Guess what -- Gary Paulsen was being kind to Brian. In Guts, Gary tells the real stories behind the Brian books, the stories of the adventures that inspired him to write Brian Robeson's story: working as an emergency volunteer; the death that inspired the pilot's death in Hatchet; plane crashes he has seen and near-misses of his own. He describes how he made his own bows and arrows, and takes readers on his first hunting trips, showing the wonder and solace of nature along with his hilarious mishaps and mistakes. He shares special memories, such as the night he attracted every mosquito in the county, or how he met the moose with a sense of humor, and the moose who made it personal. There's a handy chapter on "Eating Eyeballs and Guts or Starving: The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition." Recipes included. Readers may wonder how Gary Paulsen survived to write all of his books -- well, it took guts.
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November 11, 2002
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Excerpt from Guts by Gary Paulsen
I have spent an inordinate amount of time in wilderness woods, much of it in northern Minnesota, some in Canada and some in the Alaskan wilds. I have hunted and trapped and fished and have been exposed to almost all kinds of wilderness animals; I've had bear come at me, been stalked by a mountain lion, been bitten by snakes and punctured by porcupines and torn by foxes and once pecked by an attacking raven, but I have never seen anything rivaling the madness that seems to infect a large portion of the moose family.
I first witnessed this insanity when I was twelve, in northern Minnesota. I had just started hunting with a rifle. Back then there were none of today's modern hunting weapons and I was, to put it mildly, financially disadvantaged. I worked hard at setting pins in a bowling alley, selling newspapers in bars at night and laboring on farms in the summer (hoeing sugar beets for eleven dollars an acre and picking potatoes for five cents a bushel) to make enough money to buy clothing and supplies for school. There was little left for fancy weapons, and after saving for a long time I finally managed to come up with enough money for a Remington single-shot .22 rifle. It was bolt action, with a twist safety on the rear of the bolt, and had to be loaded for each shot by opening the bolt, which extracted the empty shell if you had just fired. Then you put a new cartridge into the chamber by hand, closed the bolt and fired. It was a long process and the end result was that it forced the shooter to pay attention to his first shot and make certain it was accurately placed. It also made the hunter careful not to waste his shot. Withing a short time I was very accurate with this little rifle and was steadily bringing home rabbits and ruffed grouse, which I cleaned and cooked.
Just as they do today, game wardens had a great deal of say in how game laws were enforced, and if a family was poor or there were other special conditions, the wardens would sometimes overlook minor infractions. The legal hunting seasons were in fall and winter, but sometimes I hunted in spring as well, and it gave me food at times when my parents were on long drunks and didn't keep the refrigerator filled. I would like to thank those game wardens who looked the other way now and then when they saw a scruffy kid come out of the woods with a not-quite-legal grouse or rabbit hanging on his belt.
Before I acquired that rifle, I had hunted a great deal with a bow, but on the day of my first moose incident I had been out with the rifle only a few times. It was early spring in the north woods of Minnesota, not far from the Canadian border and I had seen many rabbits but hadn't shot any. I wanted grouse because I liked the taste of them fried in batter, especially in spring, when they have been living on frozen high-bush cranberries all winter and have a crisp taste they lose in summer.
There was still snow in patches, and I was studying a large plot of old snow filled with budding willows because grouse like to hide in willows, when I heard something that sounded like a train about to run me down.
There was a kind of bleeeeekkkk, hoarse and very loud, coming from directly behind me and accompanied by a crashing in the brush, and I turned, raising my rifle (about as useful as a BB gun in these circumstances but we use what we have), to see two glaring red eyes coming at me at what seemed like sixty or seventy miles an hour.
I had hunted in these woods for several years and I had never seen a moose or even a moose track. I had heard of them, of course, and seen pictures of them. But there were very few left in Minnesota because they had been hunted out, so I had always dreamed of hunting moose up in Canada.
At the first instant I didn't realize that it was a large bull moose. He's lost the previous year's antlers and hadn't grown new ones yet. I just saw brown. I saw big. I saw death coming at me, snorting and thundering. I think I may have thought of phantoms, wood spirits, wild monsters-I most certainly did not think of moose.
I wish I could say that with cool precision I raised my trusty little .22 rifle and deftly protected myself. The truth is (and I would never again do this when confronting a moose) that I closed my eyes and waited to get hit. It had come so fast, the snorting, the crashing, the huge whatever it was, that I couldn't move, couldn't do anything except close my eyes.
A second passed, then another, and I opened one eye to see him pass me not three feet away. He had to be nearly seven feet tall at the hump. This move would have done credit to a pass in a bullfight. I knew then what he was and I fell back away from him. But the truth was that (a) he was a moose and (b) he was therefore insane, so at this time he hadn't the slightest interest in me.