"The Dogs and I: True Tails from the Mississippi " by Kenny Salwey
c.2013, Fulcrum Books $15.00 / higher in Canada 179 pages
The whole world is your living room.
That’s how it feels sometimes because you don’t know any better place for relaxing than the outdoors. With a shady tree as your easy chair, birdsong as your music, and your dog nearby, you could be outside 24/7.
You and your furry best friend do everything together: hunting, fishing, exploring, observing. And in the new book "The Dogs and I" by Kenny Salwey, you’ll see that man + dog + outdoors = a pretty good life.
When Kenny Salwey was about four years old, he was attacked by a dog – in a good way. The pooch’s name was Brownie, and Salwey remembers coming around the corner of his parents’ house as Brownie knocked him to the ground and "thoroughly washed my face, which no doubt needed it anyway." That was the first dog Salwey remembers loving, but Brownie was far from the last.
Rover was six-year-old Salwey’s first hunting pal. It Salwey’s their job to rid the farm of feed-destroying sparrows, and Rover was good at flushing them out. He was also a good fishing companion on lazy summer afternoons, as Salwey remembers.
Teddy, who joined the family later, was a coddled Mama’s boy and Salwey’s mother encouraged it by fussing over the dog. Then along came Pepper, who lived up to his spicy name. Pepper sure made a fine squirrel dog, though.
Once he got out of the army in the 1960s, Salwey – who missed life "on the lovely little farm tucked away back in the hill country" – got a dog as soon as he could. Old Spook was almost a throwaway, but he became a once-in-a-lifetime dog for Salwey: they were hunting companions, fishing buddies, and "inseparable" best friends for sixteen years. It broke Salwey’s heart when Spook died but "Old Spook helped me better understand the great Circle of Life."
Spike followed Spook, and fish-retrieving Joey Girl came afterward. There was Spider, Travis, and Webster before the travel bug bit the Salweys and they decided against having another pooch. Traveling was a dream come true, but coming and going is hard on a pup.
Still, what’s a River Rat without his swamp dog?
While it’s true that anybody can read "The Dogs and I," there’s no doubt in my mind that outdoorsy teens – particularly, maybe, boys - will love this book best.
That’s because author Kenny Salwey speaks the language of a lover of the land. Salwey’s words are thoughtful and earth-kind, evoking old-time sentiments mixed with modern sustainability. Every duck or pheasant hunter who owns this book will think of his favorite hunting spot as he reads; every fisherman will recognize the feeling of knowing something’s been hooked; and both will remember their own four-legged companions, without whom the sport is just no fun.
I think outdoorsmen (and women) ages 13-to-17 will love this book, and they can easily share it with their dads and granddads, too. For hunters, fishers, and lovers of Labs, "The Dogs and I" is a world of good reading.
"The Baby Boom" by P.J. O’Rourke
c.2014, Atlantic Monthly Press $25.00 / $27.50 Canada 272 pages
Whenever you get together with old friends – no matter what the reason – it always ends up with "Remember When…?"
Remember piling in the station wagon, scrambling for a good seat in the back? And when your sister chased that bully away? He was bigger than she, but twice as scared. And remember cruising down Washington Avenue in a convertible, top-down?
Ahh, those were the days: fun then, fun to recall now. And when you read "The Baby Boom" by P.J. O’Rourke, you’ll remember even more of them.
To write about the Baby Boom is to tackle a big project: there are more than 75 million of us, born over the course of nearly twenty years. There are times, in fact, when "the oldest Baby Boomers are sometimes the parents – usually via an oopsie – of the youngest Baby Boomers."
Basically, though, Baby Boomers can be sorted, much like high school, into seniors (at the beginning of the Boom); juniors (born in the early 50s); sophomores (late 50s); and freshmen (born at Boom’s end). This book, written by a "senior," nonetheless holds memories for all Boomers…
Memories like getting a new TV, though the people on television were generally members of the "Silent Generation," born between our parents and us. Later, they’d be the "anyone over 30" we weren’t supposed to trust.
When we went anywhere in our parents’ big-finned cars, we rode in the front seat, often standing up. Houses had one phone, connected to the wall, but we rarely used it because yelling across several yards was the preferred neighborhood method of communication. People wrote letters, too, or they just "dropped over," no appointment necessary.
Kids played outside a lot then, and parents liked it that way. Games were fair, it didn’t matter who won, and "we ran wild – in a rather tame manner." We learned the Facts of Life (and didn’t want to believe it), we spied on one another, blew things up, had crushes, were embarrassed by our parents, and were told that we could "be or do anything."
It was, says O’Rourke, a "good and happy place" to grow up.
Though it does sometimes descend into curmudgeon territory and can seem somewhat growly, "The Baby Boom" really is quite a pleasure.
Despite that author P.J. O’Rourke was an early Boomer (a "senior"), there’s plenty of Universal Boomer Truths here, and lots of nostalgia for anyone born between 1946 and 1964. O’Rourke (largely) ignores his usual topics in this book, instead bringing back the kinds of memories that occur when family and friends gather – though politics peek into the latter half of the book, and sarcastically profane humor isn’t missing, either. Overall, that will appeal to hip first-time readers without disappointing long-time fans.
Better than an Ed Sullivan marathon; more enjoyable than Beach Boys Radio Weekend; more fun than cleaning out your parents’ attic, this book is a Boomer’s delight. If your bags are packed for a trip down Memory Lane, "The Baby Boom" is a book you’ll want to remember to take with you.
(The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books.)