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What I Read and Why
It’s been a rough week in our country for a lot of reasons. The first being that the City Council of Fairfax, Virginia is considering restrictions on the size and number of flags residents and businesses can display – with no exception for the American flag. The Fairfax County Planning Commission is due to vote on a proposal Wednesday that would: Reduce the size of flags to 24 square feet, which excludes the right to fly 50 square foot Fallen Hero Flags; Lower the height of flag poles to 25 feet; and limit the number of flags you can fly at your home to two, including national, state, military or college flags. I would assume that the reasoning behind this is that someone found this offensive to them, but I do not know that. I do know that more laws doesn’t mean more freedom. The final thing which rubbed me the wrong way was the dropping of six Dr. Seuss books because of strong racial undertones and for not being diverse in their presentations.
We have major problems in this country – of this there can be no doubt, but I have serious misgivings about laying the blame at the feet of Dr. Seuss, or the size of the flag you wish to display. If I had to make a list of things which offend me it would no doubt be stupidity. I’m not particularly crazy about politicians who can vote themselves raises no matter how good or how poor they are at the job they do. I’m also not too crazy about politicians who made one promise and forgot it once they got out of sight. If we make our children get along on the playground, surely adults should be able to get along and get something done! I’m also old, bald and a little on the grumpy side. As Solomon wisely stated, “is there nothing new under the sun,” so if I’m not crazy about pants down below your underwear I’m not going to think a whole lot about it because there were those who didn’t like our bell bottom pants, hair over our ears and Nehru jackets. So if you think you are changing the world being rebellious: go for it, I was young once too.
If a book offends you then do not read it. The biggest book I have a problem with is the Bible and that’s because despite my best efforts I come nowhere close to living up to the example Christ set for me and it saddens me deeply. But I believe that in the days of Hitler, the government burned books that were not in keeping with what they deemed suitable for the citizenry to read. I think we want to be very careful about crossing that line of what the government thinks is suitable for us to read. I’m also old, bald and a little on the grumpy side. Once again I find that I was wrong. Here I thought they were worried about guns in the hands of private citizens, come to find out they are worried about what I’m reading. It probably comes down to them wanting to control both!
Part of my defense of books is that I care so much about them and in fact there are a list of books I make it a point to read at least once a year. Then there are those books that get added to my collection each year and become dear friends when I need a book to curl up with. Every September, I break out one of my copies of Fred Bear’s book “Field Notes” and read about some of his classic hunts. I also get out his “Archer’s Bible,” which is a guide to the sport of archery and is geared mostly towards traditional gear. In my backpack, I carry two books with the first being a compact Bible and the second being a paperback copy of Larry McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove.” Both are very good reads on the deer stand, bear stand or even in a duck blind. Speaking of the duck blind, each fall I read Nash Buckingham’s “Ole Miss.” It is not a politically correct book and I suppose some would find it offensive, but it was originally published in 1937, which was a different time period. Mr. Buckingham gives the reader colorful stories of hunting and life along the Mississippi. It’s not limited to hunting stories, but also the people that he hunted with. His short story entitled “Surrender to Youth” is one of my all-time favorite stories.
Another of my favorite short stories is “Old Tom” from Gen Hill’s “A Hunter’s Fireside Book: Tales of Dogs, Ducks, Birds, & Guns.” It’s about an old dog who has to be put down, but before he is put down his owner takes him out for one last hunt. If you can finish the story with dry eyes then head to your cardiologist quickly because someone has stolen your heart. Speaking of short stories, I also have a book of Jack London’s stories that I must read often, because he is the one who turned me around from not caring for school (or at least about reading.) Do not laugh, but I’m also a fan of Edgar Allen Poe and have most of “The Raven” memorized.
It will surprise no one who really knows me that I am huge fan of Theodore Roosevelt and his writings on hunting. He not only talked the talk, but walked the walk. Annually, I read his book “African Trails” and it is not an easy read because he throws words around as though he were getting paid by the word. He is so smart that he cannot help but get into detail when he speaks of the flora and fauna of Africa, so he does get deep. It was his African Trails book, as well as the writers like Jim Carmichael who was the Shooting Editor for Outdoor Life, that had me dreaming of my own African trails. This past week I received the book “The Legendary Hunts of Theodore Roosevelt,” which features short hunting stories of Roosevelt, as well as paintings by John Seerey-Lester. I would go so far as to say it’s a must for the coffee table or end table of any serious hunter as it is simply unreal, with a forward by Tweed Roosevelt who is the great grandson of Theodore Roosevelt.
I am currently in the middle of “The Man-Eaters of Tsavo” by Lt. Colonel J.H. Patterson. This is the story that the movie “The Ghost and the Darkness” was made from, and deals with the two man eating lions that terrorized the crew building a railroad bridge from Mombasa to Uganda in 1898. It is estimated that they killed over 100 men. It is a very good read as well, and you feel as though you are with Patterson as he goes after these two lions. I’m sure my little outdoor library of annual reads will continue grow as long as I can see to read and as long as I can dream of frosty mornings and beautiful sunrises and sunsets and old dogs.