THE BOAT by Tom Kelly


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 The boat in Kelly's (The Season, 1996, etc.) title--a 13-foot juniper-wood shallow-draft hunting skiff--is a springboard for the most delightful of reminiscences: light-footed, droll, its wisdom inferred rather than spoon-fed. What Kelly serves up here is the edifying moments of his life in the military and the timber business. He is the kind of timber cruiser one can only dream for: He respects a bottomland of hardwoods, considering not so much dollars per board foot as its value as a haven for game food (he is also a much-respected author of books on turkey hunting). In the military and the logging business and as a son-in-law, he knew how to keep his mouth shut and learn from the old hands, regardless of their place in the hierarchical setting: He appreciated what it meant to be the boss of a guy known as the Legend, and he learned the value of sensitivity, empathy, courtesy, and consideration--not in any epiphanal fashion, but simply as part of the process, much as readers come to appreciate the woodlands he cruises. For in Kelly's hands the unadorned naming of tree species--sweet bay, black gum, longleaf pine, water oak--is like music; he wrings an entire visual landscape from something as simple as ``a mixed stand of 50-year-old pine and hardwood with a closed crown.'' There is much more: forays into the history of American lumbering, a passing note on lid drinkers (those who chuck the cap after opening the bottle), why there were so few artillerymen in the artillery, the finer qualities of the Atlantic white cedar, the contours of the southern US sawmill business, the joys of being an official remittance man. And he makes a boat, too, an object loved and full of memories. Kelly spins gold from straw, a world from every mile he tramps and rows.

Pub Date: Jan. 30th, 1998
ISBN: 1-55821-640-5
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Lyons Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1997