Sep 21, 2010

Wild Animals I Have Known

by Ernest Thompson Seton

This is one of those books I read time and time again as a kid at the public library, but until very recently only had vague memories of. I remember often enough turning the pages of the borrowed book, an edition with pawprints running up and down each page margin and lots of pen-and-ink illustrations. I mentioned this book once before when I read the author's autobiography, and now finally had a chance to read it again, after finding a used copy.

Wild Animals I Have Known is a collection of stories about animals that the author claims are based on true events. One tells about a wolf famed for preying on livestock, that cleverly evaded all attempts to poison him. There is also the story of a partridge, a savvy crow that leads a large band, and a beautiful wild horse that can outrun anything. I recognized part of the story about the fox- where a vixen tried to free her captive cub by burying the chain it was tied to. And I was a bit incredulous at the rabbit story- would a mother rabbit really kick a snake to free her young? Just as interesting as the wild animal stories were two about dogs- which might just as well be called wild. The first was a dog that ran around free on the prairie, grappling with wolves and eating off dead livestock himself, in one marvelous incident assisting the author when he got caught in his own wolf traps! the other was about a "yaller dog" which had been trained to faithfully care for sheep, and when his owner ditched him on a journey, the dog waited ages at a ferry for him to return. By the time he managed to attach himself to a new master, the dog's temperament had changed entirely, and although he protected his own flock dutifully enough, he proved to be a terror to the neighboring farms. Anyhow, the stories are not all pretty. Most of them have some violent doings, animals being torn apart by gunshots or something like. There are quite a few sad or ironic endings. I liked them all the same.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 283 pages, 1941

No comments: