As we approached what remained of the Bond & Lillard bourbon distillery just south of Lawrenceburg, the first thing I noticed was the sprawling elm tree that towered over the lone wall that had withstood the battle. It was immediately clear that Mother Nature had once again asserted her dominance over the feeble constructions of man.
In a 1906 “Souvenir Supplement” to the Anderson News, Lawrenceburg’s longtime newspaper, the unidentified author waxes poetic about the still thriving distillery perched in a lush natural environment:
“As the traveler winds his way around [the lake stocked with fish and minnows] that leads to this plant, he is greeted by nature’s own sweet breath, spiked with mint, and the pungent and invigorating aroma of Bond & Lillard grown ripe and mellow.”
At the time of this writing, in 1906, the distillery was owned by Stoll & Company of Lexington, who had purchased it from Mr. William F. Bond in 1899, after the 1896 death of Mr. C. C. Lillard, his brother-in-law. John Bond had erected the distillery on this site in 1836, drawn there by the nearby creek and a natural spring. Upon his death, his son David Bond managed the operation before being succeeded by his brother, William F. Bond, in 1849. William F. Bond forged the partnership with C. C. Lillard in 1869.
The Bond history is what drew us to this site on a sunny, warm May morning. Bobby Cole, whose family owned the farm where he and Pud established Camp Last Resort, was a descendant of the Bonds. His two children, Bob and Julie, had wanted to visit this site redolent with their own history.
Pud’s family had some tangential connections to the site, too. Thanks to a document preserved in a Bond family scrapbook, we had discovered that Pud’s great-grandfather, Hamilton Moore, had done some business with William F. Bond and his brother John W. Bond in 1856. It appears ol’ Hamilton, who had a reputation as a bit of a swashbuckler after his exploits at the Battle of Buena Vista during the Mexican-American War, was serving as a broker for a sizable whiskey transaction: $799.50 to transfer 1,818 gallons of “good merchantable whiskey” from William Bond’s warehouse to Mr. James Butts.
To add yet one more hue to Hamilton Moore’s colorful saga, family legend has it that, not long before he died at the tender age of 34, he was run off the family farm, about three miles south of the distillery, by his mother-in-law, Sally Morton Searcy. Evidently, Hamilton’s business dealings—or perhaps his reputation in general—were not well received among the others in his family’s long line of ministers.
Ironically, Hamilton’s son, born just a year before he died, achieved more notoriety as a minister perhaps than any of his Moore or Hedger ancestors. Rev. William Dudley Moore, Pud’s grandfather, pastored numerous rural churches in the area and was both respected and beloved by many. He had also served as the local school superintendent. Perhaps he inherited just a bit of his father’s blood, however, for he made a trip to Mexico, to visit the site of his father’s battle, and he famously traveled to the Holy Land in 1911, when a trip of that type by a rural minister was nearly unheard of.
While Hamilton died estranged from his family in 1857, four thousand reportedly attended the funeral of his son, Rev. W. D. Moore, when he died due to injuries received in a car wreck in 1935. Eight hundred automobiles joined the procession to the cemetery.
I have to confess that the Goodletts I have known may have derived more genetic material from Hamilton Moore than from his son. Bourbon generally has a central role in family gatherings. Perhaps that is just a nod to our Anderson County roots, a show of support for an industry that allowed Lawrenceburg to prosper in the decades before Prohibition. More likely it’s a reflection of our search for shared conviviality or perhaps comfort amid life’s trials.
As we’ve seen from Pud’s writing, nature presents another source of solace. In some ways, it was comforting to see the site of a once thriving family business overtaken by lush late-spring vegetation. It seemed the natural order of things. I think I found myself rooting for nature to teach us all a lesson about our own impermanence. Our lustiest human enterprises will all eventually yield to time.
Perhaps the editor of the Anderson News had a similar thought in 1906. At the bottom of the article were a few words needed simply to fill the column. At first they seemed almost comically out of place following a story about man reaping the rewards of mastering his environment. But on further reflection, perhaps they’re intended to remind us of the perfect antidote to human hubris:
“When in need of rest or recreation, seek out some quiet hamlet in Anderson, and there, under the shade of the magnificent forest trees, enjoy nature and be rejuvenated.”
David Hoefer, of Louisville, Ky., is co-editor of The Last Resort and the author of the book's Introduction. If you would like to share your thoughts on Clearing the Fog, contact us here.
Kentucky is naturally a land of rivers. Every major pool of water in the state is a recent innovation of human engineering, a dammed-up and permanently flooded river valley that shares some, though not all, of the characteristics of a geologically formed lake.
All these forays into large-scale landscape transformation were just getting underway when Pud Goodlett, Bobby Cole, and their buddies were participating in the much smaller-scale lifeways of Salt River during the first half of the 1940s. Rivers meandered through channels rather than rushing through canals; water was oxygenated by riffles and pools rather than the tailwater churn of turbines. The seasons of a temperate climate, marked by leaf color, flow rate, and other sense-catching variables, pressed directly on the dark ribbons of water threading their way through an abundance of interwoven plants and animals. One can imagine the unselfconscious bliss of immersion in this slow but dynamic pattern, as reflected in The Last Resort.
The following video makes evident the steady march of change; it’s the Green River rather than the Salt, but the two are west-flowing sisters whose waters come to mingle in the mighty Ohio.
Video courtesy of the National Park Service.
Tim Cooper of Oakdale, Minn., responds to last week's blog, The Healing Power of Green. If you would like to share your thoughts on Clearing the Fog, contact us here.
I am recently returned from a weekend in a cabin in the vibrantly greening woods, in the sharply undulating mountains. By day, I hiked hardwood trails and climbed precipitous ascents, I scanned distant vistas and enjoyed the immediacy of identified and unidentified wildflowers, and I tried to put a name to, by sight or by sound, the abundant birds that sang me down my path. By late afternoon, I opened a bottle of wine and relished the isolation and rustic nature of the cabin. I prepared a sophisticated meal, and I planned the breakfast that would follow. At night, I lay down on a large, soft bed, and I heard the rain that stole into my domain without threat. I still heard distant birds, still felt the protective hug of the trees. And I fell asleep, and I did it all again, the next day. If I so chose, I could do something similar to this every weekend throughout the year.
By choice, I am an urban dweller; I live in a major metropolitan area in the upper Midwest. By vocation, I am a teacher, and somehow, some way, I have spent my entire career in a suburban private high school, surrounded by wealth, privilege, and personal satisfaction. And by passion, I am a servant of social justice, a man who resides in an area of comfort and ease, and yet tentatively, feebly, extends my hands to those in need.
Much of my journey in the realm of social justice has been as an advocate and direct care provider for the homeless. I still remember speaking to a man I had known for years who resided in a homeless shelter of last resort, the kind of place where Dinty Moore® Beef Stew and bread long past its expiration date were the evening meal, where a shockingly thin mattress placed six inches from a person you didn’t know was your bed, and where personal hygiene might have meant, if you were lucky, a small toothbrush and coarse soap. My conversations with Dick were deep, transcendent, and always instructional—he had a master’s degree in sociology from Northwestern University, but was transformed by Vietnam. On the particular night I remember, Dick told me that “alcoholism, drug addiction, violence, and rage are simply the poor person’s vacation.” He might have told me this as I was scheming about a weekend retreat to a cabin on the shore of Lake Superior.
I’ve also served young children in inner-city public schools, the kinds of places where a classroom in reading or arithmetic has 45-50 students, and where personal assistance comes from people like me who come in to tutor. Deidra, a fourth grader and crack baby with a mom in jail for any number of nefarious arrests, once tried to stab me with a pencil out of sheer frustration because she couldn’t read the simplest texts. She, and other fourth graders I’ve met, has never seen an expansive green space, has had to navigate through slums where trash and dispossession form the core of her very being. At some point in my education, I remember reading that psychiatrists could not distinguish the brain formation of a Vietnam War veteran from a child raised and educated in an American ghetto. Dick, Deidra, my friends: I wish you could have seen the restorative, spirit-rejuvenating sites that I witnessed recently.
My students take family vacations; it’s part of their very being. A cabin in the north woods, a Caribbean resort, a ski chalet in the Rockies…it’s all a part of their formation, their worldview. They are socialized to success, and they will be doctors and lawyers, they will be purveyors of business. They will attain graduate degrees, and they will pass this ethic on to their children. When I am particularly piqued at my students’ assumption that what they have is available to everyone if they just work hard enough, I chide them with the words “you chose your parents well.” I’m happy to say that most understand my meaning, and, perhaps, even a few agree.
I read with interest Sallie Showalter’s recent blog on the need for nature in our lives, “the solace of open spaces” to cite a favorite essayist, Gretel Ehrlich. Sallie’s reference to the psychological and physiological benefits of a natural setting reflects the very way we were both raised. Children of educated, vibrant parents, exposed to the beauty of nature and the arc of cultural wonder, Sallie and I both encourage everyone to tread lightly on this earth, to have a heart for the dispossessed, and to save spaces for both Dick and Deidra as they grope for a horizon.
We chose our parents well.
It has been a spring riddled with grief. Two cousins, a close colleague, my husband’s uncle, a good friend’s mother, a neighbor I didn’t know well but who died so unexpectedly it sent us all reeling.
That made getting out in the woods one day last week before the weekend deluge even more healing and restorative than usual. Hiking in Kentucky’s beautiful hardwood forests has always been high on my list of outdoor pleasures. I have to believe that some of my affinity for that activity was handed down to me from my dad—whether through genetics, through family picnics and camping trips, or through the endless hours of slides relating to his research he sometimes subjected us to. In the 1960s, most families viewed slides of birthday parties or other family gatherings. We sat quietly as he shared images of rock formations and treefall sites. In those days, children rarely had the chance to choose the family’s entertainment.
Recent research has provided some evidence of a real connection between spending time in natural environments and reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. The Green Road Project at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., is currently attempting to measure these changes mathematically using biological markers such as levels of cortisol in the blood rather than the self-reported mood surveys commonly used in other research. Researchers involved in the project are particularly interested in understanding if time spent in a natural environment will promote healing among veterans suffering from PTSD or traumatic brain injuries. A more far-reaching goal of projects such as these is to offer community decision-makers objective evidence for championing local green spaces that improve health and well-being.
In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) produced a comprehensive report titled “Urban green spaces and health.” The report particularly focuses on how easily-accessible green spaces provide a respite from stress, a venue for physical activity, and an environment shielded from a city’s air and noise pollutants. The report concludes in part that “The evidence shows that urban green space has health benefits, particularly for economically deprived communities, children, pregnant women and senior citizens. It is therefore essential that all populations have adequate access to green space, with particular priority placed on provision for disadvantaged communities. While details of urban green space design and management have to be sensitive to local geographical and cultural conditions, the need for green space and its value for health and well‐being is universal.”
My personal anecdotal evidence fully corroborates any conclusions correlating time spent in the woods and better emotional and physical health. Walking along a woodland trail, removed from the stressors and pressures of daily life, immediately calms you. The serene environment soothes you. The beauty awes you. Sometimes the experience even reminds you of our interconnectedness with nature and how we rely fully on the natural areas of this world for each and every breath.
Which is why the disclaimer on the WHO report was more than mildly disturbing. I could just imagine the machinations behind the scenes before this report was published.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
I would like to think that our country’s questionably named Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) still cares about protecting our natural environments. But we have all come to understand that that is a naïve assessment of the agency’s role.
So it’s up to us to protect these precious areas. I hope you will consider the small things you can do to help preserve the natural woodlands that support human life. And when you need relief from the vagaries of a sometimes cruel existence, I hope you, too, will wander a nearby woods and reclaim a sense of peace.
David Hoefer, of Louisville, Ky., is co-editor of The Last Resort and the author of the book's Introduction. If you would like to share your thoughts on Clearing the Fog, contact us here.
Much of the pleasure of reading The Last Resort journal lies in John Goodlett’s casual recording of a day’s adventures in a style that reflects the camp's relaxed atmosphere. We shouldn’t forget, however, that Pud had a second reason for writing: to try on for size the classroom instruction he was receiving in biology as an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky. Many of his observations involve the identification of plants and animals that were part of the natural wealth of Anderson County. In other words, the power to name, deployed with rigor and care.
Of course, the boys of The Last Resort already possessed a vocabulary in the hundreds for local flora and fauna. But Pud was learning a new precision in naming based on scientifically defined relationships of plants and animals. The criteria for choosing one name over another is built into these schemes, typically as the presence or absence of one or more physical attributes. This branch of science, called taxonomy or systematics, is a refined form of pattern recognition.
The difficulty Sallie and I faced in assembling The Last Resort’s taxonomic list was trying to link the variably deployed common names—sometimes called folk taxonomy—to the scientific equivalents of greater precision. Linguists have long noted that folk taxonomy favors family or genus over species. We comment on sparrows picking up crumbs off the sidewalk rather than House Sparrows (Passer domesticus). The existence of slangy terms adds further complication because slang comes and goes and can vary in meaning by region. I was surprised to find out that the redbellies caught by Bobby Cole in Salt River were Pumpkinseeds, a kind of sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus). In other places, a redbelly is a Redbreast Sunfish (Lepomis auritus).
Does this mean that folk terms—those common names we all use, including scientists—are in some sense faulty and to be avoided? Definitely not. Popular terms do what they’re supposed to do: provide a robust, if flexible, basis for everyday communication, at exactly the level of precision required. Scientific classification sometimes goes too far in the opposite direction, pushing distinctions based on trivial differences and filing away our easy observations of nature (and nature’s beauty) in dusty cabinets of the mind.
That said, it’s heartening to see Pud’s dedication to correctly identifying the living things around him. One senses the importance he placed on proper naming and, behind that, the joy he experienced in honestly acquired knowledge. Sure, The Last Resort journal was meant as a record of the daily doings of Pud and his pals in their Salt River haven. But the journal had another purpose all along: to help young John Goodlett build a bridge to his future, which he had already glimpsed in excellent new words for identifying the marvels of his daily acquaintance.
In the photos above, David Hoefer displays a Smallmouth Bass (left) and a Largemouth Bass (right) pulled from Lake Cumberland in south central Kentucky. For a comprehensive database of fish species, click here.
Tim Cooper of Oakdale, Minn., was surprised to see Annapurna listed as one of the books Pud Goodlett had read in March 1953. Here Cooper writes about how he stumbled onto that book and what it meant to him. If you would like to share your thoughts on Clearing the Fog, contact us here.
When I was young, I was intelligent. Bolstered by the hubris of youth and fearless of everything save the notion of being the same as everybody else, I read voraciously and indiscriminately, sure in the thought that I was unique, and that what I read was the best.
In all of this, my hero, Robert F. Kennedy, always guided me. Just when Bobby became my hero is not important; can I simply say that I can’t recall a time when he wasn’t? And if it’s true that we define ourselves by our actions, then I, too, was going to leave my mark on the world, to live bravely and care deeply, just as he did. Ah, youth.
I must have been 15 or 16 years old and living in Richmond, Ky., a mystery to no one except myself. In those days, my favorite thing to do was to walk the three miles from my house to downtown and go to a used bookstore run by an ancient Renaissance man. Housed in a dilapidated building that couldn’t possibly meet today’s safety codes, heated by two or three space heaters scattered haphazardly on the uneven floor, this used bookstore was a haven for my imagination and me. The old man would always give me the run of the place. What could possibly be better than that?
One Saturday morning while rummaging through stacks of books and magazines, I stumbled on a Life magazine from 1965. On the cover was a picture of Bobby standing on top of a mountain dressed in mountain climbing gear and surrounded by various flags. The caption on the front cover was “‘Our Climb Up Mount Kennedy,’ by Robert Kennedy.”
Too impatient to wait until I got home, I read Bobby’s article twice before I looked up and saw the old man walking over to me with a handful of books. Yes, they were all books on mountain-climbing expeditions, and I bought every last one of them. And no, I had no idea that mountain climbing was a popular sporting endeavor, much less a literary one. I read those books, which confirmed over and over my own uniqueness. Dare I say that it never occurred to me to wonder why there were so many books on mountain climbing if I was the only one interested? Ah, youth.
My favorite book in this stack was Annapurna by a Frenchman named Maurice Herzog. The pain and suffering experienced by Herzog and his team were rendered in great detail in this remarkable book, and I just couldn’t fathom the courage and teamwork that was required to climb that 26,000-foot mountain. But surely I was the only person in Richmond to know who Maurice Herzog was, to have read his book. That was enough.
About a month ago, I stumbled onto Sallie Showalter’s remarkable blog and her magnificent book on her father, Dr. John C. Goodlett, The Last Resort. And though Sallie and I have known each other since we were in our teens, I was never privileged to have known Dr. Goodlett, who passed away a few years before our paths crossed.
Just a week or so ago, I was again poring over The Last Resort when I noticed that Dr. Goodlett made reference to reading Herzog’s Annapurna while he was working at Harvard, and that he characterized it as “gruesome, loony, and gripping in places.” A more apt description you’ll never find. May I tell you that something quite strange and wonderful happened to me when I read Dr. Goodlett’s reference: I felt a measure of comfort and joy and contentment I haven’t often felt as an adult. I recognized that the self-assured autodidact that I was as a youth had given way to an adult who recognized the complexity of the world and who enjoyed the company of like-minded friends. I felt immediately reassured in the knowledge that the father of a friend of mine from my youth had also read Herzog’s book when he was a young man. What I felt was solidarity.
No, I never knew Dr. Goodlett, and it is nearly impossible for me to refer to him as Pud, a nickname, I think, that should be reserved for family and friends. But, reading through his journals, I like to think that we’d both enjoy sipping a bourbon together. And I like to think that we would enjoy talking about mountain climbing and the “loony” Frenchman who wrote a book so important to us at different points in our youth. Here’s to you, Pud.
It’s still magical.
That’s what we discovered when several of us “second generation” sanctuary-seekers visited the site of my dad’s old camp on Salt River last weekend. It was a spectacularly beautiful early spring day: temperatures in the mid-40s with deep blue skies and a light breeze. The torrential rains of the previous week had finally ceased and the ground was surprisingly solid as we hiked down a gravel road past pretty little ponds on either side, down the long hill to the immense corn bottom along the river itself. (Finally, I know exactly what Pud meant by “Cap’s Corn Bottom.”) Remnants of last season’s corn crop littered the flat land that extended as far as the eye could see to the east and west and down to the tree line adjacent to the river. We turned east along the southern edge of the field and headed toward the woods that brought an abrupt end to the corn rows.
Once in the woods, I knew I was home. Everything felt familiar. I had only been there once before, but I immediately recalled the path up the hill to the right, the gurgling stream to the left. We crossed the small stream—somewhat carefully this time with the water running a bit more swiftly—and marched directly to the old chimney, still untouched by time. The cabin, of course, is gone, but I expect that chimney will last well into the next millennium. We all marveled at how two teenage boys constructed such a solid edifice 80 years ago.
This was a special trip. Bobby Cole’s two children, Bob and Julie, and their spouses were there. They had been regular visitors to the site until their family sold the property in 1981. Two who had visited the camp with my dad as youngsters also joined us: Bob McWilliams (author of "Puzzle Pieces"), son of George McWilliams, my dad’s good friend and my mother’s first cousin, and Sandy Goodlett, oldest son of my uncle Billy, Pud’s brother. They pointed out favorite fishing holes, recognized giant sycamore trees along the river, shared stories about the slow deterioration of the cabin and the shelter it continued to provide even in its compromised state well into the 1960s.
We wandered a few yards west of the camp to the waterfall our fathers had used as access to the river for their many fishing expeditions, the steep bluff in front of camp preventing an easier entry. The waterfall was more beautiful than I remembered it, and we tarried there quite some time taking in the scene, recalling the winter photo of my dad sliding down the frozen water on his rear, noting the animal bones littered on a nearby shelf, marveling at the remnants of an old dry stone fence.
Yes, it was magical. It’s clear why the boys escaped to their woodland refuge whenever their other obligations permitted.
None of us wanted to leave. I wished we had thought to ask permission to camp there that night to extend the dream. The current property owners were once again gracious, gladly allowing us to immerse ourselves in this piece of our family history.
Time changes everything. But for a couple of hours in early March, we could imagine our dads walking among us, excitedly pointing out the burgeoning buds on the trees, bragging about their fishing exploits, making plans to improve the camp that summer. We shared sacred memories rarely spoken aloud and honored our dads’ love for that hallowed ground. It was indeed magical.
This past week we lost one of our cousins who I suspect visited The Last Resort with his uncle Pud and his cousin Sandy when they were toddlers and possibly later, when Pud came back to Kentucky to see family. In his correspondence, Pud referred to Sandy as “Sweetpea” and to Davy as “Sluggo” or “Slug.” David Fallis was the oldest son of Pud’s sister, Virginia, and all of us will miss his gentleness and his sense of humor. Rest in peace, Dave.
Roi-Ann Bettez of Georgetown, Ky., recently read Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling and found her descriptions of rural Florida evocative of Pud’s descriptions of rural Kentucky Both were keen observers of the natural world during a time when we still valued its beauty. If you would like to share your thoughts on Clearing the Fog, contact us here.
In search of books set in Florida during a recent trip there, I discovered Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ novel The Yearling and her autobiographical stories, Cross Creek. Many people have probably read these, but I had missed them.
The plots and characters delighted me, but what I loved most were the settings. Central Florida, still a wild and rural place in the 1930s when Rawlings wrote, comes alive in her hands. She writes—about the animals, the plants, the weather, the crops, the hunting, the freedom, and the toil—with such emotion and detailed description that the place itself becomes a character. For example:
“March came in with a cool and sunny splendor. The yellow jessamine bloomed late and covered the fences and filled the clearing with its sweetness. The peach trees blossomed, and the wild plums. The red-birds sang all day, and when they had done with their song in the evening, the mocking-birds continued. The ground doves nested and cooed one to another and walked about the sand of the clearing like shadows bobbing.”
As I imagined that place in Florida, I found myself thinking about The Last Resort. Pud Goodlett’s journal is full of lists and descriptions of the birds, the fish, and the plants around the cabin where he and his friends camped. He also says that he read there, and I had longed for him to include a list of what he read. In my imagination I saw him reading one of Rawlings’ books by firelight or kerosene lantern while the rain pattered on the roof above him.
Then I thought: maybe he did. It’s possible. Rawlings’ The Yearling was published in 1938, when Pud was 16. A best seller, the book won a Pulitzer Prize in 1939. Kentucky’s Anderson County Public Library (built and furnished with a grant from Andrew Carnegie) had been dedicated in 1909 and was well established by that time, and would certainly have carried the book. Pud’s home on the outskirts of Lawrenceburg was within an easy walk of the downtown library, especially for a young man who readily hiked several miles out to his Salt River camp. It’s also possible he could have read her books later. If he ever did read her writing, I have no doubt he would have been fascinated with her detailed descriptions of rural, central Florida.
But whether or not Pud Goodlett read Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, it’s evident that the two would have found a kinship in each other’s world view. They delighted in the places they loved. They were keen observers of the abundance and variety and beauty—and sometimes violence—of the plants and animals on their patch of this place we call Earth. I think Pud would have liked the ending to Cross Creek:
“It seems to me that the earth may be borrowed but not bought. It may be used, but not owned. It gives itself in response to love and tending, offers its seasonal flowering and fruiting. But we are tenants and not possessors, lovers and not masters. Cross Creek belongs to the wind and the rain, to the sun and the seasons, to the cosmic secrecy of seed, and beyond all, to time.”
This thought pattern stayed with me. While there on Florida’s east coast, I decided to look at the world through the eyes of Goodlett and Rawlings. I got up early to see the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean. I became so aware of the bounty of the world that the next time I went to the beach, I saw things I had not noticed before. When the ocean retreated, it left bits of foam on shore that glowed all the colors of the rainbow for just a few seconds before disappearing into the sand. A tiny crab peeked out from his clawed hole, then dipped quickly back inside. Pelicans decided to roost for their afternoon nap atop a nearby tiki hut. The world was awake and alive all around me.
Try it. No matter what kind of day it is, go outside. Look around carefully. Take a deep breath. Think about how Pud or Marjorie would see your place. Look closely. See it through their eyes. I bet you’ll see something differently.
*Yes, that’s a direct theft of the title of Gwyn Hyman Rubio’s wonderful novel. My apologies, but perhaps it will inspire you to read it, or re-read it.
Last week we had one of those Kentucky ice storms that creates an enchanted crystal wonderland without wreaking havoc on the roads or leaving thousands without power. By my estimate, the twigs and evergreen needles in my neighborhood were encased in a quarter-inch of ice, or perhaps a bit more. When I tried to walk the dog that morning, I discovered that every blade of grass had its own icy sheath. It was difficult to stay upright, especially with 70 pounds of dog muscle dragging me along.
It remained cold overnight, and the next morning was absolutely magical. The sun came out for the first time in days and we were reminded that the sky can be a shocking shade of blue. On our morning walk, the sun backlit the trees along the eastern edge of the road, creating thickets of Christmas trees laden with shimmering tinsel. I was awestruck. I had to shade my eyes from the sun as I lingered to take in the view. On our afternoon walk, the trees on the western edge of the road were backlit, and the scene was completely different but just as startlingly beautiful. I hated to return home.
The next morning it was gray again, and when we first headed out I thought it was raining. But I quickly realized that was just the ice inevitably melting from the trees as the temperature nudged above freezing.
I know my neighbors are eager for spring after an already long and unusually cold winter. But I love this season, and I want to pay homage to it before it grudgingly gives way to the warmth of spring. I’m happy that we had a substantial snowfall back in January that shrouded the lake, the hills, and the woods in a peaceful white blanket. The backdrop made the deer and their normally camouflaged activities more visible amid the stands of hardwoods. Neighbors enjoyed a rare opportunity to lace up the skates, demonstrating varying degrees of skill as they circled the frozen lake behind my house or raced to the dam and back.
Today, it's mud season. Two days of heavy rains have created new streams and ponds all around the neighborhood. The ground is so saturated it nearly swallows up my boots as I make my way across the sodden fields. This is the transition I dread, but I know it's part of the natural order.
I couldn’t live somewhere without four distinct seasons. I seek variety in everything I do. I like change. And when spring finally does arrive, I’ll be just as thrilled by the blooming redbuds and the warm breezes as I have been by the frozen ground and the chickadees at my feeder.
After reading The Last Resort, Bob Patrick of Georgetown, Ky., shared these memories of his youth spent roaming the fields near his home in Iowa City. If you would like to share your reflections about the book, contact us here.
Reading the book reminded me of my own father who spent a lot of time outdoors in northwest Iowa up until high school. Born in 1913, he completed college and dental school before WWII, when he served in the Army Air Corps as a dentist, all of it stateside. He returned to Iowa City to establish a dental practice. He died in 1953.
The Last Resort also brought to mind memories of hiking with my friends along Ralston Creek, which flows through Iowa City on its way to the Iowa River. There were about five of us, and this all took place when we were in middle school, possibly freshmen in high school. We did not have guns (the turtle population had nothing to fear) and there was no cabin. But on weekends we would hike along the creek to the north through farmland toward its source. We would fish for crawfish, catch the occasional frog. Once I found the upper jaw of a squirrel, which I kept for a number of years. Sometimes we would build small campfires using dried grass and twigs. We even hiked in the winter, wearing galoshes and parkas, being careful not to break through the ice and get a "shoe full" of cold water.
During one Christmas school break on one of these hikes, my brother and I cut down a small scrub pine, perhaps 2 feet tall, and carried it back home, where we put it in some type of pot. My mother allowed us to place it in a front window and decorate it with Christmas ornaments. I remember the needles were quite sharp, making it difficult to decorate.
[Pud Goodlett] had that Jeffersonian trait of not only noticing the environment around him, but writing down what he saw. His field notes for his publications were, no doubt, even more detailed than his journal observations in the book. And I would imagine he retained a sort of practical outlook often found in people who grew up in small towns and more rural settings.