Iowa Writes

JOHN MADSON
An Outdoor Ledger. excerpted from John Madson: Out Home (nonfiction)


The years afield have led me to discard many of the things that I've been told about the outdoors in general and hunting in particular, and it sometimes seems that I'm almost back where I started.


But if I don't know as much as I should at this late date, what I do know is pretty much for sure.


My meager store of hunting wisdom, for example, gathered over decades of boondocking and chore-dodging, falls into four general categories:


People:

1. A hunting partner usually oversleeps.

2. A wife sleeps deepest when her duckhunter wants his breakfast.

3. The guys in the next duck blind are no good.

4. Beware the quick shooter, for thou shalt inherit his quickly shot birds.

5. Blessed be the camp cook, the wife who cleans game, and the partner with two candy bars.

The years afield have led me to discard many of the things that I've been told about the outdoors in general and hunting in particular, and it sometimes seems that I'm almost back where I started.


But if I don't know as much as I should at this late date, what I do know is pretty much for sure.


My meager store of hunting wisdom, for example, gathered over decades of boondocking and chore-dodging, falls into four general categories:


People:

1. A hunting partner usually oversleeps.

2. A wife sleeps deepest when her duckhunter wants his breakfast.

3. The guys in the next duck blind are no good.

4. Beware the quick shooter, for thou shalt inherit his quickly shot birds.

5. Blessed be the camp cook, the wife who cleans game, and the partner with two candy bars.


Equipment:

1. A knife can't be too sharp.

2. Hip boots leak only in cold water.

3. When matches are fewest, firewood is wettest.

4. For a drippy nose, a wool mitten beats any bandana.

5. Never be the only man in the party with a game pocket in his hunting coat.


Critters:

1. Foxes are not fit to eat.

2. As long as a duck is still coming toward you, shut up and don't call.

3. Squirrels can't lie still for over 20 minutes.

4. I can't sit still for over 19 minutes.

5. Geese are not smart. They are just smarter than most hunters.


Other Things:

1. Fences are always two inches higher than my legs.

2. Your shot was lucky; mine was skillful.

3. Only the men who build farm gates can really understand them.

4. Bird dogs are optimists; pheasants are pessimists.

5. There is no greater nor more touching faith than a small boy's defense of his birdless dad.

6. The last hills are the highest.


These are the only hunting facts that I'm dead sure of, for I've never seen exceptions to any of them. There's lots of stuff that I'm half-sure of. It's fairly certain that wives save up the year's odd jobs for October, and that small boys like to carry rabbits or empty shotshells just as much as they ever did.


I'm also pretty sure that although the outdoor life is milestoned with 12-point bucks and other spectaculars, it is essentially a sum of the small things—the swarm of trivia that provides the most durable delights and exasperations.


Among the latter, top billing might go to stinging nettle, deerflies lighting in your hair, chocolate bars that melt in the pocket, bulls along favorite streams, sentinel crows, rainy Saturdays, clay mud, wormy walnuts, algae on fishing ponds, hot opening days, cold opening days, broken glass on sandbars, the setter-cocklebur combination, seed ticks in bellybuttons, dead fishworms, catfish spines, and cross farm dogs.


Just about as bad are game hogs, moonshooters, bellyachers, poor camp cooks, barbershop biologists, phony outdoorsmen in television commercials, and kids that throw rocks where you're fishing.


The least inspiring outdoor activities are digging goose pits in bottomland gumbo, washing frypans in April trout streams, breaking camp, getting up before dawn in the rain, stepping on snakes, and sleeping cold.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


JOHN MADSON

Iowa native John Madson (1923-1995) is considered the father of the modern prairie restoration movement; his books include Where the Sky Began (Iowa reprint, 2004), Stories from under the Sky (Iowa reprint, 2007), Up on the River, and Tallgrass Prairie. He wrote extensively on natural history and resource conservation for Audubon, Smithsonian, and National Geographic, among many others.

Established in 1969 and housed in the historic Kuhl House, the oldest house still standing in Iowa City, the University of Iowa Press publishes scholarly books and a wide variety of titles that will appeal to general readers. As the only university press in the state, it is dedicated to preserving the literature, history, culture, wildlife, and natural areas of the region.

University of Iowa Press

This page was first displayed
on February 09, 2009

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