Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Voices from the Past: Boston & Maine Railroad Fishing & Hunting (1897)

It's 1897. Imagine yourself having worked a long week in an office in Boston, penning correspondence, reading over the latest telegrams from branch offices, and overseeing the work of the dozen or so employees you're responsible for. You've likely put in a solid 50 hours this week, which is the norm -- you often work 12 hour days during the busy season. The bitter chill of a mid-February storm is still in the air as you fight the icy and crowded sidewalks to the electric trolley depot where you board a crowded car and make the hour trip back to your brownstone in the suburbs of Boston. You walk in the door to be greeted by your wife and children, and a welcome dinner waiting for you. It's been a long week.

The only upside is that it is Friday. You pour yourself a double finger of a single malt--your only real vice--and settle into your reading chair. On the table next to you is the day's mail. A small cream envelope grabs your attention; the return address reads "Passenger Department, Boston & Maine Railroad, Boston, Mass." Inside is a pamphlet of around 6" x 9" that is titled "Boston and Maine Railroad Fishing & Hunting." You open it and are immediately greeted by the following prose:

With the very opening of the spring months the hard-worked citizen, — no matter what his occupation may be, — confined within four walls in city or town almost the entire round of each year that passes, or wearing away his life under circumstances but little less exacting and confining in the open air, begins to inquire as to how he shall spend the short allotted time of his coming vacation, so much the nearer at hand now that the winter is past and he summer season is at hand. That he will make a trip within the vacation days to some point or points more or less distant from the locality wherein the "eternal round" of his life is mostly passed goes without telling. That he will seek some inviting retreat by seashore, river bank, or among mountain neighborhoods, the story of whose natural attractions and fascinations, of restful, recreative, and stimulative qualities, have reached him and formed the subject of his cogitations throughout all the time in which he has been waiting for this season, is almost equally certain. No wonder, then, if the study of the questions connected with the expected outing is a favorite employment of his leisure moments, and the matters which it suggests become the materials out of which he constructs constant successions of "Castles in Spain."

Unquestionably the great body of mortals whose life is passed in alternation between grinding, all-absorbing mental or physical labor and periods of idleness and rest, with the preponderance overwhelmingly on the side of the conditions first named, would, if left to themselves, select as a locality most promising for vacation experiences some favored section of the world about or not too far removed from them, within which Dame Nature had showered her favors of natural scenery, excellencies of climate and sanitary features, provision for outdoor employments and enjoyments such as only primeval woods and waters can afford, and seek under such circumstances and surroundings a complete reversal of all the characteristics of town and city life to which they have been accustomed. In no other way, in fact, can the true ideal of vacation life, as held by the average human toiler, be even imperfectly realized. Left to himself and the power of his "own sweet will" for the time being, the ordinary mortal goes back to Mother Earth, her woods and waters, streams, hillsides, and wildernesses, as naturally as the birds migrate in their season, or the flowers reappear in springtime. Naturally enough his thoughts turn unerringly to pastimes of fishing and hunting and shooting, as elements to be relied upon as satisfying in the vacation life that he so loves to picture.

In no part of this country — in no part of any land, in fact — are these vacation ideals so fully met and satisfied as in New England and especially is this the case when the desire is for fishing and hunting, using these terms now in the largest and fullest sense in which they are applicable, and for occupations that involve all that is possible of pleasure and pastime in the life of the true sportsman. The northern and eastern half of the New England region abounds in sections that could not better answer the desires of the fisher and huntsman had they been designed by the Creator with no other end than that in view. In these localities the woods and lakes and streams are primeval, — for scores of miles in succession just as they were issued from the hand of God, with no more of evidences of the presence of the arts or conceits of man among them now than those presented centuries ago, when the wild animals the birds and the fishes were their only denizens.

Of late years the public has been finding out, more and more as successive annual vacation periods have passed, the true relation a these New England sections to hunting and fishing interests; and it is now fairly well understood that this region is second to none in the quality of the provision it affords for these pursuits. The State of Maine furnishes by far the greatest areas within which this provision may be found; and in quality and quantity of game in both the hunting and fishing departments it stands inferior to no locality in the country in these regards, all matters connected considered. For hunting, especially, the wilds of northeastern Maine, both in the settled and primitive sections, are unequalled for the kinds of game they afford; that is, principally, for deer of several varieties, some of the most noble and lordly of which are practically unknown elsewhere in the States. The fishing, also, of Rangeley, Moosehead, and other great lakes of the State, with that of the countless water-sheets of lesser size and name strewn thickly in every party within its limits, and with their tributary streams, also acknowledges few equals and no superiors in this department of natural provision.

In New Hampshire, also, the lakes and streams there found have acquired large celebrity through their attractions for the sportsman, and in many localities of this State there still exist provision for the huntsman that richly repays all efforts made in visiting them.

Transported to another place and time, you vow that this year, you'll take that two week vacation in the north woods of Maine. You get up to grab your latest tackle catalog from Dame, Stoddard & Kendall, and begin to plan your new outfit. The bitter cold outside makes the spring so far away, but something is stirring inside you. Yes, there is more winter behind you than in front, and you go to sleep that night dreaming of tackle, trains, and brook trout.

-- Dr. Todd

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