Wolfe Publishing Group

    from Fishing and Shooting Sketches

    The Mission of Sport and Outdoor Life

    I am sure that it is not necessary for me, at this late day, to dwell upon the fact that I am an enthusiast in my devotion to hunting and fishing, as well as every other kind of outdoor recreation. I am so proud of this devotion that, although my sporting proclivities have at times subjected me to criticism and petty forms of persecution, I make no claim that my steadfastness should be looked upon as manifesting the courage of martyrdom. On the contrary, I regard these criticisms and persecutions as nothing more serious than gnat stings suffered on the bank of a stream — vexations to be borne with patience and afterward easily submerged in the memory of abundant delightful accompaniments. Thus, when short fishing excursions, in which I have sought relief from the wearing labors and perplexities of official duty, have been denounced in a mendacious newspaper as dishonest devices to cover scandalous revelry, I have been able to enjoy a sort of pleasurable contempt for the author of this accusation, while congratulating myself on the mental and physical restoration I had derived from these excursions. So, also, when people, more mistaken than malicious, have wagged their heads in pitying fashion and deprecated my indulgence in hunting and fishing frivolity, which, in high public service, I have found it easy to lament the neglect of these amiable persons to accumulate for their delectation a fund of charming sporting reminiscence; while, at the same time, I sadly reflected how their dispositions might have been sweetened and their lives made happier if they had yielded something to the particular type of frivolity which they deplored.

    I hope it may not be amiss for me to supplement these personal observations by the direct confession that, so far as my attachment to outdoor sports may be considered a fault, I am, as related to this especial predicament of guilt, utterly incorrigible and shameless. Not many years ago, while residing in a nonsporting but delightfully cultured and refined community, I found that considerable indignation had been aroused among certain good neighbors and friends, because it had been said of me that I was willing to associate in the field with any loafer who was the owner of a dog and gun. I am sure that I did not in the least undervalue the extreme friendliness of those inclined to intervene in my defense; and yet, at the risk of doing an apparently ungracious thing, I felt inexorably constrained to check their kindly efforts by promptly conceding that the charge was too nearly true to be denied.

    There can be no doubt that certain men are endowed with a sort of inherent and spontaneous instinct which leads them to hunting and fishing indulgence as the most alluring and satisfying of all recreations. In this view I believe it may be safely said that the true hunter or fisherman is born, not made. I believe, too, that those who thus by instinct and birthright belong to the sporting fraternity and are actuated by a genuine sporting spirit, are neither cruel, nor greedy and wasteful of the game and they pursue; and I am convinced that there can be no better conservators of the sensible and provident protection of game and fish than those who are enthusiastic in their pursuit, but who, at the same time, are regulated and restrained by the sort of chivalric fairness and generosity, felt and recognized by every true sportsman.

    While it is most agreeable thus to consider hunting and fishing as constituting, for those especially endowed for their enjoyment, the most tempting of outdoor sports, it is easily apparent that there is a practical value to these sports as well as all other outdoor recreations, which rests upon a broader foundation. Though the delightful and passionate love for outdoor sports and recreation is not bestowed upon every one as a natural gift, they are so palpably related to health and vigor, and so inseparably connected with the work of life and comfort of existence, that it is happily ordained that a desire or a willingness for their enjoyment may be cultivated to an extent sufficient to meet the requirements of health and self-care. In other words, all but the absolutely indifferent can be made to realize that outdoor air and activity, intimacy with nature and acquaintanceship with birds and animals and fish, are essential to physical and mental strength, under the exactions of an unescapable decree.

    “For the good God who loveth us

    He made and loveth all.”

    Men may accumulate wealth in neglect of the law of recreation; but how infinitely much they will forfeit, in the deprivation of wholesome vigor, in the loss of the placid fitness for the quiet joys and comforts of advancing years, and in the displacement of contented age by the demon of querulous and premature decrepitude!

    A Law not to Be Disobeyed

    Men, in disobedience of this law, may achieve triumph in the world of science, education and art; but how unsatisfying are the rewards thus gained if they hasten the night when no man can work, and if the later hours of life are haunted by futile regrets for what is still left undone, that might have been done if there had been closer communion with nature’s visible forms!

    In addition to the delight which outdoor recreations afford to those instinctively in harmony with their enjoyment, and after a recognition of the fact that a knowledge of their nerve and muscle-saving ministrations may be sensibly cultivated, there still remains another large item that should be placed to their credit. Every individual, as a unit in the scheme of civilized social life, owes to every man, woman and child within such relationship an uninterrupted contribution to the fund of enlivening and pleasurable social intercourse. None of us can deny this obligation; and none of us can discharge it as we ought, if our contributions are made in the questionable coin of sordidness and nature’s perversion. Our experience and observation supply abundant proof that those who contribute most generously to the exhilaration and charm of social intercourse will be found among the disciples of outdoor recreation, who are in touch with nature and have thus kept fresh and unperverted a simple love of humanity’s best environment.

    A Chance in the Open for All

    It seems to me that thoughtful men should not be accused of exaggerated fears when they deprecate the wealth­mad rush and struggle of American life and the consequent neglect of outdoor recreation, with the impairment of that mental and physical vigor absolutely essential to our national welfare, and so abundantly promised to those who gratefully recognize, in nature’s adjustment to the wants of man, the care of “the good God” who “made and loveth all.” Manifestly, if outdoor recreations are important to the individual and to the nation, and if there is danger of their neglect, every instrumentality should be heartily encouraged which aims to create and stimulate their indulgence in every form.

    Fortunately, the field is broad and furnishes a choice for all except those willfully at fault. The sky and sun above the head, the soil beneath the feet, and outdoor air on every side are the indispensable requisites.

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