Not all outdoor enjoyment takes place outdoors. Arnold Gingrich, the longtime editor of “Esquire” magazine who also wrote a number of important angling books, once suggested some of the best fishing was done in print. Similarly, when hunting season closes, there’s considerable pleasure to be found in armchair adventure. With the possible exception of the rare snowy day locally or perhaps one of those grim, grey winter spells when it seems the sun will never shine again, there’s no better time for a spate of outdoor literary adventure than summer.
The setting can vary — a shady, screened porch high up in the mountains, a similar porch at the beach with sea breezes blowing and ceiling fans humming, or air-conditioned comfort in your own home. A good book is a boon companion transporting you to fields and streams of dreams.
I’ve been a serious student of sporting literature all my life. Well before reaching adolescence I exhausted every outdoor-related book in my home town’s little library. Passing years have only served to whet my appetite for tales well told, and it’s fair to say I’ve done a passel of hunting and fishing in print. So strong is my compulsion that I’ve built a massive sporting library and spent a fair portion of a marvelously misspent life researching, compiling, and editing anthologies featuring some of our greatest literary figures. Those efforts have included five collections of the writings of our first Palmetto Poet Laureate, Archibald Rutledge; two compilations of writings by noted African hunter, Fred Selous; two books on arguably our greatest sporting scribe, Robert Ruark; two on famed gun writer Jack O’Connor; and single volumes on Theodore Roosevelt and Horatio Bigelow. Throw in a recently published collection of grand quail stories, introductions to scores of reprints of classic outdoor books, and editing a couple of general anthologies of top-drawer outdoor writing, and you begin to get the picture. I’m enchanted by tellers of sporting tales. If for some reason you want to know more, a fuller picture of my labors in this particular vineyard is at www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com.
With Father’s Day just around the corner, and summer’s hot, humid days about to arrive with their energy-sapping intensity, it’s a good time to think about books. For the father who enjoys hunting, fishing, or other outdoor pursuits, a book brings joy not only at the time of its presentation but for many years to come.
Literally hundreds of outdoor writers have produced first-rate books. But for reasons such as the fact sport is deeply entrenched in the Carolina way of life and a history or excellent hunting and fishing opportunities, you need look no further than authors who called North or South Carolina home to put together a shelf or two of first-rate reading. Like charity, good reading on the outdoors begins at home. With that in mind let’s take a quick peek at some authors from the Carolinas who have produced enjoyable and enduring books. There’s no finer way to defeat the summer doldrums.
Robert Ruark grew up in neighboring North Carolina, and his “Old Man and the Boy” tales, which first appeared in “Field & Stream” magazine, found book form in “The Old Man and the Boy,” “The Old Man’s Boy Grows Older,” and “The Lost Classics of Robert Ruark” (which I compiled). His “Horn of the Hunter” is also a timeless work on African hunting.
Havilah Babcock, an English professor at USC who wrote to ward off chronic insomnia, gave us five wonderful collections of tales — “My Health Is Better in November,” Tales of Quails ‘n’ Such,” “Jaybirds Go to Hell on Friday,” “The Best of Babcock,” and “I Don’t Want to Shoot an Elephant,” along with one full-length work, “The Education of Pretty Boy.” His near contemporary, Archibald Rutledge, wrote over 50 books in a long and highly productive career, and close to 30 of them contain stories of hunting and nature. Many are rare in the original form, but some have been reprinted and I’ve compiled collections of his writings on deer, turkeys, upland game hunting, Christmas, and a sampler of the best of his writing.
Although not as prolific, Henry Edwards Davis wrote THE book on turkey hunting, “The American Wild Turkey,” and Ben Moise, a fine scribe in his own right, edited Davis’s memoirs in “A Southern Sportsman.” William Elliott wrote an early classic, “Carolina Sports by Land and Water,” and Jim Mize, active on the current writing scene, has done a number for first-rate books of outdoor humor.
If you jump across the state line into North Carolina, Mike Gaddis has authored several fine, meditative books for the thinking sportsman, the late Buck Paysour was a traditional “hook-and-bullet” man, and Jim Dean has taken some of his columns from “Wildlife in North Carolina” and used them to good advantage. Then turning back to South Carolina there’s Art Carter, Lloyd Newberry, John P. Faris Jr., Alex Sprunt, Eddie Finlay, Harry Hampton and others.
The magic carpet ride offered by reading awaits.