LL Bean's 100th - A Book, Events, and Much More
Eight years before I was born, Leon Leonwood Bean published a hunting, fishing, and camping guide, sort of an all-purpose how-to book that LL predicted would take no more than 85 minutes to read.
That book has been republished this year by Down East Books for LL Bean’s 100th anniversary, with updated information from LL’s grandson, Bill Gorman. Amazingly, given how long ago this book was published, much of it remains pertinent and helpful today.
Last week I spent much more than 85 minutes reading it and reflecting on its content. It does take one back a bit in time. I often had to stop reading, to imagine what those times must have been like, sorry that I missed them.
LL’s advice on bobcat hunting reports, “The $15.00 bounty paid by the State of Maine is an effort to eliminate these blood-thirsty deer killers.” The bounty is long gone, as is Maine’s deer herd in some places. But we still have a lot of bobcats.
I have a photo of Mount Vernon’s Ward boys and legendary outdoor writer Gene Letourneau with a barn wall covered with bobcat pelts. They ran those cats down with hounds, often going all the way from Mount Vernon to Chesterville on snowshoes. That type of hunting is also long gone – because there is just too much posted land to get across.
I was particularly taken with the deer harvest charts in the back of the book. In 1941, more deer were taken in Washington County than any other county in the state. In fact, 3,543 deer were taken in Washington County that year, compared to just 378 in my county of Kennebec. In 2010, 2,201 deer were harvested in Kennebec County and just 454 in Washington County.
Chapter 39, General Information, is hilarious, advising sports from away, “When on your hunting trips do not try to belittle the back woods folk even though you are a college man and your home is in the big city.” Today the advice would go in the other direction, as woods wise Mainers make fun of city folks.
But most of LL’s advice is useful today, including his tips on hunting bear, deer, moose, ducks and geese, grouse and woodcock, his fishing suggestions, and his information on camping. Bill adds how-to information on our newest game target, turkeys, and adds tidbits throughout the book that inform and entertain.
The guidance is comprehensive, from how to use a compass to how to tie on a smelt (for spring ice out fishing LL trolled with a sewed-on-smelt on one rod and night crawlers on the other). I loved the advice on how to keep your crawlers fresh – using Bean’s canned angle worm food. Can’t find that in the catalog any more!
LL’s advice on how to fly cast is tried and true, still taught today at Bean’s fly-fishing school. And the must-have flies mentioned in his book include some of the ones I still use today – although I’m going to have to start looking for the Scarlet Ibis.
I did learn things from this book: how to build a bough bed (going to try that with my grandsons some day), how to bake with a reflector oven (I have never used mine), and a lot more.
The photos, right out of the original book, are mind-blowing, particularly the massive fish that appear to have been common in LL’s day. There’s a photo of LL with a moose he shot in 1935 – the last year Maine allowed moose hunting until 1980.
Last week at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism, Bean’s Marketing Director, Steve Fuller, presented his own mind-blowing list of events and initiatives that LL Bean will launch in 2012 to celebrate its 100th anniversary.
One of them gives you a chance to imitate Leon Leonwood, by doing a bit of writing yourself. Bean’s Million Moment Mission will donate $1 to the National Park Foundation – up to $1 million – for every one of us who shares one of our favorite outdoor experiences in a photo, video, or story posted on Bean’s website.
Given that the next to last chapter in LL’s book is a tribute to Percival Baxter and his State Park, the Million Moment Mission seems particularly pertinent. The donation is targeted to getting more kids outdoors.
Sometime soon I intend to post a story of fishing a remote pond with my grandson Addison. It brings a smile to my face just remembering that outing. LL’s book also brought a lot of smiles to my face. It’s a keeper.
Want the book? Order here.