Monday, March 08, 2010

It's in the blood

I recently started reading Anne LaBastille's Woodswoman IIII. I'd already read and thoroughly enjoyed her Woodswoman and Woodswoman II books a few years ago. So I requested the 3rd and 4th books from the library. As luck would have it the 4th book became available before the third so I'm reading them a bit out of sequence.

All 4 of these books are memoirs. The first 3 cover approximately 10 years each and the last book covers 5 years of Ms. LaBastille's life. The life she has led following her divorce from her first and only husband back in the seventies has been largely a solitary one. She built a small cabin on Black Bear Lake* in the Adirondacks (*a pseudonym to prevent people from finding her actual camp). Her primary company over the years has been a series of German Shepherds.

I do highly recommend the Woodswoman series of books to my female readers. It's not that men won't get something out of her writing as well. I just believe that Ms. LaBastille is quite an inspiration and positive role model for women. I hope to someday introduce these books to my own daughter (once she's old enough to appreciate them).

You may be asking, what drew me to these books or what piqued my interest. Two things-- local interest-- I was literally born in the Adirondack Mountains and raised in a small town just outside the Adirondack State Park. My mother was raised in the Adirondacks. Her father was an avid hunter and fisherman. One of my great grandfathers and great great grandfathers on my father's side were Adirondack guides in the late 19th and early 20th century. My great-great grandfather, Darius Merrill (pictured below), owned a small hotel, The Merrill House on Upper Chateaugay Lake. Darius died from exposure/hypothermia at age 57 in 1887 after his dog sled went through the ice.

My great grandfather, Watson (pictured below) along with his brothers Charles and Shep took over the Merrill House after their father's passing.One of my older cousins who knew my grandmother better than I, told me the tale as it had been told to her by our grandmother that Watson died of a broken heart. My great-grandmother, Frankie Davis Merrill died in 1918. Watson, not being able to live without the love of his life died a few months later. My grandmother was only about 15 at the time and was raised into adulthood by her older sister, Sadie, before she met and married my grandfather in 1924.

At any rate, while I know the life of a female Adirondack guide in the late 20th century was likely considerably different from that of the male guides of the late 19th and early 20th century Ms. LaBastille did befriend some of the older guides-- men in their 80s and 90s who were raised by guides themselves and shared with her the tales of a different era. Thus her books give me at least a glimpse of the lives of some of my ancestors.

But the book I long to read-- originally published in serial form in many Adirondack newspapers in the twenties and thirties, The Old Guide's Story written by my great great uncle Charles Merrill (my great grandfather's brother) those serials were compiled in book form in 1973 or 74 but that printing of The Old Guide's Story remained largely out of print (and thus quite expensive when able to find a copy) for over 30 years when a local history buff decided to re-publish the book. My parents & I actually helped him by contributing some family photos to him that had been left to us by my late grandmother.

My parents have copies of both the 1974 and 2006 printings. For some reason I never got around to reading the book in my 18+ years living under the same roof as my parents that is something I regret and hope to rectify soon.


Susan as herself said...

I read the first one in the series and loved it. I really should read the others.

Perplexio said...

Ms. LaBastille is quite a remarkable woman. I just finished Book 4 and started Book 3 last night. I read and enjoyed the first 2 books about 4 or 5 years ago.

Jessica D'Amico (JeDa) said...

I found your blog! Glad to have read your review of Labastille's books - and verified they are indeed memoirs. I will get cracking and add them to my to-read list. Thanks for sharing! :)

Perplexio said...

Jessica: Glad you found your way over here. I'm always happy to see new faces on here. I hope you enjoy the Woodswoman books as much as I have.