Of Woods and Waters
A Kentucky Outdoors Reader
Publication Year: 2014
From the moment Daniel Boone first "gained the summit of a commanding ridge, and...beheld the ample plains, the beauteous tracts below," generations of Kentuckians have developed rich and enduring relationships with the land that surrounds them. Of Woods & Waters: A Kentucky Outdoors Reader is filled with loving tributes, written across the Commonwealth's two centuries, offered in celebration of Kentucky's widely varied environmental wonders that nurture both life and art.
Ron Ellis, an outdoors enthusiast and noted writer, has gathered art, fiction, personal essays and poetry from many of Kentucky's best-known authors for this comprehensive collection. The anthology begins with famed illustrator John James Audubon's eloquent account of extracting catfish from the Ohio River and progresses through over fifty contributions by both established and emerging writers. Covering two hundred years of hunting, fishing, camping, cooking, hiking, and canoeing in Kentucky's woods and waters, these classic and original works show how writers have, as celebrated Kentucky historian Thomas D. Clark suggests, "fallen under the spell of the land."
Of Woods & Waters does not merely recount fond memories. Many authors presented in this collection echo the sentiments of the award-winning novelist and essayist Barbara Kingsolver, who writes, "Much of what I know about life, and almost everything I believe about the way I want to live, was formed in those woods" adjacent to her birthplace in Nicholas County, Kentucky. The works collected in Of Woods & Waters serve to honor and defend what many recognize as a sadly declining way of life, one born out of genuine reverence for the beauty and bounty of nature.
The contributions of Wendell Berry, Janice Holt Giles, Bobbie Ann Mason, Jesse Stuart, James Still, Robert Penn Warren, James Baker Hall, Silas House, and other esteemed authors examine the delicate balances that must be struck between humanity and nature, between progress and sustainable living. While raising these crucial questions, these writings center on connections among friends and family in Kentucky's beautiful natural surroundings. The authors spin tales of the whistling wings of ducks overhead, the heart-pounding excitement of a white-tailed buck's sudden appearance, the joy of childhood plunges into cold lake waters after hours of climbing trees, and the thrill of watching sons and daughters catch their first fish. In these writings, the bountiful Kentucky wilderness that first captivated frontier settlers remains vibrantly alive.
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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What an earthy and eclectic cornucopia this is—essays, fiction, and poetry that celebrate the wide-ranging sporting life of Kentucky. It is also a special revelation to me, a passionate fisherman who once spent seven months in the state without once...
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Of Woods and Waters came together because of the hard work and dedication of many minds and hearts, and so there are many people I wish to thank: First and foremost, I am grateful to the writers and artists who contributed their work; to Bill Coffey of Frankfort, Kentucky...
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When Stephen Wrinn and I first discussed the University Press of Kentucky's interest in publishing a collection of some of the best writing by Kentuckians about their outdoor experiences, he suggested that I put together a "dream" table of contents to prepare for our next round of conversations. I didn't need a lot of...
Prologue: The Adventures of Col. Daniel Boon; Containing a Narrative of the Wars of Kentucke (An Excerpt)
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It was on the first of May, in the year 1769, that I resigned my domestic happiness for a time, and left my family and peaceable habitation on the Yadkin River, in North-Carolina, to wander through the wilderness of America, in quest of the country of Kentucke, in company with John Finley, John Stewart, Joseph...
Fishing in the Ohio
John James Audubon
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It is with mingled feelings of pleasure and regret that I recall to my mind the many pleasant days I have spent on the shores of the Ohio. The visions of former years crowd on my view, as I picture to myself the fertile soil and genial atmosphere of our...
Deer Camp (2004)
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My highly paid lawyer says I have to issue a disclaimer before you read any further. I say "highly paid" because he always ends up in the dove field with a new shotgun after I pay him a visit (and his fee). I know he's a good lawyer because his motto is: "Never let the facts stand in the way of a good story." Case in point: the buck he's got hanging on his office wall...
An Entrance to the Woods
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On a fine sunny afternoon at the end of September I leave my work in Lexington and drive east on I-64 and the Mountain Parkway. When I leave the Parkway at the little town of Pine Ridge I am in the watershed of the Red River in the Daniel Boone National Forest. From Pine Ridge I take Highway 715 out...
Garnett C. Brown
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You couldn't have asked for a better opening day of dove season in Kentucky. The weather was mild and dry, with a light breeze blowing thin wisps of clouds high overhead. Sunshine flooded still-green fields bordered with black rail fences, and nearby you could hear an occasional "Mooooo" from...
An Essential Ingredient
Walter L. Cato Jr.
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My 14-foot Grumman boat floated in calm water in the Ohio River at the Westport ramp. A pretty picture, I thought, as I walked down the slope. The dull, grass-colored painted boat in the deep green late summer river was framed by bank-side...
The Frontier (An Excerpt)
Harry M. Caudill
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Betty Sexton Fields was a Melungeon who died at the age of ninety. The origins of the "dark people" are lost in the mists of our country's history. They are found in many parts of the Appalachians and are called by many names. In some places they...
A Little Bit of Santa Glaus (An Excerpt)
Dr. Thomas D. Clark
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Unlike their Yankee brethren, southerners saved their fireworks for Christmas instead of the Fourth of July. There seems to be little fundamental reason for this traditional difference between the sections. Some have explained that because the siege...
Muskie Joe: The Legend Continues
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He was born Joe Edward Stamper on March 2, 1887, on the head of Grassy near the headwaters of the Laurel Fork of the Kinniconick. His father, the late Taylor Stamper, was a barrel maker and cross-tie drifter. The Stamper family was well known for conducting huge cross-tie floats each spring when as many...
An Excerpt from Rivers of Kentucky (2001)
David Dick and Eulalie C. Dick
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There are two things as good as food. One is making love, the other is canoeing on Licking. The three combined make an afternoon in June seem like heaven on earth, mindful that around each bend there can be a message from hell, when gravity and flow get together on the proposition. All the food on the...
Joe Tom Erwin
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Every June when Mike Voyles of Owensboro visits for a week, I relive some of my best boyhood days by taking him frog hunting. And every time we creep up a pond bank on our bellies to survey a pond studded with fist-sized bullfrog heads, elevenyear- old Mike rewards me by shaking slightly when he draws a...
Tickling, Noodling, etc.
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"Excuse me," I said, "but people have been committed to mental institutions for doing saner things than sticking their hands under rocks like these and I don't think I'm going to do it! " That comment drew a grin from Kerry Prather, Eastern Fishery District...
Meats: Game and Tame (An Excerpt)
Sidney Saylor Farr
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Father and other men in the community went hunting for wild game to supplement food supplies. It always seemed to me it would be more fun to go tramping through the mountains hunting than staying home doing endless chores that faced women...
Fox-Hunting in Kentucky (An Excerpt)
John Fox Jr.
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In Kentucky. the hunting of the red fox antedates the war but little. The old Kentucky fox-hound was of every color, loose in build, with open feet and a cowhide tail. He had a good nose, and he was slow, but he was fast enough for the gray fox and...
Fishing with the Stewart Brothers
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The fish were skimming along just under the surface of the placid water. Now and then one would rise and suck a tidbit offered up by the drifting current. Seventy-five yards downstream, a riffle gurgled as the stream's course was altered by the...
When the Cork Goes Under (2005)
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For once, bureaucracy took a backseat to common sense. Some farsighted folks who worked for the Jefferson County Parks Department approached state game and fish officiais with a simple idea: Stock one of the Louisville Metro Park lakes with an extra...
An Excerpt from 40 Acres and No Mule (1967)
Janice Holt Giles
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ll summer we had sneaked time from the tobacco and the canning and the improvements on the house to fish and to study birds, and Green River was perfect for both. Green River! Ah, everyone should have Green River flowing at the foot of the ridge as we do. Beautiful, emerald, winding stream, chattering...
The Philosophy of Angling
James A. Henshall, MD
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The art of angling. with the improvements and appliances thereunto pertaining, will not suffer by a comparison with the progress of any other out-door recreation. The love of angling increases with the lapse of years, for its love grows by what it...
Bass, Pike, and Perch (An Excerpt
James A. Henshall, MD
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The differences of opinion among anglers, of all men, pertaining to the practice of their art, has become axiomatic. Some will differ even to the estimation of a hair in the legs of an artificial fly, while it is averred others will go so far as to "divide a...
A Place of Noble Trees (2005)
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For the past forty-five years, my family has been spending at least one week out of the year on Dale Hollow Lake, straddling the Kentucky-Tennessee border. Mine was a family that, in the 1950s, had just begun to crawl up out of poverty and was still...
An Excerpt from Shantyboat (1953)
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I am not a true fisherman. Many are drawn to the river by a desire to fish, but this was not even a minor reason for my becoming a shantyboater. Perhaps it could be said, since I am not a thorough fisherman, that I am not a genuine river rat. I have...
The Memory Place (An Excerpt)
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This is the kind of April morning no other month can touch: a world tinted in watercolor pastels of redbud, dogtooth violet, and gentle rain. The trees are beginning to shrug off winter; the dark, leggy maple woods are shot through with gleaming constellations of white dogwood blossoms. The road winds through...
Partners in the Web of Life (2OO4)
Art Lander Jr.
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We are hunters by instinct. Something in our genes tells us to go into the forest and emulate wild creatures. We admire the animal stealth, cunning, and will to survive that so many humans have lost touch with or altogether ignore. Petroglyphs on the walls of caves tell of the exploits of ancient hunters who lived...
King of the Spring Woodlands
Art Lander Jr.
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The clouds on the horizon were backlit with crimson and yellow light when the turkey started gobbling. It was a lusty, rattling call that echoed through the woods, shattering the predawn calm. From a ridgetop down the creek, it was impossible to...
Our Creek Is Full of Memories
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What is the difference between a creek and a river? Myth has it that to be a river, the stream must be at least 100 miles long. And according to this same myth, Elkhorn Creek falls one mile short of this magical distance, and therefore does not qualify as...
An Excerpt from Clear Springs (1999)
Bobby Ann Mason
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It has been an unusually hot summer, and my mother had gotten out of the habit of stirring about, although she still drove to her garden at the farm each morning. When she lived at the farm, she had kept active all summer, but at the new house, she felt inhibited from going outside. There were so many houses...
Inheritance (An Excerpt)
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It was a balmy day in July 1994 when my wife and I went to my parents' home for a weekend visit. My father called me aside after supper. "There are some things in the downstairs bedroom that I want you to look at," he said. "We brought back all of Papaw's...
They Called Him Lucky (An Excerpt
Frank F. Mathias
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Mom called him Charlie, his sisters called him Charles, his sons called him Dad, but everyone else in his world called him Lucky. He signed Lucky to his checks and letters. Mail to him from acquaintances was always addressed to Lucky Mathias. Few...
John E. Murphy
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September draws the first delicate blushes from the countryside. Streams gurgle with their most fervent seasonal serenity. The fish and wildlife have reared the young, who are less handsome but more confident by this time than their tired...
The Kentucky Longrifle (2004)
Thomas D. Schifer
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The Kentucky Longrifle occupies an integral part in the legend, song, and story of American history. It dates from the time pioneers attempted to cross the mountains and break away from the eastern seaboard. In the hands of legendary men such...
The Scolding (2004)
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Little boys will always need an occasional "talking to," no matter how old they are. That was the lesson I learned not long ago when, at the age of 46, I got one more scolding from my 81- year-old dad. First he gave me that same old facial expression I'd...
Chapter Added to Rich History
Stephen M. Vest
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Long before written histories documented the fact, Kentucky was a hunting ground for the Iroquois, the Shawnee, and the Algonquin. In 1763 Elisha Walden led a dozen Long Hunters through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky. They described it as a virgin...
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In 1810, George Snyder, a silversmith in Paris, Kentucky, had an idea. Let's assume that it came to him in March, just when the first buds began to appear and only the faintest hint of green colored the fields, came to him during those first few warm days of...
A Connecticut Yankee in a Kentucky Trout Stream
Stephen M. Wrinn
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Among the many myths that outsiders have come to believe about Kentucky is that it has no outstanding trout fishing. Despite 13,000 miles of rivers and streams, and more navigable waterways than any other state except Alaska, it is still widely believed...
An Excerpt from Hunter's Horn (1949)
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Late November's gentle misty rains made a fog across the hills and brought a grayness and a stillness to the bright noisy leaves. The good hunting weather, the dog food, eggs, fresh milk, and scraps of meat from a just killed pig all gave new life to Zing...
An Excerpt from Nathan Coulter
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After we killed the first coon things were slow for a long time. We went into the woods again and sat down. Once in a while we'd hear the dogs, their voices flaring up as they fumbled at a cold trail, then quiet again while we waited and talked beside the...
A Special Incident
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John has broken into a light sweat before he reached the ridge. Summer had strong influence in mid-September, but a front had brought mild weather, presaging fall, so he wore a long-sleeved camouflage shirt to abate the early morning chill. Day was sifting...
Billy C. Clark
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His name was Ely, and he was a mender offences. This was the trade he claimed to know the best, and he was willing to bargain with it for the right to fish for an old fish he called Joner. The day Pa bought the farm we inherited Ely, according to its prior owner,...
Fur in the Hickory
Billy C. Clark
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You can talk about that new repeating rifle of yours all you want," the old man said to the boy as they made their way up the slope of the hill toward the ridge where the shagbark hickories grew. "It's your gun and only natural that you ought to have some feeling for it. But me? When I go for squirrel I aim to put...
The Great Ohio River Catfish Hunting Expedition
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It all started when we all were fishing at the river on a Saturday night. All our poles had been fixed and set up and our lines were out in the current waiting for the fish to bite. I was in charge of two of the poles and I was just sitting there enjoying the river. It was so smooth and calm that it looked like a big...
Into the Woods (An Excerpt)
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"Did you seem him?" Dad said. The bird had exploded at our feet from the base of one of those cedars. "That's a pheasant for you. All jumpy and nervous." There was great excitement in his voice, a kind of passion I had not heard before, not even for the...
Big Boy (An Excerpt)
William E. Ellis
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"Mr. Smith, how're you, today?" Rufus Brown said, trying not to let on about his great secret. "Why, I'm right fine, how're you?" "Right fine myself, I got a proposition for you." "Wha's that, Rufus?" "Come out to my wagon and look in my barrel. I got somethin' that ought to be worth a look-see."...
An Excerpt from Aleck Maury, Sportsman (1934)
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it was while I was training Gy that I made another acquisition —the best gun I ever had. That, too, came to me from Pat Henry. I found it in Sid More's gunshop, standing in a corner with two other breech-loaders. I saw the rosewood stock first and I picked...
An Excerpt from Gina. Jamie. Father. Bear. (2002)
George Ella Lyon
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Mabry taught me t ride a bike, to whistle, to program the VCR. He made up great pretend games for when we drove to see Grandma Pierce: "M & G, Sole Survivors from Mars" was one of them. He designed our treehouse, including a PVC pipe firepole, and carved our names on the rail. In fact, he was the world's best big brother till Mom said she...
An Excerpt from His First, Best Country (1993)
Jim Wayne Miller
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Standing on the bridge over Newfound Creek, looking down into the dark water slipping under the bridge, Jennings realized he'd stopped the car and walked onto the bridge out of old habit. There'd been an old bridge here years ago, a wooden bridge, and...
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He appeared like an apparition. Like most deer sightings, one moment the meadow is empty, the next, ghostlike, a deer materializes. At first, I distrusted what my eyes told me was a big buck. Like a textbook case of early blur, I clearly saw deer. But the...
Our Wiff and Daniel Boone
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"I was born at the wrong time," Wiff Hendrix said in Pudd Bently's General Store and Post Office. "I wish I'd been born the same year Daniel Boone was born. Wish I could have come into the Kentucky wilderness with Boone, and with a longrifle, a powderhorn, and a bullet mold. But maybe I am Daniel Boone....
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Shot this morning a fine red buck. Twelve points. Having slept in some beeches, I wake to sounds of a squirrel cutting, his long incisors gnawing small bitter beechnuts somewhere close. Breakfast. Cocking and priming, quiet as I can I settle back in my...
Fishing with My Father in the Middle Field Pond (2005)
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APPENDIX B Kentucky's All-Time Top Ten Boone & Crockett White-tailed Bucks
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List of Contributors
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Page Count: 432
Publication Year: 2014