Sketches in Duneland
SKETCHES IN DUNELAND
EARL H. REED
“The Voices of the Dunes”
“Etching: A Practical Treatise”
“The Dune Country”
Illustrated by the Author
NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY
LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD
BY JOHN LANE COMPANY
In the dune region that extends along thewild coasts of Lake Michigan, and in theback country contiguous to it, is a land ofallurement.
The strange human characters, whose littledrift-wood shanties are scattered along the shore,and among the sandhills, and whose isolatedretreats are further inland, are difficult to becomeacquainted with, except in a most casualway. They look upon the chance wayfarer withsuspicion and disfavor.
Readers of “The Dune Country” will remember“Old Sipes,” “Happy Cal,” and “CatfishJohn,” the old derelicts living along the beach,further accounts of whose “doin’s” are in thefollowing pages. As portraits of these worthieshave already appeared, they are omitted in thisvolume. New characters are introduced, who,it is hoped, will be, as cordially welcomed.
The region is of important historical interest.Narratives of early exploration, and primitive8Indian lore associated with it, have filled manypages of American history. The Pottowattomieshave gone, but the romance of the vanishedrace still lingers among the silent hills. Whilemany poetic legends, of unknown antiquity, havesurvived the red men, the Indian stories in thesepages are entirely fanciful, except as to environment.
The nature loving public will be fortunate ifthe organized efforts succeed, which are beingmade to preserve the country of the dunes as anational park. In compliance with a resolutionof the Senate, the Department of the Interior,through the able assistant to the Secretary, Mr.Stephen T. Mather, has recently made an exhaustivereport on the subject, which is mostfavorable to the project. Momentous eventshave, for the time being, eclipsed minor considerations,and this, as well as many othermeasures for the public good, must wait untilthe shadow of the Hun has passed.
It is only within the past few years that thepicturesque quality of the region has becomeknown to lovers of American landscape, whoare now lured by its varied attractions.9
The country is of immeasurable value tobotanists, ornithologists, and investigators in otherfields of natural science.
The Audubon societies are taking a deepinterest in its preservation. Those of us forwhom it is not necessary to slaughter songstersfor the decoration of our hats, and who believethat nature’s beautiful feathered messengersshould not be made to bleed and suffer for thoughtlessvanity, can sympathize with any movementthat will contribute to their welfare. Asa refuge for migratory birds, the proposed preservewould be invaluable. It is within theMississippi valley flight zone, and during theperiods of migration the bird life in the dunecountry is abundant, but unfortunately findslittle protection among the wooded hills.
The wild flowers also suffer from vandal hands.Many armfuls of them are ruthlessly pickedand carried away, preventing further propagation.A human being is only partially emancipatedfrom barbarism, who cannot look upon abeautiful thing without wanting to pick it orkill it. Primitive savagery would not be attractedby beauty at all. Partial development10of the love of beauty suggests its selfish acquirement,while further enlightenment teaches usto cherish and preserve it. The destruction ofthe wild flowers, and the use of bird plumage forpersonal adornment, is modified barbarism. Wecannot be fully civilized until we are able to lovethese beautiful things in their natural habitats,without temptation to injure them.
To the botanist, the country is a treasurehouse. Almost, if not all, of the flora indigenousto the temperate zone, is found within its borders.
The flowers have a kingdom in the dunes.From the secluded nooks and fertile crevices,from among the shadows of the trees, and alongthe margins of the marshes and little pools,their silent songs of color go out over the landscapes.In no form is beauty so completelyexpressed, and in no form is it so accessible to us.
The sketches in this volume are culled fromthe experiences and reflections of many happydays that were spent in this mystic land. Insuch a retreat we may find refuge from the town,from the nerve-racking noise and stifling smoke,and from the artificialities and the social illusionsthat becloud our daily lives.
|I.||The Dream Jewel||17|
|II.||A Romance of Mt. Tom||25|
|III.||The Heron’s Pool||41|
|IV.||The Story of the Stream||51|
|V.||The Moon in the Marsh||67|
|VII.||The Love Affair of Happy Cal and Elvirey Smetters||107|
|VIII.||The Resurrection of Bill Saunders||135|
|IX.||The Winding River’s Treasure||165|
|Mt. Tom||Facing page||24|
|The Heron’s Pool||40|
|The Moon in the Marsh||66|
|Mrs. Elvirey Smetters||106|
|The “Bogie House”||150|
|The Requiem of the Leaves||204|
|The Game Warden and his Deputy||222|
|On the White Hills||236|
|The Troopers of the Sky||270|
THE DREAM JEWEL16
THE DREAM JEWEL
The tribe of the sturgeon was speedingsouthward over the rock-strewn floorsof the inland sea. In the van of theswimming host its leader bore a wondrous stone.From it multicolored beams flashed out throughthe dim waters and into unsounded depths.Shapes, still and ghostly, with waving fins andsolemn orbs, stared at the passing glow and vanished.Phantom-like forms faded quickly intodark recesses, and frightened schools of small fishfled away over pale sandy expanses. Clouds offluttering gulls and terns followed the strangelight that gleamed below the waves. Migratingbirds, high in the night skies, wheeled with plaintivecalls, for this new radiance was not of theworld of wings and fins.
The wonder stone was being carried out of theNorthland. For ages untold it had reposed inthe heart of a stupendous glacier, that crept overthe region of the great lakes from the roof of the18world—from that vast frozen sea of desolationthat is ghastly white and endless—under thecorona of the Northern Lights.
From a cavern deep in ice, its prismatic rayshad illumined the crystal labyrinths during theslow progress of the monster of the north, grindingand scarring the earth in its path of devastation.
The radiance from the stone was ineffable.Such color may have swept into the heavens onthe world’s first morning, when the Spirit movedover the face of the waters, or have trembledin the halo at the Creation, when cosmos wasevolved out of elemental fires.
It glowed in the awful stillness of its prison,untouched by the primeval storms that ragedbefore the mammoths trod the earth, and beforemen of the stone age had learned the use of fire.
Many centuries after the greater part of thegigantic ice sheet had yielded to balmy airs, itsfrowning ramparts lingered along the wild shoresof the north. The white silence was broken byreverberations from crumbling masses that crasheddown the steeps into the billows that broke againstthe barrier. In one of the pieces the stone wasborne away. The luminous lump drifted with the19winds. It was nuzzled by curious rovers of theblue waters that rubbed gently along its sides andbasked in the refulgence. With the final dissolutionof the fragment, the stone was released.
In quest of new feeding grounds, the sturgeonhad explored these frigid depths, and, after privationand fruitless wanderings, had gathered forthe long retreat to a warmer clime. Their leaderbeheld the blazing gem falling, like a meteor, beforehim. With fateful instinct he seized it andmoved grimly on. The gray horde saw the lightfrom afar and streamed after it, as warriors mighthave followed the banner of a hero.
Through many miles of dark solitudes the bearerof the stone led his adventurous array. Swiftlymoving fins took the sturgeon to waters wherenature had been more merciful.
The roaring surf lines of the southern shorewashed vast flat stretches of sand that were bleakand sterile, for no living green relieved the monotonouswilds.
A few Indians had been driven by warfare intothis dreary land. Their wigwams were scatteredalong the coast, where they eked out a precariousexistence from the spoil of the waters.20
When the sturgeon came their lives were quickenedwith new energy. With their bark canoesand stone spears they found many victims amongthe tired fish. A wrinkled prophet, who had communedwith the gods of his people, in a dream,had foretold the sending of a luminous stone, bya sturgeon, that would mark the beginning of anera of prosperity and happiness for his tribe.There was rejoicing when the lustre was seenamong the waves. In the belief that the promisedgift of the manitous had come, and the prophecywas fulfilled, the big fish was pursued with eagernessand finally captured. The long-awaited prizewas carried in triumph to the lodge of the chief.The red men gathered in solemn council, andhonors were heaped upon the aged seer whose visionhad become true. After long deliberation,Flying Fawn, the loveliest maiden of the tribe, wasappointed keeper of the stone. The lithe andbeautiful barbarian child of nature clasped it toher budding breast, and departed into the wastes.With an invocation to her gods for its protection,she hid their precious gift far beyond the reachof prying eyes.
The winds carried myriads of flying grains to21the chosen spot. They came in thin veils andlittle