“It was just then my toad began to rustle. I had been squatting there with the sack in my hand, and some of the men had been eyeing it speculatively as representing food. But right then that fool toad had to rustle. Maybe he didn't like the heat and was tired of being shut in. Anyhow he scratched till I couldn't deny that there was something alive in the sack.”
“'For Christ's sake,' said an old man with blinking cinder-beaten eyes. 'What you got, huh?'”
“I let the thing crawl on my hand. It quieted the animal, and when I rubbed his sides alternately with a finger, he would puff and tilt toward the finger and all his spines would show. He was a fine sight.”
“' I got him this side the mountains,' I said. 'I had to walk ten miles cross country after being kicked off a freight. He was in the sand.'”
“'You oughta stomp on him,' said the cinder thrower after a brief, bitter galnce. 'Them things might be poison.'”
“'The hell,' said another. 'Them things is all right. They been a long time in that sand. They won't hurt you. Lucky they are, like a four-leaf clover, that's the reason he's carryin' it. For luck now.'”
“'Well, no–' I started to say.”
“'I know,” said another more kindly. 'It's nice to have somethin' to travel with. I had a pal once had a dog – little fox terrier – he'd even grab a train with that dog under his arm. They got him for a stick-up in the Springs. I don't know what happened to the dog. This is better, you can carry him in your pocket.'”
So writes Loren Eisley in his autobiography All the Strange Hours, The Excavation of a Life.
Now for those that haven't heard of him, to read the above passage from when he was a young man traveling the rails across the country as a tramp may wonder how his life progressed to becoming an author. For those that have heard of him may wonder how this famous anthropologist/archaeologist was at one time a hobo. Both camps will want to read All the Strange Hours for the well written prose that brings to life the difficult times Loren Eisley, and others, had to endure in the early part of the 20th century.
Even his memories of his life in graduate school are quite evocative:
“Slowly the sullen sunless winter dragged by. Speck, I discovered, had a way of vanishing with the northbound geese. His graduate classed never had a precise date of termination. Instead, he grew increasingly restless as spring advanced. Finally, the office would be empty. There was a family home at Gloucester if he was not going farther. As for the students, in small comfortable numbers at that time, they, too, drifted away by degrees, leaving papers and setting forth upon field projects greatly valued by the department. Funds were dreadfully sparse in those years. Mostly, one had to seek one's own arrangements. I mad mine, but that is another story.”
While it might be possible to find Loren Eisley's works at your local Borders of Barnes & Noble, I think his works, somehow, fit better as a used book. A book that someone has passed on so that others can enjoy. But, no matter how you get a copy, be sure to read all about it.
Copyright © 2005, S. Halversen.
All Rights Reserved.