domestic veg don’t have the same values as the wild-types.

            1. Probably true, but when you look at expenditure to acquire, the supermarket looks mighty good.

          2. From what I gather from that book, the time in the growth cycle is very important as to what you want to use each part for, and I kind of doubt the leaves would be “good” at any time, though they could probably be used for filler.

            Also, harvesting is a pain, at least where I live, because of the likelihood of losing your boots in the sticky clay mud around here.

      2. Definitely My Side of the Mountain. I loved the book as a kid, then tried to reread it when I was older; it is the only book I have ever physically tossed in the woodstove. What was a great story as kid, and could have been a great story as an adult, was ruined by the glaring, blinding, idiocy and head banging ignorance of the author.

  7. Some people do still hunt and fish and live off the land. Swamp People is now in its 6th season and shows the bayou folk of Louisiana during alligator season. Living off the land is not one of my dreams, I’m too citified for that, but reading about it, or watching it is pleasant.

    1. There are books that desribe in in the present, too. Peter Bowen’s Montana mysteries and Dana Stabenow’s Alaska books for examples.

      1. One of my favorite books growing up was the Swiss Family Robinson. Of course, if it were written today, the mother would be the head of the family, they would all be dysfunctional, and the book would end with one of the children having a mental breakdown and murdering and eating the rest.

    2. While I loathe most reality TV, I do enjoy Swamp People as well as Alaska: The Final Frontier, which covers the every day lives of the extended Kilcher family on their homestead in southern coastal Alaska. Of course the TV production crews play every detail for suspense and excitement, but the sense of just another day of living the life comes through.
      Then of course you have things like Alaskan Bush People, about a sketchy disfunctional family of idiots attempting to live rough out in the woods. I have never been able to sit through an entire episode of their “adventures” without finding myself yelling at the TV.

      1. I like that through the online community you get to see what the folks who are in Swamp People actually think and say about the show they are in. the Molinares have stated often on Twitter, in news stories, and blogs that half the talking you hear is not what happens during the hunts. The pair are fairly quiet and have worked together so long and have that Father/son/friendship thing where little is needed to be said to get the job done. So the producers add in the extra talk. It is the same with Big Troy’s “Choot ‘im! Choot ‘im Clint!” (met Troy once, long, long ago, btw). He said it once and they pasted it in for every single shoot seen.

        1. Somebody actually put out a Swamp People Android game called “Choot It!” 😎

          1. I do miss a few of the folks I used to deal with down around those parts (I had one customer in Pierre Part, and two in Belle River the next town over)

            1. Troy reminds me somewhat of my maternal grandfather. My family was south Arkansas, but I grew up with people very much like that.

    3. It’s one of my nightmares. Cold, damp, hot, dusty, full of bugs and itchy things. BT,DT. NT.

  8. I always loved stories like Big Red or Where the Red Fern Grows. They were close enough to what I did in real life to be interesting and just far enough away to be exciting. I grew up in fishing and well, not hunting until I was fourteen and it was legal, but at least walking through the woods and learning about tracks, etc. It was a lot of fun. I mean, who can ever forget the biggest fish they ever caught or the first time they followed a blood trail across the snow?(Notice I didn’t say anything about my knowledge of wild plants. There is a word for anyone who would follow my advice about what plants to eat in the woods. It starts with “D” and rhymes with “head.”)

    To me though, the best part of those stories and what I wanted to emulate was that those kids got paid for doing. It’s been a long time and I may be confusing the two stories (Damn my old brain!) but whether it was gathering berries to sell to fishermen or raising another man’s dog and getting paid for it, that sounded good to me. Shooting coons for a living sounded good too, especially when I had to clean up after one got in the garbage. Ditto the time I caught one eating my potato chips while I was camping. When I did get my first job at the end of my eighth grade year it was nowhere near the woods. I was working in a grocery store. I still thought about those books though and those young men working for what they wanted. I felt like I was one of them.

    I can’t help but wonder if a story along these same lines (young person finds goal, identifies plan, earns it on their own) would fly in a modern market. The whole independence of these works was what made them attractive to me. It occurs to me that a modern version of any of these types of stories would be met with resistance because they promote a can-do attitude as opposed to a desire to be dependent. Then again, it might. And I’ve been thinking about… Hmm…

    1. “Notice I didn’t say anything about my knowledge of wild plants. There is a word for anyone who would follow my advice about what plants to eat in the woods. It starts with “D” and rhymes with “head.”)”

      My advice is always to remember that: plants aren’t food; plants are what food eats.

  9. I know someone whose family grew up hunting and such to put food on their table – in Michigan in the 80’s and early 90’s. They’d even go after squirrel in the neighborhood. They were dirt poor but knew how to hunt, and would gather asparagus from the sides of the road and other such things.
    So it does go on, most people just don’t see it.

    1. Which is why you get legions of SJWs saying that no one in these United States needs to hunt for meat. Bull. Even before their ethanol boondoggle drove the price of feed for livestock through the roof, I personally knew people that either got a couple of deer in deer season or they essentially went vegetarian that year because they couldn’t afford meat from the store.

      1. You get legions of SJWs saying nobody NEEDS a gun for self defense. They say all kinds of things that are obviously not so. And they say them with such smug conviction that I must conclude that they believe them.

        They live in amvery strange world, inside their heads.

        1. Sarah, if you’re seriously looking for deer meat, call up your local deer processor and see if they have an arrangement I was occasionally able to use back in AL. Basically, all deer taken there are required to be processed, but they can’t come out and sell it. What they can do is hang on to it until “someone” comes in and pays the processing fee. I could usually get a hundred pounds or so of deer meat at about $1 per pound. There wan’t really any choice on cuts, but it usually included steaks, roasts, ground venison, and deer sausage. They were happy to clear out the room, since they could only donate it otherwise.

              1. You mean if you hit one with your car or truck? Yep, you call the Division of Wildlife and so long as there are no obvious tire tracks showing you chasing it down, you can usually take it. Sometimes the Div Wildlife Managers will instead donate it to needy area families.

                Few actual food banks will accept game these days for fears of liability for various game borne illnesses and the EVEEL lead.

                  1. Methinks that perhaps our Beautiful but Evil hostess has never seen a struck deer rolling down a hill with a gang of knife wielding pursuers behind it. I can totally see this happening and was once IN a truck with a friend of mine who SPED UP to try to hit a deer as it was crossing the road. (Yes, a friend. Not only would I not do that to my own vehicle but everyone I know who has hit a deer has ruined a lot of the meat.)

                    1. I hit one deer perfectly to not ruin the meat. Hit the base of his neck with the corner of the car. Not on purpose, though. It was way to expensive if I had even gotten it processed – the repairs to the car would have run the cost of the meat up to about $10/lb.

                1. So our neighborhood, we watch out for vehicle/deer collisions. If we see someone else hit one, town folk or whatever, and they don’t take it, we call The Guy Who Knows A Guy and he’s got a list of which neighbors want one.
                  So if you let it be known to folks in your area, if it’s an area where deer/vehicle collisions happen, that you are interested, you’ll probably get called.

                  1. That surprises me. None take it around here any longer. The DWM’s I know have a list of families they take direct to.

                    1. Not sure about around here (in fact I’m pretty sure that if somebody, usually the one who hits it, doesn’t take the animal, it is dragged off of the road and left for the scavengers) but where I grew up on the coast of Washington (which makes this really surprising, but then I knew and like that sheriff, and eventually respected him for his decision to resign rather than go along with actions the state was forcing him to do) when the county sheriff’s department responded to a call for a vehicle/animal collision the animal was often salvaged and fed to the inmates of the county jail. In fact some of the salvaging was done by the inmates themselves.

              1. The old Out of This World Cookbook (edited by Anne McCaffrey) has Karen Anderson’s description of how Anthony Boucher prepared the deer she accidentally ran over. Because gourmet cooks also believe in cooking every part of the deer.

                He also supervised hanging the deer in the tiny California garage, heh.

        2. Be careful of what you wish. Probably butchered and aged venison is delicious. Improperly butchered venison is horrible. Most of that “gamey” taste people complain about is nothing more than bad meat, the result of hauling the deer for half a day showing it off before field dressing or even bleeding it out.

          When I was a wee lad, deer were rare until they were restocked with deer from Wisconsin, IIRC, in my preteens. So when we killed our first deer, neither my father nor I knew how to proceed. But we had butchered livestock, so we bled it out before dragging it to the truck, and immediately took it back to the house, strung it up on an old steel single tree, dressed it, and immediately took it to a local store where a friend put it into his cooler until we took it to a nearby meat processor for aging, cutting, and wrapping. The results were much better than the second deer, which we bled out, but were unable to so much as field dress for a couple of hours.

          Due to the poor preparation skills of some hunters, some meat processors have refused to take deer carcasses, which has led to seasonal deer coolers, and these can be spotty in quality. There was one I went to where, if someone told me they had handled the carcass, I would toss the venison straight into the trash.

          Something interesting about venison. Nuclear power plants have to give whole body counts from time to time, and one fellow showed high, which led to checking for how he was exposed. It was eventually traced to his venison. He ate a lot of it, and it had picked it up from the environment. This was about a year after Chernobyl, but that could be coincidental.

      2. I knew of a family in NW Missouri, that at least 10 years ago, still hunted to put food on the table. If there wasn’t venison, or rabbit, or turkey, or raccoon…well, there’s always possum. There were a couple of years where they did have to settle for possum. And even the game warden turned a blind eye to their hunting out of season. The father was an amputee – his leg had been removed at the hip – so all they had to live on was disability and whatever they could get doing odd jobs. BUT, he made sure his daughter had food, clean clothes, got to school on time, and good grades. He was one of those guys that would give you the shirt off his back, but would turn down any kind of charity.

      3. If you had any idea how expensive per pound my “free” venison is these days …

        After paying Colorado DOW for tags, gas to the mountains, camping equipment, propane for the tent heater/stove, food, nice tatty looking camo clothes, ammo …

      4. By the way, in higher end stores, you can often find “venison” in the meat department. Its actually most commonly reindeer (domesticated caribou) that our dear Pohjalainen would be familiar with.

        1. Sounds like just the thing for a Christmas roast. Especially if you bring it to the table with a glowing red “nose”.


              1. Oh, my.
                I think that is funny and sick. I can imagine some of the hunting and fishing types I know doing that for a Christmas decoration…

  10. The First Reader remembered the main character to be perhaps 12-14 years old, and was slightly incredulous on re-reading and discovering the lad in the book to be 17. Seventeen, and not in the slightest interested in girls, his world revolved around a dog. It would stretch credibility in a modern novel, yes.

    I have a 15-year old without the slightest interest in girls, and think he might easily reach 22 with a similar lack of interest. Expectations and social occasions might have him date “appropriately”, but it is still quite possible to not see the need to rush such things until the 20s. I know my own delay of such things raised questions, even the accusation of being gay by a church board member (not that I had ever done anything to express interest the other way).

    For followup on the comments about the Victorians, I suggest C.S. Lewis’s point of view. They chose to hush things up because things had been such a mess. No need to air the dirty laundry all the time (don’t you air the clean laundry? Guess I never really understood that saying…)

    1. No need to air the dirty laundry all the time (don’t you air the clean laundry? Guess I never really understood that saying…)

      I thought that was the point– you don’t air the dirty laundry, you wash it. You air out musty or just washed stuff that doesn’t need to be cleaned.

      1. I have this vague impression that before washing machines and modern detergents one might air dirty laundry to dry off caked on stuff, and sun bleach to a degree, before washing, but searching on the net got me nothing so maybe I’m misremembering.

        1. My mom sun-bleached my diapers– it was an after-washing thing.

          Drying out ick was a thing, but it wouldn’t be done where folks could see, and would probably be done in the mud room.

          This might be an older standard than you’re thinking, though– it’s from way-off-the-path ranch life, which is kind of pre-industrial in a lot of ways. (except for a few really big awesome points, like better made rope and such)

            1. Try as I might, I cannot read that in anything other than an English accent.

              1. I was reading Agatha Christie at one point, and kept trying to figure out why it sounded so dang familiar– I’d never read any Miss Marple before, but something about it… turn of phrase, pacing, SOMETHING.

                Suddenly I realized: “…this lady’s story-voice sounds a lot like Sarah on According To Hoyt.”

                I still think it’s pretty dang nifty.

              2. If you remove the layers of mid range hearing loss and the slight American overlay, I have a British accent. It’s how I learned English first. My older son has traces of a British accent, so he picked it up, somehow. (Enough for teachers to ask “were you born in England.” — by which they mean raised, of course. I hope.)

                1. We lived in .au when my daughter was 3-5, and 2 years later she’s still got some odd phrases and accents.

                  1. I had small cousins being raised in South Carolina by two native New York state inhabitants.

                    They talked like New York EXCEPT when reading aloud — that was a South Carolina accent.

                2. I was born in Virginia. One of the things that prompted my parents to move was when I started talking it was with a Shanondoah accent.

                3. Born and raised in central Ohio. When I was in high school, I could tell what part of the county people were from by hearing them talk.

                  There’s a linguistics researcher (no, I don’t remember exactly who) who has studied New York City, and can tell people there where they live, to within a couple of blocks, just by listening to them.

        2. As someone who has lines, you have to get the dirt off for the sun to get at the fabric. I’ve never done a test on dry fabric, but sun bleaching works really well on wet fabric as part of drying, so it might be that wetness helps whatever the reaction is.

      2. I guess that is just another example of being removed from all this stuff. We don’t have the references anymore.

        Reminds me of G.K. Chesterton, who first explained to me why you don’t want to be the rolling stone that gathers no moss. Gathering moss was the good thing. Which led me to just think, what ever inspired a group to call itself the “Rolling Stones”? Such a group name would have been pitied in the old days for failing to gather moss, but apparently it was a positive thing when the group took its name. Curious.

        1. In the heated idleness of youth we were all rather inclined to quarrel with the implication of that proverb which says that a rolling stone gathers no moss. We were inclined to ask, “Who wants to gather moss, except silly old ladies?” But for all that we begin to perceive that the proverb is right. The rolling stone rolls echoing from rock to rock; but the rolling stone is dead. The moss is silent because the moss is alive. G. K Chesterton

        2. My mom’s house is Mossyrocks. Before my parents bought it, they’d moved eleven times in eleven years (military.) They were so happy to stop.

        3. As L’amour was fond of having characters reply to the accusation of being a rolling stone, “moss grows thickest on dead wood; and a wandering bee gets the honey.”

  11. Ahhhh, Jim Kjelgaard. I believe I read everything he wrote in the school library, and then in the county library, while in grade school. One of my favorite books back then was in a similar vein, but by a different author. Boy With a Pack, by Stephen Meader. I highly recommend it.

    As for the Victorians, it’s really pretty simple. Unlike most Moderns, the Victorians had a sense of modesty. What happened between two people was between them.

  12. Seventeen, and not in the slightest interested in girls, his world revolved around a dog. It would stretch credibility in a modern novel, yes.

    *sad* And part of why I couldn’t “get into” most of the “modern” books that were supposed to be aimed at me. Not only did my world not greatly involve my crotch, the novels spent most of their time informing me that my world should center around that.

    F that.

    1. I was eighteen before I was interested in guys. My sister was much younger. I think it’s an individual thing, watching my daughters. However, I agree with you about too much sex in YA books. There’s a reason it doesn’t even come into the YA I write.

        1. Oh, IF ONLY he had waited that long for me. I think I started getting interested in girls between 10 and 12 (I have a bad memory, OK? I just know that the latter half of my school years were horribly frustrating).

        2. Why are we discussing unimportant stuff like this, when we now have evidence that weasels are practicing for aerial assaults 🙂

          1. Because when you have a kid who is a good for age reader or a not interested in romance teen, it’s hard to find books. Especially newer books.
            Though a book about aerial assault weasels would probably be quite popular with the demographic.

            1. Of course most who saw the photo thought “oh, how cute.”
              If you listen to the photographer’s story it’s only his interference that kept the weasel from biting through the woodpecker’s spine and feasting on the bird. So, assault indeed.

  13. I enjoyed those books when I was younger.

    I can still see some appeal to them.

    This despite that I’m probably a pretty solid example of someone who wouldn’t want to live that way.

    Anyone read any of the books by the guy who did Hatchet?

      1. I have one that if you were closer I MIGHT let you borrow, but since I can’t be sure of finding another one easily I am leery of letting it out of my possession. 😉

  14. The boys will appreciate the book recommends. I’ll have to swing by the library–they want to see me anyway, something about overdue . . .

  15. Don’t know how widely this was syndicated, but back in my glorious yoot there was a comic strip called “Freddie”. It was about as basic as it could get, just a small boy sitting in the panel reciting the events of a particular situation.

    One of the recurring off-panel characters was Freddie’s uncle Mike, who lived in a ramshackle houseboat down on the river and never seemed to do much of anything but fish. And every time they went to visit him, on the drive home Dad would be kind of quiet and Mom would be kind of mad…

  16. My grandfather had a lot of “young people’s” books written in the 19th and early 20th centuries. After them, modern “youth literature”, especially the stuff they pushed in the schools had little appeal for me, Fortunately I discovered Robert A. Heinlein and Ernie Pyle, and they fed my reading addiction.

  17. Oh my Divine Providence! Someone else has picked up The Harvester! I considered it a good example of message fiction, but I really enjoyed the scene of the little old lady chiding the title character for demanding that a sheltered young woman show a mature understanding of love. I, too, read everything in the school library by Jim Kjelgaard. Doesn’t anyone else think that what really dates his books is that his ideal dogs are Irish Setters? When I was a lad, Ruark was already saying that popularity and overbreeding had ruined them. ( I think I’m a little older than most here.)

      1. Loved the Terhune books, and another series that centered around Cocker Spaniels although I don’t recall names any longer. I read any books about dogs or horses, basically. Except the silly girl books, yech.

    1. At one point I owned all of Gene Stratton Porter’s books, except Moths of the Limberlost which was horribly expensive. I think she wrote of what she loved, and although yes, there is a good bit of message in her books, there was enough ‘wild things’ to appeal to this girl.

      1. Oh, highly recommend those, I really should go back and read her books, it has been WAY too many years since I have read them. Hopefully they will hold up to my memories of them.

        And yes they were probably written more with a female audience in mind, but they were an enjoyable read for males who love the ‘wild things’ also.

  18. Stephen W Meader wrote some wonderful books in the 40’s & 50’s. “Bulldozer” was (and is) a favorite. It was, in some ways, a kinder, simpler age.

    1. My father was a fan of William Heyliger. Towards the end of his life I got him several hard to find editions through Bookfinder, which cheered him. He also read a lot of W. E. Butterworth’s sportscar stories. I have a bunch of those, and also most of the output of W. E. B. Griffin, who is the same man under a different pen name.

  19. Warning: long response.

    I also loved anything by Kjelgard growing up, surprisingly this is seems to be fairly common in the SF community, or at least amongst Barflies. I was surprised to find The Hunter Returns co-written by David Drake and Kjelgard. Corresponding with Drake on the Bar he told me it came about from a discussion between him and Jim Baen where they were both discussing favorite authors they had growing up, and discovered that Kjelgard was a favorite of both of them.

    In fact I recently reread a couple of his books that I picked up at a Friends of the Library sale this summer, Big Red was not among them, however.

    “It turns out that, much like myself, he’d grown up knowing people who lived like the main character in the book and his father do. Odd jobs, hunting, fishing, trapping… it seems an idyllic existence to a child of a certain age and temperament.”

    This is a fairly accurate description of my livelihood; it isn’t as idyllic as it appears as a child (particularly come tax time; figuring out your income taxes when your income comes from over a dozen different sources, and figuring what you can write off on your taxes for each source of income is more than sufficient an explanation for premature graying and baldness) but it is close enough that I choose it over my other options.

    Oh, and along with your husband I am shocked that the MC is 17, I also pictured him in my mind as around 12-14, and Big Red is the first of a series, with later books dealing with the MC and pups out of Big Red that have grown to adulthood, so they must be stretching into his early twenties rather than the later teens that I envisioned.

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