We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Of Woods and Waters

A Kentucky Outdoors Reader

edited by Ron Ellis

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


pdf iconDownload PDF (7.1 MB)
p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (188.2 KB)
pp. i-viii


pdf iconDownload PDF (163.4 KB)
pp. ix-xii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (306.1 KB)
pp. xiii-xviii

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...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (204.2 KB)
pp. xix

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...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (544.1 KB)
pp. xxiii

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...

read more

Prologue: The Adventures of Col. Daniel Boon; Containing a Narrative of the Wars of Kentucke (An Excerpt)

pdf iconDownload PDF (98.1 KB)
pp. xxxv

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...


read more

Fishing in the Ohio

John James Audubon

pdf iconDownload PDF (442.9 KB)
pp. 3-10

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...

read more

Deer Camp (2004)

Dave Baker

pdf iconDownload PDF (615.7 KB)
pp. 11-19

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...

read more

An Entrance to the Woods

Wednell Berry

pdf iconDownload PDF (655.9 KB)
pp. 20-34

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...

read more

Dove Autumn

Garnett C. Brown

pdf iconDownload PDF (206.7 KB)
pp. 35-38

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...

read more

An Essential Ingredient

Walter L. Cato Jr.

pdf iconDownload PDF (219.8 KB)
pp. 39-43

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...

read more

The Frontier (An Excerpt)

Harry M. Caudill

pdf iconDownload PDF (336.4 KB)
pp. 44-50

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...

read more

A Little Bit of Santa Glaus (An Excerpt)

Dr. Thomas D. Clark

pdf iconDownload PDF (188.9 KB)
pp. 51-54

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...

read more

Muskie Joe: The Legend Continues

Soc Clay

pdf iconDownload PDF (393.7 KB)
pp. 55-62

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...

read more

An Excerpt from Rivers of Kentucky (2001)

David Dick and Eulalie C. Dick

pdf iconDownload PDF (301.5 KB)
pp. 63-68

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...

read more

Frog Fever

Joe Tom Erwin

pdf iconDownload PDF (115.3 KB)
pp. 69-70

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...

read more

Tickling, Noodling, etc.

Dick Farmer

pdf iconDownload PDF (304.2 KB)
pp. 71-77

"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...

read more

Meats: Game and Tame (An Excerpt)

Sidney Saylor Farr

pdf iconDownload PDF (295.2 KB)
pp. 78-84

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...

read more

Fox-Hunting in Kentucky (An Excerpt)

John Fox Jr.

pdf iconDownload PDF (316.3 KB)
pp. 85-89

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...

read more

Fishing with the Stewart Brothers


pdf iconDownload PDF (751.3 KB)
pp. 90-99

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...

read more

When the Cork Goes Under (2005)

Gary Garth

pdf iconDownload PDF (175.2 KB)
pp. 100-103

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...

read more

An Excerpt from 40 Acres and No Mule (1967)

Janice Holt Giles

pdf iconDownload PDF (324.3 KB)
pp. 104-109

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...

read more

The Philosophy of Angling

James A. Henshall, MD

pdf iconDownload PDF (294.6 KB)
pp. 110-113

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...

read more

Bass, Pike, and Perch (An Excerpt

James A. Henshall, MD

pdf iconDownload PDF (253.6 KB)
pp. 114-119

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...

read more

A Place of Noble Trees (2005)

Silas House

pdf iconDownload PDF (587.0 KB)
pp. 120-131

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...

read more

An Excerpt from Shantyboat (1953)

Harlan Hubbard

pdf iconDownload PDF (406.8 KB)
pp. 132-137

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...

read more

The Memory Place (An Excerpt)

Barbara Kingsolver

pdf iconDownload PDF (114.1 KB)
pp. 138-139

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...

read more

Partners in the Web of Life (2OO4)

Art Lander Jr.

pdf iconDownload PDF (102.8 KB)
pp. 140-141

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...

read more

King of the Spring Woodlands

Art Lander Jr.

pdf iconDownload PDF (173.6 KB)
pp. 142-144

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...

read more

Our Creek Is Full of Memories

George Lusby

pdf iconDownload PDF (113.9 KB)
pp. 145-146

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...

read more

An Excerpt from Clear Springs (1999)

Bobby Ann Mason

pdf iconDownload PDF (575.6 KB)
pp. 147-159

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...

read more

Inheritance (An Excerpt)

Chad Msson

pdf iconDownload PDF (420.6 KB)
pp. 160-166

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...

read more

They Called Him Lucky (An Excerpt

Frank F. Mathias

pdf iconDownload PDF (295.9 KB)
pp. 167-171

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...

read more

Fly-Fishing Time

John E. Murphy

pdf iconDownload PDF (94.4 KB)
pp. 172-173

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...

read more

The Kentucky Longrifle (2004)

Thomas D. Schifer

pdf iconDownload PDF (388.6 KB)
pp. 174-182

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...

read more

The Scolding (2004)


pdf iconDownload PDF (354.6 KB)
pp. 183-186

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...

read more

Chapter Added to Rich History

Stephen M. Vest

pdf iconDownload PDF (207.7 KB)
pp. 187-191

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...

read more

Old Reels

John Wilson

pdf iconDownload PDF (308.6 KB)
pp. 192-198

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...

read more

A Connecticut Yankee in a Kentucky Trout Stream

Stephen M. Wrinn

pdf iconDownload PDF (424.6 KB)
pp. 199-206

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...


read more

An Excerpt from Hunter's Horn (1949)

Harriettte Arnow

pdf iconDownload PDF (311.9 KB)
pp. 209-215

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...

read more

An Excerpt from Nathan Coulter

Wendell Berry

pdf iconDownload PDF (183.2 KB)
pp. 216-219

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...

read more

A Special Incident

Sam Bevard

pdf iconDownload PDF (288.2 KB)
pp. 220-225

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...

read more

Ely's Bass

Billy C. Clark

pdf iconDownload PDF (586.8 KB)
pp. 226-238

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,...

read more

Fur in the Hickory

Billy C. Clark

pdf iconDownload PDF (266.3 KB)
pp. 239-244

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...

read more

The Great Ohio River Catfish Hunting Expedition

Gaylord Cooper

pdf iconDownload PDF (477.1 KB)
pp. 245-254

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...

read more

Into the Woods (An Excerpt)

Ron Ellis

pdf iconDownload PDF (438.5 KB)
pp. 255-262

"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...

read more

Big Boy (An Excerpt)

William E. Ellis

pdf iconDownload PDF (542.4 KB)
pp. 263-273

"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."...

read more

An Excerpt from Aleck Maury, Sportsman (1934)

Caroline Gordon

pdf iconDownload PDF (130.9 KB)
pp. 274-276

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...

read more

An Excerpt from Gina. Jamie. Father. Bear. (2002)

George Ella Lyon

pdf iconDownload PDF (211.9 KB)
pp. 277-281

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...

read more

An Excerpt from His First, Best Country (1993)

Jim Wayne Miller

pdf iconDownload PDF (148.1 KB)
pp. 282-284

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...

read more

Spirit Deer

Fredrick Pfister

pdf iconDownload PDF (386.1 KB)
pp. 285-291

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...

read more

Our Wiff and Daniel Boone

Jesse Stuart

pdf iconDownload PDF (744.3 KB)
pp. 292-307

"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....

read more

The Meadow

Richard Taylor

pdf iconDownload PDF (132.7 KB)
pp. 308-310

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...


Predator and Prey (2004)

Linda Caldwell

pdf iconDownload PDF (71.7 KB)
pp. 313-314

Hermit's Sack Song

James Gash

pdf iconDownload PDF (78.6 KB)
pp. 315-316

The Hermit on His Gate (2004)

James Gash

pdf iconDownload PDF (78.7 KB)
pp. 317-318

For Jeff (2004)

Johnathan Greene

pdf iconDownload PDF (42.2 KB)
p. 319-319

Walking Sticks

Johnathan greene

pdf iconDownload PDF (58.1 KB)
p. 320-320

The Buffalo

James Baker Hall

pdf iconDownload PDF (60.5 KB)
pp. 321-322


James Baker Hall

pdf iconDownload PDF (79.4 KB)
pp. 323-324

Down in the Counties (2004)

Stephen Holt

pdf iconDownload PDF (53.6 KB)
p. 325-325

Trapper at Camp Dix Bend (2004)

Stephen Holt

pdf iconDownload PDF (29.6 KB)
p. 326-326


Charles Hughes

pdf iconDownload PDF (86.0 KB)
pp. 327-328

Fishing with My Father in the Middle Field Pond (2005)

Leatha Kendrick

pdf iconDownload PDF (60.0 KB)
pp. 329-331

Fish Story

Jim Wayne Miller

pdf iconDownload PDF (107.4 KB)
pp. 332-333

The Faith of Fishermen

Jim Wayne Miller

pdf iconDownload PDF (70.9 KB)
p. 334-334

After the Hunt

Jim Wayne Miller

pdf iconDownload PDF (52.1 KB)
p. 335-335

Spring Hunt

Jim Wayne Miller

pdf iconDownload PDF (50.2 KB)
p. 336-336

Woodcock of the Ivory Beak

Elizabeth Madox Roberts

pdf iconDownload PDF (84.8 KB)
p. 337-337


James Still

pdf iconDownload PDF (50.0 KB)
p. 338-338

Mountain Fox Hunt

James Still

pdf iconDownload PDF (75.3 KB)
pp. 339-340

Alpheus Waters September 2,1863

Joe Survant

pdf iconDownload PDF (76.7 KB)
pp. 341-342

Falling Asleep While Hunting

Joe Survant

pdf iconDownload PDF (63.8 KB)
p. 343-343

A Statement of the Case

Richard Taylor

pdf iconDownload PDF (62.2 KB)
p. 344-344

Fishing at Valleyview Ferry

Richard Taylor

pdf iconDownload PDF (47.3 KB)
p. 345-345


Richard Taylor

pdf iconDownload PDF (81.6 KB)
p. 346-346

Stocking the Pond

Richard Taylor

pdf iconDownload PDF (68.9 KB)
p. 347-347

American Portrait: Old Style (An Excerpt)

Robert Penn Warren

pdf iconDownload PDF (62.8 KB)
p. 349-349

Heart of Autumn

Robery Penn Warren

pdf iconDownload PDF (133.3 KB)
p. 350-350

VII: Tell Me a Story

Robert Penn Warren

pdf iconDownload PDF (66.4 KB)
p. 352-352


APPENDIX A Kentucky State Record Fish

pdf iconDownload PDF (193.1 KB)
pp. 355-360

APPENDIX B Kentucky's All-Time Top Ten Boone & Crockett White-tailed Bucks

pdf iconDownload PDF (77.0 KB)
pp. 361-362

List of Contributors

pdf iconDownload PDF (787.3 KB)
pp. 363-380


pdf iconDownload PDF (392.5 KB)
pp. 381-390

E-ISBN-13: 9780813145754
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813123738

Page Count: 432
Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Natural history -- Kentucky.
  • Outdoor life -- Kentucky -- Anecdotes.
  • Outdoor life -- Kentucky -- Fiction.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access