Sunday, January 24, 2010

Baby, it's cold outside

Actually, it's not nearly as cold as it was earlier in the month and if it were, I could deal with it.  It's worse than cold right now - it's raining.  And raining means I'm stuck inside for the weekend.  When it comes to the weather you play the hand you're dealt, though, so I made the best of it and devoured Larry McMurtry's second memoir, Literary Life, which proved a relatively easy and thoroughly interesting diversion. As Chad Love noted in a post on his blog several weeks ago McMurty mentions that he was, earlier in his life at least, a hunter.  That's about as far as the memoir goes on the subject but the author expounds a bit further on the topic of re-reading selected books, a habit I've developed over the years as well.

While I don't have quite the list of re-reads that McMurtry does, I do have a few that I continue to pick up at unplanned intervals as the years tick off.  One of those is a somewhat obscure text by an equally obscure writer that is simply my favorite hunting book ever.  Guy de la Valdene's For a Handful of Feathers is a first hand account of the author's efforts at nurturing and hunting quail on his estate in north Florida, an account that strolls through a year on the land knee deep in the relationship between the landowner, the dirt, and the resident wildlife.  Lyrical enough to remove it from the category of simple journal, it appeals to me mostly because of  Valdene's incredibly candid, bare-bones, take me as I am style.

Valdene is no stranger to literature, having run for years in a Rat Pack that includes Tom McGuane, Jim Harrision, Tom Corcoran, Jimmy Buffett and others, but his manner is boldly unique.  At one point he describes beating the summer heat by plowing his fields buck naked, a visual I could do without but much appreciated for its shameless honesty.  The message that unfolds, however, is one that bears repeating and re-reading.  In a time when more and more are throwing in the towel when it comes to the future of the bobwhite, Valdene proves that while it's not always effortless, it is far from impossible to return huntable numbers of birds to a piece of land.  If you're already one of the naysayers, well I feel kinda sorry for you but don't let that come between you and a fantastic story.

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