Jim Casada

Page turners that beat the winter miseries

A new biography on Teddy Roosevelt can be a good way to survive cabin fever.
A new biography on Teddy Roosevelt can be a good way to survive cabin fever. MCT

This time of year my Grandpa Joe would periodically complain about being beset by what he called “the miseries.”

He was bored stiff, and tired of staying indoors. He was troubled by arthritis and aching joints. In his words, he had “about all a body can stand of this sort of weather.”

His grousing began in January, continued in February – he always claimed it was the shortest month because no one could stand for it to be as long as the others – and would begin to abate with March and the first hints ofspring.

Yet Grandpa was never one for letting cabin fever bother him for long.

He had a bevy of solutions for pushing pessimism away and looking toward brighter days to come. One favorite was what he called “dreamin’ and schemin’, talking about trips to come or recalling past adventures. Another involved outdoor-related projects such as making slingshots,getting a cane fishing pole stream ready, or making toys such as a flutter mills or whimmy diddles.

His approaches to getting the better of cabin fever retain their appeal. I’d like to add two other means to displace the doldrums: reading – especially literature of the outdoors – and cooking game or other bounty from nature.

The scope of literature on the outdoors is vast. As a voracious reader of books on hunting, fishing, and nature, I’ll confess that there are thousands of books yet to be read. That’s a happy thought, because it means I’ll always have opportunities for the quiet joys of armchair adventure. Reading is a fulfilling antidote for cabin fever.

Area sportsman needs look no further than the Southern heartland and its great outdoor writers for pleasure beyond measure. Writers from yesteryear such as South Carolina’s Archibald Rutledge, Havilah Babcock, Henry Edwards Davis, Eddie Finlay, Harry Hampton,come immediately to mind.

Expanding geographical boundaries, you can add Robert Ruark from North Carolina, who in my opinion ranks as our nation’s greatest sporting scribe, Charlie Elliott, Nash Buckingham, Horatio Bigelow, Tom Kelly, Charley Dickey, William Faulkner, and a host of others still keep you in the South, and that leaves countless more of the ilk of Jack O’Connor, Elmer Keith, Corey Ford, Gordon MacQuarrie, Edmund Ware Smith, Burton Spiller, and John Taintor Foote as potential armchair companions. To those ranks I would certainly add the writings of our greatest sporting president, Theodore Roosevelt.

For deer hunters, Duncan Dobie’s “Dawn of American Deer Hunting” is a must read. It combines hundreds of vintage photographs with the fine writing by one of the leading whitetail authorities.

Those who enjoy storytelling at its best will want read H. William Rice’s “The Lost Woods.” Set in the fictional South Carolina town of Sludge, the 15 stories range widely from deer hunting to the quest for gobblers. The underlying theme is how life in the woods and connection to nature lies at the heart of our being.

There is a splendid biography of Robert Edgar “Bob” Bobo, an old-time Mississippi bear hunter whose exploits place him among the first rank, if not indeed at the head of the class, of all those who ever pursued “Old Bruin.” James McCafferty’s “The Bear Hunter” is an immensely readable book.

A new look at Theodore Rooseveltwill find a welcome audience in anyone who cares deeply about the origins of American conservation and the manner in which TR]’s career was shaped by his fascination with nature.

Michael Canfield’s “Theodore Roosevelt in the Field” examines that aspect of his life in detail. Roosevelt had a consuming interest not only in observing nature as a student or practical naturalist, but as a hunter and true man of the field. I think Canfield claims a bit too large a role for nature in shaping the man, but by the same token, he makes a convincing case while giving the reader an often overlook view of a truly fascinating man.

All of these books should be available through your favorite bookseller or on-line, but should you encounter problems in obtaining one of them, don’t hesitate to contact me at jimcasada@comporium.net.