Home | Reviews | Blog | Daily | Glossary | Orrin's Stuff | Email

    A human life, I think, should be well rooted in some spot of native land, where it may get the
    love of tender kinship for the face of the earth, for the labors men go forth to, for the sounds
    and accents that haunt it, for whatever will give that early home a familiar, unmistakable difference
    amidst the future widening of knowledge: a spot where the definiteness of early memories may be
    inwrought with affection, and kindly acquaintance with all neighbors, even to dogs and donkeys,
    may spread not by sentimental effort and reflection, but as a sweet habit of the blood.
                                                                                                -George Eliot (Daniel Deronda)

This sentiment and the chance discovery of Nathaniel Holmes Bishop's The Voyage of the Paper Canoe (1878), detailing a canoe trip down the East Coast which included a side trip on the Waccamaw River, were the twin impulses that lead Burroughs to return to his native Horry County, SC and make his own trip down the Waccamaw.  Burroughs, a professor at Bowdoin, published a terrific collection of essays Billy Watson's Croker Sack in 1991 (it even made Mr. Doggett's Suggested Summer Reading List for Students) and this book is every bit as good.

Whether he's detailing the history of the county, the river and his own family or relating his encounters with the river's unique residents or describing the wildlife he encounters, Burroughs has a sharp eye, a sympathetic ear and a silver tongue.  Here is his description of one bird he meets:

    Yesterday a red-shouldered hawk had called the day to order, and got its business underway.
    Today it was a pileated woodpecker: a staccato drum-burst against a hollow tree, then the bird
    itself.  It flew across in front of me, with its peculiar alternation of flap, swoop, and collapse, and
    its last swoop fetched it up against the trunk of a cypress.  It clung there a moment, cocked and
    primed, a perfectly congruous mixture of Woody Woodpecker, frock-coated nineteenth-century
    deacon and pterodactyl.  Then it gave the tree an abrupt, jackhammer strafing, rolled out its lordly
    call, and swooped away, leaving the day to its own devices.

If you've ever seen one, you know that a pileated woodpecker has never been described better and if you haven't you must almost feel that now you have.

This is a wonderful bucolic look at the history and nature of the Waccamaw, which will leave you wishing that you too had such a place  coursing through your blood.


Grade: (A)


See also:

Book-related and General Links:
    -Horry County Historical Association
    -Horry County Government Site (map, etc.)

If you liked The River Home, try:

Abbey, Edward
    -Desert Solitaire : A Season in the Wilderness

Adams, Douglas
    -Last Chance to See

Carter, Jimmy
    -An Outdoor Journal: Adventures and Reflections

Dillard, Annie
    -A Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek

Gibbons, Euell
    -Stalking the Wild Asparagus

Harris, Eddy L.
    -Mississippi Solo: A River Quest

Heinrich, Bernd
    -Ravens in Winter

Kane, Joe
    -Running the Amazon

Leopold, Aldo
    -A Sand County Almanac

Mowat, Farley
    -Never Cry Wolf

O'Hanlon, Redmond
    -Into the Heart of Borneo
    -In Trouble Again : A Journey Between the Orinoco and the Amazon

Russell, Franklin
    -Watchers at the Pond

Thoureau, Henry David