1883 brief biography. - Added Jan., 2010.
Story and related history. - Added Jan., 2010.
My Angling Friends, by Fred Mather – 1901
The name has an unfamiliar look as I write it, for no one called him anything but Len, or Old Len. When I first met him, in 1874, he was nearly sixty years of age – tall, broad-shouldered, active and powerful, without an ounce of superfluous flesh. As told in another chapter, he was the favorite guide of Mr. D. H. Fitzhugh, of Bay City, Mich. Their relations were much closer, however, for there existed a friendship between them only broken by death, if then, for Plato says: “True friendship between man and man is infinite and immortal.” And this was a case of the truest friendship, and between men mentally and physically as unlike as possible. One light-hearted and jolly, fond of good living and companions; the other a taciturn man of the woods, satisfied with the simplest camp fare, if there was plenty of it.
The grayling were not rising well. “I'll tell you what to do,” said Len; “I'll pole over to the weeds and get some caddis. Put one o' them on the hook, let it sink, and you'll get 'em ev'ry time.”
I'll do no such thing. We came out to take them with the fly, and as they don't seem to care for the oak fly to-day, nor the black-prince with a tinsel body, I'll keep on changing until I've tried every fly in the book; but I decline to use bait.”
“It's cur'us; that's just the way Dan talks; but when I go a-fishin' I want to catch fish; if they prefer bait to flies, I give 'em their choice.”
“How about net and spear, Len? -- they are the next steps down. If these graying refuse fly and bait, would you net 'em, or spear 'em, in any-way-to-get-'em fashion?”
“Years ago I would but not now. I've been with Dan so many years, and he's showed me how to fly-fish, an' I've seen so much of skinning streams for market that I'm dead sot ag'in it; but in square hook an' line fishin', what's the difference?”
“I see that your education has gone on well under Dan, but you haven't learned that one fish taken with a fly is more satisfactory than a dozen take with bait; the bait-fisher is only a fellow craftsman, while a fly-fisher is a master of the art.”
He evidently understood, the allusion, and after a moment's thought, asked: “Ain't your flies bait? What does a fish think they are unless they're something good to eat?”
This philosopher of the woods had asked a question the answer to which was perfectly clear to me, but would not be to him. A graying rose at my royal-coachman and was hooked. I thanked the fish, mentally, for it relieved me from an immediate answer; and as it was reeled in and boated I called attention to the particular fly and thought it might be successful again. But Len was not to be put off. He repeated the question, and my only refuge was:
“Oh, bait-fishing for trout or graying is dunghill fishing!”
“That's just what Dan says, an' I've talked with him often on the subject. But as long as you light tackle and feel the fish fight as you reel it in, there seems little difference whether you deceive it by a hook concealed in a worm or in a bunch of feathers.”
The mists of the morning had rolled up from the river, light clouds were reflected in the water, and the grayling began rising, but would no notice the royal-coachman, and I changed back to the yellow and brown oak fly with success. “Len,” said I, “when Dan and you go out after snipe and woodcock and you happen to see the bird that the dog points, you would not shoot it on the ground, would you? You would put the bird up and kill it in the air, if you could, and be proud of your skill. Isn't that so?”
“That's so, sure; but I never thought of comparing that with catching fish. Perhaps the two are something alike, after all. I wouldn't shoot a woodcock on the ground, and outside of seeing the dogs work, finding the birds and knocking them down, I don't see why men talk so much about woodcock. Dan has 'em cooked and asks me to cat 'em, but I'd rather have ham an' eggs. They're very good, but too small to pick and bother with.”
“That's a thing that every man decides for himself; but if we were in camp and there were just ham and eggs enough for one and an equal amount of woodcock, Len, we would never quarrel over the division. Pole me over to that sandbar, quick!”
Fizhugh's boat had wells in them for keeping fish alive. The cover formed a seat and had two holes in it, one to drop fish through and the other to run an anchoring pole through the bottom of the boat into the river bottom when required. Len did not know what I wanted, but we were under way in an instant, he following the motion of my hand. I had seen a long, snaky-looking thing swimming rather laboriously toward the shallow and naturally wanted to know what it might be. As I dipped it up in the landing-net it proved to be a Necturus, “mud-puppy” or “water-dog,” called by Len and the lake fishermen a “lizard.” It was a good-sized one, about 16in. Long, and its bright outside gills were perfect. This is the animal found every year and described as “a four-legged fish, the like of which was never before seen.” They are plenty in the Great Lakes, but not so common in rivers.
“Kill it, and throw it ashore for the minks or the meath hawks,” said Len.
“I'll do nothing of the kind,” said I, dropping it in the well. “I intend to eat it.”
Woodsman-like, Len made no reply to this. I had no idea that he believed me; he probably thought it some of my nonsense, but when I showed my capture to Dan and told him that I intended to eat it, he asked if they were good to eat.
“Don't know, I never ate one nor heard of them being eaten; they're clean feeders, that's all I know. The thing isn't handsome; neither is a catfish nor a lobster, yet some man had the courage to eat the first one, and I'm going to eat this one.”
With an incredulous look Len said: “I'll skin it and dress it if you'll eat it, but I'd be hungrier 'n I ever have been afore I'd eat one.”
The flesh looked white, and when dressed the animal somewhat resembled a squirrel, except for the long, flat swimming tail.
“I'll fry that thing after I fry the grayling,” said Len, who now began to believe that the “thing” was really to be eaten, “an' then-I'll scour out the frying-pan so's it'll be fit to cook in again.”
“Don't fear for your frying-pan, Len,” said I; “this game is going to be roasted. Get me some wire and an ounce of salt pork and leave the rest to me.” I cut the pork in strips and then into pieces 1in. Long and larded the animal by cutting the flesh and poking in the pork, then by means of the wires roasted it before the fire, while Len friend the grayling. I was good. Dan looked at me curiously as I tasted it, but Len was disgusted. I assured Dan that it was good; he ate some, to the increased disgust of Len. Dan also called it good, and between us we put a polish on the bones and then wound up on the grayling. The oft-quoted “woods appetite” is no creation of fancy. Often I think of it as I come to the table in the morning and try to eat, as a matter of duty – for in the city I never want breakfast, and wonder how it was possible to be hungry three times a day in the woods, and such hunger that never brought the least criticism on the cook, further than to let us have it now, and plenty of it. Pompey says of Marc Antony, “Epicurean cooks sharpen with cloyless sauce his appetite,” but there's something in the woods that renders epicurean cooks and cloyless sauces superfluous.
Dan Fitzhugh's love for Len Jewell is beyond my power to tell. If he said it once he did a hundred times, as he gazed on Len's powerful form: “Look at him! He has the face and form of a field marshal of France! Napoleon selected his marshals from just such men.” A few years later he wrote me: “Come up and fish with us again. Old Len has forgiven you for eating a lizard and wants to hear some more of your yarns; he likes 'em, for you know he's not much of a liar himself, and often asks when you are coming up. The dear old fellow! he looks more like a field marshal every day. How I would like to dress him up as one and has his picture!”
In this connection I will say: The photo here presented was hunted up for this occasion by Mr. E. A. Cooley, of Bay City, Mich., a warm friend and companion of Dan and Len, who enclosed the photo in a letter last fall, and said: “It's old Len plainly enough, but a little more sleek and well-groomed than we usually saw him; still it is a good picture. I would have preferred one as we usually saw him in camp, but I think this is the only one now in existence.” As I look on this picture, and on that of Alvah Dunning, there seems to be a family resemblance. Is there a type of man who by nature is forced to live as a woodsman, or does the life of a woodsman form the type?
Len was a single man. If he had ever been married no one knew it, for he would never talk of himself. He had traveled over the pine lands for lumbermen and the hard-wood lands for prospective settlers, and knew all about what every square mile of Northern Michigan was worth, for either lumbering or farming – the pine lands being worthless after the timber was cut, because the soil was too sandy for cultivation, and it never grew a new crop of white pine. This was Len's business as a land-looker, and with his axe and load of provisions on his back he remained in the forests for many weeks, adding to his commissary by his gun or fish lines. Self-reliant, he lived in the woods for months without a base of supplies or a place of abode. An approaching storm was noted in time to find a hallow tree, and the brooks furnish fish at all times. His knowledge gained in such a summer campaign was his capital, but in his old age he preferred the lighter service that Dan Fitzhugh desired, and so it came about that the giant woodsman and the sportsman entered into a partnership where there was so balancing of books.
If Len Jewell ever drank anything stronger than coffee I never knew it, and cannot, at this late day, remember that he ever smoked; but no man is free from “habits” of some kind, and Len, so Dan told me, blew in a good part of his earnings in a game that is called “poker,” where they say three or four jacks can overpower tow or three kings or queens. It must be an anarchist sort of game that wouldn't work in Europe, but perhaps Len was working for the restoration of the empire and the realization of Dan's dream that he should be a field marshal.
A letter from Mr. Fitzhugh in 1877, says: “Come up next year and try the Manistee. Frank, Babbit and Len were in my office yesterday, and other friends dropped in. They all want you to come up again. All spoke well of you except Len, who holds a grudge against you for eating that 'lizard.' He said: 'A man that'll eat a thing like that when there's good, Christian grub in camp, and plenty of it, is wrong in his mind, and liable to do something that you don't expect.' If you at that thing, as I did, to horrify Len, you succeeded; but he doesn't blame me in the least. I read him your kind letter and he sends his love. He is very well, and looks more like a French field marshal every day. In full uniform he would shine as a handsome man, but perhaps my love for him makes me partial.”
When we went on our third trip the object was pure sport, untempered by fish culture, as it was late in September; and then I saw my error in saying that a grayling never leaped from the water; but the statement is one record against me in the book, “Fishing with the Fly,” and may be quoted by others. Len shook hands cordially, and his honest face lighted up in a manner that showed that my ichthyophagic idiosyncrasies had subsided into innocuous desuetude, only Len would have reduced this proposition to its lowest terms and it would have come out with the same meaning. For the third time Dan put Len in charge of my fortunes, while Archie Babbit, of Grayling, looked after him. Dan was not well; his old enemy, gout, has assailed him, but seemed to be withdrawing its forces, and he thought he could stand the trip. On the way down the Au Sable, which by the way, is always given the French pronunciation of “Aw Sawble,” with accent on the “Saw,” I asked Len about his carrying Dan on his back for twenty miles though the woods once when gout had attacked him on the river, and he said:
“Yes, Dan took sick and I had to get him out of the woods; the river was high and I couldn't pole him up less'n two days, so I took him on my back to the railroad and went down to Bay City with him, and then came back and brought the boats and came up to Graying. What else could I do?”
The giant woodsman spoke of it as one would speak of a day's work that was a trifle harder than usual – but just give it a thought. Dan Fitzhugh was a well-fed man of perhaps 160 lbs. -- I am guessing at this and may be 30 lbs. Short – but Len Jewell took him on his back through a wilderness where there was no trail, over logs and under fallen trees, until he laid him down in the Hartwick's Hotel, at Grayling. The daily pay of a guide does not include such service, and ti was a feat that not one guide in one thousand could perform, if he were inclined to try it. If I have sketched Dan Fitzhugh correctly in another chapter, you know why his relations with his guide were not at all mercenary, and if the sketch of Len Jewell is complete I'll leave you to think it out; it's beyond my pencil to explain.
We took many grayling, but a fishing story is not intended further than to say that in the fall the yellow-bodied flies, like the oak fly, did not seem to be such favorites, but the graying seemed to prefer the brown ant, red-spinner and cowdung, while I took several on that fly so much abused by those who contend that a fly should represent some living thing – a red-ibis. Frank Endicott, Dan Fitzhugh, Wakeman Hoberton, Charles Hallock and other anglers have reviled this fly because it has no living representative, and have more or less gently deprecated its use. The fly will take trout, at times, and on that account I use it. Gentlemen, what more to you require of an artificial fly?
The patches of scrub oak which had sprung up where the pines had been cut, or where fire had killed them; were turning read and yellow; and some distance back from the river was a tract of hardwoods which Len directed me to as I went forth with a gun for ruffed grouse, or “partridge,” as Len called them. I brought in four and saw three deer, and was tempted to take the rifle next day and get some venison for camp, a meat that was always a favorite, and is to-day.
Len was a rheumatic, Dan was gouty, and they were content to fish. I had not killed a deer since my trapping days with Antoine Gardapee in the early '50's, and after a few sightings shots sallied forth to renew an acquaintance with deer stalking, which I once thought to be a grand sport; but also with the idea of varying the camp menu, which as good enough as it was, but no matter how good any fodder is a changes is always welcome. The grouse was a treat, although we had a change of food every day; and a prospect of venison was also a treat, even if none was to be had. The day was young. The sun was at my back, and for an hour I kept my shadow in front, making the spot where the deer had been seen. The country was rolling, but so wooded that no prominent land-marks could be seen, and in the absence of a compass my shadow was the only thing to rely on for direction. No fresh tracks were seen. Noon came, and by a little spring I ate the whole of a roast partridge, half a loaf of bread, some corn beef and baked beans – rations for an entire day at one feed.
Several grouses, a raccoon and some fox-squirrels offered shots in a tempting way, but I let them pass. I could not find a deer, nor a track fresh enough to follow. I was tired, and a dry pine log offered a seat, and it was accepted. The day was quite warm and I may have dozed, but after awhile something awakened the dozer from his semi-hypnotic state, and there was a deer leisurely walking along, not 50yds. away to the windward. As the rifle spoke the deer dropped, and the mighty hunter whose game found him rushed in, reloading as he went. It was a doe, and both fore-shoulders were broken, and she looked at me. That look haunts me to-day. Two great, pleading eyes, with tears in them. Yes, tears; I'll swear to them, although all the hunters and scientists in the world say that only man sheds tears. If it is impossible for a deer to shed tears, then the ghost of that doe shed them for years afterward. I'm telling this story, and I say that doe looked at me with tears in here eyes. Esop's fable of the boys and the frogs came up.
I felt guilty, but in mercy there was only one thing to do. If I could have put that animal on its legs there and then, there would have been no venison in camp. The day was passing; soon my shadow would be gone; but as the sun went down a star in the south came out, and by keeping that to my right I reach the river, and an answering yell told the direction of the camp.
Said Len: “How is that you're so hungry? I thought you took grub enough for two days. Didn't you see a deer? I had my mouth fixed for venison?”
“Len,” said I, “give me something to eat. What you put up was only a bite for a hungry hunter. Yes, I saw a deer.”
After I had engulfed half a gallon of bean soup and destroyed half a boiled ham, I said: “ Now that I feel like a giant refreshed with wine, Len, I don't mind telling you that I killed a deer some ten miles west of the river, and I'll show you where it is in the morning; but I feel like a murderer, and if you or Dan want any more butchering done you may do it yourselves – I am too tender-hearted to do it. I'll catch the cold-blooded fish, but I'll be blessed, I think I mean blessed, if I'll kill another deer and have it look at me in that way.”
Dan lay in the tent smoking, and said nothing. Len poked the fire, and after a while said: “Dan tells me you have been a soldier. Did you ever feel as soft as that when there was fightin' goin' on?”
“Not by a mill-site, Len; the case is different. In one case your own life is at stake, and in the other you are safe. Without giving a lecture to you, let me say: In our civilization it is necessary that some men shall be butchers and others shall be undertakers. I have no taste for those respectable occupations, and can say, with Iago:
“'Though in the trade of war I have slain men,
Yet do I hold it very stuff o' conscience
To do no contriv'd murder.'”
Dan raised up on his elbow and said: “Len was a soldier also, and if he had been with Napoleon would have been a field marshal, for the Little Corporal said that every soldier carried the baton of a field marshal in his knapsack. But just what you and Len are quarreling about I don't know; you seem to have got into sentimental strain. You go out one day and kill a lot of grouse and then you come into camp in a maudlin condition over a deer that you have killed. Really, I fail to understand the case.”
“Dan,” I answered, “the case is not to be understood by explanation. No argument will reach it. When I was a boy I killed every living thing except mankind, and thought it sport. I valued my own life lightly. To-day I decline to kill a quail because my dog may bring a would bird for me to finish. I can shoot grouse or ducks which come to my hand dead, and I prefer to have a deer come and lick my hand in the Zoological Gardens to killing it. As we get older we think more of such things, and that's all I've got to say about it. The deer is there; I'll show Len and Babbit where it is in the morning, and if you want any more venison for camp you can't get me to kill it.”
Len had listened to this talk, but the sentiment – for it was sentiment – was lost on him. After considering it awhile he said: “I s'pose you wouldn't eat any of that venison after what you have said about it.”
“Yes, I will.”
“Well, I can't understand you at all. You can kill some things for sport and food and can kill and eat a beastly lizard that was never meant to be eaten. What's the matter with killing a deer? Wasn't they made to eat?”
“Let that go, Len; it's a notion of mine, and I'll never kill another deer. But I will not promise about lizards.”
That was my last deer – some fourteen years ago – and the look it gave me lingers yet. My desire to kill lessens year by year, and a desire to breed and preserve game birds and animals takes its place. For many years my flock of semi-domesticated wood-ducks and other wildfowl was a delight as I watched them hatch and rear their young, but an enforced removal to the city ended that pleasure. There are women who kill deer. That is something that concerns them and which I have no right inclination to criticise. There is a little woman who is very dear to me who has taken the life of a mosquito after provocation, but I doubt if she could kill anything else.
Talking in this strain to Dan Fitzhugh after the deer had been brought in and dressed, and we had ordered the rib-chops for our dinner and all the remaining chops save for us – for Len, like all woodsmen, preferred the hind-quarters – Dan said: “As I get older I begin to feel as you do abut taking life, especially of the more intelligent animals, like deer, but to Len and all woodsmen a deer represents a certain amount of meat. They can't understand why you would enjoy spring lamb and mint sauce and yet object to killing the lamb any more than you should decline to pluck the mint. There is good, sound reason for their views, for our ancestors, who, in the pre-historic times, fought the cave beer for tenement rights, had no such scruples as we have now. All this is the effect of education which tends to make us consider the rights and feelings of others, a perfectly unnatural state of affairs. Self-interest is the only natural thought of natural man or other animals.”
“My dear Dan,” said I, “you are right. It has been a purely selfish thing on your part that has made you pay all the expenses of three trips for me to fish and shoot in northern Michigan with you. If we only do things for our own selfish benefit, as you say a man should, how can you justify yourself for such expenditures as you have made for me, Seth Green, George Dawson, Charles Hallock, Prof. Milner, Thad Norris and others?”
“My dear boy, the companionship, the communion with kindred spirits and other things can't be reckoned in cold cash. Look at Len standing there like a statue. He is in my employ, but no money could pay the grand old man for his untiring devotion to me. If he outlives me he will be made comfortable in his old age.”
At this time, in 1883, the actors in this comedy were men past the middle age – Len Jewell was sixty-nine, Dan Fitzhugh was sixty – and the writer was a mere boy of fifty. Therefore, there was a difference in pressing opinions on subjects connected with killing of game; but Len had no sentimental objections about such things.
Len was in the Union army over three years, but on this, as on all other things, he would turn the conversation from himself.
Leonard Jewell died Jan. 20, 1886. Mr. E. A. Cooley writes: “The old man had no relatives, and few, if any intimate friends. The last thirty years of his life were devoted almost exclusively to the service and companionship of Uncle Dan. Dan and I were with him when he died. When Dan and Len and I were on the Nipigon together in 1884, about half way between Camp Alexander and Cameron's Pool, we found (alongside the trail) a little spring of the clearest, coldest, sweetest water I have ever tasted. About half an hour before old Len died he indicated that he wished a drink of water. I poured out a cupful of lithia water from the bottle standing by the bedside, raised his head, and he took a sip of it. As I laid his head back on the pillow, in a voice so faint that I could scarcely hear him, the old man whispered, 'It don't taste much like our spring on the Nipigon.' And I have no doubt that the old man's last thoughts on earth, as probably his first ones in the next world, were of some fishing excursions which he had had with Uncle Dan.”
Late Mr. Cooley sent me Len's military record. He enlisted as a private Dec. 18, 1861, in Company A, Fourteenth Michigan Infantry, and was honorably discharged April 6, 1885. Mr. Cooley says:
“Len was always a very reticent and reserved man, who never spoke of himself or his own affairs even to those who knew him best. I presume that, next to Mr. Fitzhugh, I have been with the old man more than almost any other person here, and I never heard him speak in any way of himself, his previous history, family connections, or anything of the kind. I do not even know whether he was ever married, nor where he came from, nor what his ancestry might have been. He had evidently spent the greater portion of his life on the outer edges of civilization; had had extensive intercourse with the Indians; must have been a hunter and trapper for a good many years; and from some things which I have observed, I should infer that at some point he must have been employed in a trading post trading with the Indians. He must have been a sailor, too, at some period, as he was a past grand master of the art of handling sailboats of all sizes and descriptions; and I have seen in his possession a kit such as sailors use in making or mending sails, and he was very expert with the sail-maker's needle.”
Under the head, “Len Jewell Is Dead,” a Bay City paper published the following:
“But when the warrior dieth
(Article contributed by Jim Petrimoulx, Jan., 2010)
Bay City Tribune - January 20,1886
Len Jewell Is Dead
The above headline will be read with sincere sorrow by all the acquaintances of the deceased. He died at the Bay City Hospital yesterday morning after an illness of about ten days. Leonard Jewell was born in Rome , Oneida county N. Y. ,February 25,1815,and was therefore in his seventy-first year. He came to Bay City in the fall of 1844 and has since resided here . He enlisted in the Fourteenth Michigan Infantry, Company A, at the breaking out of the war and was mustered out of service in North Carolina. He returned to Bay City and engaged in the business of looking up pine lands, which he has followed ever since. He was authority on pine property, showing good judgment and a remarkable faculty of estimating. He was fond of hunting and was acknowledged as being one of the best sportsmen in the city. He was a member of U.S. Grant Post, G.A.R. under whose auspices the funeral will be held.
The G.A. R. post attended in a body and fired the usual volley over the grave of their departed comrade.
It is comforting to know that this grand improvident man was cared about in his last days, and was respected in death as in life.
His comrades in the war,
With arms reversed and muffled drums,
Follow his funeral car.
They show his battles won,
And after him lead his masterless steed,
While peals the minute-gun.”
1907 - Experience sought. - Added Jan., 2010.
1912 - Law problems in Alpena. - Added Jan., 2010.