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I Left It On The Mountain PDF Free Download

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Jul 1st, 2018

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My Side
of the Mountain
written and illustrated by
Craighead George
New York
This book is dedicated to many people—
to that gang of youngsters who
inhabited the trees and waters of the
Potomac River so many years ago, and
to the bit of Sam Gribley in the
children and adults around me now.
Copyright © 1959, 1988 by Jean Craighead George
All rights reserved.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
George, Jean Craighead, date
My side of the mountain/written and illustrated by
Jean Craighead George.
p. cm.
Summary: A young boy relates his adventures during the year he spends living alone in the Catskill Mountains, including his struggle for survival, his dependence on nature, his animal friends, and his ultimate realization that he needs human companionship.
ISBN: 0-525-46346-1
[1. Survival—Fiction. 2. Self-reliance—Fiction.
3. Mountain life—Fiction.] I. Title 87-27556 CIP AC
PZ7.G2933My 1988
Published in the United States by Dutton Children’s Books,
a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
Printed in the U.S.A.
Original edition: 38th printing
This edition:
22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15
Author’s Preface
I Hole Up in a Snowstorm
I Get Started on This Venture
I Find Gribley’s Farm
I Find Many Useful Plants
The Old, Old Tree
I Meet One of My Own Kind and Have a Terrible Time Getting Away
The King’s Provider
What I Did About the First Man Who Was After Me
I Learn to Season My Food
How a Door Came to Me
Frightful Learns Her ABC’s
I Find a Real Live Man
The Autumn Provides Food and Loneliness
We All Learn About Halloween
I Find Out What to Do with Hunters
Trouble Begins
I Pile Up Wood and Go on with Winter
I Learn About Birds and People
I Have a Good Look at Winter and Find Spring in the Snow
The Spring in the Winter and the Beginning of My Story’s End
I Cooperate with the Ending
The City Comes to Me
author’s preface
When I was in elementary school, I packed my suitcase and told my mother I was going to run away from home. As I envisioned it, I would live by a waterfall in the woods and catch fish on hooks made from the forks of tree limbs, as I had been taught by my father. I would walk among the wildflowers and trees, listen to the birds, read the weather report in the clouds and the wind, and stride down mountainsides independent and free. Wisely, my mother did not try to dissuade me. She had been through this herself. She checked my bag to see if I had my toothbrush and a postcard to let her know how I was getting along, and kissed me good-by. Forty minutes later I was home.
When my daughter, Twig, was in elementary school, she told me she was going to run away to the woods. I checked her backpack for her toothbrush and watched her go down the front steps, her shoulders squared confidently. I blew her a kiss and sat down to wait. Presently, she was back.
Although wishing to run to the woods and live on our own seems to be an inherited characteristic in our family, we are not unique. Almost everyone I know has dreamed at some time of running away to a distant mountain or island, castle or sailing ship, to live there in beauty and peace. Few of us make it, however.
It is one thing to wish to go, and another matter to do it. I might have been able to do what Sam Gribley does in this book—live off the land, make a home, survive by wits and library research, for I had the knowledge. My father, who was a naturalist and scientist, taught me the plants and animals of eastern forests and showed me where the wild edible fruits and tubers grew. On weekends along the Potomac River near Washington, D.C., where I was born and grew up, he and I boiled water in leaves and made rabbit traps. Together we made tables and chairs out of saplings bound with the braided inner bark of the basswood tree. My brothers, two of the first falconers in the United States, helped me in the training of a falcon. I had the know-how for surviving in the woods; and yet I came home.
‘But not Sam,’ I said to myself when I sat down at my typewriter and began putting on paper this story, one that I had been writing in my head for many, many years.
The writing came easily—Sam needed a home. I remembered a huge tree my brothers had camped in on an island in the Potomac River. A tree would be Sam’s home. And I knew how he would survive when foraging became tough. ‘A falcon will be his provider,’ I said to myself.
With ideas coming fast, the first draft was done in two weeks. Five revisions later, it was finished and off to the publisher. Back came a phone call from Sharon Bannigan, the editor of E. P. Dutton’s children’s book department at that time.
‘Elliott Macrae, the publisher,’ she said, ‘won’t print the book. He says parents should not encourage their kids to leave home.’
Discouraged, I hung up the phone and walked out into the woods behind the house. As always when I am in the wildwood, I very quickly forgot what was troubling me. A sentinel crow was protecting its flock by watching the sky for hawks; a squirrel was building a nest of leaves for the winter; a spider was tapping out a message to his mate on a line of her web.
Better to run to the woods than the city, I thought. Here, there is the world to occupy the mind.
The telephone rang. Sharon Bannigan was back on the wire, and she was almost singing. Elliott Macrae had changed his mind. And what, I asked her, had worked the miracle?
‘I simply told him it is better to have children run to the woods than the city,’ she said. ‘He thought about that. Since he has a home in the wilds of the Adirondack Mountains and goes off there alone himself, he suddenly understood your book. My Side of the Mountain will be published in the spring of ’59.’
From that date to this, I have been answering children’s letters about Sam. Most want to know if he is a real person. Some, convinced that he is, have biked to Delhi, New York, from as far away as Long Island, New York, to find his tree, his falcon, weasel, and raccoon. To these and all others who ask, I say, ‘There is no real Sam, except inside me.’ His adventures are the fulfillment of that day long ago when I told my mother I was going to run away, got as far as the edge of the woods, and came back. Perhaps Sam will fulfill your dreams, too. Be you writer or reader, it is very pleasant to run away in a book.
My Side of the Mountain
in which
I Hole Up in a Snowstorm
I am on my mountain in a tree home that people have passed without ever knowing that I am here. The house is a hemlock tree six feet in diameter, and must be as old as the mountain itself. I came upon it last summer and dug and burned it out until I made a snug cave in the tree that I now call home.
‘My bed is on the right as you enter, and is made of ash slats and covered with deerskin. On the left is a small fireplace about knee high. It is of clay and stones. It has a chimney that leads the smoke out through a knothole. I chipped out three other knotholes to let fresh air in. The air coming in is bitter cold. It must be below zero outside, and yet I can sit here inside
my tree and write with bare hands. The fire is small, too. It doesn’t take much fire to warm this tree room.
‘It is the fourth of December, I think. It may be the fifth. I am not sure because I have not recently counted the notches in the aspen pole that is my calendar. I have been just too busy gathering nuts and berries, smoking venison, fish, and small game to keep up with the exact date.
‘The lamp I am writing by is deer fat poured into a turtle shell with a strip of my old city trousers for a wick.
‘It snowed all day yesterday and today. I have not been outside since the storm began, and I am bored for the first time since I ran away from home eight months ago to live on the land.
‘I am well and healthy. The food is good. Sometimes I eat turtle soup, and I know how to make acorn pancakes. I keep my supplies in the wall of the tree in wooden pockets that I chopped myself.
‘Every time I have looked at those pockets during the last two days, I have felt just like a squirrel, which reminds me: I didn’t see a squirrel one whole day before that storm began. I guess they are holed up and eating their stored nuts, too.
‘I wonder if The Baron, that’s the wild weasel who lives behind the big boulder to the north of my tree, is also denned up. Well, anyway, I think the storm is dying down because the tree is not crying so much. When the wind really blows, the whole tree moans right down to the roots, which is where I am.
‘Tomorrow I hope The Baron and I can tunnel out into the sunlight. I wonder if I should dig the snow. But that would mean I would have to pat it somewhere, and the only place to put it is in my nice snug tree. Maybe I can pack it with my hands as I go. I've always dug into the snow from the top, never up from under.
‘The Baron must dig up from under the snow. I wonder where he puts what he digs? Well, I guess I’ll know in the morning.’
When I wrote that last winter, I was scared and thought maybe I’d never get out of my tree. I had been scared for two days—ever since the first blizzard hit the Catskill Mountains. When I came up to the sunlight, which I did by simply poking my head into the soft snow and standing up, I laughed at my dark fears.
Everything was white, clean, shining, and beautiful. The sky was blue, blue, blue. The hemlock grove was laced with snow, the meadow was smooth and white, and the gorge was sparkling with ice. It was so beautiful and peaceful that I laughed out loud. I guess I laughed because my first snowstorm was over and it had not been so terrible after all.
Then I shouted, ‘I did it!’ My voice never got very far. It was hushed by the tons of snow.
I looked for signs from The Baron Weasel. His footsteps were all over the boulder, also slides where he had played. He must have been up for hours, enjoying the new snow.
Inspired by his fun, I poked my head into my tree and whistled. Frightful, my trained falcon, flew to my fist, and we jumped and slid down the mountain, making big holes and trenches as we went. It was good to be whistling and carefree again, because I was sure scared by the coming of that storm.
I had been working since May, learning how to make a fire with flint and steel, finding what plants I could eat, how to trap animals, and catch fish—all this so that when the curtain of blizzard struck the Catskills, I could crawl inside my tree and be comfortably warm and have plenty to eat.
During the summer and fall I had thought about the coming of winter. However, on that third day of December when the sky blackened, the temperature dropped, and the first flakes swirled around me. I must admit that I wanted to run back to New York. Even the first night that I spent out in the woods, when I couldn’t get the fire started, was not as frightening as the snowstorm that gathered behind the gorge and mushroomed up over my mountain.
I was smoking three trout. It was nine o’clock in the morning. I was busy keeping the flames low so they would not leap up and burn the fish. As I worked, it occurred to me that it was awfully dark for that hour of the morning. Frightful was leashed to her tree stub. She seemed restless and pulled at her tethers. Then I realized that the forest was dead quiet. Even the woodpeckers that had been tapping around me all morning were silent. The squirrels were nowhere to be seen. The juncos and chickadees and nuthatches were gone. I looked to see what The Baron Weasel was doing. He was not around. I looked up.
From my tree you can see the gorge beyond the meadow. White water pours between the black wet boulders and cascades into the valley below. The water that day was as dark as the rocks. Only the sound told me it was still falling. Above the darkness stood another darkness. The clouds of winter, black and fearsome. They looked as wild as the winds that were bringing them. I grew sick with fright. I knew I had enough food. I knew everything was going to be perfectly all right. But knowing that didn’t help. I was scared. I stamped out the fire and pocketed the fish.
I tried to whistle for Frightful, but couldn’t purse my shaking lips tight enough to get out anything but pfffff. So I grabbed her by the hide straps that are attached to her legs and we dove through the deerskin door into my room in the tree.
I put Frightful on the bedpost, and curled up in a ball on the bed. I thought about New York and the noise and the lights and how a snowstorm always seemed very friendly there. I thought about our apartment, too. At that moment it seemed bright and lighted and warm. I had to keep saying to myself: There were eleven of us in it! Dad, Mother, four sisters, four brothers, and me. And not one of us liked it, except perhaps little Nina, who was too young to know. Dad didn’t like it even a little bit. He had been a sailor once but when I was born, he gave up the sea and worked on the docks in New York. Dad didn’t like the land. He liked the sea, wet and big and endless.
Sometimes he would tell me about Great-grandfather Gribley, who owned land in the Catskill Mountains and felled the trees and built a home and plowed the land—only to discover that he wanted to be a sailor. The farm failed, and Great-grandfather Gribley went to sea.
As I lay with my face buried in the sweet greasy smell of my deerskin, I could hear Dad’s voice saying, ‘That land is still in the family’s name. Somewhere in the Catskills is an old beech with the name Gribley carved on it. It marks the northern boundary of Gribley’s folly—the land is no place for a Gribley.’
‘The land is no place for a Gribley,’ I said. ‘The land is no place for a Gribley, and here I am three hundred feet from the beech with Gribley carved on it.’
I fell asleep at that point, and when I awoke I was hungry. I cracked some walnuts, got down the acorn flour I had pounded, with a bit of ash to remove the bite, reached out the door for a little snow, and stirred up some acorn pancakes. I cooked them on a top of a tin can, and as I ate them, smothered with blueberry jam, I knew that the land was just the place for a Gribley.
in which
I Get Started on This Venture
I left New York in May. I had a penknife, a ball of cord, an ax, and $40, which I had saved from selling magazine subscriptions. I also had some flint and steel which I had bought at a Chinese store in the city. The man in the store had showed me how to use it. He had also given me a little purse to put it in, and some tinder to catch the sparks. He had told me that if I ran out of tinder, I should burn cloth, and use the charred ashes.
I thanked him and said, ‘This is the kind of thing I am not going to forget.’
On the train north to the Catskills I unwrapped my flint and steel and practiced hitting them together to make sparks. On the wrapping paper I made these notes.
‘A hard brisk strike is best. Remember to hold the steel in the left hand and the flint in the right, and hit the steel with the flint.
‘The trouble is the sparks go every which way.’
And that was the trouble. I did not get a fire going that night, and as I mentioned, this was a scary experience.
I hitched rides into the Catskill Mountains. At about four o’clock a truck driver and I passed through a beautiful dark hemlock forest, and I said to him, ‘This is as far as I am going.’
bsp; He looked all around and said, ‘You live here?’
‘No,’ I said, ‘but I am running away from home, and this is just the kind of forest I have always dreamed I would run to. I think I’ll camp here tonight.’ I hopped out of the cab.
‘Hey, boy,’ the driver shouted. ‘Are you serious?’
‘Sure,’ I said.
‘Well, now, ain’t that sumpin’? You know, when I was your age, I did the same thing. Only thing was, I was a farm boy and ran to the city, and you’re a city boy running to the woods. I was scared of the city—do you think you’ll be scared of the woods?’
‘Heck, no!’ I shouted loudly.
As I marched into the cool shadowy woods, I heard the driver call to me, ‘I’ll be back in the morning, if you want to ride home.’
He laughed. Everybody laughed at me. Even Dad. I told Dad that I was going to run away to Great-grandfather Gribley’s land. He had roared with laughter and told me about the time he had run away from home. He got on a boat headed for Singapore, but when the whistle blew for departure, he was down the gangplank and home in bed before anyone knew he was gone. Then he told me, ‘Sure, go try it. Every boy should try it.’
I must have walked a mile into the woods until I found a stream. It was a clear athletic stream that rushed and ran and jumped and splashed. Ferns grew along its bank, and its rocks were upholstered with moss.
I sat down, smelled the piney air, and took out my penknife. I cut off a green twig and began to whittle. I have always been good at whittling. I carved a ship once that my teacher exhibited for parents’ night at school.
First I whittled an angle on one end of the twig. Then I cut a smaller twig and sharpened it to a point. I whittled an angle on that twig, and bound the two angles face to face with a strip of green bark. It was supposed to be a fishhook.
According to a book on how to survive on the land that I read in the New York Public Library, this was the way to make your own hooks. I then dug for worms. I had hardly chopped the moss away with my ax before I hit frost. It had not occurred to me that there would be frost in the ground in May, but then, I had not been on a mountain before.