I’ve been trying something new lately. I have been taking books with me on my hunting trips. Often I have a little down time because the animals are not always active when I want them to be. I pick a nice spot and I read for a bit. I’ve tried a few different works. Teddy Roosevelt’s Through the Brazillian Wilderness and Swiss Family Robinson. I enjoyed them both but I keep coming back to a book of poetry. This is kind of odd because I am not generally an afficinado of poetry. Maurice Manning (a fellow Kentuckian) has written several books but the one that captured me and hasn’t let go is called “A Companion for Owls: Being the Commonplace Book of D. Boone, Long Hunter, Back Woodsman, & c.” The book of poems was written by Manning imagining himself as Daniel Boone, famous hunter and explorer. His poetry is funny at times, sad at others and mostly just beautiful.
Because it’s Friday I offer two poems here…enjoy.
A Recipe for Chink
Once you have felled and squared
and notched and laid timber upon timber
and allowed your cabin to assume its form
and leveled the dirt floor as best you can
and made a stone hearth and a chimney
that draws good air and given thought
to daylight and the likely direction of rain
and resigned yourself to live crudely,
you are now ready to render two bushels of salt.
Next make a long trough and fill it with water
as deep as your hand is long. Scoop
riverbank clay onto a hide
and drag it to the trough. Combine the clay
and water. Add to that confection
small sticks, pine needles and threshings
if they are handy. Then add the salt.
Kneel before the trough as if it were
an ancient altar in the woods and knead
the dough lovingly until it is creamy
as a woman’s hip flesh and you
are taken away for a moment by a small dream.
Compose yourself and take a plank and smooth
the dough between the timbers inside and out.
Resist perfection; content yourself with small gaps. Sunlight
will sneak through and give the dust a place to dance.
Allow unevenness to bring you joy.
D.Boon Kilt Bar on This Tree, 1760
It’s true, I’ve had my trouble spelling easy words
like bear, though I’ve killed one with my bare hands;
and some men would have felt this was a feat
worth writing down, as proof of manliness,
but that is not my carving; history has
painted me as prideful. Another fact:
I took a Shawnee squaw in the winter of 1770.
I was cold and she was warm-and much better than
a dreary cave was her fair lodge; she soothed
me with her sweet Algonquin voice. I never
told Rebecca and it was not a difficult secret
to keep. You cannot blame a man for keeping
warm. Besides, Rebecca lay once with my brother,
Ned, which I understood, one Boone being good
as any other. I was much obliged to that long-legged
Shawnee girl and left her the hides of two deer
for her troubles. The kindness of those days is not
recorded. We thought less of sin than one may think.