Posted tagged ‘humour’

Ye old looke at naturalists!

22 August 2009

One comes across gems hidden amongst the deadly prose of scholarly tomes ; though no one could say that of  W.J. Holland‘s  popular “The butterfly book” published in 1902 meant for encouraging young American turn-of-the-century aurelians. This was discovered in one of his digressions as he liked to call them.

A naturalist on the prowl!

A naturalist on the prowl!

UNCLE JOTHAM’S BOARDER

“I ve kep’ summer boarders for years, and allowed
I knowed all the sorts that there be;
But there come an old feller this season along,
That turned out a beater for me.
Whatever that feller was arter, I vow
I hain’t got the slightest idee.

“He had an old bait-net of thin, rotten stuff
That a minner could bite his way through;
But he never went fishin’ at least, in the way
That fishermen gen’ally do;
But he carried that bait-net wherever he went;
The handle was j’inted in two.

“And the bottles and boxes that chap fetched along!
Why, a doctor would never want more;
If they held pills and physic, he ‘d got full enough
To fit out a medicine-store.
And he ‘d got heaps of pins, dreffle lengthy and slim.
Allers droppin’ about on the floor.

“Well, true as I live, that old feller just spent
His hull days in loafin’ about
And pickin’ up hoppers and roaches and flies
Not to use for his bait to ketch trout,
But to kill and stick pins in and squint at and all.
He was crazy ‘s a coot, th’ ain’t no doubt.

“He ‘d see a poor miller a-flyin’ along,
The commonest, every-day kind,
And he ‘d waddle on arter it, fat as he was,
And foller up softly behind,
Till he ‘d flop that-air bait-net right over its head,
And I ‘d laugh till nigh out of my mind.

“Why, he ‘d lay on the ground for an hour at a stretch
And scratch in the dirt like a hen;
He ‘d scrape all the bark off the bushes and trees,
And turn the stones over; and then
He ‘d peek under logs, or he ‘d pry into holes.
I ‘m glad there ain’t no more sech men.

“My wife see a box in his bedroom, one day,
Jest swarmin’ with live caterpillars;
He fed ’em on leaves off of all kinds of trees
The ellums and birches and willers;
And he ‘d got piles of boxes, chock-full to the top
With crickets and bees and moth-millers.

“I asked him, one time, what his business might be.
Of course, I fust made some apology.
He tried to explain, but such awful big words!
Sorto’ forren, outlandish, and collegey.
‘S near ‘s I can tell, ‘stead of enterin’ a trade,
He was tryin’ to jest enter mology.

“And Hannah, my wife, says she ‘s heerd o’ sech things;
She guesses his brain warn’t so meller.
There ‘s a thing they call Nat’ral Histerry, she says,
And, whatever the folks there may tell her,
Till it ‘s settled she ‘s wrong she ’11 jest hold that-air man
Was a Nat’ral Histerrical feller.”

Annie Trumbull Slosson

Note

Annie Trumbull Slosson (1832-1926) was an important short story writer who epitomized the American local color movement that flourished after the Civil War and ended at the beginning of the twentieth century. She is widely acclaimed for her book  ” Fishin’ Jimmy “,  about which noted angling story teller, Henry Van Dyke said:

“The loveliest of all her simple narratives is that which I have chosen to stand near the end of (my)  book,–a kind of benediction on anglers.”

The butterfly catcher!

The butterfly catcher! Collage by Ann Gorman

Image credit:


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Overheard in the house!

15 February 2009

Self: This blog thing is getting on my nerves!

Better half: Its your blog. You started it.

Yes, I thought that this was going to be meaningful!

(Scornfully) Meaningful? How?

Oh, I dont know, I just expected better feedback, not just people reading and moving on. Of course a few say things like ”well done, keep it up”. But it gets highly boring after a while.

Oh, you give them thoughtful, challenging ideas which wake them from their slumber and make them comment, is that it?

(Sheepishly) Not quite, but I did do a lot of writing.

And for that they owe you a living! Hah.

Well, I did think that writing would be fun.

Isnt it?

Yes, but..

Whoever said hosting a blog was fun? You have fun while writing. Then you post. You have now had your fun. Now its upto the reader to have fun or not..

So where does that leave me?

You want to be left? I can do something about it!

No, no, no that’s not what I meant. Am I achieving something at all?

So tell them new things.

New things? But that’s what a paper or a magazine does!

Oh, so now you think just because something’s in a paper, everybody would have read it? (Nastily) So now this magazine your good friend Pervez brought 20 kms from his home to show you one week ago does not have anything to interest you?

But I haven’t read it yet!

So is this how you treat your friends and their loving gestures?

He did mention that it had something interesting!

So, if a magazine left by your bedside for a week which you did not read contains something interesting, you think the world would have seen it and everybody knows all about it except you?

(Sheepishy) If you put it that way…

So find out what’s interesting and tell them about it.

But I didn’t write about it and I did that kind of blog post already!

Don’t I know that! You have been sulking so long that that single blog type post got more views than all your creative writing.

Is it so obvious?

Hah!

The Tribes on my Frontier

15 January 2009

Having moved into a quiet bungalow in the College campus, I looked forward to a pleasant interlude after all the years of toil. Very large in my scheme of enjoyable solitude was my garden; still coming up after a marathon of planting by my father-in-law and now blooming from some TLC after a couple of years of neglect. What can be better than a quiet Sunday morning snooze on a garden chair in the lawn or an afternoon 40 winks on the diwan under the verandah shade before a refreshing cup of tea emerges forth from the house lovingly proferred by wifey. Paradise, I thought and began to enjoy it all. Alas, it was too good to be true. For you see, I had not accounted for the tribes on my frontier!

They creep up on you unsuspectingly. One drowsy Sunday morning, with head nodding, I heard a plop on the small teapoy in front of me. It was one of the avian tribesmen, golden and black in colour, making an offering to the great sahab of his guano. The wretch not only spoilt my newspaper but thoroughly woke me up with a musical trill which brought my son, Aashay, out saying ”Oh look Pappa, its a golden oriole!” I ask you would you forgive Lata Mangeshkar or any other heavenly singer if she crept up on your slumber in the garden and blasted you in the ear no matter how melodiously she sang. You would despatch her rather quickly, but with a reputation for being a bird-lover, I was forced to smile to match my son’s enthusiasm. It seemed that the bird would never stop singing! By the time it left, I couldn’t sleep any more.

I tried the early afternoon instead, and found a green red-whiskered barbet delightfully tapping out his monotonous beat on the dead tree next to my garage. Finding a dirty look instead of appreciation, he cringed and flew off but sent big brother, a Maratha woodpecker, instead. Louder, bossier, and tapping fast enough to get him an interview in any workshop, dirty looks were of no avail as he had his speckled back to me. Words of abuse did not get him to lower his red cockade. I shook the tree violently and sent off this ruffian ‘Katphora’. But it was too late, I was wide awake.

Few things gave these creatures solidarity as their endeavour to disturb my well earned repose. One rainy afternoon, braving the occasional leak and rejoicing at the absence of birdsong, I had barely settled down when a large shiny black carpenter bee, no doubt an MES employee, came inspecting the rotting rafters of the verandah. He buzzed loudly around me ignoring the frantic swats from my newspaper. He paused overhead as if to say, hey Bud, you know I have no sting, let the rain stop and I’ll be out of here before you can sing honeybee. At long last, the rain stopped and the bee went away but now the soporific patter of a rain shower was replaced by a mismatched drip drap of different series of drops with one freshly born stream created just for anointing me. It was useless, I moved into the house.

As I had worked very hard for this pleasure, there was no way I was going to let these pesky aborigines deprive me. So one day I selected a nice hammock under the Gliricidia trees, but rushed back very soon as I had forgotten the carnivorous mosquitoes of CME who descended on me like the hordes of Genghis Khan on an unsuspecting Central Asian city.

The large cemented patio at the back of the house finally seemed to do the trick and in the warm sunlight I blissfully entered the jungle of my dreams. A soft rustling disturbed me. I ignored it awhile hoping it would subside but it persisted. At last I blinked awake to stare into the astonished faces of a pair of mongooses taking some quality timeout together. They looked at me as would a pair of Burmese natives if suddenly a pot-bellied laughing Buddha statue of their pagoda suddenly came to life. They did a disappearing act worthy of Houdini but not before a bunch of lascivious ‘sathbhais’ or large grey babblers in the ‘Parijaat’ tree beyond, who had been ogling the svelte mongooses, set up a devil of a cackle on being deprived of their entertainment. I rushed inside into the dark shadows of my bedroom for some solace but it was not to be – the neighbourhood tomcat encouraged by my daughter Aditi’s daily offerings of milk had alerted my pet dog Tashi with predictable results. Sometimes you just can’t win. Seriously, its almost enough to put you off wildlife.

Note. This blog entry is dedicated to the late Edward Hamilton Aiken, naturalist and writer extraordinary, whose classic account of nature in Kutch holds the same title as this piece. Read more about him at the blog entry above.