American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Driftwood Valley

  • Book Reviews
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  • Publication Year: 1947

Driftwood Valley, by Theodora C. Stanwell-Fletcher. 369 pages and 15 page appendix; illustrated. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1946. $4.00.

An account of two whole years in a cabin some hundred miles northeast of Hazleton, B. C., Driftwood Valley is primarily a beautifully reported study of wild life in that area; it is also an excellent treatise on living in that country, summer and winter, and on the habits of the native Indians.

Possibly the true attraction of this book can best be conveyed to the reader by a few lines picked here and there from its text:

Oh-h-h—the cry of the Pacific loon; like a woman crying hopelessly, endlessly; like a baby bear who has lost its mother; like the faint, far-off foghorn of a ship at sea; like the mournful sigh of wind in a pine tree …

Above all things, perhaps, the wilderness teaches patience and endurance…

There is a secure way of life—all manner of help and of care for us if we use the wilderness rightly; work with it, not against it…

The loyalty of dogs, and the patience of horses, are very big and touching things …

Of all people we know, we envy these Indians most; for they are free as very few left on this earth are free …

Toward the end, as a record of their achievements:

It is rather wonderful that the most intelligent of all our wild companions (the wolves), have reached tolerance towards us …

And in discussing the damaging upsets to the balance of nature where man has tried to modify the principle of the survival of the fittest, the author asks, almost in despair, “Is man’s instinct of chivalry towards the weak, unfit ones, really a sign of progress and wisdom, or isn’t it?”

If only a better map of the area had been included, it would have made the many beautiful word passages even more personal to those who have more than a passing acquaintance with the country. And if it does seem to the reviewer, from his own recollections of having once passed the year round outdoors in British Columbia, that there is something of exaggeration in the impression derived from the text of such continuous extreme winter cold, of such great depth of snow all winter long, of such continuous difficulties on the trail, in no event do there appear to be any directly inaccurate statements—only a minor undercurrent to achieve a rhetorical effect, perhaps fairly permissible in such a well written book.

In the description of the Indians, even the New York subway rider will be amused to find that they too “alkalize,” for one learns that they call Alka Seltzer “the medicine, he jump in water”—and think it wonderful!

I can recommend this book to all who are fond of the Canadian country, with the assurance that they will not put it down until they have read every page and admired every illustration.

J. E. F.

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