Wilder Ways

Wilder Ways

Donald C. Jackson
Illustrated by Robert T. Jackson
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24hwwj
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    Wilder Ways
    Book Description:

    InWilder Ways, Donald C. Jackson takes readers on a journey into the deep and very personal connections that can develop between people and wild places while hunting, fishing, and rambling across landscapes. Fishing by lantern light late at night for bullhead catfish on a small stream, hunting wood ducks and squirrels on his farm in north Mississippi, bow hunting deer as twilight creeps across a small clearing, handlining crabs in the Pascagoula River estuary, hunting caribou in Alaska and elk in Colorado, searching for blind fish in Ozark caves, and fighting a storm on an Indonesian river: Jackson leads us into reflections of our own journeys and helps us to understand that we can be part of a wilder way, often very near to our homes.

    We walk with him through the tall grass, wet with early morning dew, light tackle in hand, down to a "ditch" under a Mississippi highway bridge and then discover that the "ditch" is really a very fine stream full of fish. We recapture the essence of hunting by stalking fox squirrels in a small patch of hardwoods. We stand beside him, listening to the whistle of wings as ducks pass overhead in the pre-dawn light and fog that surround a tiny, brushy pond hidden in the woods. We smell the salt air and feel the power of a redfish as it strips line from the fishing reel while the sunset turns marsh to gold. We walk alone under the starlight along an Alaska river after an afternoon of grayling fishing. We fall in love again with tents, tractors, and old brown dogs. Through the shared journeys inWilder Ways, we link with the rhythms of the earth, understanding that the wilds are not something separate from us. We are all somewhat wilder than perhaps we ever imagine.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-275-2
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-1)
  3. Ditch Fishing
    (pp. 3-13)

    If there’s a creek around, I’ve got to get in it. As a young un’ in rural north-central Kentucky, when I was between seven and nine years old, I’d swim in them just as soon as snow and ice began to melt. The bite and the sparkle of cold water thrilled me. I’d come out blue and shaking and then sit in the sun on gravel bars or flat rocks as the wind dried me and the early spring sun tried to warm me. Later in the season I’d prowl among pools and riffles catching frogs and salamanders and marveling...

  4. Just One More Drop
    (pp. 15-29)

    Gold brushed the topmost branches of trees surrounding the small clearing in front of me. The hush of an early November evening settled on the landscape. Not a leaf stirred. From my deer stand, tucked in the shadows of a giant water oak, I could hear the faint rustling of brown thrashers as they worked the newly fallen leaves. Below me was a brush pile from cuttings I’d made two weeks earlier to open a shooting lane. A Carolina wren prowled the maze. A fox squirrel had been in the tree with me a few moments earlier, bold but cautious,...

  5. It Takes a Friend
    (pp. 31-43)

    I’ve avoided turkey hunting for good reason. I went once, had a turkey strutting right in front of me at fifteen feet, and simply watched that wonderful bird until it got tired of showing off and simply drifted away. It never dawned on me to raise my shotgun and shoot the thing. I realized right then and there, on my first turkey hunt, that I had to stop turkey huntingimmediatelyor risk losing wife, family, home, and job. I knew that if I started turkey hunting before retirement, before my kids were grown, before my house was paid for,...

  6. A Treatment for Woods Rambling Syndrome
    (pp. 45-55)

    Why do we fidget on deer stands on afternoons so still you can hear mice rustling in the leaves? Why, after setting out decoys, do we slosh our waders and hip boots in the water . . . even before wood ducks start flying? What is it that compels us to take the long way back to the truck after a hunt? What was it, back when Mr. Bob reigned as the Prince, that caused us to chase raw-boned pointers, classy setters, and pumped-up Brittany spaniels for hours on end across the treasures of a Deep South landscape? Why do...

  7. Old Brown Dog
    (pp. 57-69)

    Fog lay thick in the predawn December darkness as I parked my pickup truck at the end of the gravel road leading to my farm. The morning was incredibly still. The sound of a barred owl down by the creek and the bawling of a distant hound on the trail of something deep in the woods were muffled by the stillness.

    It was a morning for critters to prowl . . . a “possum” morning. During the ten-minute drive from my house out to the farm, along the county road wet and glistening, with my old mix-breed shepherd dog “Brownie”...

  8. Rare and Precious Gifts
    (pp. 71-81)

    A whisper of wind ruffled the water and caused the grass along the mudflat to move gently. Killdeers and other shorebirds called. In the half-light of dawn I saw the shadow of a deer moving along the edge of the flooded area that spread before me. A muskrat nipped at vegetation along the shoreline. A fish swirled in the murky shallows. I was lost in thought when suddenly two wood ducks whipped by in a rush of wing beats, the hen filling the stillness of the morning with her eerie cry, bringing me to full attention as a duck hunter....

  9. The River’s Song
    (pp. 83-87)

    Most people tend to interact with rivers in ways that don’t work. A river is not about counting things or measuring things or storing things or saving things. It is silly, but we insist on doing it. I do it. I really don’t have a lot of choice in this regard because in the other world, the world beyond rivers and river time, I’m a university professor who earns a living doing science. I do research about rivers and river fisheries. But even as I do science, I know that science is a shallow means for understanding rivers and that...

  10. We Do It Because
    (pp. 89-99)

    My bed was warm when the alarm went off at 3:00 A.M. and especially so with the softness of my wife snuggled under the blankets next to me. I’d already been awake, however, for more than an hour, thoughts swirling. I could hear the winter wind roaring outside . . . but there didn’t seem to be precipitation with it. Rain had been changing to ice when I’d gone to bed. I wondered now how bad the ice storm had been. There was still electricity in the house, so it probably wasn’t too bad. And I’d heard no branches cracking....

  11. Beyond the Twilight Zone
    (pp. 101-113)

    “Sssh! Turn off your light! Listen!” The sense of urgency in the words left no doubt that I should heed the instructions of the man in the mud beside me. I quickly clicked the switch to the off position on my light and grew very still. The two of us sat at arm’s distance apart in the damp chill, enveloped by absolute darkness. I opened and shut my eyes. There was no difference—just black, complete black, overpowering black. I tried to control my breathing. The sound of it was absurdly loud. Then I faintly heard dripping water . ....

  12. Woodland Pond
    (pp. 115-123)

    Operational reality is a matter of scale. Now, that’s the sort of statement that just about any college or seminary professor can build a lecture around and in some cases an entire course. It doesn’t matter really what the specific topic might be. Eyes will glaze over and there may be a sigh or two from the ranks of the semi-attentive (the rest of the class is already asleep). The time of day doesn’t matter.

    There can be exceptions, however. If you happen to be a professor of wildlife and fisheries, you can toss a bomb into the lecture hall...

  13. Sagebrush Bull
    (pp. 125-141)

    Whispering to each other, hardly daring to move from beyond the boulder’s shadow where we lay, my hunting companion, Randy Robinette, and I could hardly believe the scene unfolding across the valley. A gentle wind riffled the grass near us. A pair of mallards coasted into a marshy beaver pond. Shadows from occasional clouds played on the mountain slopes. Slowly, stately, deliberately, a herd of elk filtered out of dark timber and into the open of a sagebrush meadow. The drama before us held us spellbound. Scarcely an hour had passed since we’d left our cabin to scout for elk....

  14. Storm on the Kapuas
    (pp. 143-161)

    The dusty Jeep turned off of the main road and onto a narrow lane through the village, navigating slowly to avoid bumps, chickens, and small groups of the faithful on their way to the mosque for evening prayers. It had been a long two-day overland journey from the Indonesian city of Pontianak through the Borneo countryside and on to the village where we would begin our work on the Kapuas River. Along the way we’d passed through small timber settlements and occasional farming communities, stopping occasionally for tea and meals and spending the night in the home of the jeep...

  15. The Hardest Hunt
    (pp. 163-177)

    The western shore of Cook Inlet slipped out of sight below me. Ahead lay the mountain passes and then beyond them the sprawling country west of Lake Clark where Dean Rhine and I would hunt caribou. Years before, I’d served on the faculty of the University of Alaska and that was where I’d met Dean. Back then we’d hunted ptarmigan together in the hills east of Fairbanks, and a couple of years back we’d hunted black bear together in the forests surrounding Prince William Sound. We’d used Dean’s boat for that hunt. This caribou hunt was, however, our first fly-in...

  16. Southwest Conference
    (pp. 179-193)

    In my opinion Arkansas is Just about as far west as a person can go in the United States before you start heading east again. By the time you’re in California, you are all the way back East as far as I can tell. For that reason I never quite understood why the University of Arkansas was taken out of collegiate football’s Southwest Conference (the only non-Texan university in the conference) and reassigned to the Southeast Conference. It just didn’t make any sense to me. It wasn’t so much the football that mattered to me. I’m a hunter and fisherman,...

  17. The Fine Art of Piddling
    (pp. 195-203)

    Piddling is the art of engaging in trivia under the guise of industry. It requires proclamations of high order within which are nested a mosaic of seemingly insignificant activities. The trick is to be able to move from one activity to another in such a way as to imply great effort applied to a sense of direction (which there isn’t). Farmers, mechanics, sailors, most husbands (eventually), and almost all hunters and fishermen over the age of fifty are typically pretty good at it. It is also important to stay gone from those who might question not only the activities engaged,...

  18. Rendering Southern Glue
    (pp. 205-211)

    The smell of the Pascagoula River marsh hung heavy in the thick August air as I backed my boat down the public ramp and into the brown-stained water. My daughter, Anna, held the bow line. Once the boat cleared the trailer and was floating, she leaned on the line and guided the boat alongside the wharf. When she signaled, “All clear!” I pulled the trailer out of the water and found a parking spot among the other pickup trucks and trailers, secured our rig, and walked back over to Anna and the boat.

    We were surrounded by a world that...

  19. Bristle-Face Cathedral
    (pp. 213-219)

    The hush was so thick in the predawn darkness that even the occasional sound of a paddle bumping against the side of the boat in front of me seemed to be sucked right out of the air. Pillars of tupelo gum and cypress towered around me, reaching up toward the heavens as starlight cast its magic on the still waters. I didn’t want or need another light as I navigated my canoe among the trees and on into the open area beyond them where decoys would be set for a morning duck hunt. My companions spoke only in whispers. Their...

  20. Mud Cat Connections
    (pp. 221-231)

    Twilight settled gently on the hills and my heart as I parked my vintage station wagon on the remnants of what once had been a section of the main highway linking Northwest Arkansas with the Arkansas River valley to the south. The curve in the old road, however, had been too sharp, and so a new, broader, and safer curve had been constructed, leaving the old section to settle into the earth.

    The edges of the old road’s pavement were now irregular and overgrown with vegetation. Grass grew up through the cracks. But it was still a solid place to...

  21. Before Winter Comes
    (pp. 233-243)

    Autumn was fading fast in northeast Alaska. I stood alone in the middle of it all, caught up in the changing of the seasons . . . amid the vastness and the magnificence of the far northland that has owned my heart for most of my life, feeling a damp chill creeping up from the icy Coleen River and a dry chill slipping down from the Brooks Range mountains that surrounded me . . . alone out on an ageing snow field, a vestige from the previous winter that lingered on here after the brief arctic summer, a legacy from...

  22. Forgotten Reaches
    (pp. 245-253)

    There were echoes from a river past as our two canoes slipped into the cool, clear waters of the White River upstream from its confluence with the Norfork River in the Ozark Highlands of North Arkansas. The echoes came as whispers on the dawn wind. I could sense them, deep and stirring, as fog swirled above the waters.

    Although it was a Sunday morning and the peak of the summer tourist season, we had the river to ourselves. My older son, Robert, steadied the canoe we’d share as I took my position in the stern. My younger son, David, was...

  23. Vesper Bridges
    (pp. 255-264)

    In the cemetery behind a rural Kentucky church, a tiny rock pool in the shadows of huge maples dimples as striders dart upon its surface. I see the reflection of a boy’s smooth face, my own, and then peer deeper into the pool, hardly breathing, heart beating so hard in expectation of an encounter, searching for any trace of the leopard frog that jumped into the water at my approach. More than anything in the world, I wanted to hold that frog in my hands, not as a predator, not as a captor, but rather as a way of linking...