reading: We Took to the Woods (1942)

I spotted this book on the bookshelf of someone’s blog (I know!) and requested it at the library. I figured if that person had a copy, it must be a good book. And it is.

We Took to the Woods, by Louise Dickson Rich, is a collection of remembrances of a decade lived in a home deep in the Maine woods in the 1930s. No electricity, no indoor facilities, but there was at least a water pump in the kitchen. The man and wife were writers, so were able to afford to live on next to nothing and come out of the woods only a few times a year. This is a book that is great for your guest room on the night stand. No incident lasts more than a few pages, and all of it is fascinating.

Here is a passage pulled at random:

    “This is what I can’t decide:–Whether I don’t have any spare time at all, or whether most of my time is spare time. Spare time, as I used to understand it, was the time left over from doing the necessary, unpleasant things, like correcting Sophomore English themes or washing out silk stockings in the bathroom. It was the time I frittered away on useless, entertaining pursuits, like the movies or contract bridge. Now almost everything I do — except cooking — is fun, and it is also useful. There is no line of demarcation between work and play. It makes it hard to explain what I do with my spare time.

    “Take the matter of smelting, for example. I happen to be among those who consider going smelting a form of sport. Gerrish agrees with me, but Ralph thinks it’s hard work. Therefore, since someone has to stay home and mind the fires, he’s the one to do it, while Gerrish and I sally forth into the night.

    “Smelts are not, unfortunately, the most co-operative of fish. In this country they’re about the size of average sardines — the Norwegian kind — and normally they live deep in the lakes, where you never see them. In the spring, however, after the ice is out of the brooks but before the lakes break up, they run up in the brook mouths to spawn. We stand on the bank with dip nets, dip them into pails, take them home, and eat them. The hitch — and never let anyone tell you that Nature hands over anything without a string attached — is that they don’t start running untilafter dark, and they’re extremely coy about the whole thing. You can never tell what night or what time of night they’ll pick to run, so you have to be there every night.”

From We Took to the Woods, by Louise Dickson Rich. You can pick it up and put it down at your leisure, but it’s always fascinating. Their home was near a logging camp, where the loggers were described and treated as hobos “outside” the woods, but became good friends (for a season) with the family. There is described the time the folks who filmed the newsreels came to document the loggers, and staged most of the incidents for the camera. “Reality film” was not even reality back then!

Look for it at the library, or search out a copy. You won’t be disappointed.

One thought on “reading: We Took to the Woods (1942)

  1. Last summer, I gave Dad a great book about a family who ran a lighthouse on an island in Canada. The story is very similar to this and I think you would love it. I can’t remember the author or title though. Something about We Run A Light.

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