If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know I don’t do a lot of book reviews. To be honest, I spend my down time doing more writing than I do reading for pleasure. Now, that’s not to say how every now and then a book comes along that just captures my imagination. Fact is, there are times when an author’s take on a subject simply intrigues me enough that I need to further check it out.
Such was the case with THE LAST HUNTER: An American Family Album written by Will Weaver. I saw the Minnesota author interviewed on a local TV program about a week ago and the topic just struck a chord with me.
Basically, the premise behind the book is the author detailing his family history in a memoir style while highlighting the important role the outdoors—particularly hunting—has played over many generations of Weaver family life. Yet, as the title of the book implies, this author laments and finally has to accept how certain trans-generational connections with the rural farm life and hunting could eventually cease to exist within a family structure.
As I read the book the author described many parallels with his life and mine. He was a University of Minnesota grad—so was I. He raised a son and a daughter—so am I. He grew up on a rural Minnesota farm—so did I. The list goes on how I could relate with the author by sharing common experiences typical in life. I guess you could say, in many ways, the mark of a gifted author is when they can describe situations and circumstances in their life, yet the reader of the book almost becomes transfixed by the story because it often relates to the reader’s life, as well.
Here’s a brief excerpt of the author describing his students while he was an English teacher at a northern Minnesota college:
“Nowadays in Minnesota, girl deer hunters are no more remarkable in the woods than girls on the basketball court or soccer field. Fathers are spending time with their daughters, teaching them how to shoot and hunt and paddle a canoe and cast a line. From my former perch in public education, I have found that girls who hunt and enjoy the outdoors are generally more self-actualized than girls who do not: they are more confident, more decisive, and far less self-conscious about their appearance. I would also bet the farm that outdoor girls are less likely to have internalized psychological issues such as anorexia and cutting, not to say lesser addictions to shopping malls and pop culture. For young women who have killed a deer, boy bands and movie magazines don’t measure up.”
Sure, those are some positive words to hear, especially to a father who now finds himself raising a 28 month old daughter. At times I found the book inspiring, other times it was downright depressing, but the book depicted a realistic look at the importance the outdoors plays in the 21st Century family. In my case, it prepared me for the fact—and through no fault of my own—I could potentially also be the last hunter in my immediate family. No longer is it to be expected that the tradition of hunting automatically will be carried on by the next generation to follow:
“With my father’s passing there was a hole in the woods. An empty space. In a perfect world his place would have been filled by Owen [the author’s son]. Some extended families are so rigid about the tenure of deer stands — the hereditary rights to The Ridge or The Oak Narrows or The Old Car Body — that hunting rights pass like the throne in a monarchy: when the king dies, everybody moves up one chair. But this was not our family because now I mostly hunted alone. I was the last hunter.”
I’ll say this…I don’t think this book is for everyone. Honestly, if you’re the type of hunter who is so focused on hunting strategy or various aspects of wildlife management, then stick with that type of instructional book. On the other hand, if you’ve reached a certain maturation point in your life where you find yourself contemplating who will someday get your gun or occupy your favorite hunting spot…this could be your book.
Remember, this is a family memoir book spending a great deal of time chronicling the Weaver family history. In fact, I was half way through the book and found only sparse mentions of hunting interwoven into the prose. Nevertheless, the author obviously felt it important to develop a solid understanding of his family history before explaining the circumstances leading to him being the last hunter.
In closing, if you’re into learning about family hunting traditions and you’re one who appreciates how hunting has evolved over the past 100+ years in American culture…then you need to check this book out. I believe it delves into the most important topic facing the sport of hunting—hunter attrition—better than any other book I have read to date. I commend the author for the literary effort and for sharing such personal life experiences for our benefit in better understanding a topic difficult to accept.
©2010 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.