Wednesday, February 15, 2012

All southern readers of outdoor fiction and nonfiction have had the good fortune of reading some very good work by some very good writers. People Like Archibald Rutledge and Nash Buckingham are easy favorites when considering the best of all southern outdoor writers. Midwesterner's would argue that it's Gordon Macquarrie. I would argue for both of them.

If you're a duck hunter and you've never picked up a book by any of these gentlemen, then shame on you. Sure, you look forward to getting your Ducks Unlimited mags in the mail...and for what? Are you really that interested in the over-advertising that is literally on each page? The DU magazine serves a couple of important roles, and sometimes it can manage to entertain you. The older ones from the 80's were even had an article with Uncle Ted Nugent...which always fun to read. Still, today's mags are so diluted with thanking sponsors and pushing products, that is painful for me to read. TheDelta mag isn't much better, but there's ore reading in it. Wildfowl magazine is very good. However, the best reading is found in those books and stories penned between the World Wars. Prior to 1900, most outdoor writing was very poor, and it was generally all fiction based on a wild adventure that ye olde hunters and huntresses had embarked on. Some are so incredibly boring, the reader could fall asleep on the toilet. Then came Nash and Gordon.

I'll be honest. Nash Buckingham is alright. It's more entertaining than engaging. His reads are quick and intelligent, but to me, they're a bit racist. But I'm left of center on the political spectrum, so we may disagree. The De Shootinest Gent'man is and will always be a classic. I enjoyed it, but the entertaining part is the dialogue and not the plot. Still, it can be tiring for a new reader, and I don't recommend that story as your first Buckingham. But Buckingham pursued all types of game. There are a variety of stories on a variety of critters, too. However, his love for ducks shines though his work. And like all famous writers, a legacy was left behind. The mysterious case of Buckingham's shotgun, "Bo Whoop" as the gun is called, has become legendary. It was recently discovered after decades of recently went for big numbers at an auction and is now on display at Ducks Unlimited's headquarters in Memphis (I think). My only considerable problem with Buckingham was that he chased puddle ducks. Still, he was a vibrant supporter of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which is the most important piece of legislation in waterfowl history.

I'll continue to be honest and say that Gordon Macquarrie is, in my opinion, the best writer. Ever. Gordon ensnares the mind and imagination and paints mental pictures and weaves stories as well as anyone. His stories cover a variety of topics. "To Set A Thief" is one of my favorites...but there's also "The Bluebills Died at Dawn", and the "Kitchen Sink Fish". The only thing I like about fishing, are Gordon Macquarries stories about flyfishing the Brule River. I really hate fishing, though. Unfortunately, Gordon died suddenly in 1956. And like Buckingham, Macquarrie also has his legend. The cabin that was oft-written about in his stories has been mystery for many avid outdoorsmen. Tracking down the remote cabin on the correct lake has been a life goal of many. It is now somewhat easily identifiable because of the internet and those who have blogged about their trek to the cabin. Macquarrie, like me, hated puddle ducks, especially the summer ducks that are so weary. He preferred the bluebill days, with redheads and canvasbacks mixed in. We would have gotten along well. And like Buckingham, his link to the conservation effort was his relationship and support of Aldo Leopold and Leopolds "Land Ethic."

To write means to love. Writing thoughts and publishing them is a tough chore...and these two were the very best. Most of their work can be found at bargain basement prices on Amazon and is definitely worth your time, money, and effort to read these guys' stuff.

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