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WHAS Book Reviews

Book Review: Jack Nesbit's "The Collector"

Jack Nesbit Sasquatch Books, 2009.

If you are a hiker, canoe enthusiast, mountain climber, or wannabe naturalist, this is the book for you.  “The Collector”, David Douglas, spent three years from 1825 to 1828 tromping through forests, slogging marshes, crossing desserts, climbing mountains, and paddling rivers.  He traveled 7000 miles throughout the Northwest.  By researching the Douglas journals, author, Jack Nesbit, is able to share colorful descriptions of these adventures.  We find Douglas worked for science as well as for profit.  We get a clear picture of his meticulous collecting of flora and fauna for scientific study, his taking of copious notes, and his search for plant specimens suitable for English Gardens and for the economic timber interests in Europe. (Think: Douglas Fir)

Nesbit does an excellent job of taking you on the trail with Douglas.  You can feel his pain as he hikes the mountains, collects and dries (and redries) plants, swims icy rivers, and you observe his growing respect as he negotiates with indigenous people.

Nesbit uses the journals to relate the arduous search for specimens and even the shooting of bald eagles (cringe) for lunch, the skins of which were preserved for future study.  (By the way, Douglas notes that eagles are quite tasty.)  The tales of enormous salmon runs, huge trees and abundant game support other descriptions of this paradise enjoyed by the indigenous peoples prior to white man’s arrival.  As did others of his day, Douglas left his mark by advancing interest in this new and glorious place, its future to be changed forever by the advance of the Europeans.  We must, however, admire and respect his enthusiasm, his stamina and dedication to discovery.

 

So, with the winter rains set in, there is no better way to spend the afternoon, on the couch vicariously traveling the northwest with “The Collector”