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peter john from ‘‘Out on Our Own’’ Love Woods Life If you was in the brush as long as I was, you would understand life. Just like going to school, you’ll understand. Because that’s the way I learned. I didn’t learn it like you, going to school. I learn the outdoor life the way people learned it long before my time. Because it means something on the table for them. If you’re going out hunting rabbits and you got no ., but you got a snare in your pocket you can still get a rabbit. When you see a rabbit sitting down, you throw sticks over his head and he’ll dive for that hole. You run over there and set snare in front of the hole. Then you poke down in the snow with a stick. Chase him out and catch him right there. That’s what I know because I’ve been in the woods all my life. Right now, everybody depend on money. And why not? How would you like to live the way I was brought up? I don’t think you’ll like it. It’s such a hard life. I’ve done some things that even my own people would think couldn’t happen. One time I was hunting with four or five boys. I was walking ahead on snowshoes and I see a willow bent forward. On top of the willow was a piece of grass. One piece right on top. I stopped. When those boys caught up I tell them, ‘‘Well, I caught a bear.’’ They all look at me. ‘‘Caught a bear? How did you catch a bear?’’ ‘‘See that willow, bent down? See that grass on top of it? It wouldn’t be there unless a bear did it,’’ I tell them. ‘‘You boys just look down that way.’’ They turn off and sure enough there was a bear in his den. You see these things I understand through living in the brush. When that bear tried to get grass for his bedding, it got caught on the willow. You see you got to have your little brain up here. Just like if you’re doing mathematics, you got to figure the problem. You have to think pretty hard to get the right number. Same way with that grass. How did it get there? That grass wouldn’t be there peter john: love woods life  unless a bear pushed grass by and left one there. See, like a mathematics problem the number’s got to be there somewhere. The bear was in his den fifty feet away. Even if there wasn’t much game around, I never felt like quitting the woods life and living in town. If I’m not going to get anything that day, then there is another day coming. I’m going to stick it out. That’s the way I felt. I worked on a steamboat for one summer when I was eighteen. Two-anda -half a day. Seventy-five dollars a month. All the way down to the mouth of the Yukon, all the way up to Bettles on the Koyukuk, and all the way back up the Tanana River. That’s the only time I worked for wages. I said to heck with it. The work didn’t like me and I didn’t like the work. They wouldn’t put me no other place besides deck hand, because I couldn’t read or write. ...


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