Remember the old adage "If you were on a deserted island and..." Well, you don't really need to be on a deserted island to think about it, but IF you were and you had just one outdoors book you could read, what would it be?
For a great many outdoorsmen I've spoken with over the years, it would be The Old Man and the Boy by Robert Ruark. It's a book that transports you back in time and enables you to remember your own stories learning all about the outdoors when you were growing up. Ruark points that out well in one of his many famous quotes:
"'The best thing about hunting and fishing,' the Old Man said, 'is that you don't have to actually do it to enjoy it. You can go to bed every night thinking about how much fun you had twenty years ago, and it all comes back clear as moonlight.'"
Reading it also takes you back to a bygone era when men were men and game and fish were so plentiful it almost pains you - even if you're just reading about it and never experienced it for yourself. It almost seems impossible today to even think that there were so many fish caught in a day that they filled the bottom of the boat...or that there were so many quail in the fields that you could actually leave ten or so behind to make sure they were plentiful for the next hunting trip.
Of course, he wrote about being a proper sportsman, as well as the conservation of the great outdoors, even when that wasn't a term as often used as it is today. Then again, he was just telling it like it was and hoping those lessons stuck in the mind of the boy.
"...a sportsman, is a gentleman first. But a sportsman, basically, is a man who kills what he needs, whether it's fish or bird or animal, or what he wants for a special reason, but he never kills anything just to kill it. And he tries to preserve the very same thing that he kills a little of from time to time. The books call this conservation. It's the same reason why we don't shoot that tame covey of quail down to less'n ten birds."
Some folks even tell me that they read this book at least once a year - which is saying a lot for any book when you think about it.
Perhaps it is the wisdom of the old man as he hands down life lessons along with the hunting and fishing they experience together. The philosophies about life are abundant, and easily realized when you get the chance to experience them for yourself. Fishing is one of those activities that Ruark was at his best when writing about escaping life's little trials and tribulations.
"A fish, which you can't see, deep down in the water, is a kind of symbol of peace on earth, good will to yourself. Fishing gives a man ... some time to collect his thoughts and rearrange them kind of neatly, in an orderly fashion."
Of course, we all realize when we get done reading it that we are fortunate to have had those adults in our lives that provided guidance along the way. We're also fortunate for authors like Robert Ruark who make us feel like we are that little boy in the story, and the lessons are our own personal memories. Just seeing this book on the shelf sometimes is enough to put the mind into high gear and put into work the plans for the next trip and all that might occur.
“The old man used to say that the best part of hunting and fishing was the thinking about going and the talking about it after you got back.”
Here's to good hunting and fishing to you this year and every year...and a good book to read along the way. And if you get the chance, take a young boy with you on one of those trips...because as we all know, every boy needs an older outdoorsman in their life to guide the way.
"...any time a boy is ready to learn about guns is the time he's ready, no matter how young he is, and you can't start too young to be careful. What you got in your hands is a dangerous weapon. It can kill you, or kill me, or kill a dog. You always got to remember that when a gun is loaded it makes a potential killer out of the man that's handling it. Don't you ever forget it!"
Don't you agree?
All the best,