Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

Sandy Griswold. May 8, 1898. [Reasons for Sportsmen to be Afield in May Days.] Omaha Sunday World-Herald 33(220): 24.

Forest, Field and Stream.

This is unmistakably and age of guns and shooting, the idyllic epoch of the sportsman. There are many, however, who carry guns and shoot, who cannot be classed in this category. The true sportsman goes a-field or a-stream to learn and enjoy, as the scholar goes to school, and be his success what it may, he comes back happy and improved. If the birds are scarce on favorite grounds when he sallies forth in the autumn he is disappointed in a measure, of course, but he finds his outing just as glorious and beneficial as if the feathered beauties swarmed in marsh and lagoon as plentiful as cicaden swarm on the prairie during July's burning reign. He never fails to find shooting enough to keep his blood in healthy circulation, and gets all the game he actually requires, although it taxes his endurance a little more than ordinarily. It is not the true sportsman who is disappointed in scarce seasons, but that class who only wants to kill for gain, and to whom a commingling of nature is a positive bore unless their murderous and avaricious instincts can at the same time be sated. When the game is gone their enjoyment ends. But to the other class, an outing is an outing always-glorious and incomparable sport.

The sky never looks so blue, the grass so green or water brighter, than when once adrift on marsh and meadow. To them is welcome every sound and every sight that comes from earth of air. Nothing can compare with his felicity, nothing is half so elevating, ennobling, half so stirring, half so grand inspiring. A tramp afield in these spring days, with the multifarious perfumes of budding land and gurgling stream, the melody of bird and breeze, and the flutter and hum of reviving life of all kinds, filling all one's senses, in the very acme of mental and physical delight to he who shoots for health and happiness. The intenser pleasures of life are spread all about him with a beneficent hand.

A lover of nature is the true sportsman. All his tastes are inherited and inbred, and successful or unsuccessful in the baser aim of greed and destruction, he would not exchange one day's sweet communion with all outdoors for weeks, aye months, of the ordinary pastimes, which generally engross mankind. Once a sportsman, the change only comes with decrepitude, and even then the true instincts struggle to demonstrate themselves in perusing the histories of younger and more capable men. The whole twelve months contain no joy so supreme for the sportsman as when he habilitates himself in the picturesque togs of the chase and hies himself away in the spring time, mid-summer or decaying fall.

These are May days, soft enfoliating, odorous and buoyant, and the shooting season is over save for those who follow the trap May days.

In the reedy marshes out in the sandhills, at Quinnebogg, Manawa and along the legendary Platte, the muskrat houses are floating in rising waters, while the home proprietors themselves are cutting up high didoes in both sun and starlight, untrammeled by ice or snow, cleaving the warming waters in their amorous love chases, splashing, curving and cavorting with that well known mysterious whimper, mad in the abundance of vernal life and pleasure. The wild fowl have all gone and with raucous clamor is endeavoring to lord it over the feathered hosts. Of course there is a straggling duck now and then, and right there now, don't you see that old hen mallard, to her harmonizing colors of yellowish brown, cutting the slough's surface above submerged tangle of flag, moss and splatter dock, into feathered wakes, coasting silent and sedgy paths in quest of laggard companions, poking into this nook, craning into that, as if searching for hidden crypt where the assumption of maternal cares would not be liable to interruption by rat, coyote or piratical gunner? There! A pair of blue wing teal have risen with a pleasing splash from yon ferzy cove, and are hurrying off toward the distant horizon, and just look at the black birds, how they fill the swaying reeds and broken rice stalks, and dart in erratic showers that, that and every way. Their tinkling notes confuse the hearing, while their aerial convolutions mystify the sight. All about from drift of wind blown hay and leaves and weeds, wells the comical croak of resuscitated frogs, and yon break and vanishing eddies show where ardent pike, pickerel or bass disport blazonry of scales and graceful shape. The sweet and grateful fragrance of teeming, upturned soil and starting vegetation crowds the nostrils, and from every pinnacle and every cranny rings the pean of returning summer, the swash of the wind-pushed water to the lilt of the meadow lark, robin and bobolink, which float over the scene like the phantom cadence of an aeolian harp. Nature is rapidly recovering from her tousling and mussy condition imposed upon her by the ruder and rougher play of wintry blasts. The distant hills are donning an emerald wrap, as viewed through half closed eyes; the brown prairie is greening at the roots of last year's grass, and along lake shore and rippling stream and rill froudous sprays are peeping forth, the spring beauties have opened wide their pinkish eyes, and modest violets are bursting into spots of azure, the whole catching a golden gleam from the lustre of an unclouded sun. The tall, naked stalks of rice, tulle and cane are yet arrayed in graceful tracery, yet rapidly failing before the new life of the budding year.

May days!

No sweeter are there in the whole calendar to the sportsman and lover of nature, filled with their soft airs and soothing sounds, the melancholy gray of the whole landscape, blending with the burning hues of the bridal garments of another season.