The Art and Science of
MAN AND BEAST
(with moral observations and philosophical musings for the betterment of the reader)
By TOM HANRATTY
with CHARLES GOODFOOTE,
Illustrations by Gus Pausz
Tom Hanratty says:
This book uses stories to teach the art of tracking. As the ancients used myths to teach basic truths, so I have sought to reveal some basic tracking concepts through storytelling.
Although this book cannot replace time spent on
the trail, it does present information. Trail experience,
combined with information, evokes wisdom. Spreading outward
from the track, this wisdom encompasses all of the natural
world. In time, the tracker learns to move into an inner
silence within that wisdom where the spirit of the animal can
be touched. This book, then, is a track.
Meet CHARLES GOODFOOTE, Esq., PhD (Hon.), DD,
JD, MD, Etc.
Tracker of Man and Beasts, 1886:
For those of you who don't frequent the press rooms of our large cities, and may not have read of my exploits in the better sort of publications that are hawked on every street corner, I'll give a brief introduction to myself. I go by the common name of Charles Goodfoote. My original handle has been lost among the confusion of my early years, as I was raised by a band of Red Indians. My mother, poor woman, was a Blackfoot herbalist, married briefly to my father, an Irish muleskinner who died bleeding trade whiskey shortly after the rejoicing over my arrival slowed. I lived with my mother's people until the Army "rescued" me and shipped me off East to the Indian Barracks to unlearn my "Indianness", usually by the application of a cane across my nether parts.
My appearance in a glass would show hair like a raven's wing, square jaw and a distinguished nose inherited from my maternal grandfather, the renowned Chief Stands-In-Thunder of the Peigan people. An erect carriage and above average height were part of the Indian package. A whimsical fate left me with one eye dark like my mother's and the other as blue as the sky, a condition respected among the Blackfoots, but a cause for consternation among the city folk I've consorted with over the years. From my father's side came a bushy handlebar mustache and a riotous temper, accompanying a keen wit and reflective view of life. In short, I'm a true son of the American West, with the heart of an Irish poet and the soul of a Red Indian.
Tracking, as it combines the keen sight of a duenna and the persistence of a debt collector, suits my personality and inclinations. As the good Reverend Thackery T. Wheelwright of New York City has observed on several occasions of our meetings: "Goodfoote! Damn, you're in the thick of every melee that involves cut-throats, trollops and mayhem. But you spin a good yarn and have a gift for reading the trail second to none."
So with that ringing endorsement, although I don't abide the clergy using strong language, I'll close this rattle and get on with penning this book on the Art and Science of Tracking, or, as old Keeps-The-Lodge of the Blackfoot Nation would call it,"The Wisdom of the Marks."
Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1 - Wherein I become a tracker of
crime-doers and other low-life villains
(sample of Chapter 1)
CHAPTER 2 - Wherein we learn to read
patterns that beasts make as they move about in the wild
(sample of Chapter 2)
CHAPTER 3 - Wherein a proper English
murder case is solved by the author using the Art and Science
(sample of Chapter 3)
CHAPTER 4 - Wherein we learn to read the
subtle signs of Earth's memories
(sample of Chapter 4)
CHAPTER 5 - Wherein Keeps-the-Lodge tells
a story of times past and says Goodbye
(sample of Chapter 5)
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Sample from Chapter 1
After four hours of hard going, the woods suddenly opened onto a meadow. A rutted road emerged from the trees at the far end of the field, led past a ramshackle one-floor log dwelling, then disappeared once more into the forest. We lay in the underbrush across the road from the cabin, which boasted a sign proclaiming it to be an alehouse.
"The trail ends at that door," I whispered. "Inside, Miss Harrington is being held captive."
"You think after a full week she still lives?" Reverend Harrington asked. "The truth, man."
"Yes," I answered, "she still lives. They arrived here only yesterday, by the look of their tracks, but may have evil plans for her today."
"Praise the Lord we were able to travel faster than they."
I looked at the Reverend. "I would not tarry when on a track that could determine the fate of an innocent young lady." In truth, I knew the kidnappers had holed up during the rain, and their earlier signs showed them dawdling after the first day. On day three, Miss Harrington escaped temporarily, and it took them near a day to locate her and get back on the trail. All this was apparent to anyone who could read the manuscript of the Earth.
"We must act," the preacher said bravely. "There is no time to fetch the authorities."
"I agree to that," I responded. "While there were five men who kidnapped her, we don't know how many more may be in the saloon."
I sat back and thought for a few minutes. If I had better known the cut-throats we were dealing with, I may have thought things out a bit longer. But I was young, and the preacher was wrapped in the invincibility of his faith.
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Sample from Chapter 2
One of the many teachers I had as a lad was an Uncle named Keeps-the-Lodge. No oil painting in his youth, Keeps was pushing the edges of ancient by the time I came along. In size, he was fairly tall, like most Blackfoots. He had two long braids of grey hair, and a honker that sent shock waves into the Rockies when he sneezed. Watery brown eyes perched close together above his nose, coupled with a slight stoop, gave my Uncle the look of a man peering closely at the world around him. Keeps-the-Lodge always wrapped himself in the same faded-red Hudson Bay blanket which he kept meticulously clean by washing it weekly in the river that flowed just outside our village...
The way an animal moved as it left its tracks was one of his favorite topics, and his face would beam as he gazed at patterns left in the dust by moving creatures. In fact, patterns of all sorts seemed to make up much of the old man's life, from his morning prayers to the meticulous way he arranged his belongings in his lodge. Everything in his life had its place. Everything in Nature flowed into one or more patterns that he had watched closely ever since he was a pup. That accumulated knowledge made him a great hunter and tracker.
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Sample from Chapter 3
At least three men had left tracks in the dust on the floor, some recent and others a bit older. I sat on my haunches and held the measuring stick over the large track made by a man wearing a work boot with worn heels. "My uncle used a cottonwood branch and marked both the toe of the track and the spot where the heel ended. This stick with the numbers will serve," I said. "The height of the man who made this footprint is roughly six times the length of this track."
I measured several prints of all three men while Constable Bradford scribbled furiously in his notebook.
"Don't forget the stride," I said. "Heel to heel works best."
"The stride, Sir? We call it the step-length. Does that help indicate the height of the person?"
"Not so much. In men of about equal size, the younger and heartier person will have the longer stride. So a long stride indicates energy, not height, in most cases." Here I took the stick back and showed him how to get an accurate reading for the stride, or, as he called it, the step-length."Indoors, like this, the stride is changed by the walker to accommodate less space. Outside, a freer walk and more natural stride is seen."
I moved the lamp to see the marks a bit more clearly. "These tracks were made by men in their prime. Older men walk with a shorter step-length, and with less force on the ground. Unless, of course, they take an invigorating hike every day."
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Sample from Chapter 4
"Tracks are the Earth's memories of a change. Something is put down, something is taken, or something is pressed." Keeps-the-Lodge meant that some tracks are made by dirt on the boots being dropped as a person walks. Others are made by dust being picked up on the boot as the walker steps. A third type is simple compression of snow or soil. Tracks on rocks are usually both dust being taken and dust being compressed. Either way, when the sun is at just the right angle, footprints on rocks jump right out at you. It helps to know what to look for and how to look, of course.
"Tip your head to the side," Keeps-the-Lodge had told me one day when I was trying to find some tracks on bare rock. He didn't really say that, but that's what he meant. What he said was, "Listen to the track." Now, that makes little sense to someone who didn't grow up with the Blackfoots like I did. But those Indians always had a way of speaking that made you think a bit before you did something. Thing was, by tipping your head to one side, you looked across the track rather than down on it. With the sunlight coming low, the track appears like magic. Looking straight down washes out the walls and ridges of the footprint.
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Sample from Chapter 5
Once again Keeps-the-Lodge sighed. "I had thoughts that went nowhere. When The-Man-Who-Lives-In-The-Mountains came along the path and found me sitting in the tree, he asked me what I had seen. When I told him these things, he smiled."
He told me, "The Four-Leggeds are wise. They know when a tracker is near, so have tricks to fool you. If your mind is small, you will say Four-Leggeds do not think, and you will never understand the tracks. Your circle of knowledge will be small because only what you are able to see will be in it. You must let your mind soar like the Eagle so all things are in your circle. Then you will understand what the tracks have to tell you."
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See another book by Thomas Hanratty:
Sherlock Holmes - Crime Scene Sketches