The Tent Dwellers – Albert Bigelow Paine
When hunting from a deer blind roughly 90% of your time is down time. Some of us — myself included — often have trouble staying awake during the quiet hours. I generally try to beat the sandman by bringing something to read that doesn’t require batteries. I recently enjoyed Albert Bigelow Paine’s classic The Tent Dwellers. Originally published in 1908, the book chronicles a canoe and trout fishing trip through — what is now — Nova Scotia’s Kejimkujik National Park and Tobeatic Wilderness area. It gives an insight into what trout fishing was like over 100 years ago in south-central Nova Scotia. I particularly enjoyed Paine’s concluding essay, so I thought I’d share it:
“…When the wind beats up and down the park, and the trees are bending and cracking with ice; when I know that once more the still places of the North are white and the waters fettered—I shall shut my eyes and see again the ripple and the toss of June, and hear once more the under voices of the falls. And some day I shall return to those far shores, for it is a place to find one’s soul.
Yet perhaps I should not leave that statement unqualified, for it depends upon the sort of a soul that is to be found. The north wood does not offer welcome or respond readily to the lover of conventional luxury and the smaller comforts of living. Luxury is there, surely, but it is the luxury that rewards effort, and privation, and toil. It is the comfort of food and warmth and dry clothes after a day of endurance—a day of wet, and dragging weariness, and bitter chill. It is the bliss of reaching, after long, toilsome travel, a place where you can meet the trout—the splendid, full-grown wild trout, in his native home, knowing that you will not find a picnic party on every brook and a fisherman behind every tree. Finally, it is the preciousness of isolation, the remoteness from men who dig up and tear down and destroy, who set whistles to tooting and bells to jingling—who shriek themselves hoarse in the market place and make the world ugly and discordant, and life a short and fevered span in which the soul has a chance to become no more than a feeble and crumpled thing. And if that kind of a soul pleases you, don’t go to the woods. It will be only a place of mosquitoes, and general wetness, and discomfort. You won’t care for it. You will hate it. But if you are willing to get wet and stay wet—to get cold and stay cold—to be bruised, and scuffed, and bitten—to be hungry and thirsty and to have your muscles strained and sore from unusual taxation: if you will welcome all these things, not once, but many times, for the sake of moments of pure triumph and that larger luxury which comes with the comfort of the camp and the conquest of the wilderness, then go! The wilderness will welcome you, and teach you, and take you to its heart. And you will find your own soul there; and the discovery will be worth while!”
In two short paragraphs he eloquently summarizes why being an outdoorsman is so rewarding and fulfilling — and why it’s not for everyone. Something tells me Dr. Eddie Breck would have brought a gadget or two for some in-blind entertainment!
Lucky for you the book is in the public domain and can be downloaded for free here! Hope you enjoy it!