Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Curiouser and Curiouser...

A week ago I found myself in a windstorm that had set upon San Francisco Bay. And oddly, at the same moment, there appeared in my email, custom-designed to distract me from the gales, a curious and detailed missive from one H.D. Miller.  In my noreasterly-addled state, it almost seemed that the blast of information Miller provided - in fact the email itself - must have been delivered by the winds, as in some Homeric epic.

But of course, that's not how "the internets" works!  Or so the kids tell me....

H.D. Miller, the curious-missive-sender, is a professor in Tennessee.  He wrote a fascinating email, and included a link to an even more interesting article he wrote fleshing out my partial answer to the question of why there was no poultry business in San Francisco during the Gold Rush or the two decades that followed.

I could hardly do his incredibly funny and entertaining post justice in describing it (you can't possibly do justice to a man who refers to the failure of so many failed 19th-century California chicken start-ups as "Ozymandian ruins"), so I ask that you read it via the link below.  I am quite honored to be included in reference to his inquiry.

What I liked even more about his email, was that it included some additional information about that greater mystery: Charles Melville Scammon and his conversion from hunter to conservationist.  I hope that I will not offend Professor Miller in quoting from his very engaging email:

"One of the things that caught my attention about Scammon, was that phrase “strange duality”, i.e. a killer of whales and conservationist. The more I read about this period, the more I’m convinced that Melville’s conversion isn’t that unusual in America in the late 19th century. In my piece on poultry farming, I talk a little bit about William Temple Hornaday, the man who saved the American bison from extinction. He’d been a taxidermist before becoming a conservationist, one who had gleefully shot 24 orangoutangs in Borneo a decade earlier. There’s book to be written about the conversion of American hunters like Scammon, Hornaday and Teddy Roosevelt to conservationism."

I suppose this means that I still have Charles Melville Scammon a bit too much on the brain.

Speaking of whalers, I picked up Matt Kish's "Moby-Dick In Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page" which is a delightful and subversive entry in the many homages to Melville's own subversive classic.  I viewed the book some years back, but had been so deep into my own project that I failed to understand how funny and lively his drawings are. I feel quite refreshed after perusing it, and hope you will give it a read.