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Think outside the box with this book

Loaded with funny observations and laced with profanity, "Where the Deer and the Antelope Play" is not just what's promised. It's more.

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"Where the Deer and the Antelope Play: The Pastoral Observations of One Ignorant American Who Loves to Walk Outside" by Nick Offerman
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Last year, for at least some period of time, you stared at four walls.

Four walls, a few windows, and you remembered how nice it was to get out on a normal day. You thought about the people you missed, about what you would've been doing at work at that moment, and where you'd go as soon as you could. Outside was a treat then and "Where the Deer and the Antelope Play" by actor-author Nick Offerman is, too.

Twenty-five years ago, when he was still surviving by "creating pop culture of one sort or another," someone gave Nick Offerman "some Wendell Berry stories." Agrarian in nature, those tales captivated Offerman then, as now, and they spurred him to act.

As a kid growing up on an Illinois farm, he was always outside but when he received those stories, Offerman says his focus was off: he'd been pursuing "shiny materialism" rather than natural things. The Berry stories – and meeting the Berry family – convinced him to want to write "about our population's general lack of any intimate knowledge of nature."

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Nick Offerman Contributed / George Saunders

And so, in July of 2019, Offerman hired a guide, met two close friends in Montana, and went on a week-long fact-finding hike in Glacier National Park. The wilderness was "pristine," trails were sometimes challenging, wildlife surprised them, and Offerman had chances to muse on the works of Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps, and how Native Americans lost their land. Plus, outdoorsy hikes are great excuses to buy gear.

Because he'd likewise been "glued" to the works of author James Rebanks, Offerman also traveled to England that year, to spend time on Rebanks' sheep farm. It was an opportunity to work with his hands, to build stone fences, and to think about "the deeply flawed system" that American farmers work against.

And then the pandemic hit, and you know what an enthusiastic outdoorsman does when he's supposed to stay inside: he buys "twenty feet of Ford and thirty of Airstream" that he barely knows how to use, and heads cross-country.

Loaded with funny observations and laced with profanity, "Where the Deer and the Antelope Play" is not just what's promised. It's more.

Getting outside is Offerman's opportunity to meander, both physically and literarily, and so this book isn't just about parks and farms and such. Offerman muses about this and that, and general subjects that are ultimately tied to the outdoors and nature in a guys-in-the-mancave kind of way, with wild and wooly thrown in for good measure. It's accomplished in a stream-of-consciousness that feels like that quick dash you make through the house before you take a last-minute trip: things are grabbed at random and you'll figure it out later.

And that's okay; outdoor enthusiasts, farmers, environmentalist, and readers who can laugh will find that there's where the fun of "Where the Deer and the Antelope Play" lies, and there's no getting up at 4 a.m. to pack the car and go for it. For a book this good, seldom is heard a discouraging word.

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Outdoorsy readers should absolutely not miss "Lumberjack: The History, The Lore, The Life" by Lauren Jarvis (Sterling, $19.95). It's (almost) everything you'd ever want to know about being a lumberjack, including axe-throwing, avoiding danger, eating enough calories, how to saw wood, totem pole carving, log rolling, and being generally fierce.

Book notes

"Where the Deer and the Antelope Play: The Pastoral Observations of One Ignorant American Who Loves to Walk Outside" by Nick Offerman is available at Barnes & Noble at Apache Mall and through online booksellers.

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on the prairie in Wisconsin with one man, two dogs and 16,000 books. Look for her at bookwormsez.com or bookwormsez on Twitter.

Bookworm — Terri Schlichenmeyer column sig

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