Foreword: Walking in the Wild
By Albert Stewart, grandson of Jasper Stewart
For a long time now, I have been a walker in the wild--a walker in the wild and a beachcomber in the brush. The Old Hunters out of Southwest Virginia spoke of the territory where I now live as "The Brush" or perhaps in some pronounciations "The Bresh." It was that part of Eastern Kentucky north and west of Cumberland Gap. They loved to hunt " over in the brush" and reported that the deer were so gentle they hardly looked up at the report of a gun. The Old Hunters named most of the streams and other landmarks while slaughtering wild animais for food, fun,and hides. One, becausc he relished thedelicacy of buffalo tongue broiled ( bfiled), shot a btduo, cut out the tongue and left the carcass to rot and suggest rather strongly, I suspect, the name of Stinking Creek.
When I asked my father why great-grandfather Old Charlie ( or Wm. Charlie) Stewart moved to this area, leaving a more settled, open, centle country in Knox County, he replied in one sharp sentence that left no room for further discussion: "He was a hunter." I was left to ponder the extended and intricate meaning of that sentence for years. Old Charlie has credit for killing the last bear in the area, and it was said of him that if he got without meat he would kill his last cow or cow brute for that purpose. Grandfather Jasper Byrd Stewart is reported to have killed the last deer to come from the lick spring near where the home now is.
I once pondered what my immediate ancestors would have thought
of a descendant who not only aspired to be a poet but who had the nerve to collect
a group of poems in a book with the title The Holy Season: Walking in the Wild.
Would they think of him as a freak of nature? An anachronism? A throw-back?
If so, a throw-back to what? What of old William Charlie, the bear killer? What
of Jasper Byrd,
the deer slayer? My apprehensions were somewhat mollified when I learned that
Old Charlie had once taught school but gave it up in favor of hunting and that
Jasper Byrd became a self-educated man and a medical doctor with an almost total
memory recall who loved to read the British Poets, history, and almost any other
source of knowledge he could get his hands on. They both had brothers who were
well-known and respected preachers. Jasper Byrd's older brother, Preacher Jim
Stewart, surveyed and patented the 200 or so crinkled areas on which I now live.
It also helped to learn that another Scottish Stewart was represented in a reputable
anthology of Scottish poetry.
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