Monday, May 23, 2011

Going Savage

I just finished reading Two Little Savages, one of my father’s all-time favorite books.  Growing up, every time I ever mentioned that I needed something to read, Dad would shout out, “How about Two Little Savages?”  Every time I mentioned I was bored, Dad would say, “You could read Two Little Savages.”   So of course, I never read it.  In fact, I actively despised the book even though I was clueless as to what it was about.  Honestly, I’d never even cracked the cover and Dad’s copy didn’t have a dust jacket so there wasn’t a blurb on the back of the book to read.  And obviously, if my dad liked it, it must be something boring and stupid.  Right?
But ever since Dad died, I’ve been a bit sentimental about the things he liked.  I’ve taken a slight interest in Virginia history, the arrow heads we found together are now prominently displayed instead of being considered “rocks” and crammed in a drawer.  I’ve even made batter bread although I’d still rather drink toilet water than eat that stuff.  And one day, while at the library’s used book sale, I snagged a copy of Two Little Savages for twenty five cents.  Hee, hee, I giggled in that evil homeschooling motherly way, “I’ll make the kids read it for school.” 

Two Little Savages sat on my bookshelf along with 88 other unread books that I was busily ignoring.  Then came the 101 Goals list which included the dreaded list of books I must read before August of 2013.  Two Little Savages was on the list.  As fate would have it, it was also a freebie on my Kindle.
So I finally read it.  And now, I SO, SO, SO wish I’d read it while Dad was still alive.  I would give my eye teeth to talk to him about it.  The book tells the story a few boys who spend part of a summer living in a handmade tent in the woods and pretending to be indians.  There are actually several boys and a couple of adults involved, but there are two main characters, thus, two little savages. 
The boys lived as the indians did.  Their only “white man” possessions were an ax and pocket knives.  Using only those tools, they created the tools needed to build themselves a teepee, bedding, and even bows & arrows.  They learned to light fires by rubbing sticks together.  They hunted and they gathered and they had all kinds of grand adventures.  And I can just imagine my father and his brother, Ben, doing the same thing when they were kids. 
 My dad was just like one of the boys in the book.  Dad loved to hunt and gather.  He loved to bird watch and to study nature in general.   Like the boys in the book, Dad didn’t go to the store to buy stuff.  He made the stuff he needed/wanted by using what he had on hand.  It used to make me crazy!  I learned at an early age to be very, very careful about what I asked for for Christmas and birthdays.  Because if I asked for a new purse, for example, I didn’t receive a store bought one.  No, I got a handmade one.  And as a teenager, a handmade-by-your-father purse is NOT cool.  It also drove my mother insane because Dad had a tendency to use important things from around the house to build something else.  For example, the hose faucet broke so Dad fixed it by replacing it with the faucet handle off the laundry room sink.  He fixed the laundry room sink faucet by attaching one of the stove’s knobs to it.  He also found broom handles to be very handy.  Nine times out of ten, you’d go to sweep and the broom handle would be missing.  Occasionally,  Dad would go to the store to buy the parts he needed to build something, but he never bought the whole complete unit. He bought the individual parts and made his own.  He even built his own radios from scratch for goodness sake!  
Anyway, I read the book with the sensation that Dad was looking over my shoulder, reading along with me.  I SO wish he was still alive so I could talk to him about the story.  Did the book teach my dad to be the way he was, or was he already that way and loved the story because of the connection?  Did Dad ever build his own teepee?  I know he shot & killed a deer, then ate the meat and created knives out of the horns and a rug out of the skin.  The rug is in my house and sadly, the knives were stolen from my parents' home.  I also know that in his youth,  he dammed up more than one creek to make swimming holes.  I’ve heard the stories.  In fact, the pond he created as an adult still exists.  It’s called Mattawan and is located in Hanover, Virginia.  You can Google it.  

Surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Two Little Savages.  I am a bit concerned though.  I’m having the worst urge to go collect the sticks out of our yard and build something.  And do you think I’m too old to turn ‘savage’ and go live in the woods for a while?  Building my own teepee sounds like a lot of fun.   Want to join me?

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