The Lost Woods: Stories

The Lost Woods: Stories

The Lost Woods: Stories

The Lost Woods: Stories

Synopsis

The Lost Woods is a collection of fifteen short stories, most of them set in and around the fictional small town of Sledge, South Carolina. The events narrated in the stories begin in the 1930s and continue to the present day. The stories aren't accounts of hunting methods or legends of trophy kills--they are serious stories about hunting that are similar in style to William Faulkner's Go Down, Moses. The collection traces the evolution of two families--the Whites and the Chapmans--as well as the changes in hunting and land use of the past eighty years.

Some of these stories are narrated in third person; others are told by a wide range of characters, from grown men and women to children, but only from one perspective--that of the hunter. As they walk the woods in search of turkeys, deer, or raccoons, these characters seek something more than food. They seek a lost connection to some part of themselves. The title "the lost woods" is adapted from Cherokee myths and stories wherein people must return again and again to the woods to find animals that were lost. Thereby, we find not only food, but who we are.

Through these stories Rice reminds us that hunting is inextricably entwined with identity. As one of the oldest rituals that we as a species know, it reflects both our nobility and our depravity. Through it we return again and again to find the lost woods inside ourselves.

Excerpt

On a windy, frigid morning when I was around ten, my father took me squirrel hunting for the first time. We saw nothing. So to keep the morning from being a total waste, my father taught me to shoot his old scratched-up, single-shot .16 gauge shotgun.

There was an old chimney standing on the edge of the wooded area where we hunted, the lone remnant of an abandoned, dilapidated tenant farmhouse. My father took some of the crumbling mortar from the chinks in the bricks and drew concentric circles on the chimney, explaining to me about load and wad and spread. Then he handed me the gun and told me to put the bead on the innermost circle and pull the trigger.

All these years later I still remember the roar of the gun, the jolt of the stock as it slammed into my shoulder, and the cloud of dust that burst from the bricks. My father took his pocketknife and picked the shot out of the bricks, forever imprinting on my mind the pattern of the pellets.

Two years later, when I killed my first squirrel with that same gun, I felt as if I had completed the process that began on that cold morning. I had connected to something deep inside me that had no name, a connection that only blood could allow. the time in which human beings have lived among twelve-lane freeways and tall buildings, buying their meat packaged in Styrofoam and cellophane from the supermarket, is a blink of the eye compared to the eons in which man hunted to survive. Little wonder the first shedding of blood is so memorable: it allows for a connection to the collective memory embedded in our dna. It reminds us that eating comes with a cost—the life of an animal, the stalking skills of a hunter . . .

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