Including Character, Scenery and Rural Sports
pp. 30-45, Philadelphia, 1846.
IN treating of the most beautiful and novel sport of arrow-fishing, its incidents are so interwoven with ten thousand accessories, that we scarce know how to separate our web without breaking it, or destroying a world of interest hidden among the wilds of the American forest. The lakes over which the arrow-fisher twangs his bow, in the pleasant spring-time, have disappeared long before the sere and yellow leaf of autumn appears, and the huntsman‘s horn and the loud-mouthed pack clamour melodiously after the scared deer upon their bottoms. To explain this phenomenon, the lover of nature must follow us until we exhibit some of the vagaries of the great Mississippi; and, having fairly got our " flood and field" before us, we will engage heartily in the sport.
If you will descend with me from slightly broken ground through which we have been riding, covered with forest trees singularly choked up with undergrowth, to an expanse of country beautifully open between the trees, the limbs of which start out from the trunk, some thirty feet above the ground, you will find at your feet a herbage that is luxuriant, but scanty; high over your head, upon the trees, you will perceive a line marking what has evidently been an overflow of water; you can trace the beautiful level upon the trees as far as the eye can reach. It is in the fall of the year, and a squirrel drops an acorn upon your shoulder, and about your feet are the sharp-cut tracks of the nimble deer. You are standing in the centre of what is called, by hunters, a "dry lake." As the warm air of April flavours the opening flowers of spring, the waters of the Mississippi, increased by the melting snows of the north, swell within its low banks, and rush in a thousand streams back into the swamps and lowlands that lie upon its borders; the torrent sweeps along into the very reservoir in which we stand, and the waters swell upwards until they find a level with the fountain itself. Thus is formed the arrow-fisher‘s lake. The brawny oak, the graceful pecan, the tall poplar, and delicate beech spring from its surface in a thousand tangled limbs, looking more beautiful, yet most unnatural, as the water reflects them downwards, hiding completely away their submerged trunks. The arrow-fisher now peeps in the nest of the wild bird from his little boat, and runs its prow plump into the hollow that marks the doorway of some cunning squirrel. In fact, he navigates for a while, his bark where, in the fall of the year, the gay-plumed songster and the hungry hawk plunge midair, and float not more swiftly nor gayly, on light pinioned wings, than he in his swift canoe.
A chapter from nature: and who unfolds the great book so understandingly, and learns so truly from its wisdom, as the piscator? The rippling brook as it dances along in the sunshine bears with it the knowledge, there is truthfulness in water, though it be not in a well. We can find something, if we will, to love and admire under every wave; and the noises of every tiny brook are tongues that speak eloquently to nature‘s true priests.