Some Books Need to be Read Twice

Some Books Need to be Read Twice

Here’s what Barbara learned in the second reading of Cold River forty years after its publication—a book still in print today. Of interest to nature lovers, campers, survivalists, and cooks, this survival story includes profound life tips and quotes, with some historical info about “blood soup.”

READING A GOOD BOOK a second time is like watching an old movie again. Because we change as we age, we see the world differently with each passing year and often need a second go-round with a book or movie to notice things we couldn’t relate to the first time.

I never go anywhere without something to read, and when I take a trip or vacation I always take both my Kindle and a paperback or two. On a trip in June 2019, the book I grabbed off my shelf was an old paperback I wanted to read again. It was Cold River by William Judson, a mass market paperback edition published by Signet in 1976. I’d liked this classic survival story so much that I’d saved it for sharing with others with a note on the inside cover to be sure to return it to me.

It’s the story of an Adirondack guide who takes his young daughter, Lizzy, and stepson, Tom, on a camping trip in the mountains in the fall of 1932 so they can experience the wild in all its glory before the increasing number of tourists force environmental changes. But winter begins to set in earlier than expected, and when an accident results in his death, his two children are left to find their way home without their canoe, food, or protection from the elements in one of the worst “winterkill” snowstorms of the century. (The author defines “winterkill” as a winter that “comes on so sudden and so fierce that the animals aren’t ready for it or can’t protect and feed themselves, and most of them die.”)

After returning home, I checked to see what else Judson had written and learned that this book was based on his earlier book, Winterkill, which was published the same year by Talmy, Franklin but not mentioned in the book. (I’m sure there’s a story here because this London publisher appears to have published only five books in the seventies, and Winterkill is no longer available anywhere.)

Underling Text You Want to Remember

A STRONG MEMORY of something in the book had flashed in my mind when I packed it, but once I started to read it again I knew I’d also saved it for the interesting and informative text I’d underlined the first time through. (I don’t know about you, but I can’t read any book, without underlining sentences that speak to me. I often refer back to books on my shelves, and this is a great memory-refresher the next time I page through the book.) Here’s what I found:

“As Bernard Shaw said, ‘Make sure to get what you like, or you will be forced to like what you get.’” Judson adds to this quote by writing, “If you cannot get the first place you would like, then you must like the second place you can get.”

I also related strongly to a thought I’ve paraphrased here: “Don’t take issue with the size of the rewards you’ve received in life, but strive to be content with the size of your pasture and rejoice when an unexpected plum falls your way.”

Being older now, I found two new things to underline this time around:

“A little fear is a good thing. It keeps us from behaving too rashly and makes us think before stepping.” (Lizzy’s comment after she trips over a log and sprains her ankle so badly she can’t walk for a week just as the big snow is beginning.)

“It’s amazing how little one really needs and how quickly you can give the rest up when it becomes necessary.

Cooking in the Wild and Making “Blood Soup”

OH YES . . . that “strong memory” that stuck in my mind? After Tom has trapped a wild turkey, Lizzy tells him to tie it up by its feet and put a pot under its neck to collect all the blood. She’d learned from her father that blood was “the richest part of the food,” and “four tablespoons of blood are as nutritious as ten large hen’s eggs.” Using that blood and some turkey meat and wild edibles she found, she made a tasty and nourishing meal.

How Lizzy prepares one delicious meal after another using only what she and Tom can catch and kill or find in the wild fascinated me and was surely another reason I’d saved this book. I think I remembered the “blood story” because I was studying a lot of books on the nutritional value of foods at that time. (I had to change the way I was cooking after Harry was diagnosed with diabetes, and I spent nearly a year studying nutrition as I recalculated all my favorite recipes for the diabetic cookbook I would use until he died.)

What I learned on the Internet after returning from my trip was that blood soup is generally made from the blood of ducks, geese, or pigs, and it remains a traditional soup in many countries today. My German father butchered pigs on the farm and certainly had the raw ingredients for it, but “German Blood Soup” wasn’t something his family ever prepared or that recipe would have been passed down to him. (Not that Mother would have wanted to make it even if it was.)

I highly recommend Cold Rivera classic, can’t-put-down survival novel, which some reviewers compared to True Grit. The paperback edition is still in print (now with a new cover) and selling well on Amazon in both new and used conditions. If you missed the 1982 movie and have Amazon Prime, you can rent or buy it here.

I hope you have some good books worth reading twice and that you’ll find some gems in them that you missed in the first reading. (And if you happen to be wondering how to make blood soup today, you’ll find many recipes on the web for goose or duck blood soup.)

Copyright © 2019, 2021 by Barbara Brabec

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