Apr 19, 2013

Lives of the Hunted

by Ernest Thompson Seton

This is a delightful collection of animal stories from what is quickly becoming one of my favorite, hard-to-find authors. I have a handful of his books, purchased at a dear price on a ridiculous splurge at a used bookstore, one which I've never yet regretted. My copy itself would be valuable if it weren't in such miserable condition. It's a hardbound first edition, and even though the spine is loosening, the pages wrinkled and the entire book swollen with long-ago moisture damage, I can still feel the rich texture of the fine paper that was used, and enjoy the numerous drawings and illustrations.

The stories are engaging and informative. They are about animals, comprised from true events Seton observed (in a few cases he even includes himself in the stories) and while revealing a lot about wildlife behavior and animal nature, they are also just darn good stories in and of themselves. Seton was a very good storyteller. Sometimes the tales reflect their times, in ways that might be upsetting to some readers. For example, in a story about bears in Yellowstone park, the author has no qualms telling how garbage was routinely dumped in a large open pile, and people seemed pleased that the bears would gather here to eat. Even when they recognized one particular bear cub was sickly from eating trash, they blamed the mother bear for allowing him to eat whatever he chose, rather than taking responsibility themselves for giving the bears access to garbage!

There's a story about a bighorn ram who leads a determined hunter in a pursuit that lasted- according to Seton's account- several months. There's a charming story about a mother blue-winged teal who must lead her ducklings a fair distance over land to their first water source when the pond near her nest dries up. The chapter about kangaroo rats was mostly the author's observations of one he captured and kept in a large box with dirt to tunnel in, as well as digging up its nest to see the layout of the tunnels. I enjoyed the story about a sparrow who was raised by canaries, resulting in some confusing behavior. There are two stories that feature dogs and coyotes. The first was about a rather foolish dog who was teased by wild coyotes; the second about a poor coyote pup who was captured and tormented in every way thinkable by children and grown men alike until she escaped. Having learned all the hurts mankind was capable of inflicting, this coyote was particularly wise when she finally made her own way in the wild and raised a family of even smarter coyotes (not without difficulty!) Her story was my favorite of the lot.

Rating: 4/5 ....... 360 pages, 1901

more opinions:
The Locavore Hunter
anyone else?

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