After several years of contemplation and of thought upon the matter herein contained, it has at last come about, by the Grace of God, that I have been able to write this work with such pleasure of spirit. To that end, I searched the earliest of newspapers and almost every issue of Chicago Field, American Field, Forest and Stream, Field and Stream, Outing and various other magazines and journals. In addition, court records, land deeds, books and articles were searched. With this wealth of information, both historical and legendary, the point of beginning was a difficult choice and a selection of the salient features even more so.
While I believe that this work might have been written by men whose researching is better than mine, and whose writing skills are better than mine, it could not have been done by anyone whose interest in waterfowling has been keener nor whose love has been deeper. Perhaps, I cannot write so well, my language may not be as classical, my sentences not as rounded, nor as pleasing to the ear as those of my more gifted brethren, but my ardor and enthusiasm are as great, if not greater.
Volumes have been written to make known the inexhaustible mineral, agricultural, industrial and commercial wealth of the New World, but waterfowling, as you well know, was seldom considered of historic interest. Therefore, the writer believes it should be given the attention it deserves while the facts are still discoverable and before the gale of new pleasures sweeps away the entire atmosphere in which it flourished. Then, too, the subject at hand is intimately connected with a lost or passing fauna. This alone gives it a place in historical literature, for in the early economy of the country its native game animals and birds played a prominent part. The New World was one of the most favored localities on the earth for game – yes, a veritable Canaan, a land of promise – abounding with the “milk and honey” of amusement for all those who rejoiced in the manly and exhilarating pleasures of waterfowling.
Rooted as it is in provender, Volume One of my work properly opens with the history of waterfowling by early modern man, some 40,000 years ago, and passes through Egypt and Europe, before traveling to the New World with the explorers and settlers. Once settled, the waterfowling history for the Atlantic Flyways is covered in depth. Volume Two comprises the waterfowling history of numerous states of the lower Mississippi Flyway, beginning with Missouri and ending with Louisiana. It also includes Texas. Volume Three covers the upper Mississippi Flyway, Central Flyway (except Texas) and the Pacific Flyway. The three volumes close with the fourth decade of the twentieth century. However, in a few instances information is given forward of this timeframe.
The chosen scope of this historical sketch – and in its fragmentary character it can be nothing more than a sketch – is waterfowling in its glory, and that which was not so glorious. And with these passing memories, there comes the picture of waterfowling typical of its period and earlier, which was destined to die with the statutory reclamation of society’s swamplands. Could mankind be prevailed upon to read a few lessons from the great book of Mother Nature, they would clearly see the hand of Providence in every page.
If my work shall give you many happy days of pleasure reading about the olden and golden days; if it gives to you but a part of the joy that it hath afforded me, I shall be very well content with what I have done. If I shall find grace in your sights, my thanks shall be, that this my work helped someone understand all the art, secrets and worthy knowledge belonging to waterfowling that was practiced in the olden and golden years. Moreover, if I have imparted some pleasurable emotion to you, the sportsman, all I have hoped for has been accomplished.
Therefore, these are my words, left behind for all to witness their having lived; and although they remained but for a while, the old-time waterfowlers contributed, in various ways, to our understanding of Nature, so amply spread out before us. In reality, these are their words, left behind them to witness their having lived.
Like an inscription on the sea sand that is washed away by the return of the ceaseless waves, when this book shall become obsolete, or be lost in the revolution of time, may some other more able writer arise to supply its place and to withdraw your eyes from my labor.
The history of these halcyon days will cling to me, and will, I trust, as long as I live, to dream of them beside the fire on winter evenings. As between the bang of the gun in the old times and the bang of the gun in the new, there is a difference. Ah, the good old times!
To roam about in such a wealth of waterfowl life whether on river bottom, swamp land or flooded timber, to walk along the bayous and among giant cypress trees, to observe such sylvan life as then most everywhere existed, to hear the call of the mallard, the song of the wood duck, the sudden whir of the teal and the varied notes of other living things, to see the graceful motion of the pintail, until then without a civilized admirer, – it is all these I have tried to represent on paper. The actual reality as carved out by God far excels as would be expected all human but partially effectual efforts to portray by words.
Oh! Tell me of the airy days,
Of the times as they used to be.