Friday, February 13, 2009

It's a Wild, Wilde World - written in part by guest blogger, Steve Olson

My Heart-A-Rama buddy, Steve, has single handedly made this book a best seller for LaDeDa. As a matter of fact, the last time I placed an order for the book with the good folks over at The Wisconsin Historical Society Press, they suggested I just buy a whole case instead of these piecemeal orders of 5 copies at a time. Thanks Stevie!

Not being a hunter - as a matter of fact, many nights I stay up way too late, hoping to get a glimpse of the three beautiful deer that wander through my neighborhood, stopping to nibble on the bushes outside my bathroom window - I didn't understand why someone would want to read a book about hunting in the off-season. Steve's wife, Karen, explained that a hobby is a hobby, an addiction is an addiction - time, place, and other restrictions or perceptions do not apply. I thought about that, and concluded that I am very glad there is not a "reading" season. How awkward, and depressing that would be. So, with that clarified, here are excerpts from a commentary that Steve sent about On the Hunt. Enjoy!

Have an interest in Deer Hunting in Wisconsin? Have an interest simply in the History of Wisconsin? Don't miss this book!

I saw an ad about this book in an outdoor magazine I subscribe to. Seemed at first glance to be one of those books which ultimately boasts no more than a print run of 500 or so. However, it looked interesting enough to pique my curiosity. It's a keeper!

Most enthralling are the photos. The Northern Pinewoods of the 1880's! Deer camps of the 1920's! A 1940 Dodge - large buck on the hood, two timber wolves strapped to the running boards!
This is a keeper! During Wisconsin's 2008 deer season, deer harvest was down significantly. Many hunters reported seeing few or no deer. This was the case for my group. What gives? Has the Department of Natural Resources messed up? Well - maybe, but maybe not!! What goes around, comes around. If you don't know history, you're destined to repeat it. That's the moral of the story, as presented in this book. Today, hunters whine that the DNR has prompted hunters to kill too many deer. Hunters today feel there are too few deer left even to make hunting worthwhile. This text explains how this patter of perceived overkill has occurred again and again throughout Wisconsin's history. Yet, the reader will quickly learn that at times this was true, however, many times it was not.

The book begins with prehistoric deer. Shortly, it steps into Native American subsistence deer hunting. Fascinating. The author explains how the various tribes killed deer with prehistoric weapons and how they used them for many of their needs at different times in their history. '

The books goes on to follow the ebbing, and exponential growth of the deer population once Europeans began to settle in Wisconsin. The larger number of deer eventually has an effect on numerous markets outside of Wisconsin. By the early 1900's, more affluent hunters from the south and from Illinois rode the rails to the north, setting up deer camps.
By the 1930's, a flip-flop of deer population began from north to south in Wisconsin. An assemblyman from Calumet county named Fox (father of current circuit Judge Jerome Fox) introduced a bill to expand deer hunting to address the ever increasing number. Northern Wisconsin erupted with rage. According to locals, the deer population in that portion of the state was being over-hunted to extinction. Newspapers trumpeted that the "Fox Kill all the Deer Bill Must Be stopped." It was stopped. However, less than a decade later, Wisconsin's famous environmentalist, Aldo Leopold argued that the deer harvest needed to increase in order to balance the population and what it consumes. The battle continued to rage through the early years of the current decade.


Last night I watched a film called Wilde. Oscar Wilde's plays, especially The Importance of Being Earnest, amuse me, even though it took years for me to fully understand the brilliance of his language, and his wit. I first read Earnest in high school, and was totally confused by the mistaken identity plot. Those plots continue to test my pea-brain's ability to cope with complex, and fast paced information. Don't get me going on Shakespeare's A Comedy of Errors. I have a rather convoluted redition of that plot stuck in my head. Anyway, despite the storyline complexity, it was the first time I recall being drawn to the cadence of a writer's language. The rhythm of Wilde's banter is brilliant, and once I caught on to the truths hidden within his snarky little quips, I was hooked.

The film offers a sympathetic albeit abivalent picture of this artist. ...persecuted for his lifestyle, and yet bringing London audiences to their feet performance after performance...maligned and eventually jailed for his "unnatural" acts, and still honored and repected by his wife....

Watching this movie made me, once again, feel proud of being part of an arts community. Certainly Wilde's works were surpressed for a time, relegated to readings by risk-takers in opium filled underground dens. OK. I make the stuff up about the opium dens, but for many years, his works were not read by polite company, and his plays were not produced by troupes with any desire to break even, let alone turn a profit. I am proud to be part of a community that recognizes that quality in art should not be judged or measured by the degree to which a person's life, beliefs or disbeliefs are accepted or rejected. Take all our rap artists, for example. It's not my style of music, that's for sure. I find some of their lyrics repulsive. However, there is ache in some of the words; pride, desire, frustration, fury...that's all there, too. Is that so different than what we find in mainstream poetry? Our rappers are today's street poets, and their voices need to be heard, and deserve to be heard. They represent a sub-culture of our society, just as Ginsberg and the Beat poets represented their generation. When historians want a full picture of a culture, they often study the arts of a time period or of a people. It is the arts that preserve our culture. It is the arts that speak the truths of are who we are, what we think, what we value, and what we want to remember and what we pray to forget.

I am happy that Wilde's, novels, essays, fables and short stories continue to be read, and that every respectable rep theatre company can boast having performed Earnest or Lady Windmere's Fan at least once.

Oh, Oh. It seems I have talked myself into reading Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray before I get too much older! (That's the joke for the week, no matter how you interpret it.)

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