Ernest Thompson Seton's Big Book of Country Living

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9781585740321: Ernest Thompson Seton's Big Book of Country Living
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In a single, remarkable volume renowned naturalist, writer, artist, and lecturer Ernest Thompson Seton presents one of the most comprehensive guides to the outdoors ever written. Within these pages are instructions and anecdotes -- some expected, some delightfully unanticipated -- on every sort of outdoor art and craft and country living skill. You'll learn how to distinguish edible plants from poisonous ones; make fire by rubbing sticks; craft a bow and arrow, thongs, buttons, and birdhouses; read sign language; recognize forest trees, wildflowers, animals, birds, and constellations; tie a variety of knots; and much, much more.Illustrated generously throughout with the author's own pen-and-ink drawings, this essential outdoor handbook is both an important piece of American history and useful tool in preserving and communing with nature.

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Review:

Ernest Thompson Seton, the author of Wild Animals I Have Known and dozens of other books and pamphlets celebrating the American wilderness, had any number of strong opinions. For one thing, he believed that a civilization whose members were physically weak was doomed to collapse. For another thing, he exalted American Indians as people who shunned avarice, "sought for the beautiful in everything," and lived in harmony with nature. And for another thing, he believed that to try at something and to fail at it was infinitely better than not trying at all--and that no one was quite so distasteful as a quitter.

Seton's Big Book of Country Living, originally published in 1912 as The Book of Woodcraft and reissued in several increasingly larger editions, gives full vent to these views. Like the Boy Scout Fieldbook it inspired--and Seton was a founder and Chief Scout of the Boy Scouts of America--his overstuffed manual abounds with practical instructions on camping, nature study, map reading, knot making, and other outdoors skills. These instructions are delivered with a refreshing certitude: Seton concludes his step-by-step guidelines on making a fire by using rubbing sticks, for instance, with the words, "If the fire does not come, it is because you have not followed these instructions." They also disguise an overarching purpose, which is precisely that outdoor activities should be undertaken with some mission, whether to determine whether a certain type of tree grows in a particular area or to prove that a certain road goes north to south. Activity without learning, in Seton's universe, is a wasted enterprise.

Seton's book also contains a vigorous, constant defense of American Indian ways of life--an unusual stance, given that the violent conquest of North America was still fresh in his peers' memories. "As the model for outdoor life in this country I took the Indian," Seton writes, "and have thus been obliged to defend him against the calumnies of those who coveted his possessions." At once a historical document that provides a window on Seton's time and a still highly useful manual of outdoor skills, The Big Book of Country Living belongs in every outdoor enthusiast's library. --Gregory McNamee

From the Back Cover:

In a single volume Ernest Thompson Seton, renowned naturalist, writer, artist, and founding leader of the Boy Scouts of America, presents one of the most comprehensive guides to the outdoors ever written. Originally published in 1922 as The Book of Woodcraft, this work represents the culmination of years of observation and experience in the wilderness. Within these pages lie instructions and anecdotes - some expected, some delightfully unanticipated - regarding literally hundreds of arts, crafts, skills, and games. Here one can learn to distinguish edible plants from poisonous ones; start a fire using only a jackknife; build a four-store birdhouse out of a wooden box; communicate in sign language; tie a variety of essential knots; identify trees, wildflowers, animals, birds, and constellations; and much, much more.Abundantly illustrated with the author's own handsome pen-and-ink drawings, this classic outdoor handbook is both a cherished piece of American history and a useful tool in preserving and communing with nature. (7 X 10, 624 pages, maps, illustrations, diagrams, charts)

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