Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Pine Barrens

"He don't know the woods. He don't know nothing. He can't even fry a hamburger."

-- A Piney old-timer, dismissing a government outsider, as quoted in The Pine Barrens, by McPhee.

There remain surprises in this world we think we know so well: the ancient, fecund marshlands at the bottom of sun-scorched Iraq; the almost subtropical warmth at England's southern tip; and in every nation, hardy, sometimes mysterious peoples living disconnected from the rest of society.

Such is the Pine Barrens of New Jersey and such are its people. The great cities of Eastern America -- New York City, Philadelphia, Trenton -- surround this place on three sides; the Atlantic Ocean borders it on the east. Its sandy infertility earned it the scorn and disinterest of early settlers and it was mostly left alone whilst a nation grew up around it. Its wilderness still spanned a thousand square miles in 1967. That was when John McPhee wrote his classic, "The Pine Barrens," which I had the pleasure of acquiring this week.

I've never been there, although I did spend some time long ago on former Pine Barren land, in what is now Cape May, N.J.

It is inevitable that some of it would be lost but I hope that we have sense enough today not to destroy what is left of it. It seems to be a special place, a unique place.


leslie said...

The Jersey Devil is said to inhabit the Pine Barrens.
What a fun post ECD! I need to add this book to my reading list.

I spent more than a few summer days in The Barrens.
Do not use pine branches to cook fish on your campfire. It makes the fish taste like turpentine. :)

leslie said...

You have gone and made me a little bit homesick....

Foster Communications said...

V. cool! Sounds like an interesting book, a charming place.

Trisia said...

Very few people actually know how to fry a hamburger.

Janice Thomson said...

Sounds like a neat book - must look for that one. I would enjoy visiting there.

the walking man said...

funny when I read the post the Jersey Devil was the first thing that came to mind. You really have to take a walk in the barrens ECD.

Eastcoastdweller said...

Leslie, it is shameful that I do not get to Your blog as often as I should -- I'm guessing there's a Pine Barrens story on there somewhere!

Foster: Charming makes me think of a tidy English village. The Barrens, seems to me, is something altogether different -- wonderful in a far more wild way.

Trisia: So what is the secret of proper burger-frying?

Janice: With Your gift of blending words with pictures, I know that Your time there would be a blessing not just for You but for all of us.

Walking Man: It is one of many places I would love to get lost in for a while.