Thursday, May 16, 2013

Appalachian Safari: A Virginia Mountain Man's Wild Stories - Book Review

I've never written a book review but in this case I really like this book.  I also know the author and his family very well.  David Adam Atwell's dad, Eddie Atwell, is my partner at this stage of my life. We've been together about 10 years now. Our family ties go back to the Revolutionary War when we both had grandfathers that were imprisoned for siding with the British. That will be another post at another time.


Appalachia is full of writers, crafters and creative people.  When one of us writes something I normally don't comment on it. I read and rejoice that something was written... but I really like this little book. And it is not because I know the person who wrote it, it is because it is out of the ordinary and full of information.


For one, this is from a family that is known in our area for their hunting and fishing prowess. Believe me, I have been more than amazed at their skills.  As an example, Ed once called me at work and asked what I'd like for dinner. He was home early and decided he'd cook supper. I told him anything simple would be fine.


We batted around a few ideas when he asked, "What about some grilled fish?" I said that sounds good. He said he would have to go catch it. If he couldn't catch anything, he would think of something else.  I looked at the clock and it was 3:30 PM and I got off work at 5.  I'm thinking, "Ok, it's going to be a late supper if he has to catch it!"


Imagine my amazement when I pulled up into the driveway at 5:30 and the fish (enough to feed 6 people) were on the grill cooking just about done. It was hard for me to comprehend these fish were swimming just an hour before!  That's when I realized that what folks had said about this family having some talent for hunting and fishing, beyond the usual, was true. Now David Adam Atwell has written a book about some of that talent.


This book is a very quick read and it's personalized stories, (some are hilarious) about the family but it is chocked full of some of their hunting, shooting and fishing tips.


Here is a brief excerpt on catfish: " My father ran out of bait once while fishing on the dam of Rural Retreat Lake and decided to scavenge for some. The waterline at the dam, like most man-made lakes, is rocky to prevent erosion and after flipping over a few rocks my dad scooped up a crawdad and decided to fish with it. Dad hooked it through the tail with the hook coming out of the top, placed a bobber around 4 feet up from the hook, and then cast the crawdad about 10 feet out. After a few minutes the bobber disappeared and dad reeled in a nice catfish. I started doing the same and we caught a lot of fish that spring, and saved a lot of money on bait.  Over time we also caught bass and muskies at the dam using crawdads. The secret is to setup your line and cast it out just far enough that the crawdad is bouncing around on top of the rocks, but also cannot get enough grip to actually crawl under a rock.  Unlike night catfishing there is no art to setting the hook, when your bobber disappears you just jerk the pole; and let me tell you that bobber vanishes suddenly and goes completely out of sight. Over the years we found late spring and early summer to be the best time of year and have always done this type of catfishing during the day."


And that's just on catching catfish in the daytime! There are excerpts on everything from shooting turkeys to hunting buffalo in the mid west. It's telling stories but in the telling a lot of information comes through about hunting and fishing. Thus Appalachian Safari is an excellent book for hunters, fishermen and anyone interested in that side of our Appalachian heritage. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope you will too.


It can be purchased on Amazon and there is a kindle edition also. Appalachian Safari on