Most of the adult book collection at the Marianna Black Library in Bryson City is housed in the main reading room, but if you step to the right, go through the opening framed by the flags into the room that houses the reference collection, you will find the Jim Casada Outdoor Collection (JCOC). Casada grew up living next door to Marianna Black, the founder of the Bryson City library. He went on to become a history professor while not losing his love for hunting and fishing he learned from his father. At present, retired from the classroom, he contributes a weekly column to the Smoky Mountain Times that combines local history and outdoor lore. The book collection, named for him, consists of books from his personal library on hunting, fishing, other types of outdoor recreation, geography, history, biography, science, and travel he donated to the library. Instead of discussing the whole collection I am going to spotlight a few individual books of general interest that can be only found in the JCOC.
For example, Mary Roberts Rinehart was better known as a writer of mystery novels, but her inclusion in the JCOC is a non-fiction work detailing her experiences camping, mainly in the western United States. The book titled Out Trail is obviously a collection of articles Mrs. Rinehart had published in Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan in the early 1920s. A greater part of the book describes a automobile trip she took into the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona with about twenty other people. When reading her descriptions, one has to remember she was doing this almost a hundred years ago when highways were not what they are today. One other chapter details a trip she made with a female companion and an armed escort into the Mexico of Pancho Villa, hunting long horn sheep in or about 1917.
Mary Roberts Rinehart is not only adventurous woman with a presence in the JCOC. Gertrude Bell, an English woman, who spent most her life in in the Middle East, first as traveler, then as an archeologist, before become a British spy in that region during World War I, During that period she was friends with Lawrence of Arabia and Winston Churchill, while he was in the Colonial Office. Along with Churchill, Bell is given credit for the founding of the modern Iraq. H. V. F. Winstone’s biography of Bell, titled Gertrude Bell is almost 40 years old and was published well before Western governments’ current interest Iraq’s politics.
If you were wondering why Texas was having trouble with flooding recently, you can deduct at least part of the reason from reading Verne Huser’s Rivers of Texas. He points out the four branches of the Trinity River have been prone to flooding. Plus the fact that this river travels through the two populous urban areas of the state: Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston, where development is still going in the floodplain and you have a recipe for disaster as happened this year. Beside the Trinity, Huser discusses the other river basins in the state.
I have feeling A Boy and His Gun , by E. C. Janes has been a classic in its genre ever since it was published in 1951. The author gives advice in this book to all boys interested in hunting with guns that he first gave to his nephew, who was killed in World War II. Janes goes into details of a care and safe use of different kinds of guns from air rifle to the shotgun. The reader also learn which game are better hunted with which weapon.
Jerry Dennis fills The River Home: an Angler’s Explorations with essays and stories about fishing. Dennis lives near Traverse City, Michigan on the Old Mission Peninsula that juts out into Lake Michigan. The essays and stories in this are not restricted to the United States for settings: Dennis goes fishing in Iceland and southern Chile, for example. Some of his experiences are humorous, such the couple he and fishing buddy ran into fishing in the all together in the Yellowstone River.
Last, I’ll close with a book filled with quotes related to the outdoor pursuits that the greater part of Jim Casada’s collection targets: Passages: The Greatest Quotations From Sporting Literature published by “Sporting Classics,” edited by Chuck Wechsler and Jim Casada. In this book you will see quotations from such notables as Zane Grey, Robert Ruark, Herbert Hoover, Jose Ortega y Gasset, William Faulkner, and some writers the average reader is not familiar with .
I hope the above listed books will whet some reader’s appetite The next time you are the Marianna Black Library in Bryson City, visit the Jim Casada Outdoor Collection. I’ll bet you will come away with something to read.