Friday, July 31, 2009

Review of Waiting for Coyote's Call

Informed by the work of Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, and other naturalists, Jerry Wilson in Waiting for Coyote’s Call: An Eco-Memoir From the Missouri River Bluff describes his acquisition of acreage where, since the early 1980’s, he has created a home for himself and his family. Wilson devotes the initial chapters to his decision to buy land and build a home. These chapters offer memories of Wilson’s childhood in rural Oklahoma and contain anecdotes of Wilson’s interactions with the rural people who often offer assistance to Wilson and his wife in their construction of a geo-solar home. Portions of the middle chapters contain the history of the region and the history of both the native people and the settlers who have lived on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River. Wilson mixes this history with his detailed study of meteor showers and the habits of those nocturnal creatures like raccoons and deer. These chapters also contain Wilson’s knowledge of trees and his vivid observations of birds along with the extremes of weather, including an entire chapter devoted to snow. Least satisfying are those final chapters when Wilson looks beyond the bluff where he has made a home to issues regarding the growth of corporate farming methods because it seems as if those issues belong in a subsequent book. Personally, I find the book to be an enjoyable read because of Wilson’s attention to detail and the clarity of his prose. Wilson reveals what he has “watch[ed], listen[ed], and learn[ed]” about a place during the past twenty-eight years and shows his own effort to manage the land where he has replanted native grasses and where he has seen a return of those native species that had not frequented that portion of South Dakota since the days of settlement. He ultimately makes the reader approach the outdoors with wonder and enthusiasm, regardless of where one lives. On a personal note, I originally got my review copy as a PDF file from which I printed out fifty pages at a time. I have since purchased a cloth copy of the book.