Thursday, June 16, 2011
A delectable though minute haunch
"The light was fading, and she was roasting a woodrat for her evening meal. She gave me one of the minute hindquarters, and I never tasted anything so delicious."
The quote is from Carobeth Laird's biographical "Encounter with an Angry God", about a field trip to the headwaters of the Tule River in the southern Sierra Nevada.
The year was 1917, and Laird was assisting her husband John Peabody Harrington record the dying languages of the California Indians.
Harrington was driven, obsessive, and eccentric.
He didn't want WWI to interrupt his life's work, so pleaded with his young wife to back the model T over his leg so he could avoid the draft.
That saying that no man on his deathbed regrets that he didn't spend more time at work didn't apply to Harrington.
When he died in 1961 his professional estate of field notes, recordings, artifacts, some mummified birds, old shirts, and half-eaten sandwiches weighed in at 6 tons.