Monday, March 28, 2016

Author and Setter Lover Dies



Jim Harrison, author of over 30 novels and collections of poetry, died last Saturday.  See npr article or Outside article for more info.  Harrison didn't write specifically about grouse and woodcock hunting or doubleguns and setters, but these things crop up continually in his writing.  Julip, for instance, is a novella about a bird dog trainer and setter lover from Ashland, Wisconsin.  Brown Dog is a collection of stories about a character from the UP of Michigan, where Harrison owned a cabin for years.  In one of those stories, Brown Dog says, "You can't even shoot a grouse or a deer properly if you're vaguely upset about something."  Words to live by.

I never met Harrison, but I feel like I knew him through his writing.  He was that good.  Take this short poem for instance:

Between the four pads of a dog's foot,
the fragrance of grass.      

Now go and smell your dog's feet after it has romped in the yard, and you'll understand.

From his writing I knew that Harrison occasionally drove through Wisconsin on Highway 64, a highway about 15 miles from my home.  One of my coverts I call Club 64 because it sits right on this highway.  For years I've had this fantasy that Harrison would be driving by on 64, see me with my setters and screech to a stop.  We'd then proceed on a short hunt.  In the long version of my dream, Harrison stopped by after the hunt and we cooked up a meal of grouse or woodcock and talked the evening away about dogs and literature.

I never got to hunt grouse with Harrison, but the next best thing is all of the books he left us.   That's almost as good.      

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