instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads

HOME RANGE: Notes on Literature, Nature, Working Dogs, History, Other Obsessions and Sundry Annoyances by Henry Chappell

A Mixed Report





Looking good. Blackeyed peas and beans are another matter. Some critter or other has pretty well destroyed seven beds of young vines. Has to be a climber because I use chicken wire all the way around the inside of my wrought iron fence. The clipped stems look like roof rat damage, and there was a three-foot rat snake in the garden the other day and I doubt it was there for the scenery. I hate roof rats. They're all over the suburbs. Cate, my cur-dog, is a fine rat catcher but she'd tear my garden to shreds hunting and chasing. I'll try traps. Wish I could recruit some more snakes. The neighborhood hawks and owls really ought to get busy. Onions and peppers looking fine.

 Read More 
Be the first to comment

Words I Wish I'd Written


I'm unqualified to call Moby Dick the greatest American novel, as many critics and scholars have, but I can call it the greatest American novel I've read. I'll expand that judgement to include novels written in English, that I've read." Comparisons to the works of Dickens, George Eliot, Forster, et al seem meaningless, even ridiculous, so I'll just assert that Melville is unmatched in his ability to conjure moods of bliss and foreboding and images both beautiful and terrifying. Only Joseph Conrad, a Polish mariner who wrote in English, comes close. Is there something about novelists obsessed with the sea?

Let me open my marked-up copy at random and flip a few pages to find an underlined passage. Here's the crew of the Pequod working through the night, cooking down a sperm whale:

"Their tawny features, now all begrimed with smoke and sweat, their matted beards, and the contrasting barbaric brilliancy of their teeth, all these were strangely revealed in the capricious emblazonings of the works. As they narrated to each other their unholy adventures, their tales of terror told in words of mirth; as their uncivilized laughter forked upwards out of them, like flames from the furnace; as to and fro, in their front, the harpooners wildly gesticulated with their huge pronged forks and dippers; as the wind howled on, and the sea leaped, and the ship groaned and dived, and yet steadfastly shot her red hell further and further into the blackness of the sea and the night, and scornfully champed the white bone in her mouth, and viciously spat round her on all sides; then the rushing Pequod, freighted with savages, and laden with fire, and burning a corpse, and plunging into that blackness of darkness, seemed the material counterpart to her monomaniac commander's soul."



Melville knew his whalers: unrepentant butchers and among the bravest, toughest S.O.B.s who ever lived.

 Read More 
Be the first to comment

Horses to Ride, Cattle to Cut excerpt in The Land Report



The latest issue of The Land Report features a long excerpt from Horses to Ride, Cattle to Cut: The San Antonio Viejo Ranch of Texas. Of course Wyman Meinzer's photos make the thing read a hell of a lot better. My thanks and compliments to editor Eric O'Keefe and his staff at TLR.  Read More 
Be the first to comment