And Then I Read: PRAIRIE SPRING

prairiespring

© Pete Dunne.

I should say up front that I’ve known Pete for many years. He’s the head of the Cape May Bird Observatory, where I volunteer, and is a top-notch birder. Pete is also, in my opinion, and the opinion of many, an excellent nature writer. His latest book is my favorite kind of nature book, a travelogue. Pete and his wife and photographer Linda spend an entire spring (2007) in the Great Plains of our country, visiting it’s natural sites, watching the unfolding and blossoming of plants, animals and birds, and along the way giving an entertaining account of the history and people of the area, living through the vagaries of weather, the wow factor of spring migration and mating rituals of birds, making friends, reporting on the everyday experiences of life on the road, and all with a mixture of poetic prose, sly humor, and knowledgable insight into human and animal nature, not to mention a few plants. This book is a great read whether you’re into nature or not, and if you’re not, it might lean you that way. Some of the highlights for me were descriptions of: watching and listening to thousands of Sandhill Cranes coming to roost all around him; watching the insanely silly but macho mating dances of the Lesser Prairie Chicken (and comparing it to a high-school softball game); a reflective talk with a horse carved into the rock wall of Picture Canyon about the family that had once built a house there; and musings on Custer’s Last Stand at the site of that battle.

northwithspring

© Edwin Way Teale.

Pete is planning a four-book series, one for each season, and while I haven’t had a chance to ask him, I suspect he was inspired by a similar series that saw print in the 1950s, beginning with the one above, in which the author and his wife made a similar trip, following the spring up the east coast of America. I loved that series, too, and think Pete’s new one holds up very well alongside it. In fact, there’s only one thing I miss in Pete’s book: a map of their travels. I always liked that feature of the Teale books. The latter do cover more ground, but I have to give Pete the nod on best writing. Give it a try, you’ll be glad you did. Highly recommended.

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