- Hide, Horn, Fish, and Fowl: Texas Hunting and Fishing Lore
Willis Tate, president of Southern Methodist University from 1954 to 1972, was known to tell trustees and prospective donors that SMU was the proud publisher of Field & Stream. Actually, that was not the case: SMU was the publisher of Field & Laboratory, a scientific journal far removed from the literature of hunting and fishing. While Tate's lapse in memory tells us something about the man, it tells us even more about the prominent place the outdoor life held in the cultural imagination of Texas. And even today, in a state where most of the population dwells in the cities (Houston, San Antonio, the sprawling Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and other urban areas), the older pattern still persists, as this entertaining and instructive new book reminds us.
The topic is approached under five headings: "The Hunting Drive and Its Place in Our Lore"; "The Lore of Hunting—Deer, Hogs, Coons, and Even Foxes"; "Fishing Lore in Texas"; "You Hunt What?! Unusual Prey and Other Things We Chase"; and "The One That Got Away (or Should Have): Anecdotes and Funny Stories," with thirty-six essays by the various contributors. The book begins with Len Ainsworth's elegiac "Gone a' Hunting," a personal memoir, beautifully written, of hunting's place in his family's life for generations. Ainsworth's effort sets the tone for much of what follows. While the particular details of rod and gun are always prominent, more often than not it is the social bond, the passing on of tradition that is the abiding subject of these essays. While this is largely a masculine world, it is not so entirely, as Mary Margaret Dougherty Campbell reminds us in "Dentistry, Dehorning, and More: South Texas Women's Hunting Stories." The hunt need not always be a blood sport, as Charlie Oden points out in "This Is for the Birds," an account of his bird-watching adventures with his wife and hunting-companion, Georgia.
The many humorous anecdotes in Hide, Horn, Fish, and Fowl tell us that if we no longer hunt or fish for sheer survival, our efforts as Nimrod or Piscator provide abundant comic relief for contemporary life. And as Ruth Cleveland Riddels suggests in "The Pointer," such humor has no doubt been a part of our experience [End Page 324] for as long as homo sapiens has taken to woods or waters in search of quarry—and also ourselves. Editor Kenneth L. Untiedt and the Texas Foklore Society have produced another fine annual volume, as eagerly anticipated as the opening of dove season or an early morning fishing trip. Readers who are interested in these matters should not let this one get away.