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Title: James Oliver Curwood, Disciple of the Wilds
Author: Swiggett, Hobart Donald
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                “_I never put off until tomorrow what
                I find hard to-day, for tomorrow rarely
                brings the needed skill._”

                “_What little success I have achieved
                has been pounded out with naked fists
                through many years of hard work._”

                                                  _James Oliver Curwood_



                             _THE WORKS OF
                         JAMES OLIVER CURWOOD_


   THE COURAGE OF CAPTAIN PLUM                                   1908

   THE WOLF HUNTERS                                              1908

   THE GOLD HUNTERS                                              1909

   THE GREAT LAKES (_Non-Fiction_)                               1909

   THE DANGER TRAIL                                              1910

   GOD’S COUNTRY—TRAIL TO HAPPINESS (_Non-Fiction_)              1911

   STEELE OF THE ROYAL MOUNTED                                   1911

   THE HONOR OF THE BIG SNOWS                                    1911

   FLOWER OF THE NORTH                                           1912

   ISOBEL                                                        1913

   KAZAN                                                         1914

   GOD’S COUNTRY AND THE WOMAN                                   1915

   THE HUNTED WOMAN                                              1916

   BAREE, SON OF KAZAN                                           1917

   FAULKNER OF THE INLAND SEAS (_Short Stories_)                 1917

   THE GRIZZLY KING                                              1917

   THE COURAGE OF MARGE O’DOONE                                  1918

   NOMADS OF THE NORTH                                           1919

   THE RIVER’S END                                               1919

   THE VALLEY OF SILENT MEN                                      1920

   BACK TO GOD’S COUNTRY (_Short Stories_)                       1920

   THE FLAMING FOREST                                            1921

   THE GOLDEN SNARE                                              1921

   THE ALASKAN                                                   1923

   THE COUNTRY BEYOND                                            1923

   A GENTLEMAN OF COURAGE                                        1924

   THE ANCIENT HIGHWAY                                           1925

   SWIFT LIGHTNING                                               1925

   THE PLAINS OF ABRAHAM                                         1926

   THE BLACK HUNTER                                              1926

   GREEN TIMBER _Completed by Dorthea A. Bryant_                 1930

   SON OF THE FORESTS (_Autobiography_)                          1930

   THE CRIPPLED LADY OF PERIBONKA _Completed by Dorthea A.
   Bryant_                                                       1930

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: _James Oliver Curwood_]



                          JAMES OLIVER CURWOOD
                         DISCIPLE OF THE WILDS

                            _A Biography by_
                             H. D. SWIGGETT

                           _Illustrations by_
                              J. C. WEBER


                           THE PAEBAR COMPANY

                     _Publishers_        _New York_

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             FIRST EDITION

                            COPYRIGHT, 1943

                                   by

                           THE PAEBAR COMPANY

  _No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without
  permission in writing from the publishers, except by a reviewer who
  may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a magazine
  or newspaper. Manufactured in the United States of America._



                               Dedication


                               * * * * *


                             TO MY PARENTS


                  _Mr. & Mrs. William Hobart Swiggett_


              It is to these two grand people that their son
            graciously dedicates this volume.

              Had it not been for their understanding and
            guiding ways, I could never have attained and
            aspired to my goal in this life.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                FOREWORD


        This is the first biography written on the life of
      the famous novelist, adventurer and conservationist,
      James Oliver Curwood.

        Although Mr. Curwood’s books are still widely read, the
      younger generation knows comparatively little about the
      life of one of the greatest conservationists of all time
      and the man who knew the beautiful Canadian Northwest
      better than any other.

        It is hoped, therefore, that this volume will refresh the
      memory of the past generation and at the same time bring
      something new to the minds of our present young people.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                CONTENTS


                              CHAPTER ONE

       _The Child Prodigy_                             _Page_ 15


                              CHAPTER TWO

       _A Change Comes About_                          _Page_ 29


                             CHAPTER THREE

       _The Discoverer_                                _Page_ 44


                             CHAPTER FOUR

       _Owosso Schooldays_                             _Page_ 65


                             CHAPTER FIVE

       _College Days_                                 _Page_ 105


                              CHAPTER SIX

       _Newspaper Work and Early Writings_            _Page_ 114


                             CHAPTER SEVEN

       _With the Detroit News-Tribune_                _Page_ 122


                             CHAPTER EIGHT

       _God’s Country_                                _Page_ 132


                             CHAPTER NINE

       _His Brotherhood_                              _Page_ 165


                              CHAPTER TEN

       _Trail’s End_                                  _Page_ 172



                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


    JAMES OLIVER CURWOOD                               Frontispiece

             _The following illustrations are contained in
                   a special section facing page_ 110

    JAMES OLIVER CURWOOD AT THE AGE OF SEVEN                 Page I

    STREET SCENE                                            Page II

    THE SHIAWASSEE RIVER                                   Page III

    THE JAMES OLIVER CURWOOD CASTLE                         Page IV

    THE BOAT LANDING, CURWOOD CASTLE                         Page V

    JUST JAMES OLIVER CURWOOD                               Page VI

    MR. AND MRS. JAMES OLIVER CURWOOD                      Page VII

    CURWOOD, CAMPING IN THE YUKON                         Page VIII

    CURWOOD, THE WRITER, IN A CORNER OF HIS GUN
    ROOM                                                    Page IX

    CURWOOD BEFORE THE CABIN WHICH HE BUILT IN THE
    BRITISH COLUMBIA MOUNTAINS                               Page X

    CURWOOD, THE WOODSMAN                                   Page XI

    AN UNUSUAL, STRIKING PICTURE OF CURWOOD                Page XII

    THE CURWOOD OUTFIT GOING DOWN THE FRASER RIVER        Page XIII

    THE CABIN ON THE AU SABLE                              Page XIV

    THE CONSERVATION CLUBHOUSE                             Page XIV

    THE HOME OF JAMES OLIVER CURWOOD                        Page XV

    CURWOOD GRAVE IN OAKHILL CEMETERY                      Page XVI

                 _Pen and Ink Sketches by_ J. C. WEBER
                     _Pages_ 71, 99, 135, 139, 145



                            ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


My greatest obligation in the preparation of _JAMES OLIVER CURWOOD:
DISCIPLE OF THE WILDS_ is to Mrs. Ethel Greenwood Curwood, Mr. A. J.
Donovan and Mrs. Fred B. Woodard, of Owosso, Mich., who aided me
immensely in gathering Mr. Curwood’s volumes, documents, correspondence,
photographs, manuscripts and other material without which it would have
been impossible to produce this biography.

Thanks and appreciation go out also to the following for help and
encouragement:

J. E. Campbell, editor of the _Argus-Press_, Owosso, Mich.; John S.
Deere; Miss Anne Crum; Dr. Harold D. Webb; The Conservation Department
of the State of Michigan; the Alumni Catalog Office of the University of
Michigan; Doubleday, Doran and Company, of New York City (through whose
courtesy many quotations have been made available for publication in
this book[1]); C. A. Paquin; Harold Titus; Miss Olive Hormel, of Owosso;
R. K. Bresnahan, Postmaster and close friend of Curwood’s, at Roscommon,
Mich.; Private George Terashita, Camp Atterbury, Ind.; James B. Hendry,
of Sutton’s Bay, Mich.; James Hilton, of Hollywood, Calif.; John Bowen,
Staff Writer, _Indianapolis Times_; Roscommon Civic Club; John Sellers,
of Franklin, Ind.; _The Franklin Evening Star_; Robert Todd; James B.
Young, Miss Barbara Swiggett, and to countless others.

Footnote 1:

  From “Son of the Forest,” by James Oliver Curwood, copyright, 1930, by
  Doubleday, Doran and Company, Inc.

I also wish to thank the public and state libraries of Indiana for
allowing me the use of material. And it is a pleasure to express
appreciation to the kind people of Owosso, Mich., to the students of
yesteryear at the University of Michigan, and to the Cree and
Chippawayan Indian tribes in Canada, all of whom knew Mr. Curwood
intimately.

Harvey Jacobs, a newspaperman, is also remembered for his encouragement
and good wishes, and last, but far from least, Walter Winchell, whose
seemingly endless supply of energy and driving force helped to push me
onward in the task of completing this book.

                                                          H. D. SWIGGETT

_Au Sable Study_

_Franklin, Ind._

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              JAMES OLIVER
                                CURWOOD

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER ONE

                           THE CHILD PRODIGY


Little did the stern though kind-hearted citizens of Owosso, Michigan
realize that on the eventful morning of June 12, 1878, the newly-born
second son of James Moran and Abigail Griffen Curwood would in time
plummet across the literary horizon as the brightest star to have
appeared in years. His name was James Oliver Curwood.

From the outset the parents had trouble with their new son, finding it
very difficult to please his childish desires. Perhaps ancestry had a
bearing here, and if it did, it may all be traced back to the thrilling
career of the famous Captain Frederick A. Marrayat, great seaman and
popular novelist of yesteryear. He was the lad’s great-uncle.

Jimmie Curwood’s birth took place in the days when Owosso was a small
town of some eight thousand population, and trees grew in the center of
the streets. It was that era of the nineteenth century when livestock
and fowl were free to roam about the city at will, and the horse and
buggy played an important part in the development of transportation.

Likewise so it was in that district of Owosso known as West Town. It was
in this particular part of town that Jimmie Curwood played so much with
his friends (bad though they were), and came forth from bitter schoolboy
battles unscathed. Later in life he remarked about West Town in the
following manner:

“Had I continued to live in West Town at Owosso, I might have become a
genius, but Fate determined a change was advisable when I was six years
old.”

The city of Owosso today is far removed from what it was in the
childhood days of James Oliver Curwood. Today luxurious homes line the
paved streets and tall buildings dot the skyline where once stood low
flat ones. Beautiful homes have filled up the empty spaces that were
once wide within the city limits, but that same feeling and general
atmosphere of drowsiness persists just as it did fifty years ago.

Tall, stately trees line the smooth streets and many automobiles
traverse these thoroughfares where once the old horse and buggy moved
slowly along.

Today Owosso is in the very heart of the Michigan vacationland. Running
practically through the very center of the city is the smooth flowing
Shiawassee river, better known as “Sparkling Waters.”

Although Owosso has grown in population from eight to fifteen thousand
since Jim Curwood’s birth and boyhood days, her people remain very much
the same as they were then.

West Town! A haven for growing children and a headache for grownups. It
was here in West Town that Jimmie Curwood grew up and also where he all
but drove his very patient parents insane with his juvenile rascality.

With his chum, Charlie Miller, it seems that there was hardly anything
the pair of them would not attempt to do. Stealing fruit and playing
“hookey” from school were just a few among the many items that always
kept the good citizens of Owosso on the constant alert.

They fished, hunted and trapped all along the banks of the Shiawassee,
which flows through the city in a great sweeping bend (when they really
should have been in school). The river is flanked on either side by some
of the most perfectly shaped trees that man has ever looked upon.

Jimmie and Charlie often staged and executed raids upon the fruit stands
of old Mike Gazzera. Then as they would run away with their plunder
tucked safely beneath their dirty blouses they would glance back and see
the grey-headed old Italian shaking his fist at them and threatening
them with all types of punishment. Fortunately enough for both, old Mike
thought far too much of them and never actually carried out his plans of
chastisement.

Probably the one outstanding characteristic of Jim Curwood as a young
boy was the fact that he was seldom if ever clean of face or clothing.
Try as she might to keep her bewildering offspring clean, his dear old
mother seldom succeeded for much more than an hour or two at a time. For
immediately after having been thoroughly cleaned up young Jimmie would
head for the nearest schoolboy fight or the dirtiest part of West Town
and proceed to get himself dirty again. Indeed he was a child prodigy
and therein lies the reason for the old saying, which is sad but true:
“why mothers get gray.” It is indeed no wonder that the townspeople
would oft-times shake their heads and sigh:

“Them two’ll never amount to a hill of beans.” But Jimmie and Charlie
amazed and fooled them all.

At the rather seedy, uneventful and undecided age of five years, when a
youngster wants to be everything from a minister of the gospel to
heavyweight boxing champion of the world, both Jimmie’s and Charlie’s
parents decided that their sons should embark upon some sort of careers.
Before Jimmie was born, his parents had decided what their second son
would do for his life’s work. They had chosen music and the classics for
him; Charlie’s parents had chosen literature and the arts for him.

So for a short while Jimmie practiced his music lessons but soon gave
them up as hopeless, as did his parents, for the lad hated music lessons
at that age with an undying hatred. As far as Charlie’s future in the
field of literature was concerned, he too abandoned his parents’ choice.

Many things enter into the course of a child’s life even as they do with
a grown-up, and consequently the career of a musician for Jimmie did not
materialize. Instead the lad developed into one of the world’s foremost
authors and conservationists of his time. It was Charlie Miller who
became quite adept as an accomplished musician.

                  *       *       *       *       *

With the surrender of Lord Cornwallis came a man of adventurous spirit
and Dutch descent into the land of the Mohawks and the Oneidas. As he
journeyed through this country making friends with the Indian tribes, he
chanced upon and fell madly in love with a beautiful Mohawk princess
from a little village near the head waters of the Canada river. As to
her name, it has not been learned, but as to her beauty, all the men and
women of those days readily vouched. For she was as tall and as slender
as the most delicate reed. The tiny moccasins which covered her feet
were the smallest ever seen by her tribe. Indeed, she was the pride and
joy of that village of Mohawks and of all tribes who had seen her as she
roamed the forests.

Jim Curwood’s mother very distinctly remembers seeing this wilderness
beauty. At that time Mrs. Curwood was but a child of ten and the lovely
Indian princess was well past her eightieth birthday.

Her beauty was indeed bewitching and all white men, as well as the
redman who had set eyes upon her loveliness, fell in love with her. Her
hair was long, black and radiantly glossy. The shoes she wore upon her
feet were so small that Jim’s mother, then but ten years of age, could
not have put her feet into them.

It was the adventurous Dutchman wandering through the Mohawk region
shortly after the Cornwallis surrender who married the Indian princess.
This man was Jim Curwood’s phlegmatic great grandfather, an adventurer
of the old school who ended up by marrying an Indian chief’s daughter.
It is little wonder that young Jimmie became such a carefree, vagabond
lover of the deep forests. Indian blood flowed deep within his veins and
throughout his entire life the forests, the streams and the lakes were
his home despite the fact that he owned a mansion in the very heart of
civilization.

Shortly after the blond Dutchman had wooed and won his princess, there
was born in England a man who later became a great naval officer in the
Queen’s navy and a world famous writer of sea tales. A man who delved
deeply into his memories and imagination to spin yarns of thrilling
adventure on the land as well as on the swelling sea. His name was
Captain Frederick Marrayat. That famous personage turned out to be a
great-uncle of Jim Curwood’s.

Several years later it was these same stories of adventure, gallant
battles and of brave men, which caused a lad named James to run away to
sea and come to America in search of adventure and thrills. When he left
England, he never returned.

Upon landing in America young James fought in the Civil War, where
fighting blood ran fast and free. Here was what he had been searching
for and at last he had found it. Years later that man became the father
of Jim Curwood.

The little house in which Jimmie Curwood first saw the light of day no
longer stands. Some time ago the two-story frame building was razed and
so far no other construction has been erected in its place. However, a
marker has been placed there, showing that it was on this particular lot
that James Oliver Curwood had been born many years ago.

As time went on the two youngsters, Jimmie and Charlie, still persisted
in getting into more and more mischief. People were beginning to shake
their heads in disapproval and consequently Mr. and Mrs. Curwood began
wondering what they should do to curb their son’s mischievous habits.
For hardly without fail when anyone saw Jimmie, son of a shoe repair
man, and Charlie, son of a saloon keeper, he was almost always sure to
see something happen.

Both boys always ran about barefooted (something which you seldom see
today), with dirty faces, hands and clothing, with no crowns in their
hats whatsoever. It is little wonder that Jimmie’s hair became bleached
by the sun and his face gathered a harvest of freckles.

As youngsters most children have peculiar ambitions, but those of Jimmie
Curwood’s as a lad of seven were outstanding among childhood desires. It
seems that his ambitions were just one or two paces behind his vivid
imagination. For some day he hoped that he might be wealthy enough to
buy an entire stock of bananas at one time. Then and only then would he
be fully able to get his complete fill of the fruit he loved so well.
His second ambition was to ride astride the large bustle worn by Kate
Russell to Sunday church. Miss Russell was a cook at the combination
saloon-hotel which was operated and owned by Charlie Miller’s father.

Despite all the obstacles that confronted them, Mr. and Mrs. Curwood
were perhaps two of the happiest people in all of Owosso. They had a
fine family and Mr. Curwood was making a fairly comfortable living with
his shoe-cobbling shop. They had no luxuries, for they could not afford
them, but they did have all the necessities that made for a comfortable
happy life.

Regardless of how honored and respected Mr. and Mrs. Curwood were in
their home town, the townspeople still continued to frown upon the
antics of the Curwood and Miller children. Was there ever to be an end
to all of this childhood devilment? This was the thought that plagued
the minds of the citizens of Owosso when the great change came about.

Business began to grow bad for Mr. Curwood at his cobbling shop and
after long deliberation he decided to sell out and purchase a farm
somewhere. He received many offers for his shop “as it stood,” and so
after a great deal of bickering he at last managed to get a fairly
decent price and it was announced to Owosso that it would soon be rid of
one of her two “Tom Sawyers.”

Although he had kept it from his family all along, Mr. Curwood at last
told them one night in the dead of winter. He had made the down payment
on a farm down in Ohio, located near the villages of Vermillion, Joppa
and Florence in Erie County.

It was to be a new life for them and since business had slacked off to
such a point that he could barely make a decent living, both Mr. and
Mrs. Curwood felt that he had made a good investment.

The next day Mrs. Curwood, Jimmie, his sister Cora and brother Edward
began preparing to leave their old home. With what money he had received
from the sale of his shop, Mr. Curwood paid all of his debts and at last
had all of his business interests straightened out. Even though he was
left with very little to begin his new life, he paid every bill which
the family owed in Owosso.

A few days later the family began its pilgrimage to the new land of
Ohio.

The little backwood’s town of Owosso thought a great deal of James Moran
and Abigail Griffen Curwood and sorely hated to see them depart, despite
the fact that they were taking with them one of the town’s biggest
trouble makers. Still, regardless of what their outward appearances were
toward Jimmie, deep within their hearts the neighbors and all who knew
him, loved him.

The move from Michigan into Ohio was later to prove the most important
change in all of young Jim Curwood’s life. Many things were to happen,
many events to take place within the next five years that none of the
Curwood family ever dreamed would happen.

When the family of five arrived at their little farm located not far
from the cross-roads village of Joppa, it was in deep winter and their
forty acres were covered with snow. The head of the family was highly
elated over the prospects of his “sight-unseen” purchase and at once
began making plans for it.

It was not until the arrival of spring, when the snows had cleared away,
that Jimmie’s father found that he had purchased something which more
closely resembled a stone quarry than a farm. As far as one could see
there were nothing but stones and boulders all over the forty acres of
his land.

One can easily imagine the thoughts that came into the elderly Mr.
Curwood’s mind as he gazed out upon what he thought was to be his
salvation. Instead of rich, fertile farmland, he had purchased a
practically worthless land of stones.

One night at the supper table Mr. Curwood called upon his children to
help him more than he had expected them to. The stones must be picked up
and stacked in piles and the work of doing so must be left to the two
young sons, monotonous, laborious and endless as it must have seemed to
them.

Jimmie hated his daily task of picking up rocks from sunup to sundown,
but he had enough foresight to realize that he had a job to do that must
be done. So together, day in and day out, Jimmie and Ed picked up
stones. Picked them up so their father could plough the fields and till
the soil.

Life now was drab for Jimmie. Gone were the glorious, carefree days
along the banks of the Shiawassee. In their place had come the ceaseless
task of picking up stones and rolling huge boulders out of the way. No
longer had he the ambition to ride astride Kate Russell’s huge bustle,
nor to own a whole stock of bananas. Just as any young boy of seven
years would feel, Jimmie hated and dreaded work, and especially this
type. It seemed that the more stones he and his brother Ed would pick
up, the more there were. For with every furrow that their father’s
plough would turn over, there would always appear a fresh supply of
rocks, both large and small.

The two boys piled stones into great stacks higher than their heads;
they constructed stone fences and they piled rocks until there were
stacks actually higher than the farmhouse itself. There were great heaps
of stones all over the forty acres of land. As a matter of fact there
was hardly enough room left to break up the ground anew and plant crops.
It was rapidly and most assuredly developing into a serious situation.
Then, suddenly, relief came from an unexpected source.

The highway department of Erie county came to their rescue and took
3,000 loads of the stones at ten cents a load. For at that time the
county needed stones for road repair and for numerous other repair jobs.

With the arrival of summer came long hard months of hot, back-breaking
toil. Jimmie and Ed wore thick, hard callouses upon their hands, their
backs seemed as if they were about to break, and the sun bronzed them
until they began to look like Indians. Many times during the long three
summer months Jimmie became overheated by the sun and fell in his tracks
in that summer of ’85. But work had to be done if success in their new
venture of farming was to be accomplished. There was little grumbling
from anyone now with the realization that they must work and save if
they were to live during the coming winter.

Directly across the road from the Curwood farm stood the home of Hiram
Fisher, a kindly old farmer, who had developed a beautiful homesite and
whose yard was filled with maple and pine trees.

The Fisher family was not as large as the Curwood’s, for there was but
one child, a very lovely daughter named Jeanne who was young Jimmie’s
superior by five years. Perhaps her outstanding characteristic was the
beautiful brown hair which fell in glossy waves down to her trim and
fragile shoulders. It was the most lovely head of hair that Jimmie or
his family had ever set eyes upon. It is indeed odd that a boy as young
as he was should take much notice of a girl’s hair, but its bewitching
beauty made him secretly admire it.

She would always part it in the middle and let it flow down to her
shoulders in long flowing tresses. She was gloriously beautiful for her
age.

As time went on and Jeanne and Jimmie became better acquainted, he
adopted a nickname for her that was to remain with her all the days of
her life. He affectionately called her “Whistling Jeanne,” because of
the beautiful tunes she whistled almost constantly.

She alone was the inspiration which helped Jimmie to hold his head high
when he felt blue or useless. For Jeanne offered him companionship,
untiring encouragement and wonderful guidance. She inspired him to
greater things in life. Jimmie often was heard to make that remark both
as a child and later as a grown man.

It was about the time that Jeanne was nearing her twelfth birthday and
Jimmie his seventh, that this thought came to him:

“No matter how hard the work is, and no matter what it might be, I shall
always do my task thoroughly.”

The stones that he had picked up all spring and summer finally set
Jimmie to serious thinking. Every now and then after he had worked an
hour or two, he would walk over to a shade tree nearby and sit down to
mop the grime and perspiration from his brow. Then he would look out
over the long, fertile fields that were once not so fertile and resolve
that he could do anything that he should set out to do, if only he would
adjust and drive himself toward it. The look in his young eyes denoted
that of an adventurer. The eyes for thrills and dangers of the unknown.
Even at the age of seven years, young James Oliver Curwood had begun to
wonder what lay just over the brink of the next ridge.

Then, as if no such thoughts had even come to him, he would return to
his task of piling stones; but as he worked he would experience a
thrill, a feeling such as he had never known before as he stooped down
to pick up the fragments of boulders. True, it was monotonous there in
the hot broiling sun, but to Jimmie, there now was something creative in
that piling up of rocks—something of which he was justly proud.

“I experienced a greater thrill when I had done three piles than I did
when I had but accomplished two.”

With the arrival of fall and early winter, James Curwood saw that the
work his sons and he had done had been a success. His crops had all
turned out good and his farm was now a thing of beauty instead of a
stone quarry. It was quite obvious that the hard labor and toil his sons
and he had administered had not been in vain. Mr. Curwood being an
honest and God-fearing man, thanked his Maker for his family’s
salvation.

Each afternoon that winter after a hard day’s work, “the three men of
the family” would trudge up to the small, white house to be greeted by
the good mother and a meal of wholesome, plain, but substantial food.

The Curwood home was small, warm and comfortable, even though humble.
The important item was that the little family was happy in its new home.
In those days there were no electric lights, telephones, radios or
motion pictures or even automobiles. So it was only natural that the
fine Curwoods always were close to the “home fires.” Though meager and
humble their home, no other family could have been happier.

They used the old type of Lion Brand coffee at two pounds for a quarter,
and the usual stick of candy once a month or so. They had plenty of eggs
and bread, for Mrs. Curwood raised hens and young chickens. Above all
else, the neighbors nearby thought the world of the Curwoods and
considered them “real, down-to-earth country people.”

As the winter of 1886 at last settled over them, Jimmie’s father and his
family settled down to a long, cold winter, snug and secure in their own
home, which by now was nearly paid for. The migration to Ohio had proved
itself successful in every respect. No longer did Jimmie persist in his
childish devilment, for there was neither the place nor the time for it.



                              CHAPTER TWO

                          A CHANGE COMES ABOUT


At the beginning of the winter of 1886 Jimmie found a new friend in
Clarence “Skinny” Hill, a new boy who had moved into the neighborhood.
Despite this newly formed friendship, “Whistling Jeanne” remained
Jimmie’s great comfort. For no matter how tired he might be at the end
of the day he could always turn to her for encouragement and fun.

Usually their nightly visits would begin just as darkness would settle
over the Ohio countryside. In the winter they would sit before the great
open fireplace and talk and plan. By summer they would be sitting on the
Fisher’s front porch steps and watch the sun sink beneath the western
horizon and twilight creep upon the world.

For it was there on the Fisher front steps that Jimmie and his Jeanne
would dream and plan for the future. Many are the nights that these two
were to be found there, with Jeanne telling him what would be the wisest
thing to do and how to set about doing it. He always listened
attentively and throughout his life he never forgot what she told him.
To him her words were words of wisdom and law, and he knew she was
right. She never told him anything that wasn’t true. Of this he was
sure.

It was just about this time in Jimmie Curwood’s life that everything
which was to prove itself worthwhile later in his life’s work began to
unfold.

Through constant reading, thinking and planning he had developed a mania
for wanting to see stories of his own in print by setting the words down
himself. Many were the times that his parents would have to speak to him
a dozen or more times a night in order to get him to turn out the lights
and go to bed. Seldom did Jimmie mind them on this account if he could
get around it, for by now he was deeply engrossed in his childish
writing career.

As for his ravenous reading, the boy could not put a book down until he
had read completely through it and thoroughly understood it. He craved
to express himself on paper and tried desperately to develop characters
such as those of famous writers whose stories he had read.

His appreciative sense of good writing at that age was truly unusual.

Like every other youngster Jimmie had to have his play as well as his
work. Thus his playtime had to cut in on his writing somewhat. So he
alternated his time between Jeanne, Skinny, his writing and his working
hours. Through this routine he managed to keep himself quite busy
throughout the day. At times he felt as if he had too much to do, but
still he enjoyed it all for life had taken on a new meaning.

As each succeeding day passed by the little farm began to mean more to
him than just a place in the country where hard labor was prevalent; it
became, instead, a place where one’s creative and imaginative powers
could function more properly. At that age little Jimmie Curwood, the
former “Tom Sawyer” of Owosso, was hoping for solitude so that he could
think more clearly and thus be able to turn his characters into more
lifelike people.

The remainder of that year passed rather uneventfully until the day of
his eighth birthday. On that day his father presented him with his first
gun, a brand new rifle.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The most amusing and yet the most serious incident that occurred in all
of Jimmie’s young life while on the farm in Ohio, was the night that he
“got religion.” He was nine years old.

It seems that a certain “Parson Brown” was holding revival meetings at
the little town of Joppa, which was just a mile distant from the Curwood
farm. Jimmie decided to see what it was all about. He had heard his
parents speak of “the meetings” that were being held in Joppa, quite
often. That night he trudged across the open fields, half afraid and
hardly knowing what to expect.

That night at Joppa, in the little country church as the excitement grew
to a fever’s pitch, Jimmie sat back and listened intently until he could
no longer suppress himself. He jumped up from his seat and ran to the
front of the church proclaiming that he had been saved and that the Holy
Ghost had entered his body and soul.

Young Jimmie was truly inspired and this incident played an important
part in his later life.

Until that moment his ideas concerning God and Heaven above had been
practically the same as those of any other normal boy or girl. That
heaven was just a place where all good people go, and that God was their
protector. Tonight all this was changed and at the age of nine years
Jimmie Curwood had already found God. It was a wonderful thing for this
lad to be able to do, and it must have remained as an inspiration with
him all the days of his life. Little did he realize, however, the
predicament it would get him into in the days to come.

At that meeting when he rushed to the front of the church to Parson
Brown proclaiming his faith and his belief, all eyes, of which there
were many, were focused upon the figure of the small boy. Pleasing
smiles came to every face when they discovered that a small boy was
claiming his Maker. It was a wonderful sight as the Parson led the
congregation in prayer and in song for the young boy as he knelt there
before the improvised altar. This was the important thing in his young
life that led Jim Curwood to the heights of success he later attained.
For he admitted to the public many years later this same admission of
faith.

“It was only through God Almighty that I have reached the pinnacle of
fame and success that I have.”

Shortly after the meeting had been adjourned, with the usual
benediction, Jimmie cut across the fields and through the dark woods
that he had heretofore been afraid to cross at night. He felt no fear,
for the spirit of the Holy Ghost was strong within him. He was reported
to have said a few days later:

“An angel went with me.”

From all indications one is led to believe that the angel that guided
and went with him was none other than the lovely Jeanne Fisher.

The following morning Jimmie awakened still feeling strong with the
religious spirit.

He felt strong with the spirit which had entered his body the night
before and he wanted the whole world to know all about it. Little did he
realize the blow that his inflated and loving disposition was to receive
in a short time. His parents thought it fine for this thing to have
happened to their son, but at the same time felt that other people might
object to it. Unfortunately enough, Jimmie could not control himself and
so to his schoolmates he told of his wonderful experience. As he spoke
of the new faith that had become his, his schoolmates promptly laughed
in his face.

“Ha! Ha! You’re crazy, Jimmie Curwood. You’re crazy!”

Then everyone took up the chant. On that day Jimmie found himself
involved in a total of five different fights, for he could not stand to
have anyone say that he was crazy because he believed in something which
was wonderful and something which had taken possession of his mind, body
and soul. However, like all youngsters eventually come to find, Jimmie
found that the flesh is weaker than the soul. From that day forth Jimmie
was still given drubbings from time to time.

During those hectic days one person other than his family stood beside
him to comfort and advise him. That person was his “Whistling Jeanne.”

Days lengthened into weeks and weeks into months and still Jimmie
continued to pick up stones on his father’s farmlands; stones that were
to later prove themselves to be “worth their weight in gold.”

The longer he remained at his daily task the more his air castles grew.
His vivid imagination gave rise to dreams and hopes of greater things.
All his visions and plans were strictly private and no one was allowed
to interfere with the young creative artist’s dreams. Not even little
Jeanne nor his pal Skinny was allowed to pierce their sacred portals.
What he felt, what he dreamed of, and what he planned to do were all
sacred thoughts and now vitally important to this nine-and-one-half year
old lad.

Long after the usual supper hour had been completed Jimmie would go to
his room to think and to plan and to write. Many were the times that his
mother had to beg her puzzling offspring to put his books aside and go
to bed in order to get the proper amount of rest. Jimmie’s mind was
thoroughly made up and he was really intent upon what he was working for
and seeking so desperately.

For six months or so Jimmie Curwood continued with his writing of his
childish though well-meant blood and thunder stories, stories which he
believed were truly fine.

It really did not matter to him upon what kind of paper he set his
stories down, just so long as they were written. He would pick up
wrapping paper and cut it into squares, or else if nothing else was
available he would write his stories on tissue paper which came in shoe
boxes.

As fast as he would complete one of his “swift moving, red-blooded
yarns,” he would carefully file it away as best as any young schoolboy
could possibly do. Writing was in his blood and it was taking complete
possession of his every thought and action.

It was only after he had completed some twenty “thrillers” that he
brought the entire stack down from his room and asked his parents if he
might read his stories to them. There naturally was no hesitation on
their part, for they were anxious to see their youngest child pursue a
career such as he was now doing. So for several hours Jimmie’s parents
were silent as their “pride and joy” went on with his avid reading. That
night the boy read through the entire stack of manuscripts, taking some
three hours and a half to complete the job. When he had finished his
father walked over to him at the far end of the long kitchen table.

“You’re going to get there, Jimmie boy, you’re going to get there. Just
you keep at it!”

The boy smiled, for those few words of encouragement meant a great deal
to one who wanted to be a great writer.

He silently picked up his stories, went to his room and filed them away
again. Hardly five minutes had elapsed before he was back at his
improvised desk to start work on a new story.

At twelve-thirty that night the boy at last put away his pencils and his
papers and went to bed. Rather late for a young, growing boy to retire,
but his heart and soul were really in his newly-found work. With the
coming day he was to have one of his greatest childhood surprises.

In the next day’s mail came the wonderful news that Jimmie’s sister Amy,
who had remained behind in her own home in Owosso when the family had
gone to Ohio, was coming to visit them. Since he had not seen Amy for a
long time he was indeed overjoyed at the prospects of her home-coming.
Three days passed until she at last arrived. Only a few short seconds
after she had entered the house, Jimmie remarked:

“Gosh, Amy, you’ve changed!”

Almost from the very beginning of her visit Jimmie began telling her of
his stories and shyly asked her to help him. He wanted her to read them
and to tell him just what she really thought. Sister Amy’s interest in
her younger brother’s career as a forthcoming author was not casual, but
really of great concern.

She did everything in her power as a woman and as a sister to encourage
her kid brother and to help him in every way possible. She even went so
far as to check his make shift manuscripts for the errors in
punctuation, sentence structure and spelling.

Perhaps the greatest step she took in the furthering of her brother’s
career was to arouse the interest of Fred Janette, great newspaperman
and contributor to _Golden Days_ magazine.

To Jimmie this “introduction” was nothing short of a miracle. To get the
great Fred Janette interested in his writings was indeed a mighty step
toward his future as an author.

Now with the noted journalist interested in him, together with his
sister’s constant coaxing, Jimmie was at last persuaded to send one of
his seemingly impossible creations to the editor of _Happy Hours_
magazine. Amy knew her brother’s work was not of literary quality but
merely wanted to see the editor’s reaction and just how the manuscript
would be treated. So the hand-written story was posted and within a few
days, as was expected, the postman returned it with a neatly printed
rejection slip attached to it.

The feature of it all was that the slip bore words of kind encouragement
to the aspiring author. For the editor of _Happy Hours_ realized that a
child had submitted the script and had judged it accordingly.

The little pink slip assured the boy that if he would keep everlastingly
at it he would eventually succeed in having his stories published. From
that time on his rapidly maturing mind was on nothing else save that of
writing. School and work entered into his everyday routine, of course,
but even while he was attending to these duties he still was thinking of
writing.

To add to his happiness he received in the mail one day a letter from
Fred Janette himself asking the boy to send him one of his stories.
Jimmie was jubilant. The very next day Amy mailed out one of her
brother’s very best manuscripts which she herself had transcribed for
legibility.

Several days elapsed before the anxiously waiting Curwood family
received any word on the judgment of Jimmie’s story. Eventually it came
through. Mr. Janette was returning the manuscript but on the fly leaf
was the following inscription:

“Keep at it, fellow, you cannot fail!”

Those words meant a great deal to Jimmie, and the manuscript bearing
those words remains today, yellow with age, in Curwood Castle.

Now satisfied that she had helped her brother as best she could, Amy
returned to Owosso.

From that moment hence Jimmie Curwood could not be held down in the
reaching of his ultimate goal. Guided by that ever present desire to
become wealthy, famous and to create his own characters on his own pages
in his own stories, Jimmie Curwood probably never knew exactly when to
quit writing once he had commenced. He drove himself unmercifully toward
that which he desired so much. It seems almost unreasonable to think
that a lad of his age was capable of such determination, but facts
cannot be denied or doubted. Inspiration is one thing, while
encouragement and help is still another. That which he knew so well
could not be suppressed. It was there within him, germinating his mind,
tormenting his soul.

It has often been said that a suppressed thought in the mind of a
creative writer is the worst possible thing for him to endure. He may
endure all the hardships of life that are thrown in his path, but a
suppressed idea or thought germinating in his mind, is fiendish torture.
Such must have undoubtedly been the case of Jimmie Curwood at that young
age.

Although Amy had returned to Owosso she wrote her brother every week,
sending him hope and inspiration. Fred Janette from time to time wrote
to the boy urging him to keep at his work. Even between times in his
writing as Jimmie would be picking up stones again or else at some other
type of farm labor, he experienced thrills that he had not known before.
He knew he was accomplishing something, creating that which no one could
destroy.

As he continued piling stone on stone and as they began to take form,
Jimmie imagined that they were great castles which held gallant princes
and lovely princesses. He envisioned heroes who possessed more courage
and more valor than any other earthly mortal. They fought long, hard,
bitter battles, always to be victorious in the end. The developing of
this vivid imagination at this early age in life was one of the direct
causes for Jimmie’s rise to fame.

For the first time since his dreams and plans had begun to materialize,
Jimmie at last shared his ideas with his “Whistling Jeanne.” She knew
all of his fondest hopes and his aspirations, and she prayed for him and
fought for him in many of his schoolboy tussles.

She alone stood up for him because he was so much smaller than the
majority of the other boys and she was old enough and capable enough to
manage most of them. She stood up for him when she knew he was wrong.
She even talked Mrs. Curwood out of a great deal of spankings that were
due the lad and which he surely would have received had it not have been
for her. Although five years his senior, Jimmie looked upon her as being
of his own age and even younger, perhaps.

It might be said that Jimmie Curwood had loved Jeanne in his own silent,
youthful, schoolboy way. He adored, in silent worship, her great blue
eyes, her thick braids of radiant brown hair and her flawless
complexion. As a matter of fact everyone loved little Jeanne Fisher, but
as Jim Curwood once said later in life:

“Everyone loved her, but none so devoutly as I.”

In the winter of 1884 when James Curwood and his family moved into the
little farm in Ohio, Jeanne Fisher took it upon herself to see that the
Curwoods became her friends. The lovely Jeanne was lonely and needed
friendships besides those of schoolmates.

For, from the time school was dismissed in the afternoon until the
following morning, she was entirely alone with her parents. No
playmates, no neighbors lived within a mile of her home.

So when the Curwoods came, Jeanne quickly presented herself. It was a
strange new land to Jimmie as well as to his parents and consequently
they all welcomed her friendly approach. She tried and she succeeded in
making the young boy feel at home in his new neighborhood. From that
time on, nothing save death could separate the pair.

By the nickname of “Whistling Jeanne,” one would be led to believe that
the girl was a “tom-boy,” and so she was, to a certain extent. Her
kindness for Jimmie, however, would surely tempt one to believe to the
contrary. For when Jimmie nicknamed her “Whistling Jeanne,” he did so
because he loved to hear her incessant whistling. She would whistle
regardless of how much trouble she might be in, or no matter how low her
spirits might be. At times she was very much a young lady of the first
rank; but she could become a regular “tom-boy” if the occasion called
for it. She was a swift runner, a good tree climber, an excellent shot
with a rifle and she could put up as good a fight as most boys of her
own age are capable of. Still she was every inch a young lady. Quiet and
refined as the occasion demanded. She did not believe in being inactive,
believing that one should keep one’s body as well as one’s mind
occupied.

Only a few short months after Jimmie had launched himself on a literary
career Jeanne’s guiding influence was tossed to the four winds by the
reckless, though well-meaning, lad. For at that time he came under the
influence and thumb of the school bully. Everything that could have
happened to a schoolboy who was being led astray happened to Jimmie
Curwood. He was now almost eleven years of age while Jeanne was nearly
sixteen.

One morning during the first semester of school Jimmie made a terrible
mistake in one of his lessons as well as having been guilty of a boyish
misdemeanor.

“Jimmie Curwood, if you don’t correct yourself and apologize for your
intended error, I shall box your ears,” the elderly lady teacher
informed him. Sitting directly behind him was the school bully.

On more than one occasion he had caused trouble and he was once again up
to his old pranks. He whispered to Jimmie and told him just what to do.
It is at this age that young boys get to feel pretty important if they
can hold the limelight for a while.

At first Jimmie hesitated, but when the bully called him a coward, he
blurted out:

“You don’t dare to do it!”

The entire classroom instantly became ghastly silent, for the students
realized only too well that this meant trouble. They also knew that the
bully was directing Jimmie and he too was afraid of what the
consequences might be.

The lady teacher demanded that Jimmie come immediately to the front of
the room. The boy was timid and afraid, but at the same time he admired
the bully for his brawn and straight-forward actions. Urged on, Jimmie
got up from his seat and moved slowly toward his teacher. As he stood
there in front of her “the bombshell exploded.”

The good teacher informed him of his punishment and then, following the
instructions and directions of the over-grown boy, Jimmie proceeded to
give his teacher a very sound drubbing, much to the bully’s delight. Not
only was the teacher chagrined, but she was touched and hurt deeply.

After the hectic battle, which Jimmie nearly lost because of his
teacher’s extra poundage, only the bully congratulated him. The others
said nothing. Then, like most boys after committing a wrong, Jimmie came
to his senses, apologized and received his punishment like a man. In due
course, the elder Curwood learned of his son’s escapade, and he, too,
acted accordingly. Eventually Jimmie returned to school and apologized
for the second time to his teacher. Needless to say she realized that
Jimmie felt it had all been his fault. She accepted his apology and
reinstated him in school.

Unfortunately, however, this did not end the boy’s associations with the
prodigious bully. Once again, after much coaxing, the bully took him in
hand. In order to increase his prestige in the younger boy’s eyes, the
older and larger lad proceeded to thoroughly trounce a big, strapping
German boy. All of this occurred just a few days after the first
escapade. Once more the light of adoration began to shine in Jimmie’s
eyes. This reoccurrence of the friendship fortunately led to one of the
greatest turning points in Jim Curwood’s entire life.

Many adventures take place in the life of a young boy, but seldom do
they come as thick and fast as they did to Jimmie. For soon after all
the excitement died down at school, young Jimmie discovered a revolver
of small caliber that belonged to his mother, and so he brought it to
school with him one day. This added to his prestige, but in a minor sort
of way.

His exhibition of the weapon was met with sighs and glances of amazement
by the students but none dared inform the teacher of what they had seen.
They all realized the consequences if they were caught as informers.

It was during the afternoon of that early spring day that Jimmie secured
permission to leave the schoolroom for a few minutes. Upon arriving
outside he noticed two girls leaving an outhouse building. Ideas began
popping in his imaginative young mind and so he promptly began firing
the pistol above their heads. The effect could not have been worse had
he struck them, for the girls were thrown into nervous hysteria.

If Jimmie thought that he had received dire punishment for his earlier
prank, he was indeed badly mistaken. He had not realized the dangerous
folly he had let himself in for. He was punished more thoroughly than
ever before by school officials. But the worst was yet to come from his
parents, as the boy fully realized.

As he escaped from the small crowd that had gathered on the school
grounds and with head hanging low, Jimmie slunk across the fields toward
home, sorely afraid and indeed bewildered at the trouble he had caused.
His mind began to run wild as it had in his adventure stories. It kept
telling him over and over that this was the end. There was no possible
means of escape.



                             CHAPTER THREE

                             THE DISCOVERER


Many devilish thoughts plagued the eleven year old Jimmie’s mind as he
hurriedly made his way across the fields to his home. What was going to
happen to him? What would his parents do to him? Jimmie was afraid and
he had just cause to be so.

The very thing which he had done led the boy to believe that they hanged
people or else shot them for such actions. He did not stop to think that
he had not killed anyone, yet his child’s mind told him differently. He
had brought disgrace down upon the good name of his family, and forever
upon himself. And above all else, he did not want to be hanged. It
really seemed to the boy that the end of the world was near for him and
that there was nothing that could save him.

He was hardly a hundred yards from home when he almost burst out crying,
but he refrained from doing so for he felt that he was too much of a
man.

Then Jimmie thought of escape.

Only his sister Cora was in the house. And she did not see Jimmie until
he had packed all that he felt he needed for his trip “away from the
good old home.”

Among the possessions which he had gathered up were his hunting knife, a
butcher knife, fishing tackle and a very small parcel of food. The
quantity of food which young Jimmie had packed up was hardly enough for
more than two meals at the most. Also it did not occur to him to take
more than the clothing upon his back. In his mind he kept telling
himself that he never would return. But at this time there was but one
thought that stuck in his mind. That thought was to put as much distance
as possible between the schoolhouse and himself. Just as he started for
the back door, he was confronted by his sister.

“Where are you going, Jimmie?”

“I’m going out for a little hiking trip. Be back before long,” he
replied with his head hanging low. “Goodbye.”

Had Cora thought about it at the time, she would have realized that her
little brother was home early from school.

Taking one more fond glance at the old home, Jimmie turned and strode
out of the door and made for the nearby woods half a mile away. It was
with hurried steps too that he fled from his home, for deep in his young
and perhaps rather foolish heart Jimmie feared that a posse might be
organized to overtake him. Then if he were caught dire consequences
might result.

When at last he entered the woods he had little thought of what to do or
where to go. He just walked along glancing back occasionally when at
last he made up his mind to head for Lake Erie and there board a tramp
steamer bound for a foreign port.

Finally he reached the “Old Woman’s Creek” which flowed through the
woods.

This proved to be the place for his first stopover; darkness was falling
and he was afraid to go further alone into the night. This spot, too,
was a favorite of Skinny’s and his. Here he knew a hundred different
places to hide away without fear of detection.

Darkness fell quickly and quietly upon the wooded lands and the fear in
the youngster’s heart swelled. Out on the surface of the river the
splashings of leaping fish were to be heard. Near the banks came the
ever-present calling of the frogs, that eerie cry that comes to the
solitary traveler usually at this hour of the night.

Jimmie hurried on along the river’s banks to a vacant red barn. He
hurried inside the rickety old frame structure and searched in the dark
for a suitable place to sleep.

After several minutes of silent and cautious searching, Jimmie stumbled
onto a manger half filled with hay. But sleep for the young boy was
entirely out of the question at the present. For just outside the barn
flowed “Old Woman’s Creek.” Jimmie shuddered at the very thought of the
name. And, as if that wasn’t enough, the bull-frogs continued their
strange and weird calling in the night, adding still more fears to his
whirling brain. It seemed to the young boy that they were saying over
and over again:

“You’re a goner! You’re a goner! You’re a goner!”

Try as he might, Jimmie just could not go to sleep. His childish
imagination led him to believe that a posse of men were just outside the
door waiting for him to come out so that they could pounce upon him. For
with a screech owl high on the sagging roof hooting dreadfully and then
the dead silence that followed along with the beat of bats’ wings, it is
little wonder that the boy ever went to sleep.

With the first streak of dawn Jimmie slipped out of the manger with all
the cautiousness of an Indian scout and looked carefully about.

Feeling that perhaps someone had lain in wait for him during the night
he took no unnecessary chances. Seeing that no one was in sight he
hurried down to the spot along the river where his pal Skinny and he had
their log raft cached. He soon found it and without a moment’s
hesitation he climbed aboard and with the aid of a long pole pushed
himself out into the river’s current. All the terror which had possessed
him the night before seemed to have vanished and he once again began to
feel very much like a grown man.

The wind was now beginning to churn the river’s waters into a lather,
and was actually carrying the small, frail raft out into Lake Erie.
Jimmie was yards away from shore and was still going out. He frantically
attempted to pole himself back to the bank, but it was useless. Minutes
grew into hours and still Jimmie Curwood was seeking some way in which
to get back to the fading, distant shore. He was being tossed about upon
the little raft just like a piece of cork upon the ocean. Half afraid,
he eagerly scanned the fastly fading shoreline in all directions until
his eyes fell upon the dim outline of a sailing ship.

“No words in any language could have properly expressed my relief when a
sloop with snowy sails appeared on the horizon.”

Instantly the youngster began to yell, scream and wave his arms long
before anyone could have possibly heard him. Eventually the ship spotted
the drifting raft and picked the boy up. When taken aboard he drew one
long sigh of relief, started crying and then collapsed upon the deck.

It was the good ship _Sandusky_ whose white sails Jimmie had seen. Upon
being revived the Captain of the sloop began questioning the lad, asking
who he was, from where he had come and just what he was doing out on the
lake.

It was some time after he had been taken aboard that the Captain could
get any information from him. When at last he succeeded they were
several miles from shore and could not possibly return to the spot from
which Jimmie had embarked. Later on when he had unfolded his story and
had answered all the Captain’s questions, the Captain and his men all
enjoyed a hearty laugh. He, too, was forced to laugh in a timid manner
for it seemed amusing to him now that he had seriously stopped to think
about it.

For the next two hours Jimmie leaned over the railing of the ship taking
in of the broad expanse of water and the white caps which topped each
wave. This was his first experience at sea and the youngster was
enjoying every minute of it now that he was safely aboard a ship. This
to him was truly thrilling adventure.

Far ahead over the rolling waves Jimmie could see the mainland lined by
tall buildings and rows of stately trees. The storm was now beginning to
subside and the violent rocking of the ship soon came to an end. He
thanked his stars above for this, for he was nearly seasick.

Later in the day when they neared the port of Sandusky, the Captain
called Jimmie aside and explained to him in a fatherly manner that the
good people of Joppa and Vermillion would neither hang him nor imprison
him and that he had nothing whatsoever to fear upon his return as long
as he behaved himself. As for his parents, they were surely worried over
his absence, and they would without a doubt welcome him back with open
arms and warm hearts. After Jimmie had listened to all this talk from
the aged Captain the old world began to look bright and rosy once again
and he expressed the desire to return as soon as possible.

The ship sailed on past Huron and into the port of Sandusky where the
Captain and a handful of “gobs” took Jimmie to show him the town while
he waited to embark for home.

As the young boy in his tattered clothing was becoming interested in the
sights of Sandusky, the Captain detoured somewhere along the line and
sent a telegram to Jimmie’s father telling him where the lad was and to
come and get him immediately.

A short while later the Captain rejoined his crew who were showing
Jimmie the time of his life, and they all went to a nearby lunchroom
where they partook of a hearty meal. This was the first good meal which
the boy had had since he had left home the day before.

After having his dinner Jimmie then was taken for a walk through the
little lakeside city of Sandusky where he saw his first tall buildings.
He simply stood there with his mouth wide open as he gazed in silent
adoration and amazement at the towering structures. For Sandusky at that
time was a city of some eighteen thousand people and her streets were
wide and tapering as they wound their way through the parks and down
past beautiful homes.

Most awe-inspiring of all were the beautiful school buildings. Great
stone edifices that were as much as three stories tall and usually an
entire city block in length. Here the sailors stopped to let him watch
the students come out of school. They were all dressed well and seemed
to be so much older than those he had known in the schools he had
attended. But he realized that he was nearly as old as most of them and
that back at the one-room school near his home the people did not dress
nearly so well just to go to school. This was entirely different from
anything he had ever known.

After all the students had passed from his sight, Jimmie was taken still
closer so that he might be able to see the magnificent structure at
first hand. The huge building had great, wide halls covered with
carpets, and mammoth rooms with many desks. This was truly enchantment
of the first class for Jimmie Curwood. He felt certain that all this
must be a dream.

As he stood there looking upon the symbols of higher education, he found
that he no longer wanted to become a great Indian fighter, a buffalo
hunter, or worse yet, a bold pirate. Instead, he now wanted to become a
part of schools such as he was now standing before. He wanted to be one
of the kings among the beautiful queens. He actually believed that he
wanted to study. Until this moment his world had been the forty acre
farm back there at Joppa, with all of its stones. Now a great, new world
had opened up and Jimmie Curwood was determined to grasp it.

Later that same day his father arrived to take his son back home and
away from the beautiful school buildings of Sandusky. En route homeward
the boy tried his best to express to his father that which he felt in
his heart. He told him of all he had encountered since he had run away
from home. He told of the great lake he had sailed upon the first night
away, and the magnificent schools he had seen and visited. His father
understood.

The night of his return home found Jimmie sitting on the Fisher’s front
steps with “Whistling Jeanne.” There was a full moon overhead casting
down its beautiful light upon the green, fertile fields and hills. There
almost seemed to be a song in the air—a song of happiness. A soft breeze
was blowing through the cottonwoods and all about the house the crickets
and the katydids gave forth with their serenades.

And once again Jeanne Fisher was comforting Jimmie as she had always
done. Between their telling of their dreams of the future, Jimmie told
Jeanne of all the wonderful things he had seen while he had been away,
and of how he had visited the wonderful school building in Sandusky. He
told her how he wanted to attend school there. Jeanne explained in her
best manner that Sandusky was very far away and that it would cost a
great deal of money for him to go to school in such a place regardless
of how beautiful it might be.

But Jimmie vowed that some day, somehow, he would go to that great
school to study. “Whistling Jeanne” Fisher realized then that his mind
was firmly set and that he would go to any means to gain his objective,
as he had proven in the past.

Seriously thinking the matter over Jeanne at last came to the conclusion
that there were other schools equally as fine as the ones in Sandusky,
and that if he would work hard and save his money and speak to his
parents earnestly, he might some day get the opportunity he was looking
for.

With the following morning, Jimmie did begin work, at whatever odd jobs
he could find during his spare time. Regardless of what the task might
be Jimmie was on the job.

With winter’s arrival he hunted and trapped rabbits and continued with
this until the arrival of spring. When the snows had passed and winter
was no more he managed to get himself a job on an adjoining farm picking
up brush, trash and waste at the extremely low rate of twenty-five cents
per acre. The boy took this job and did his work without grumbling
because it meant a few more dollars toward his potential education. His
mind was fired with the ambition to go to school where he could study to
be a great writer, and go to school he would.

Spring and summer soon passed, and during this time Jimmie Curwood had
beaten carpets, picked up brush and accomplished many other jobs as well
as saving his rabbit pelts from the winter before. He now had enough
money to buy himself a brand new suit of clothes. But with the arrival
of fall Jimmie began to worry about achieving his ambition. Many days of
anxious coaxing on his part began to pay off in dividends. For Mr. and
Mrs. Curwood decided that if their son was so intent upon attending
school and college, they would see to it that he would do so, even if it
meant selling the farm.

That was it! That was the solution to their problem. They would sell the
farm and move into town where Jimmie’s father could once again set up in
the shoe-repair business. Days passed during which time the problem was
given much serious thought. It was only after a month of such deep
thought that Mr. Curwood at last decided not to sell the farm, but
instead to leave Edward behind to take care of it. So, at last, came the
day when the family prepared to move into the little town of Wakeman.
This happened to be Mrs. Curwood’s girlhood home town.

A great many things were loaded upon the old spring wagon and as the
first load began to pull out of the barnyard, Jimmie noticed tears in
his mother’s eyes. She hated to leave the farm but it was a great day
for her because of the educational desires of her youngest son.

Jimmie did not ride along with the first load of household goods but
remained behind to go with the last load. Although of late Jimmie had
not spent much of his time with Skinny, his pal remained with him for
the duration of his time on the farm. Naturally, lovely Jeanne was with
him, too, for it was partially through her pleading that Jimmie was
getting the opportunity that he so desired.

The fateful day for departure inevitably came. It was all that Jimmie
could do to keep back the tears, but he manfully refrained. He told
Skinny that he would see him again soon and then he kissed Jeanne
goodbye and climbed aboard the wagon. But hardly had he gotten aboard
than he jumped off and proceeded to walk with Skinny as far as Bingham’s
old orchard. Several minutes later the two young men saw the end of
their last walk together, for ahead lay the end of the long orchard.

It was an orchard that the two boys had played in often and which was
surrounded by a tall, six foot fence. Without a moment’s hesitation,
merely because he realized that he should, Jimmie Curwood climbed aboard
the spring wagon as they reached the end of the orchard with his mother
and father, and was on his way to his new home in the city. He was going
to a home wherein would come bright new horizons for the future.

Looking back a few minutes later Jimmie saw his boyhood chum standing in
the middle of the dusty road waving frantically at him. Skinny was
standing just where Jimmie had left him when he had climbed aboard the
wagon. Further back on the road in front of the old house stood the
Fisher family. There they were, Jeanne and her parents all waving their
last goodbyes. A great lump came into Jimmie’s throat as the wagon
rounded a bend in the road and his friends faded from sight.

When the Curwood family moved into Wakeman its population consisted of
somewhere around one thousand other inhabitants. It was a trading center
for a huge farming belt, and it was also a freight center. The Lake
Shore and Michigan Southern railroad lines passed through the little
community. Wakeman had but one main street and this was a beehive of
activity on Saturdays.

There were two large general stores where one could buy anything from
soup to nuts and from ploughs to jackasses. Wakeman also housed three
nice grocery stores, one blacksmith shop, one poolroom and one small
hotel. Therefore it was a very prosperous city for its size.

Wakeman also boasted of a cooperage in which thousands of apple barrels
were manufactured daily for consumption by most of the midwest and
northwestern states. Despite the number of years that have passed, this
cooperage still stands today with the usual output.

Typical of all mid-western cities and villages, Wakeman was always
converted into a thriving metropolis on Saturdays. On this day all the
farmers from miles around would manage to come into town. They would
gather about and talk about their crops, weather conditions, national
affairs and always those jokes which simply must be told. They would
purchase what they were going to need during the coming week and load
their buggies and wagons with their supplies and then head back for the
farms around nine-thirty or ten o’clock.

Wakeman had its rows upon rows of hitching rails and posts to which the
farmers tied their horses and teams. Today most of those historic relics
have vanished.

The first few days in Wakeman proved to be quite different from what
Jimmie had expected. He knew the farm people and their ways, but he did
not know the townsfolk and their standards and traditions. In fact it
was in Wakeman that he attended his first party where the boys and girls
were really dressed up in their finest. The boys were of an entirely
different type from what he had been used to associating with. Somehow
Jimmie managed to become accustomed to them and their mannerisms. It
seems that Jimmie possessed that certain quality that enabled him to
adapt himself to almost any type of environment.

It was at this first party that he learned many new and startling facts.
He heard of how his new friends had been as far away as New York and
Cleveland. Jimmie stood with mouth wide open in amazement as they spoke
about their travels and adventures. He hardly dared believe them even as
they were told, yet he knew they spoke the truth.

As the party went on and the conversation continued Jimmie spoke of his
travels and of how he was lost on Lake Erie during a terrible storm.
This increased his prestige among the younger set. As the talk
continued, it finally drifted onto the subject of books and the best
reading on the market. This was more along Jimmie Curwood’s line and so
he listened attentively as some young lady led the discussion. At long
last he had the opportunity he had been seeking. So he told of his
career in writing thus far, and how he so wanted to develop his talent
into an advanced study. Many of the others wanted to write but hardly
knew how to get started. Jimmie explained in a modest manner his
eagerness to write great works some day, too.

It was at this party that Jimmie acquired his new name. He was no longer
called Jimmie, but just “Jim.” It was here, also, that the young man
attempted to learn to dance with the aid of a very charming little lady.
He later admitted that although he felt clumsy and ill at ease, he
enjoyed it all immensely. Throughout his later life, however, Jim
Curwood had little time for dancing.

Thus began Jim Curwood’s social life in Wakeman, and at first he took
full advantage of it, for it was indeed truly social as compared to that
which he had heretofore been accustomed.

There were many new things that Jim was going to have to learn if his
social and everyday life in Wakeman were to be successful. Throughout
his life he had been under the constant guidance of his devoted mother.
She had cared for his personal appearance and insisted that he always
keep himself as clean as possible. But in this new environment he
learned that he must look after his personal appearance himself. He also
learned that one’s personal appearance and habits counted first and
foremost. He discovered that he must wear a tie. He found that he must
wear presentable clothing to school instead of the farm clothes. He had
to keep his hair trimmed and his teeth brushed. The things which had
before seemed utterly trivial now were of major importance to his new
life in the city of Wakeman.

Perhaps the most exasperating discovery which young Jim Curwood made
shortly after he had moved into Wakeman with his family, was the fact
that he must take more than one bath per week. So instead of the usual
Saturday night affair, the young man found himself in the tub as often
as three times a week. He hated it all.

As his new life opened before him Jim discovered that there were girls
in Wakeman. The startling fact was that he found they were very pretty
girls, too. Coincident with this discovery came the necessity for a
little spending money from time to time if one were to get along. So,
from the first time that he met one of Wakeman’s better type girls, he
was constantly in need of nickels or dimes. Soon his financial problems
developed to the stage where Jim was asking for quarters instead of
nickels and dimes, as is only natural when a young boy begins to get
“ideas.”

As Valentine Day approached, Jim met a very pretty girl whom he decided
he would like to present with a Valentine. Although the tiny card cost
but three cents, Jim was somewhat bashful and backward in giving it to
her when the time came. So he mailed it out the day before and signed
only his scrawled initials upon the back of it. Somehow the memory of
his Jeanne back on the farm seemed to have slipped from his mind, for
this new young lady filled his every waking hour.

As he and his new girl friend became better acquainted Jim thought he
should take more than three baths a week and in a short time he was to
be found in the tub almost every night. Another thing which was called
to his attention was that he should always keep his fingernails clean,
that a tie should always be worn, and above all that he should keep his
shoes blacked every day without fail. Mother Curwood as well as her
husband had noticed the tremendous change that had come over their young
offspring and were pleased by it. Their coming to Wakeman seemed to be
proving itself worthwhile.

In a few short weeks arrived that which young Jim Curwood had been
looking forward to with great anticipation—the beginning of the fall
term in the school to which he had traveled so far and on which so many
of his hopes were based. Here Jim became interested in something which
was to remain with him all the days of his life—Astronomy.

Through the teachings of this new subject Jim developed an entirely
different conception of God. He came to know and to realize then that
God had created this earth as a center of things, and that we were most
fortunate to have been chosen to live upon it. He believed then that God
had created all this for mankind alone, that man was everything. That
the birds, the beasts of the wilds, and the fish of the streams did not
matter. He believed then, as so many millions do today, that those
creatures were put here just for man to slaughter if he so desired....

Winter came and passed all too soon for Jim and it was not until spring
arrived that he learned of his family’s plans to leave Wakeman and
return to the farm. He also made the startling discovery at this time
that he had not learned much more here than he had back at the little
red brick schoolhouse. True, he had learned city life and all of its
startling realities, but it was the little red school house back there
in the country that he yearned for.

When but one more week was left for the Curwood family to remain in
Wakeman, brother Ed came into town with the team and wagon, while Mr.
Curwood made all final preparations. Talk of the farm, the fields and
the streams had turned Jim’s thoughts entirely to the open spaces once
again.

With Ed and his father riding along on the wagon, Mrs. Curwood followed
along behind in the buggy. Jim had still other ideas since Ed had
brought his dog Jack along. So for most of the eight long, dusty miles,
Jim and his faithful hound Jack played and walked behind the caravan.

It has always been said that early impressions in life bear greatly upon
one’s future. So it was then in Jim Curwood’s case. His life on the farm
as a child taught him more and more the love of the open roads and the
forests. For on that day when the family returned to their farm, eight
miles distant from Wakeman, Jim exclaimed:

“Gosh Mom, it’s great to be back home again! The woods are so full of
wild flowers, and the old pond is crowded with big, old frogs, too.”

Skinny Hill, having heard from Ed that the family was once more going to
return to the neighborhood, had been on the watch for his pal Jim since
shortly after daybreak. And hardly had the creaky old wagon and buggy
rounded the bend in the road than Skinny was running for all he was
worth to meet his chum. In his left hand was an old, black felt hat
which he was waving wildly above his head, as he shouted and whistled.

“Hello, Slip! Hello there, Slip!”

The two youngsters did not even shake hands or clasp each other in their
arms. Instead they both just stood there in the middle of the dusty road
with wide grins.

“My gosh, you’re home, ain’t you?” Skinny spoke breathlessly.

“Yep!”

With those few words Jim and Skinny started walking up the road behind
the buggy and wagon.

During the following three days Skinny and Jim were running all over the
surrounding territory looking over together what they had claimed to be
their own several months before. Through the wooded strips and across
the fields they went, taking in all the glory of “secret country.”

Through all of the busy and crowded months in Wakeman Jim had almost
forgotten the one person who was more important to him in his young life
than any other. But hardly had he set foot in the front yard of the old
farm than he saw her. Immediately his pulse quickened. It was lovely
Jeanne, his “Whistling Jeanne.”

The very first thing which he noticed was how tall she had grown during
his absence, and her stunning beauty spun his senses about wildly. He
could hardly believe what his eyes revealed.

“Something queer happened to my heart when she caught me up in her arms
and kissed me. My Jeanne was changed.”

In a few minutes Jeanne had once again won her old place back in his
heart. That feeling of security and comfort was his, as it had been
before, now that he had his Jeanne back to console him during those
times when things went wrong.

Hardly had the family a chance to really settle down again than Jim was
once more beginning to write.

In the town of Wakeman he had become acquainted with a motherly old lady
who had thought a great deal of him. So much so, in fact, that when he
asked her for some of her old magazines, she not only complied with that
request, but also went to the nearest drugstore and purchased a “dozen
brand new ones” for him.

There on the little farm when his daily chores were over, Jim would sit
out under the trees with Jeanne and Skinny, and pore over the contents
and the wonderful stories by famous authors. The smouldering flame that
was embedded within his heart for adventure stories and the yearning to
write them was overpowering.

It is seldom that a boy of young Jim Curwood’s age should take so great
an interest in such a mature profession. But he seemed to be able to
look into the future and almost say what was going to take place, so
confident was he. It seems almost uncanny that a young lad could have
such a vivid imagination and at the same time learn to put it into words
and story form. But a great deal of Jim’s success can rightfully be
credited to Jeanne Fisher. Obviously this is true, for throughout his
entire literary career, the character and the beauty of “Whistling
Jeanne” was always there.

She used to tell him that he must write harder than ever and then some
day he could put her into his stories.

If only she could know how many times, hundreds of times in fact, she
really was written into his stories. Who knows? Perhaps she does.

So, as the sun began to set over the two little farms in the peaceful
Ohio valley on that first evening of Jim’s return, it once again found
Jeanne and Jim together. And as the evening wore itself into the
darkness of night time, Jeanne refrained from talking of his future
authorship, but upon subjects instead which were more vital to her. She
had not stopped to realize that during his stay in Wakeman her Jim had
become more and more entrenched in the path of becoming a famous writer
of tales. As the night began to grow long Jim at last began pouring out
his heart to her, and then Jeanne Fisher realized only too well that to
talk of anything else save writing was a hopeless task.

Jim explained to her how he had lingered over the many new magazines
that he had seen in Wakeman; how he idolized the printed names of the
famous authors whose articles and stories he had read. He told of how
his heart beat just a little faster as he completed reading each new
story. How he had read and reread every story in every magazine that he
could put his hands on. Little did he realize it at the time, but he was
developing a style all his own through all this extensive reading that
was later to lead him to fame. He even became breathless as he explained
how his heart had missed a beat every now and then as he read those
adventure stories. Tales of Indian scouts, strong, brave cowboys, and
fearless Indian chieftains. Stories of dauntless seamen who sailed the
seven seas unafraid in search of gold and silver.

“Whistling Jeanne” Fisher realized to the utmost that night that
“literature was the guiding star of his destiny.” She came to realize
also that nothing save death would stop the young, yet determined, Jim
Curwood. He had it in him to write, he had something to say and to tell
about, and she knew that some day he would get his chance to tell it.
Either he would get his chance or he would _make_ that chance.

Like most men of literature, a writer must have something to say,
something to tell. From the age of eight, Jim Curwood had a story to
tell and he always did his best to tell it in an unsurpassed manner. His
courage in the face of great odds is indeed commendable.

The character of “Whistling Jeanne” has played the major roles in most
of Jim Curwood’s short stories, serials and novels. Her character and
her beauty were, above all else, inspirational and courageous.

The character of Melisse in “The Honor of the Big Snows,” Josephine
Conniston in “The River’s End,” and Jeanne in “The Flower of the North,”
are just a few of the heroines for whom her lovable character has been
responsible. These novels have been filmed and flashed on the movie
screens throughout the world, and his novels have been translated and
written into over fourteen different languages. “Whistling Jeanne”
Fisher’s character was truly an important part in Jim Curwood’s
childhood days.

With all of the words of hope, courage, inspiration and wisdom which
came from those “rareripe lips,” how could Jim go wrong? How could he
help but to succeed? For even in his childhood days he was constantly
filled with inspiration, hope and above all else, confidence. For with
those words of encouragement the boy firmly planted his feet and vowed
earnestly that nothing save death could ever keep him from becoming a
great author. An author whose works would give to the people of the
world hope and courage to push onward. Today, nearly fifty-seven years
later, those works which he spoke about at the age of thirteen have
given hope and courage to many millions of people throughout the entire
world.

There is little doubt but that those early childhood days on the farm
down in Ohio were the days which proved invaluable in the shaping of Jim
Curwood’s destiny.



                              CHAPTER FOUR

                           OWOSSO SCHOOLDAYS


Day after day while on long hikes through the forests and along the
river’s banks, Jim Curwood would try valiantly to explain to his chum,
Skinny, the urge and desire that was burning constantly in his heart.
Unfortunately enough, Skinny Hill could not see things in quite the same
light as Jim did and consequently he raised argument after argument. At
times when he would grow tired of hearing Jim talk about a writing
career he would very nearly lose his temper.

Fortunately, Jim Curwood had the ambition and the determination to be a
writer and no one on the face of God’s green earth could stop him. The
youngster actually prayed for the opportunity to go to great schools. He
prayed for the one chance, the lone chance, of really becoming a
“somebody.”

“I knew with God beside me that my goal could not be too far off. Hard
work, and hard work alone, with confidence in the Great Arbiter, are the
keys to success.”

From that time on Jim Curwood did all in his power in order that he
might pave his own way to success.

Valiantly he fought the odds that were stacked against him, determined
to make the grade and come through with flying colors. However, at times
he would lose all hope. Then for a moment, he would stop and think about
defeat and what it would mean. The next moment would find him back at
work, his determination multiplied a hundred times over. It seems
miraculous that such a young lad of Jim Curwood’s age could not be kept
down in his battle for success at the one thing in life he wanted.

As days developed into weeks and weeks into months, it dawned more and
more on the boy that unless he went away somewhere to study, it would be
a hopeless task to try to be a “somebody.” It is quite plain that his
mind was much more developed than his age revealed.

Like manna from heaven, his sister Amy, from Michigan, came down to
visit the family a few days later. Jim thanked his lucky stars, for he
realized only too well that his sister not only could help him, but
would be most glad to. His young and adventurous mind began working
rapidly from the very first day that Amy arrived on the farm. He felt
that with Amy’s influence it might be possible for him to go away to
school. For several days and nights he thought the situation over before
he put the question to his sister. He lay awake at nights thinking up
various situations by which he could induce Amy to take him away with
her. This was his one big chance and he knew that he must not miss it.

A few days after her arrival he called her to one side and spoke to her
about his plans and his dreams. From the very beginning, Amy used a
great deal of tact in handling the situation.

“Amy ... Amy, will you do me a favor?” he asked.

“What is it you want me to do, Jimmy?”

“Amy, I want to go away to school and study. I want to be a great author
and the only way I can be one is to go to school!”

“Do you really want to go away to school and study, Jimmy?”

“You know I do, sis, oh, you know I do. I must! I just have to, Amy. Try
and fix it with Mom and Dad. Please!”

“Then I shall talk to Mother and Dad and see if they won’t consent to
letting you go back to Owosso with me.”

Amy lost no time in beginning her work of persuasion on Mr. and Mrs.
Curwood. They objected very much when the proposition was first
mentioned and Amy worked feverishly to wear them down. Apparently they
wanted to keep their youngest child with them and had no intentions of
letting him go all the way back to the old home town of Owosso unless
they, too, went along.

Amy spent many long hours pleading with her parents to let her brother
go back with her, until the last thread of resistance had been worn away
and she had won her first battle for her brother. If she had only known
at the time the battles she was to have to wage for him in the future!

When Amy told Jim the good news he fairly raised the roof of the
farmhouse with his jubilant howls of happiness. He vowed to his parents
in his own childlike manner that some day they would be very proud of
him.

As the days passed by and the time neared when Jim Curwood would once
again leave the little farm, he would notice tears in his mother’s eyes
occasionally, despite the fact that she tried not to show them. His
father became much more thoughtful, and Jack, Jim’s faithful dog who
always went with Skinny and himself on their hikes through the country
side, followed the boy around in an extremely strange manner. He seemed
to sense in his keen, canine way that his young master was going to
leave him. Little did Jim realize that the day he bade farewell to his
family and to his dog Jack it would be the last he would ever see either
the dog or the farm itself.

It was exactly a month to the day after the boy had gone to Owosso that
the good animal died.

Never before in all of his young life had Jim Curwood hated to leave his
loved ones, despite the fact that he was determined to leave. His mother
cried out as her little son climbed aboard the old buckboard with his
sister:

“He isn’t my little boy anymore!”

As if this wasn’t enough to bring tears to his eyes, his beloved Jeanne
began crying, too. Somehow father Curwood held up even though there were
tugs at his heart strings. As his youngest child climbed onto the
buckboard he calmly walked up to him and shook his hand as two men would
do and asked him to take good care of himself.

After a great many fond farewells, embraces and goodbyes, Amy and Jim
started on their way toward Michigan, the land that seemed so far away.
In the middle of the road as Jimmy looked back after they were on their
way, he saw his mother, father, brother Ed, Skinny, Jeanne and the
Fishers all waving farewell. A great lump swelled up in his throat for
he saw his dear old mother sobbing her heart out and leaning upon her
husband’s shoulder. Jeanne, too, was crying, but his old pal Skinny was
too hurt to weep. He wanted to, but somehow tears would just not come.

The last words Jim Curwood heard before the little buckboard was out of
hearing distance was from Skinny who was standing in the middle of the
hot, dusty road, shouting and waving.

“Goodbye, Slip. Gee, I’ll never see you again.”

It was a long, hard and exciting trip as Jimmy and Amy made their way in
the buckboard drawn by two fine horses to the then small town of Owosso.
The young lad was tingling with excitement at the prospects of seeing
his home town again. The town in which he was born and where he had had
some wonderful days playing along the river banks. But he still was
constantly thinking of his father and mother as only a young boy of his
age is capable of doing.

Jim had been away from Owosso for nearly seven years now, and as they
drove past the city limits he hardly recognized it as the same place. It
seemed to have grown a great deal and many new buildings had been
erected. The bumpy old streets of old had been worked over and now were
comparatively smooth.

Unable to wait until the following day to see his home town again, Jimmy
persuaded Amy to take him around the day of their arrival.

One of the first things he noticed was that his old home had been
transformed into a hotel. And the room in which he had been born was now
a room for drummers and salesmen. There were no hickory trees growing in
the streets, there were no fowls roaming about at will as they once did,
and giant pines and willows which once had filled the great commons were
replaced by stores and buildings.

Today the city of Owosso has 15,000 residents, and is more beautiful
than it was in the days of old. Looking out of the studio windows of a
wonderful writing castle which lies along the banks of the waters of the
Shiawassee river, there can be seen one place that shall never be shed
of the willows that wave so gently in the breeze. It is the little
island in the very center of the river which flows through Owosso in a
great sweeping bend. The willow trees on this small island bend their
graceful boughs almost down to the water’s edge and sway back and forth
continually in the cool morning and evening breezes.

Days passed rather rapidly after Jimmy returned to Owosso and the
hottest days of summer were soon upon the little town. The natural thing
for him to do was to look up his childhood pals and head for the river
to fish and to swim. But try as he might, Jimmy could find nothing of
his former Owosso pal, Charley Miller. It seemed that since Charley’s
father had passed away no one had seen anything of the boy.

Perhaps the one thing which Jim loved above all else in his home town
was the beautiful Shiawassee, glorious river of his childhood dreams,
that flowed in graceful curves throughout the length of Owosso
constantly beckoning him to its banks to swim and fish.

Owosso itself had prospered, of that there was little doubt. And its
people had changed with the influx of prosperity. But to Jim Curwood it
was home and when he grew older he was overheard to say:

“Many ties bind me to it and always I return there, no matter into what
little-known byways of the world I wander. In Owosso I shall end my
journey.”

[Illustration: _J.C. WEBER._]

It took young Jim just a couple of days to become readjusted to his old
home town and again “Sparkling Waters” lured the youthful outdoorsman to
its banks. This was the place where Charley and he had played before he
had moved away to Ohio. The place where they hunted, trapped, fished and
swam along its peaceful shores. There is little wonder why he always
referred to it not only as “Sparkling Waters,” but also as his “river of
dreams.” For it was along the banks of this river that many of his
childhood dreams developed into realities and where he learned his first
lesson about nature and the wilds he learned to love so well. It was
here that the many stories that ran rampant in his childish mind later
flowed from his pen.

The third day of his return found him with a pole and line headed for
the river to fish. In those days he would lay his pole over his shoulder
with the line dangling down and stroll through town barefooted. A
typical “Tom Sawyer,” if the city of Owosso ever saw one.

His bare feet would saunter along the pavement but would step lightly
when he came to cindered paths. He wore an old hat slouched down upon
his sun-bleached hair which had no crown in it whatsoever. His
pants-legs were torn and frayed and his shirt-tail was out in the back
as always. Those truly were the glorious days of childhood.

During the first days of his return with his sister Amy, young Jimmy
spent many hours along the river banks and pulled out a great deal of
fish. Many people often remarked that if he did not let up on his
fishing there soon would be no fish in the river for other people.

After a week had elapsed Amy told Jim that she was taking him to visit
the great newspaperman, Fred Janette. You may speak of surprises, but
Jim Curwood was just about the most surprised and thrilled young man in
all of Michigan when his sister broke the good news to him. Who had not
heard of the great Fred Janette? He himself had even read one of his
newspaper serials. Now, at long last he was going to meet a famous
writer! The young lad was thrilled beyond all explaining. In fact, he
hardly dared believe it. It did not seem at all possible. But sister Amy
had told him and so therefore it must be true. The young boy could
hardly wait for the important day to arrive.

The day arrived for the visit and Amy took her young brother to the
wonderful home of Fred Janette, author and newspaperman. It seemed
wonderful to Jim, but in reality Mr. Janette’s home was a modest one. It
was an old fashioned cottage. To Jim Curwood it was the home and mansion
of a king. Soon would come the moment when he would step across the
threshold, he thought. He walked nervously up the winding concrete walk
with his sister. The doorbell was rung and soon they were greeted by a
tall, whiskered Frenchman whom Jim later came to love devoutly. Then
they were confronted by a white-headed, kindly old lady who was the
mother of the great author. From that day on Mrs. Janette always held a
warm spot in his heart.

After they had been admitted to the house sister Amy chatted and laughed
with Mrs. Janette and it seemed strange to Jim that she was not in the
least bit awed by these famous personalities, even though he was.

It was ages before a door swung open and the “great writer” himself
entered. Being the gentleman and scholar that he was, Janette
immediately shook hands with the boy as if he had known him all his
life. Knowing that he would have to be very careful in what he said,
lest he offend the youngster, he exclaimed:

“So this is our young author!”

From that moment on, Jim Curwood was sold on Fred Janette as Mr. Janette
was on young Mr. Curwood.

As soon as the introductions were over, Janette promptly took Jim by the
hand and led him into his den. Then he locked the door behind them. As
the key turned in the lock, the youngster was so thrilled that he could
hardly speak. For the first time he was actually looking at a real
author’s study. True, it was just like any other author’s studio, but
this was the first that Jim had ever been in. The walls were lined with
books, there were two typewriters, reams and reams of paper upon which
to write wonderful stories, and numerous filing cabinets in which to
file material. He took in everything from the floor up to the ceiling.
He had never seen anything that thrilled him so in all his life.

Behind the closed door. Fred Janette showed the aspiring young writer a
cheque for three hundred dollars that the editor of _Golden Days_
Magazine had sent him for one of his latest creations. This, of course,
seemed like a million dollars to Jim and he gasped at the sight of it.
Then Janette proceeded to explain to him just what his regular daily
schedule was, how he went about doing his work and even showed him a
story he was working on for a certain magazine.

Janette invited Jimmy to sit down at his desk and use the typewriter if
he so desired. This seemed to the boy to be a great honor; he walked
over to the large desk and sat down upon the chair. And as he sat there
looking over the mass of papers and manuscripts, Janette told him:

“You cannot help but become successful if you put your whole heart into
your writing.”

Perhaps the one thing which the youngster appreciated more than anything
else about Janette was the fact that the grown man was careful not to
treat him merely as a child.

From this very first meeting there arose between the two a friendship
that was to last a lifetime. From that moment on, James Oliver Curwood
never ceased writing. Every second that was available was spent with a
pencil or pen in his hand, for writing had taken complete possession of
him and it all but drove him frantic as his mind was continually upon
the work that was destined to become his only life work. He had to eat
and sleep, but he must also WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!

At last, though all too soon, summer had come to a close and school days
were once more at hand. He enrolled in Central School the very first
day, but he could not understand why he had come all the way from the
farm in Ohio to go to school here in Owosso, and still find it so very
uninteresting. The chances are, however, that the writing “bug” had
become his first and only love, thus making it quite difficult for him
to study. Perhaps one of the factors which seemed to make Jim Curwood’s
schooling both uninteresting and hard was the class he was placed in
when he entered school in Owosso. For he was put in the seventh grade
because of his ungentlemanlike feats at Wakeman and his vulgar tactics
under Mrs. Bacon. Obviously this was not the rating he deserved, but the
teachers at Central School seemed to think it best. They did not know
young Curwood was returning to school “to study.”

This of course was a very bad beginning when one has made up one’s mind
that he really wants to be someone, and young Jim was indeed very much
“burned up over this treatment.” Despite this barrier, he “muddled
through somehow,” as he chose to put it, until he had finished the tenth
grade.

Many times, according to authoritative sources, Jimmy Curwood was
referred to as “a hopeless horror” in Algebra, by a Miss Curliss. A Miss
Needles always maintained that Jim Curwood was hopelessly dumb and could
never be any other way. Then there was a small man by the name of
Chaffee who once remarked that the boy’s empty mind was the outstanding
feature of the Owosso schools. The Miss Curliss was perhaps Jimmie’s
greatest dread. Time and time again she embarrassed him before the
entire class. On one particular occasion she called him an
“unforgettable horror in her mind,” when Jim staunchly maintained that a
“skipper” was a bug in cheese rather than the master of a ship.

There was but one bright spot in all of Jim’s schooling in Owosso, and
that was a very pretty and charming teacher named Miss Boyce. Despite
the many mistakes he would make in class she never lost patience with
him and was always encouraging and cheerful. Years later when the
“plague of Owosso” became a full grown man and an author in his own
right, he remarked:

“To Miss Boyce and Miss Bartrem, who never lost interest in me, is due
what little I actually did accomplish there.”

Then, too, there was the principal of the school, Professor Austin by
name. He was a kind and understanding man and he sympathized with Jim in
his goings and comings up and down the Shiawassee river, even though he
did not approve of it during school hours. The principal once told him
bluntly that if he ever heard of a prize for stupidity in the classroom,
he would see that it was awarded to him. It was such things as these,
trivial as they may seem to some of us, that made Jim Curwood’s early
schooldays in Owosso ones of endless terror and seemingly hopeless
failure.

When at last the fall season was over and the cold winter months were at
hand when the snow would pile up as high as three and four feet deep,
Jimmy would be up at the crack of dawn and out along the banks of the
Shiawassee setting his traps for muskrat and mink. He would catch scores
of them between the two bridges at Washington and Oliver streets. The
two streets were a little over a quarter of a mile apart, and were in
the very heart of the residential section, as they are even today.

By the time his second school year began the “Sparkling Waters” had
absolutely claimed him. In his possession he had countless traps,
several guns and an Indian dugout canoe.

Actually being of Indian-strain himself, it is little wonder that Jim
Curwood haunted the lakes, streams and wilds. His maternal grandmother
had been a full-blooded Mohawk Indian princess. This was, perhaps, a
prime factor in his urge to isolate himself in the wilderness which had
left its imprint embedded deep in his heart. But he was also a direct
descendant of Captain Frederick A. Marrayat, world famous novelist and
seaman, and Jimmy’s paternal grandfather.

So it is understandable how, of all the students at Owosso public
schools, perhaps the most difficult and indignant one was James Oliver
Curwood. When he was not present in school he was either writing tales
of the wilds, or living them along the banks of the rivers nearby. In
fact he had absented himself from classes on many occasions to devote
more time to his stories. Jim Curwood finally developed into a real
problem for his teachers in high school.

One day as he quietly came tip-toeing to his seat while Professor Austin
was in the middle of an invocation, the teacher caught sight of him and
completed what he had to say with: “And dear Lord, we thank Thee for
returning Nimrod safely to us this morning.” From that day forward his
nickname at school was “Nimrod.”

It was during the first winter of his return to Owosso that Jim received
an important letter from his father in Ohio. The elder Curwood wrote
that, unless he could find some way to get back to Owosso to make a
living, he, Jimmy, would have to come back to the farm. His mother
missed him terribly and yearned to have her baby son back in her home.

Both sister Amy and Jim were overjoyed. But the young boy was torn
between love and duty. The little farm was tugging at his heartstrings
once more as were his “Sparkling Waters” here in Owosso. Still, he had
his duty to his parents to consider, and if they remained on the little
farm, he just could not make up his mind what he preferred to do.

The letter from his father had brought back memories that heretofore he
had tried to conceal. Now he yearned for the old farm, his dog Jack, his
parents and last, but far from least, Jeanne and Skinny. But he loved
his Owosso and its surroundings, he loved his river and his wilderness
with a burning, flaming passion. What was he to do? Sister Amy simply
told him to wait until they saw how things were going to shape up.

From that time on until the arrival of spring Amy and Jim received but
one letter from their parents. Then one warm, spring day in April, who
should arrive at Amy’s home than Mr. and Mrs. Curwood, with Jim’s other
sister, Cora. It was such a pleasant surprise.

Once again father Curwood established himself in a little cobbling shop
with the front all painted a fiery red. He was taking up where he had
left off eight years before.

Brother Ed had remained behind to run the farm, so that in the event
that things did not go so good for his father in Owosso, the family
would then have something to fall back upon.

For many years father Curwood had mended other people’s shoes in his
old-fashioned way, with needles, thread and wooden pegs. One of his
outstanding characteristics was that he never shirked his work and never
did less than his best. Because he was the kindly old gentleman that he
was, he was always held in high esteem by the townsfolk. His politeness
and courteousness were appreciated by all who knew him. Many years
passed since the time he had made his return to Owosso and again set up
in his cobbling shop. His hair grew white from his hard work, but he
always kept his head high and stood as straight as any soldier. Jim
often said that no son could have had a finer father than he.

Shortly after his fifteenth birthday young Jim secured employment in
Fred Crowe’s grocery store. Here he worked on Saturdays and earned fifty
cents for his day’s labor. At this time in his life this small sum
seemed like a small fortune.

Work or play, as he chose, the young aspiring writer always found time
to hide away to do his daily stint of writing that was in years to come
to net him several hundreds of thousands of dollars. He loved to go
where it was peaceful and quiet. It seemed that his best work always
came when he was in a quiet corner of the world.

Writing as he did at this age (and that was a great deal), Jim had not
as yet mustered up enough courage to send any of his stories out to the
publishing houses.

The spring following the fall that Mr. Curwood and his family had moved
back to Owosso to rejoin their youngest son Jim, he bought a nice little
home on the one sweeping bend of the Shiawassee river in all of the
town. It was a two-storied affair and from Jim’s room upstairs he would
sit and look out over the river and commons that were filled with some
of the most beautiful trees in all of Michigan.

Shortly after moving to the new house, Mr. and Mrs. Curwood outfitted
their writing son with a desk and a table for his own room, as well as a
second hand Caligraph typewriter. At last Jim had his own study, his own
private study. The young lad felt that he was now on an equal basis with
the great writer Fred Janette and proceeded to decorate his room in much
the same manner as Mr. Janette’s.

Here he knew that he could work without interruption and fear of being
disturbed. Here he could lock the door and write as much and as long as
he wanted to.

Just outside the window below him as he sat at his desk was his river,
flowing gracefully and silently along as it made its way in a final
sweeping bend before entering the surrounding wilds. The thought that
entered Jim’s mind when he first sat down to write was: “Surely I can
get an inspiration here!”

Time quickly passed by, and as time flew, so did young Jim Curwood’s
stories. For just as fast as he would complete one story on the
second-hand typewriter, he would begin another one.

One of the most enjoyable things to him at this age was after the supper
hour, when his family would gather around him and listen as he read his
newly-written stories of adventure. Actually his elders were almost
spellbound at their son’s accomplishments. Every story that the young
lad wrote was indeed good, his parents readily agreed, even though there
would be an exceptionally exciting one occasionally. Many are the times
that Mrs. Curwood would remark to her neighbors how her son, Jimmy, was
progressing in his chosen work. And even as quiet a person as his dear
old father was, he, too, broke down every now and then to praise what
his youngest child was doing.

“Fine, Jimmy boy, that’s fine!”

Throughout the preceding seven years Jim Curwood’s interest in writing
and literature had never abated. Now, at fifteen, the thrill and
enjoyment of his chosen life work was surging through his veins at a
much greater rate of speed. Now he had a typewriter on which to write
his stories instead of scrawling them on wrapping paper with a dull
pencil. Writing was a part of him. It would have been an impossibility
for him to have given it up, even if his very life had depended upon it.
For Jim Curwood was certain, even at that adolescent age, that Jim
Curwood would become a great writer.

Despite the fact that he had not mustered up enough courage to submit
any of his stories to editors, he knew that he must continue pounding a
typewriter or “die the death of a lost soul.”

Long before the Curwood family moved to the new home on John Street on
the bend of the river, young Jimmy used to collect all sorts of wrapping
paper and cut it into sheets of standard size in order to keep his work
in good shape. Then he would write his stories out in crude fashion and
once he had completed them would bind them together to make a compact
volume. As a matter of fact, Jim would often set his stories down on
anything that would make itself available. As a result of all those
prodigious hours of writing as a child there are literally thousands and
thousands of manuscripts filed away in neat stacks in the bottom of his
writing studio today.

The first story of Jim Curwood’s to appear in print was entitled “The
Fall of Shako,” which appeared in the Owosso paper, _The Argus_. The
unusual feature of this first appearance in print was that “The Fall of
Shako” took young Jim much longer to write than any of his other
stories.

The story was accepted by George Campbell, who at that time was the
editor and owner of _The Argus_, and he published it with Jim’s by-line
in bold type directly below the title. No payment was made for its
publication, but at that time Jim thought little, if at all, of
remuneration.

Living in Owosso then was a man named Dave Joplin who, for some unknown
and mysterious reason, disliked Jim’s father. With the publication of
the story with the by-line, JAMES CURWOOD, in bold type, he believed he
saw the opportunity he had been anxiously waiting for. He did not
realize that Mr. Curwood had a son by the same name, and was mistakenly
under the impression that the author was none other than the subject of
his dislike.

With calm deliberation Dave Joplin sat down with his pen flaming hot and
wrote harsh criticism of “The Fall of Shako.” This he sent directly to
the office of _The Argus_.

He termed the story an insult to the intelligence of the people of the
community and one composed of childish drivel.

Publisher George Campbell, sensing the possibilities of the joke,
published the “flaming letter of criticism” on the front page of _The
Argus_. Instantly it boomed back in the form of hundreds of letters and
postcards from angry and outraged citizens, who protested vehemently
against a man like Joplin attacking the young writer. Realizing his
mistake, Joplin promptly offered apologies, but the public was up in
arms over the silly, idiotic outburst of a full grown man.

Shortly thereafter Fred Janette heard of the incident and immediately
took to Jim’s rescue through the press itself. He wrote that Joplin had
shown himself to be a superlative ass and that his own egotistical
self-centered nature would be his downfall. At the same time the
citizens of Owosso took up the battle in favor of young Jim. By the
hundreds, letters of opinion flooded into the office of _The Argus_.

Because the editor of a small town newspaper had seen fit to publish a
short story by one of the town’s citizens, the miracle had occurred and
the young writer was beginning to receive publicity that he had not
expected in his wildest dreams to come to him so soon. His name and the
story concerning him was being printed on the front page of every large
newspaper throughout the country. It was more than state news now, for
it contained color and adventure that millions of people enjoy.

As days went by Jim began receiving congratulatory mail from all parts
of the country. All this, because of the publication of one apparently
mediocre story. But it was doing him more good than he realized at the
time. He was getting his name before the public as a writer and that in
itself was worth its weight in gold.

It was not long before the _Detroit Journal_ asked for a contribution.
Naturally it was quite a surprise for the growing boy and when this
happened he saw his chances for success suddenly rise to new heights.

“The Fall of Shako” was written November 2, 1894. It was published in
_The Owosso Argus_ on November 21 of that year.

The day before publication of that wonderful “first” of Jim Curwood’s,
he had been unknown and unsung. The next day everyone in Owosso, in
surrounding towns and in many states knew that James Oliver Curwood
lived on John Street and that he was a writer of no mean degree.
Although the _Detroit Journal_ was the first to ask for some of Jim’s
work, other papers in Detroit immediately followed suit as well as a few
papers elsewhere in the state. However, as the _Journal_ had been the
first to contact him, Jim submitted a group of his tales from which two
were quickly chosen. These were “Pontiac’s Last Blow” and “The Angel
from Heaven.” To his amazement he received no payment for these
contributions. Several days later he completed a new tale entitled, “The
Girl with the Rareripe Lips and the Raven Hair,” which he promptly
mailed to the _Journal_, and this was as promptly accepted. No payment
was made for that story either. So, with renewed energy and
determination, Jim took down his worn book of synonyms and dictionary
and began writing with more ambition than ever before.

After a long trip to New York, Fred Janette returned to Owosso to see
how his young charge was faring. He was quite surprised at the progress
the young writer was making. He was not only pleased, but deeply
contented. Yet, within him, Fred Janette felt that something was wrong
somewhere along the line, and he decided to delve more deeply into the
career of young Jim.

With careful deliberation he began reading the few published works of
the young author. Hardly had he finished reading the stack of
manuscripts than he immediately “yanked” the boy into his private study
once more. Here he explained fully just what Jim would have to do and
what he must not do. Fred Janette finally convinced Jim that he must
write hard and earnestly for a long time before he could hope to receive
payment for his work. It was during this session that he advised Jim to
try writing a juvenile serial for experience, if for nothing else.

All during the long heavy snows of the winter of 1893 Jim sat at his
desk on John Street, hammering away on his two twenty-thousand-word
serials. They were entitled “The Rebel Quintette,” and “Firelock of the
Range.” Today, forty-nine years later, those two manuscripts still
remain in the dungeon of Curwood Castle, for they were never published.

Of these two scripts, Curwood said in later life: “These pencil-scrawled
manuscripts, yellow with age, are among those I sometimes show to those
whom I sincerely desire to understand what is not good writing. Neither
was ever published.”

The remainder of that winter Jim kept everlastingly at his work,
pounding away feverishly on the rebuilt typewriter, with the
ever-present desire of having his stories published burning deep within
him. His native love for writing, aided by the unceasing encouragement
of his parents and Fred Janette, drove him constantly forward. For even
when the young boy would grow tired Janette and Jim’s mother saw to it
that the boy’s imagination was never led astray or left to linger. They
saw to it that his rapidly developing brain was continually at work.

It was during the last half of his sixteenth year that Jim Curwood,
young as he was, realized that he was on the right road to success.
However, he did not imagine just how long and how tiresome that road
would later prove itself to be.

Shortly after Jim had passed his seventeenth birthday, he began sending
out his stories with fond hopes of acceptance and remuneration. These
hopes were short-lived, for just as fast as he would mail the
manuscripts out others would be returned with a neat pink, blue or white
rejection slip attached.

Time and time again Jim had fits of despondency that all but drove both
him and his parents insane. He grew to hate the very sight of one of
those pink or white pieces of paper. Upon receiving a rejection slip he
vowed that he would never write another line. Always within twenty-four
hours he would be back at his typewriter, pounding away as usual.

Throughout all those lean, hard years of climbing slowly but surely
uphill in his claim to success and fame, Jim Curwood prayed to his God
for guidance and a brain that was capable of turning out a saleable
story. He, like so many other authors, knew that prayer alone would
never turn the trick. Everlasting persistence and staunch, bulldog
tenacity must be present if success is to come.

Jim did have the foresight, however, to realize that he must work
continually in order for him to achieve any minor degree of victory. And
work continually he did. Always from the crack of dawn to the wee, small
hours of the night he could have been found in his study, hard at work.

Curwood’s prayers during his teen age experiences were not so much that
he become wealthy or famous. Nor were they for the clamoring for
recognition. They were simply that people could get to read his stories.
Then he would be able to write yarns that people would want to read.
Publication and a ready audience were all that the young man craved.

During those times when fits of despondency would overcome him at the
sight of a rejection slip, there was but one thing Jim would do. He
would have his outburst of temper, take a long walk and then return to
his typewriter. Unlike most writers who receive, as a rule, not more
than two or three rejects in the day’s mail, Jim often got as many as
twelve to fifteen. Always they seemed to come in great avalanches. This
was all due to his prodigious output of words and stories.

When he would receive several of his tales back from the different
publishers, Jim would merely send them on their way to different ones.
He was not one to give up easily and consequently could not be whipped
in his determination to succeed. The postage bill at the Curwood home as
a rule varied from as little as $1.00 to as high as $3.00 and $4.00 a
month. But his parents concerned themselves little at the expense for
somehow they knew that the cause was a worthy one.

In due time the youthful author, who by this time had published over a
dozen different stories, came to believe just what the printed rejection
slip said—that rejection of a story did not necessarily mean that it was
not good, but that the story was unsuited to this or that particular
editor’s needs at the time.

At one time during Jim’s youthful and turbulent career, he received a
printed rejection slip from Bob Davis of _Munsey’s Magazine_, which had
the following scribbled on the bottom:

“Keep at it, kid, you’re bound to win!”

These eight words were to prove themselves priceless to Jim Curwood
during the time when everything he wrote seemed to appear so black and
foreboding. For it is seldom that an editor will take the time to write
words of encouragement to aspiring authors. However, it seemed that
_Munsey’s_ liked Jim’s work even though it did not quite reach its
standards. The kindness handed him by Bob Davis was something which the
boy never forgot.

Here and there among Jim’s many files of correspondence, private papers
and manuscripts are to be found many such words of encouragement from
various “big time” editors of that era. Brief notes from men who knew
that the young man was really a “coming big name.” It was these same
notes that kept the fire burning within Jim’s heart, and drove him on
when his ambition and energy lagged.

Probably one of the most amusing incidents in all of Jim’s hectic career
was the first and last time he was ever guilty of plagiarism.

It seems that in Jim’s still somewhat immature career, he wanted
publication so badly that he found a way of achieving it, though it was
not quite an honest or ethical one. He had come across a poem that he
enjoyed very much. A poem that was as old as the yellow paper upon which
it had been printed. It was entitled “A Fragment,” written by the
internationally famous Lord Byron. So, in his rather great haste to
reach the top rung of the ladder of literary success, Jim changed the
name of Byron’s poem to, “A Prayer,” and submitted it to a magazine as
his own work.

Then one day, weeks later, he received a check for fifty cents from the
magazine which had accepted the poem for early publication. This brought
high elation to the young man even though the real thrill was lacking.

Several days after publication of the poem in the “big magazine,” the
final blow to Jim’s elation came. For it seems that Fred Janette’s
mother recognized the bit of verse as that of Lord Byron’s famous “A
Fragment.”

“Never will I ever forget the expression that came over Mrs. Janette’s
face when she saw that which I had sold to be my own.” Jim remarked in
later life. But somehow she seemed to think it best not to say anything
to him about it at the time. However, a few weeks later she admitted to
him that she had recognized the poem to be Lord Byron’s. She was even
good enough to explain to the editor of the magazine which had published
it begging him not to say anything to Jim. She believed that if the
magazine’s editor had accused Jim of plagiarism, a truly great career
might have been shattered, hardly before it had actually begun to get a
good start.

Having derived no decidedly great thrill from what he had done, it
dawned on Jim that not only had he cheated himself, but had equally
cheated his parents and his friends. For Mr. and Mrs. Curwood firmly
believed that the published verse had actually been their son’s.

For weeks to come Jim Curwood worried and fretted over his literary
crime. It grieved him to think that he had published something which had
not been his own and that he had been paid for it. However, he shortly
let the matter drop from his mind after vowing never to repeat the act,
no matter how badly he wanted publication. James Oliver Curwood never
committed plagiarism again.

In those early struggling days for James Oliver Curwood, there were such
magazines on the market as _The Wayside Tales_, _The Four O’Clock_, _The
White Elephant_, _The Black Cat_. To these, and to many others, Jim
offered his writings. Unfortunately, they did not see fit to publish
young James O. Curwood. Regardless of the rejections he usually got, he
always kept _Munsey’s Magazine_ on his list, for it had offered more
encouragement and rays of hope than all the other magazines combined.

Then success, in a minor sort of way, came to young Curwood. He received
a notice of acceptance from the _Gray Goose_ magazine and $5.00 in
payment.

If the neighbors had not known that a young writer lived nearby, there
is little doubt but that they would have believed a raving lunatic had
invaded the little house on John Street. For at sight of the check, Jim
jumped and ran about the house, shouting at the top of his voice, as he
waved the green piece of paper wildly above his head. And he had good
reason for doing so. “Across the Range” was his first paid-for story.
Heretofore he had had several of his stories published, but had never
received any compensation for them. Now the “ice had been broken,” and
he was on the road to success.

“If the check had been for five-thousand dollars the thrill would not
have been greater,” said Jim at the time. For here was the result of ten
years of mental anguish and strain; ten years of impatient, but hopeful
waiting. Here was what he had been striving for. It hardly seemed true,
yet there before his eyes and in his hands was the check.

For many days after this wonderful happening Jim was held in the throes
of excitement, the likes of which he had never known before in all his
life. At last he could call himself a professional writer. The beacons
of happiness and earnestness shone bright in the teen-aged youth’s head,
for at last his dream was coming true.

Feeling that he had at last struck the right chord Jim wrote hot,
scorching letters to all the editors who had previously rejected his
stories. Many of them replied in due time by saying, in effect, “we have
never heard of the _Gray Goose_ before.”

It was not long before young Jim began to believe many things about
himself that as yet were not exactly true. He even felt himself to be on
an equal status with his idol, Fred Janette. He also believed that now
that fame and glory had taken a quick look at him, he should resume his
normal life and turn out still more yarns. Stories which would sell
many, many copies of the magazines in which they would appear. Stories
that would hold their readers spellbound from beginning to end. Stories
that would provide hope, inspiration and ambition to those who might
have grown weary of the struggle. He wanted to write so that in his
works there would be a message for all.

For a long time Jim had wanted a bicycle of his own. He had borrowed his
friends’ bikes many times, but neither they nor he approved so very much
of this policy. He had been saving his money in the hope of accumulating
enough to purchase one for himself, but he began to realize that it
would take a long, long time for him to save up the fabulous sum that a
new bicycle would cost.

One day early in June of 1896, young Jim Curwood, now past seventeen
years of age, had one of the most pleasant surprises of his life. Mr.
Curwood bought his growing young son a bicycle all his own on which Jim
was free to ride whenever and wherever he chose.

It was a grand and glorious thrill for the boy. It gave him a feeling of
satisfaction and immense pride. No longer would he have to borrow a
bicycle. Now he had his own, and it was the newest and best bicycle in
all of Owosso.

On the very day that Jim became the proud owner of the new bicycle he
began planning for a long trip. He decided, after some reflection, to
travel southward.

Fortunately enough, Jim’s parents had no serious objections to his
plans, so, upon completing his itinerary, he made ready to start on his
travels early the following morning. His first stop would be at his
cousin’s, Bert Van Ostran, seventeen miles away. Father Curwood reached
down into his pocket and extracted fifty cents which he gave to his
youngest boy, and then Mrs. Curwood packed him a good lunch.

After the discussion of the trip had come to an end the family prepared
for bed. Jim urged his parents not to see him off in the morning, for he
expected to be on his way at the first crack of dawn. The elder Curwoods
doubted very strongly, however, that he would even be out of bed by
dawn, let alone being well on his way peddling a bicycle. For to reach
cousin Bert’s home, Jim would have to peddle over seventeen miles of the
worst gravel roads. So they made no objections, slyly believing that the
whole trip would come to naught.

But Mr. and Mrs. Curwood did not realize to what extent the adventure
blood was surging through their son’s veins. They did not realize the
yearning that Jim held in his youthful heart for the open skies where
the stars shone down in glittering millions. They did not know of the
love their son bore in his heart for the winding, steep trails, the
blazing campfires or the countless spots along the streams where one
could lie and dream upon the green turf while one’s fish pole would
dangle idly in the cool green depths. No, Mr. and Mrs. Curwood did not
stop to think of this. Perhaps it is better they had not known, for it
might have resulted in a great and most unwelcome change in Jim Curwood.
A change that might have eliminated him from the ranks of the world’s
greatest adventure writers.

By the first gleams of breaking dawn as the sun awakened to start a new
day, Jim Curwood was well on his way to his cousin’s home seventeen
miles distant. One may only guess at the surprise that his parents must
have experienced when they discovered that the boy was gone.

Jim pedaled his heart out and reached Bert’s home the same afternoon.

Hardly had he arrived than he was explaining his scheme to cousin Bert.
Up until this time Jim had not spoken to anyone concerning the plan that
had been hatching in his brain. From all indications it was merely to
have been a short bike trip of seventeen miles and no further. Bert was
in complete agreement, and that night the boys sat in Bert’s room and
drew up their secret plans long after their elders had turned in for the
night—plans that would open up new roads of adventure for them.

The following morning the boys were up early, and by the time the sun
rose they were on their way, their bike racks loaded and their luggage
tight.

As any nature lover, any adventurer or any traveler knows, there is no
holding back, no barring of the path when one hears the call to nature
and wildlife. There is no one to bar your path and say that you cannot
go here and you cannot go there. You are free to go where you please and
when you please. The passport to adventure is the love of nature.

Throughout the wanderings of the two comrades they managed to live off
the land, as wanderers do. Often, being extremely fortunate, they would
receive handouts consisting of fresh eggs, chicken, milk and vegetables
which they consumed to their hearts’ content. But they were not without
their periods of hard luck, too, for on occasions they had to run for
dear life before the rage of farmers who did not particularly relish
their trespassings. But all of this was to be expected, for they had
chosen to live the life of adventurers and live it they did to their
utter joy and sheer happiness.

It was about the middle of July that Jim and Bert decided to swing
around and see as much territory as possible in the remaining time left
them. Immediately they made for Ohio, into eastern Indiana, then back
into Ohio and on down into Kentucky.

This being the first real trip that Jim Curwood had made thus far in his
life, he felt an immense and almost inexpressible thrill when his cousin
and he crossed the wide and swift Ohio river enroute to the state of
Kentucky. He had never before been this far south and he enjoyed it so
much that they spent several days in the “Blue Grass” state. They never
remained in any other spot for more than half a day at a time.

They pedaled up long, winding trails and hills where on both sides of
them were deep chasms and high cliffs, overlooking wide fertile valleys.
They travelled over many miles of Kentucky’s roads and by-ways,
thrilling to every mile, every stone, every stream. Unexpectedly,
through the kindness of an unknown sportswoman, they were given an
opportunity to ride on a large steamboat which had stopped at the docks
of the Ohio river. So, with their bicycles safely on board, Jim and Bert
stood along the rail with their hostess as the shrill whistles blew. For
several days and nights they had three square meals daily in truly
luxurious style and they slept like kings in soft and downy beds. The
dream, real as it was, ended when the boat docked at Louisville, and the
two boys disembarked to make their plans for pedalling back to their
respective homes.

Schooldays soon arrived for Jim Curwood and into the long, wide halls of
Central School he strode once more. This time he was not the meek and
timid beginner as of old, but one who had the air of an adventurer about
him. He had also grown a great deal during the summer, his skin was
tanned. His natural coal-black, straight hair was almost bleached white
by the hot summer sun.

Despite the fact that he was glad to be back in school, soon the urge
for the great outdoors and what they had to offer began to beckon to him
stronger than before. So, outside of school hours (and those days when
he would miss school altogether), his time was divided between his river
and his bedroom study.

Night after night Jim constantly heard his river rushing past his
upstairs window on into the wilds. Soon he found that he could not
withstand the urge longer ... nature was beckoning. So he wrote a long,
heart-filled letter to his old pal Skinny, imploring him to come and
join him, and together they would go on one grand and glorious
adventure. Many anxious days he waited until those days had developed
into weeks, and still no reply came from Skinny down in Ohio. This
silence puzzled Jim greatly. Surely Skinny had received his letter or
else it would have been returned to him long before now.

Jim waited three or four days more before giving up all hopes of hearing
from Skinny.

One day, when the spring rains had stopped and the flowers had begun to
burst open in a glorious outbreaking of wonderful springtime, Jim
Curwood brought home all his books and announced that school was of such
minor importance to him, as compared to the material he must gather for
a story for the editor of _Golden Days Magazine_, that he must at once
dismiss all thoughts of study and head into the Big Marsh. As far as Jim
Curwood was concerned now school was so much water over the dam and
something which had done him little or no good whatsoever.

The urge for adventure was much more stronger than the urge to attend
school, despite the fact that he had returned to Owosso from Ohio
principally to go to school. But he had pondered over the situation
seriously for many weeks and his mind was made up. He was heading north
and nothing was going to stop him. He wanted that country so feverishly
and wanted to write about it so badly that he could not and would not
suppress himself further.

Fortunately enough, school in those days was a small part of one’s life.
So Mother and Father Curwood did not raise much protest against their
son’s wishes, even though they had hoped and prayed that he would some
day go through college. Consequently Jim had very little trouble in
gaining the necessary permission, although the necessity of gathering
material for the editor of _Golden Days_ was a fabrication. The editor
of that magazine had never even heard of Jim Curwood....

Several days later Jim started out on his lone venture, still wondering
why Skinny had never answered his letter. He was starting out into the
Big Marsh Country and the “Land of the Bad” alone. Carrying his gun in
one hand and his dunnage in the other, his tramping was to be a solitary
one. In those days there were no automobiles and the country was low and
flat. There was nothing but timberland, swamps, lakes, creatures of the
wilds and the rushing white waters of the rivers.

As Jim began hiking on the first day of his trip, the sun was just
beginning to peep through the trees. At the end of that day the sun was
sinking behind the western horizon in a glorious burst of color. He had
made something like thirty miles and he was to spend his first night out
in one of the cabins of one of his swamp Indian friends and feast upon
the usual meal of fried muskrat.

By sunup the following morning Jim Curwood was in the little town of St.
Charles, and it was here that he rented a leaky boat.

Jim was on his way down the Bad long before most people are ready to sit
down to their morning meal.

A half mile or so down the river from St. Charles, Jim entered a region
supremely and gloriously wild. It was strangely and unusually quiet; and
along this particular point the Bad river was very deep and wide, and
all but currentless. Bordered on both sides by many types of trees:
spruce, willows, jackpine, maple and beech that seemed to be bending
their heads down to the water’s edge, and long entwining vines that
looked as if they were just waiting to fasten their deathlike grips
about Jim’s young neck. It was all mysterious and terrifying, but Jim
loved it all. He loved and almost worshipped every single thing
regardless of how wild and spooky it looked.

[Illustration: _J.C. WEBER_]

The farther he pushed along, the more he began to realize that he was
well within the swamp territory and uncut timberlands, a place so
primeval and mysterious that it fairly rang with the sound of adventure.
It was deathly still and quiet.

As Jim dipped his oars silently and deeply into the black waters he
could not help but hear the occasional sounds of birds and wildlife
about him. Yet, he was not at the place he wanted to be, the region
where game was abundant. But it was part of what he was seeking. He
marveled at the sounds and the scenery and was thrilled as never before.

Jim Curwood took in everything with all the awe and wonderment of youth.
But soon he knew that he must stop admiring the scenery and make for his
destination before nightfall caught up with him. His destination was a
place where the swiftly flowing waters of the flooded Shiawassee joined
those of the slow, currentless Bad. It was there that he planned to
spend the night. Jim dug his oars deeper into the cold, black, silent
waters of the mysterious Bad river.

As young Jim rowed along many thoughts entered his mind. He had always
thought of the Bad river as an outlaw, stealing away to some dark,
secret, quiet place of seclusion. In some places the longest fish poles
cannot touch bottom, so deep and abysmal is it. As Jim feared it, so he
loved it.

Around four o’clock in the afternoon, as the sun was beginning to set
and the shadows began to drop much deeper within the thick wilderness,
Jim reached the old logging cabin that he had been heading for. Upon his
arrival there, he was greatly perturbed to find that only about a half
an acre was above the flood waters. He landed his boat on the dry land
and went ashore.

The next morning, long before the sun had made its appearance, he was
well on his way. Fortunately enough for him, he did not have to go as
far as he had expected, for he ran into his old friend, “Muskrat” Joe,
with whom he spent that day and night.

That night Jim Curwood spent one of the merriest and most enjoyable
suppers of his life as he sat by the campfire with one of the true
wilderness wanderers. They laughed, and joked and told tall stories. The
two spent the next five glorious days together, after which the faithful
Joe invited Jim Curwood to come to his home and stay a while with him.

For four unforgettable weeks James Oliver Curwood lived the life of a
swamp Indian, doing everything, and eating the same things that swamp
Indians do and eat. He paddled an old dug-out canoe that had been carved
from the trunk of a huge tree and ate what food the Indian offered him.
Many of the dishes that the mysterious and picturesque “Muskrat” Joe
cooked, most men would turn from in horror. This was not the case with
Jim, however, for he ate everything. He felt that what Joe ate was good
enough for him.

Perhaps the amazing part of this wilderness living with Joe was that the
Indian’s home was wonderfully clean. The abode was located both on and
off the river. A long, winding path covered by marsh grass led back to
the actual home, if one chose to call it a home. Then, too, it could
hardly be termed a cabin or shack, for it was built of tree boughs and
limbs, plastered together with swamp mud and thatched over with tall,
tough marsh grass. This kept the hot air out in the summer and the cold
winds out in the winter.

The place itself was surrounded by an air of mystery and seclusion. It
was in this wilderness outpost that Jim Curwood turned out “The Mystery
Man of Kim’s Bayou.” It was here, also, that he learned more of the real
heart and soul of nature, as well as the new doors opened for him in his
great worship and search for nature in all of her abundance and glory.

Upon his unexpected though welcome return to Owosso, Jim told many
strange and weird tales about the wilds that he had surrounded himself
with during the past month or so. Upon being pressed about the material
he supposedly was gathering for the editor of _Golden Days Magazine_,
Jim merely said that he was working on it and that it would be ready in
a few days.

One day shortly after his return to Owosso, Jim made the acquaintance of
another young man whose name was Bill, through whose association Jim
became involved in another of his boyish pranks. This time, however, the
prank developed into a scheme of downright dishonesty.

Somehow or other, the two boys decided to concoct a liquid which they
called “The Infallible Blood Purifier.” Home-made and brewed without any
actual scientific preparation or knowledge, this “stuff” was not only
falsely-named but dangerous to drink, as they found out in due time.

Equipped with many bottles of their “Purifier,” the boys entrained on a
barnstorming tour of the countryside, by horse-and-buggy, screaming
their wares in the market-places of almost every city and village they
came to. Most of their customers were farmers, and business was
extremely good until, one by one, the farmers became ill. Complaints
came thick and fast and the citizenry were up in arms against the boys.
It was not long before Jim and Bill were being hunted from town to town
by the sheriff, and it was only through sheer good fortune that they
managed to elude the law.

It was while they were fleeing that Jim somehow recognized familiar
territory and he suddenly realized that they had managed to come to his
old farm in Ohio, where he had spent such glorious days with dear
friends. The farm was now vacant and dreary, but it held memories for
Jim that he would never forget. Inquiring as to his pal, Skinny, and his
“Whistling” Jeanne, he found, to his sadness, that his pal had died and
the girl had married and moved elsewhere.

So it was with a heavy heart that Jim returned to Owosso to take up once
again where he had left off. He had had his fling, was much wiser in the
ways of the world and was now ready to plunge seriously and finally into
his life’s work.



                              CHAPTER FIVE

                              COLLEGE DAYS


When Jim Curwood at last returned from his wanderings on the open roads
and along the trails of adventure, he decided that he must have more
schooling if he would attain the heights in literature that he so
desired.

Jim was determined and he set to the task that he had outlined for
himself. The first to suggest that he should go to college and study was
Mrs. Janette. But similar advice came from his parents, Fred Janette and
most of his friends. Realizing that this would take a great sum of money
Jim began to seriously consider the possibilities.

Where would he ever get the necessary funds for even a year at Ann
Arbor’s University of Michigan? Where, indeed, would he get the money
for the remaining three years which were required for a degree?

For many weeks Jim thought about his problem. At last he reached the
decision that he would earn just enough to take care of himself for the
first year and let the other three years take care of themselves. He had
not as yet completed his high school course at Central School, and the
job of doing so was also of prime consideration, since a diploma was an
essential requirement to entering a university.

Even as the century neared its end, Central School remained a combined
grade and high school where students from six and seven mingled with
boys and girls of seventeen and eighteen years of age. It was a
beautiful school surrounded by trees and sat in the center of a large
common wherein lay a wonderful playground. Despite the fact that it was
a combined school of all grades it had everything to offer the children
of that day. It remains very much the same today as it was almost fifty
years ago.

Without choice Jim set to work doing anything in the line of odd-jobs.
He beat carpets, mowed lawns and yards and raked leaves in the fall
months. He also shoveled snow from neighbors’ walks and porches during
the long, cold wintry months. He even scraped mortar from bricks at an
old building that was being destroyed. Also, during the winter, he ran
innumerable traplines and from these he managed to save quite a few
dollars. He realized to the utmost that all of this was work, but since
it was for “the cause” he did not mind. For Jim thoroughly enjoyed his
trapping in the blustery winds of the cold, northern winters, and his
shoveling of snow from sidewalks and porches. He enjoyed the scraping of
mortar from bricks, the mowing of yards and the beating of carpets, for
through this work he was coming nearer and nearer to his goal.

With the arrival of early fall, the time came when cord wood would have
to be put up, and here again Jim proved himself efficient. Cord after
cord of wood he cut up for neighbors and friends. For each cord he
received ample payment. Then, when he learned that there was a shortage
of firemen, Jim promptly signed up as a volunteer. All these jobs Jim
picked up over a period of one year.

In early September of the fall of 1897 Jim went back to Central School,
and it was not long before the faculty as well as his fellow students
learned of his desire and determination to enter college, a desire which
they regarded as being absurd and futile.

All this, however, only made Jim dig in all the harder and made him
fight more gallantly against the odds that were pitting themselves
against him. For the young man was absolutely determined to show them
all up now. He felt that by actually attaining that for which he was
striving, he would be showing them all just how small and insignificant
they really were.

Adding injury to insult there came a blow to Jim’s dignity and pride
that hurt and touched him deeply. For Professor Austin of Central School
once asked him:

“How are you going to get into college, James, without a diploma—break
in with a set of burglar’s tools?”

Throughout all those hectic schooldays Jim was constantly being urged by
a great many people to give up his childish passion for writing, and
turn to something that would prove itself more profitable and worthwhile
in years to come. Since Jim was rapidly becoming quite an expert with a
rifle, he was told that there was an excellent field in rifle matches
which would bring him good money. Likewise the prospect of bagging big
game was proposed as a means of earning considerable money. Fortunately
for Jim none of these ideas appealed to him.

There was but one teacher in all of Central School who firmly was
convinced of Jim Curwood’s future. Her name was Miss Boyce and her
loveliness always made Jim’s heart beat faster. At that time she was a
lovely young woman, not many years his senior and she possessed one of
the most lovable characters that Jim had ever known. She was constantly
urging him onward as only very few others in all of Owosso were doing.
She even went so far as to arrange a schedule whereby she could have Jim
alone and thereby instruct him privately. The private teaching took
place in her own home and Jim was sincerely moved by her earnest
interest in his career.

Throughout James Oliver Curwood’s short though illustrious and glorious
life he often thought of the beautiful and kind Miss Boyce, and more
than once he wrote her into his stories. It was through her that Jim
learned that he might enter the university by taking special entrance
examinations instead of the usual ones that other students would be
required to take. From that moment on there was nothing on earth that
could stop James Oliver Curwood. There was not an obstacle which he
could not overcome in his climb to success. He was young and he realized
fully that only God could keep him from realizing his ambitions.

“I was fully embarked on the project of becoming an author. Nothing but
death could stop me.”

Summer arrived none too soon for Jim, and with its coming Central School
was to see the last of its most ridiculed student. At last he was free.
As soon as classes were out Jim sought out work and quickly found it. He
clerked in a grocery store for several weeks, with the remainder of his
summer being spent in the nearby forests that all but surround Owosso.
He planned, he saved and he studied for those glorious days ahead of
him. Actually he had been able to save the magnificent sum of One
Hundred and Twenty Dollars, which also included the $5.00 received from
the _Gray Goose Magazine_. He had never cashed the check.

At last came the fall of 1898, and Jim Curwood was ready for his trip to
Ann Arbor and the University. There were no crowds at the station to bid
him good bye and good luck. There were just his family, Fred Janette and
his mother, Miss Boyce and a few others. Seemingly the friends of the
family and even his own chums had very little confidence in his ability
to succeed at the great institution of learning. In fact they all
believed that within a very short time Jim Curwood would be back at
home. But Jim’s family and his close friends had confidence in him and
were firmly convinced that he would successfully pass his special
entrance examinations. They were certain, however, that should he fail
he would not return to Owosso for they knew of the confidence James
Oliver Curwood had in himself at that youthful and momentous age of
twenty. To fail would mean disgrace not only to Jim, but to his parents
and friends, and they were sure that he would never come home until he
had made something of himself.

With Jim when the train pulled out of Owosso were his lone suitcase
carrying only absolute necessities, and of course his ever present
typewriter.

It was a long, rough ride to Ann Arbor and throughout it all Jim wished
that he were already there and had all of his connections made. Two
weeks were still to elapse before taking his entrance examinations, but
Jim had carefully planned his trip this way to enable him to have more
time for study and to brush up on the necessary subjects.

It was at a Mrs. Gray’s that Jim decided to have his meals after he had
arrived in Ann Arbor and had made inquiries. The prices were very
reasonable and she served an excellent quality of food. In all there
were fifteen college men who ate at Mrs. Gray’s, and each one took his
turn at serving as cashier, waiter or dishwasher, thus receiving meals
at far less than the usual prices.

Mrs. Gray treated Jim exceptionally well and almost instantly he felt as
if he were at home. The food she served was plain, everyday food, but he
paid little and still had all he wanted to eat. Jim Curwood soon learned
that Mrs. Gray was respected and highly recommended.

It was here that Jim met Walter Parker, who later became the chief of
staff of the Owosso Memorial Hospital, and Jim Greene, who became an
Assistant Attorney General of the State of Michigan. Greene’s official
capacity at Mrs. Gray’s was that of cash master.

After securing a place in which to eat his meals Jim went in search of a
room, after spending the first night at Mrs. Gray’s house. The twenty
year old did not have long to look for a place in which to lodge, for
just a few blocks down the street he came across a room for just one
dollar a week, which suited him well.

The first night in his new location he labored long into the dawning
hours. He studied as he had never studied and crammed before. The
passing of the examinations now meant more than anything had meant to
him in all his life. It meant that in the event that he should pass he
would be well on his way toward a successful literary career.

At last came the fateful morning on which he was to take his
examinations. Jim left his little room on State Street and headed for
the university. He wound his way through the heavily foliaged campus,
past the library and onto the Central Stand itself. Then up long,
winding stairs Jim made his way to the room where Professor Scott was
awaiting his prospective students. At least a dozen other young men and
women were taking the tests with Jim that morning and they were given
two hours to complete them.

[Illustration: _James Oliver Curwood At the Age of Seven_]

[Illustration: _Street Scene, Owosso, Mich., June, 1940_]

[Illustration: _The Shiawassee River (“Sparkling Waters”)_]

[Illustration: _The James Oliver Curwood Castle Taken from Off John
Street, Owosso_]

[Illustration: _The Boat Landing, Curwood Castle. On The Shiawassee
River_]

[Illustration: _Just James Oliver Curwood, more than a Million of
Whose Books are Owned by Enthusiastic Readers_]

[Illustration: _Mr. and Mrs. James Oliver Curwood, in Their Garden
in Owosso, Mich._]

[Illustration: _Curwood, Camping in the Yukon_]

[Illustration: _Curwood, the Writer, in a Corner of His Gun Room_]

[Illustration: _Curwood Before the Cabin which he Built in the British
Columbia Mountains, and in which He Wrote “God’s Country” and "The
Trail to Happiness”_]

[Illustration: _Curwood, The Woodsman, Preparing for a Night in the
Woods with Mrs. Curwood_]

[Illustration: _An Unusual, Striking Picture of Curwood_]

[Illustration: _The Curwood Outfit Going Down the Fraser River_]

[Illustration: _The Cabin on the Au Sable (Old Curwood Cabin)_]

[Illustration: _The Conservation Clubhouse, Six Miles North of Owosso.
Curwood donated several Thousand Dollars for Its Construction and the
Property Surrounding It_]

[Illustration: _The Home of James Oliver Curwood at 508 William St.,
Owosso, Mich._]

[Illustration: _Curwood Grave in Oakhill Cemetery, Owosso, Mich._]

The room was silent and still as pencils moved over the papers. As Jim
pondered over them he began to feel a strange paralysis come over him.
Even at that time he firmly believed with all his heart that none of the
teachers at seemingly far off Owosso and Central School could have
answered a single one of those almost terrifying questions. It was with
a feeling that his scholastic grave was already dug that Jim ploughed
into the series of questions. He tackled them with all the fury of a
wild, untamed lion. But at the same time the long, silent wilderness
trails beckoning toward Alaska and the great North came in a vision to
him. Was this vision to prove to be one of those unexplainable destinies
in his life? He wondered.

Young James Oliver Curwood, just slightly past twenty, sat many long
minutes trying to answer the questions. Evidently Professor Scott must
have noticed the sick look upon his face, for he came over to Jim and
told him he need not hurry. He explained to the young man that he had
plenty of time, that he would accomplish more if he proceeded slowly.

For the entire two hours and up until Professor Scott called the
examination to a halt, Jim sat there writing as fast and accurately as
his arm and brain would permit. He had been a little slow at first, but
as time went on his memory seemed to return and he remembered more. When
the allotted time was up he handed in a sheaf of papers that would lead
one to believe that Jim Curwood had written a full length novel.

A few anxious and worried days went by before the big news came telling
of the results of the examinations. Jim Curwood had passed the difficult
examinations with “flying colors,” while over one-fourth of the others
had failed. He was jubilant and overjoyed at his great success.
Immediately he rushed off to the telegraph office to send back the news
to all of Owosso.

James Oliver Curwood plunged deep into college life. Now, besides being
a part of the university he was also a resident of Ann Arbor. It later
became known that it was not only the studies that interested him but,
strange as it may seem, being a resident of Ann Arbor gave him a
soul-satisfying thrill, a thrill so great and real that for many years
afterward Jim could never quite fully describe it.

The weeks that followed were filled with the usual pranks and escapades
that come to all college students, and Jim was by no means an exception.
Being a freshman was not an altogether happy affair, what with the
periods of “hazing” and “paddling” and peeling of onions that became
parts of his daily existence. But through all this Jim’s sense of humour
never left him and, while he did not particularly enjoy these
“persecutions,” his understanding of them made them easier to bear.

At last came the time for Jim to take notice of his financial standing.
He had paid his tuition fees, purchased his books and all minor colleges
fees had been taken care of. Even his room and board were paid up for
the entire first semester. Still, Jim was running short of cash. So he
set out in search of work. Any job that paid any wages at all was what
Jim Curwood wanted and would take. Luckily there was a university
employment agency on the campus and Jim lost no time in contacting it.
For several days he practically haunted the agency and at last after a
week of waiting he secured employment at a house that needed someone to
tend the furnace and take out ashes after school hours. Though the
compensation was little it helped Jim immensely to carry on his college
work.

It was not long before a similar position presented itself, and this
together with the first one, netted him the then magnificent sum of
$6.00 weekly. Jim’s education, at least for the present, looked a little
more secure.

As the first year at Ann Arbor was rapidly drawing to a close, the final
examinations came up. Jim soon began the ever tiresome task of studying.
The light in his room burned from early dusk until early in the morning.
This was one time when he realized that he must burn the proverbial
“midnight oil.”

After many long, hard hours of intense study, Jim managed to pass the
examinations. His first year at the University of Michigan had been a
success and he was quite proud.



                              CHAPTER SIX

                   NEWSPAPER WORK AND EARLY WRITINGS


In September, following the completion of Jim Curwood’s freshman year at
Ann Arbor, Professor Scott convinced him that there was an excellent
opportunity in newspaper work in Ann Arbor.

So once more Jim began to write. He wrote stories he felt people would
love to read—the type of stories that he loved to write. Jim wanted to
write about nature, something which would appeal to the public in a big
way, tales of adventure where the women were clean, pure and brave, and
the men valiant and courageous.

From that time on stories of all types flowed from his pen and his
typewriter. He wrote high grade adventure yarns which were slightly
tinged with an air of romance. Jim even gave detective fiction a try but
found that he was unsuited for it.

His stories were mailed to newspapers all over the middle west. Detroit,
Bay City, Indianapolis, Toledo and many others were on his mailing list.
At first they all came back with the usual rejection slips. Then out of
a clear sky, checks began arriving. He sold a great many of his stories
to Detroit newspapers and to various other city newspapers. His monthly
earnings now began to total as much as seventy dollars and were never
less than thirty dollars.

Jim’s ambition now was burning more fiercely than ever before. His
desire to have millions of people read his stories became an obsession
with him. His stay in Ann Arbor at the University was now assured.
Henceforth Jim Curwood dropped all other college activities, for his
writing and studies were taking all of his spare time.

The little room he occupied on State Street had now been turned into a
regular beehive of activity. The throes of creative composition were
swarming in his adventurous blood and write he must. Papers were strewn
across the floor and completely covered the space all about his desk,
the top of which was covered entirely with manuscripts, correspondence
and tid-bits of notes. Jim was unceasingly racking his brain for new
plots and new angles and different settings.

Detroit began buying more and more of his stories and it was all he
could do to continue the steady output. He was producing stories of the
great Canadian Northwest, stories that were so jammed with
heart-stirring adventure that the newspapers to which he sold them were
selling their papers by extra hundreds daily. James O. Curwood’s stories
had selling appeal. People, as well as the editors, were beginning to
wait impatiently for them. Jim was eternally grateful and thankful, in
fact, more thankful than he had ever been before. He had been writing
for the past twelve years and now at last some degree of success was
coming to him.

It was during this terrific onslaught of writing fury that Jim strayed
farther away from nature than ever before. He missed it terribly and
yearned to get back to it. That urge was constantly burning within him,
the same as was the desire to become a writer. Fortunately enough he was
writing about the great open spaces, the deep, silent forests, and the
many lakes and streams, and this allayed his longing somewhat. As often
as possible, however, he would break away from his room long enough to
take brief walks of an evening. Sometimes these walks would develop into
strolls across the rolling ridges and hills and wanderings into the
beautiful glens and forests that lay nearby. Atop these ridges on the
outskirts of town he could look down upon Ann Arbor as it nestled among
the many silently swaying trees. Even on cold, wintry nights he would
sometimes climb to the tops of these ridges as the world lay asleep and
look down upon the glimmering lights of the campus and town. Here he
could see the lights twinkling and flickering through the light of
steady downfalls of glittering, gleaming snow. Jim Curwood loved the
falling of the snow. He loved it almost as much as he did the ever
glorious arrival of spring.

All through the cold winter Jim worked feverously on his studies and on
his writing. His mind and nerves were constantly on edge, so deep in his
work was he engrossed. Still he turned out stories that eventually found
a market and that was what he was searching for.

With the arrival of spring, Jim was still engaged in his free-lance
newspaper work. But the proceeds of his writings were not yet sufficient
to assure his staying on at the University, so he accepted a position
offered by Professor Adams who had undertaken a huge railroad
statistical job for the government and was in need of a few college men
to assist him. Jim was to draw $75.00 per month, with room furnished.
The job was to last all summer long. As this work was comparatively
easy, consisting only of calculations, Jim enjoyed doing it.

When the fall term opened Jim returned to school with over $200.00 in
his pockets. He now had sufficient funds to provide himself with a
little relaxation and some luxuries. The year of 1900 was to prove one
of the most enjoyable and changing periods in all his life.

Because he was now better off, financially, Jim decided to take larger
quarters, so he rented a two-room apartment on Jefferson Street. Then he
bought a new suit of clothes which materially changed his appearance.
With a pipe and a mandolin, previously acquired, he became a typical
“college man.”

“As a sophomore I devoted only a little attention to the incoming
freshmen. The enthusiasm with which I had entered into under-class
rivalries the preceding autumn had worn itself out, or rather, had been
supplanted by my interest in newspaper work.”

What with his writing, his difficult studies and the planning of his
work, Jim was truly as busy a man as there was on the whole of the
campus. He spent his spare time, as little as there was of it, in
strolls about the campus and the wooded sections on the outskirts of the
city. Here he loved to walk along slowly and take in nature as it
actually was. He loved to watch the birds flit from tree to tree, to see
the chipmunks, the squirrels and the various other creatures of the wild
in the throes of their work and play. They always appeared so
industrious to him. But Jim Curwood did not watch them merely for the
thrill of it all, but because he studied their every move. Here it was
that Jim discovered that he cared for nature almost selfishly. At times
it seemed as if he could not break away from his wanderings in the
forests and along the lakes long enough to accomplish anything else. The
birds, the trees and the rippling waters entranced the young man. The
many squirrels and rabbits that infested the places that man did not go
held constant fascination for him.

Jim watched nature and wildlife with gifted eyes. He would see creatures
of God where no other human eyes could detect them. Jim Curwood was a
staunch believer that everything on the face of the earth was an
important item in the worldly scheme of things.

“If I did not believe a tree had a soul I could not believe in a God. If
someone convinced me that the life in a flower or the heart in a bird
were not as important in the final analysis as those same things in my
own body I could no longer have faith in a hereafter.”

Those words seal the case of Jim Curwood’s love of nature and of all
living things.

                                * * * *

The sophomore year at the University of Michigan came and went almost as
fast as had his previous year as a freshman, with but one exception. Jim
Curwood had begun to take a keen and glowing interest in the young women
of the campus. Previously he had hardly looked at girls and at times
hardly realized that there were such lovely creatures about him, save
for his childhood sweetheart, “Whistling” Jeanne. Those memories of
Jeanne Fisher, however, were not haunting him now, for the beautiful
women of the University were taking her place. Jim began to notice their
pretty dresses, their hair-do’s, and their feminine pulchritude. It was
the glory of womanhood and all it stood for that made Jim happy. He
began to realize more and more that womanhood was probably the most
wonderful of all things on the earth. He began to glorify them in his
stories as he had the creatures of the wild and all nature about him.

“Then I began to understand that no matter how successful a man may be,
how much money he may amass, or how many honors he may acquire, his life
is woefully incomplete unless a woman fully shares it with him. As the
tired-eyed factor at Fond du Lac once said, while he stood beside the
lonely grace under a huge spruce: ‘No country is God’s Country without a
woman.’”

One afternoon early in the fall of the year, Jim was on one of his
evening strolls down a byway along the very edge of the Huron River as
it made its way out of Ann Arbor. It was during the course of this walk
that Jim Curwood chanced upon one of the most beautiful creatures of
womanhood that he had ever seen. About a mile down this path along the
Huron from whence one turns off to follow the course of the river, Jim
found her. The path was called then, as it still remains, “Schoolgirl
Glen.” Jim had long come to consider this particular spot as his own,
and upon discovering the intruder, beautiful as she was, he resented it
somewhat. He had grown to love the bigness and glory of the solitude
here. From this spot a man’s eyes could roam for countless miles and see
nothing but the beauty and glory of nature.

As Jim came upon the young lady she turned about, smiled, and spoke to
him. Then he smiled, too. Smiled as he had never smiled before. It was
not as a matter of politeness that a smile came to his face then, but
because he felt like smiling at that particular moment.

All about them were massive pines, spruces and willows and many
varieties of shrubs and bushes. Jim later often referred to the spot as
one of the most beautiful that he knew of.

At first he was backward and shy, but when his newly-found companion
began talking about nature and the very things that Jim Curwood loved so
well, almost immediately his backwardness vanished and he found himself
in a veritable “Garden of Eden.” Jim could hardly believe that there
could possibly be two people in the same world who viewed things so
nearly alike.

For many hours they talked of the beauties of nature, of the wilderness
and of their own love of wildlife. They spoke of what they thought
should be done in order to preserve our natural resources. Jim found
himself liking this new youthful companion who loved nature as he did.
This meeting between the two was the beginning of a serious romance,
which resulted in their marriage on January 15, 1900, exactly six months
later.

From that time on Jim found that he had to work much harder than ever
before in order to make ends meet. He drove himself in his story
writing, hardly relaxing or letting up. Story after story and article
after article he would grind out in an effort to make a decent living.
In fact, Jim was all but driving himself to the very limit. When asked
why he was working so hard, he would reply:

“Why not? I have something to work for now!”

About this time the _Gray Goose Magazine_ began accepting Jim’s stories
more regularly. Various other magazines, both slicks and pulps, began
taking an interest in his work. What with all of his newspaper
free-lancing and his magazine work, Jim was finally managing to make
both of the proverbial ends meet.

At last when the school year ended and the glorious summer of 1900
began, Jim and his lovely wife began making new plans. So promptly and
without much deliberation, they headed for the Big Marsh country. The
call of adventure was strong in Jim’s blood once again. He was coming
back to nature and the life he loved so dearly, only this time he was
not alone.

The summer was wonderfully and educationally spent by just the two of
them. They were constantly on the move as they journeyed from one
beauteous spot to another, making sure they missed nothing. They were
taking in all the wonderous sights that were available in the Big Marsh
country. They loved the great open spaces where one could breathe clean,
fresh air and where all the creatures of the wild were at home, playing,
working and making ready for the coming of winter. That particular
summer of 1900 was one of the most enjoyable that James Oliver Curwood
had ever spent.

Once again September rolled around and with it went Jim Curwood to
become a member of the junior class at the University. But Jim did not
complete his junior year, for Pat Baker, a great newspaperman, wired Jim
that he had a job for him and he should come to Detroit at once. So,
with his wife and all their baggage, Jim withdrew from the University of
Michigan and headed for Detroit ... “land of opportunity.” This move was
to change the entire course of James Oliver Curwood’s life.



                             CHAPTER SEVEN

                     WITH THE DETROIT NEWS-TRIBUNE


Detroit, the land of opportunity for Jim Curwood. This was the lone
thought that raced through the young writer’s mind as the train sped
toward the great city. In fact, that was the only thing he could think
about. Here he would have the opportunity of writing for some 465,000
individuals every day.

Two days passed after their arrival in Detroit before Jim at last went
to see Pat Baker. During that time Jim had once again sat down to
another improvised desk, in newly-found quarters, and had begun two new
stories. He was not actually writing them now, but only making general
outlines which he carefully filed away for future use. Some of his work,
however, was awaiting completion and these Jim promptly finished and
mailed out to various magazine and newspaper publishers.

Jim’s meeting with Pat Baker was short and to the point. He was put on
the pay-roll and assigned to work forthwith.

George Snow, editor of the Sunday edition of the _News_, asked Jim to
write some “feature stuff” for him and Jim promptly complied. Snow
complained, however, that Jim’s plots had been written and rewritten a
thousand and one times. He wanted to give the readers something new,
something with a snap in it. This peeved Jim a great deal and for four
successive days he pouted and thought it over seriously. Then he came to
the conclusion that if George Snow and Pat Baker wanted something
different and unusual, they would most certainly get it.

Jim began wracking his brains for a story with an unusual angle and
twist to it. Eventually such a story came to him, and he began receiving
larger assignments from the Detroit _News-Tribune_.

From the very beginning of Jim’s newspaper career with the Detroit paper
he had had to start out on small items of interest in order to learn the
ropes. That procedure was as usual then as it is now on all newspapers
of major importance. Despite the fact that it was one of the customs
governing the publication of the _News-Tribune_, Jim Curwood disliked it
very much when he found that he had to cover funerals, fires and auto
accidents to start with. All of these were well handled and he received
due credit for them. But all the praise and glory Pat Baker could heap
upon his shoulders could not make Jim happy, for he was dissatisfied. He
even had to handle “obits” and state deaths in the very beginning, and
to a writer of any ability at all, this practically is an insult.
However, Jim took it like a man and kept his chin high and went on.

Coincident with handling his newspaper work, Jim was writing his own
stories and sending them out. He now was writing with the blood of a
true adventurer surging through his veins ... he was inspired.

Perhaps the most disheartening factor of all was that Jim’s salary on
the paper was only $8.00 a week. This was not nearly enough for two
people to live on.

Fortunately enough, George Snow frequently asked Jim for a feature story
for the Sunday edition. Payment for this, together with his regular
salary, helped immensely.

Pat Baker assigned Jim early one morning to accompany Stewart, another
reporter, into Canada, just across the river from Detroit, and cover a
“hanging.” Jim went and covered the execution, but nearly fainted when
the trap was sprung on the gallows. “To add insult to injury,” Baker
then only used twenty lines of what Jim had written. All this led Jim
Curwood to believe that he was not worth eight cents a week, let alone
$8.00, as a reporter. But he finally got over the shock of the execution
and the fact that only twenty lines of all he had written had been used,
and went back to the steady grind.

Jim’s “big chance” finally came. He was ordered to watch police
headquarters for “something big.” Here he would have an opportunity for
a “scoop.” For days upon end he practically haunted the Detroit Police
Headquarters. True enough, there were many stories that could have been
written about the various arrests and charges, but that was not what Jim
was looking for. He wanted something big. After several days had elapsed
it came. When the story broke, he thought it had amazing possibilities,
so he immediately wrote it up and shot it into the office. The entire
staff handled it as if it was almost “too hot to handle.” George Snow,
Pat Baker and all the so-called “big shots” patted the young reporter on
the back and told him that he was really one of them now, that it was a
job well done. Baker even went so far as to grant the raise in salary
that Jim had so thoughtfully asked for. Jim now felt as if he were
firmly established with the Detroit _News-Tribune_ and he was indeed
proud and happy. He was highly elated at his future possibilities and
was feeling very confident of himself now. He was handling “Big Time”
news. He was a real reporter of the first school.

The next morning, however, the “payoff” came. When Jim arrived at the
office he discovered that there was a most unusual conference going on
in Baker’s office. It was a conference of editors. Several minutes after
Jim had sat down to his desk, the men in Baker’s office filed out and as
they did so they all looked straight at Jim. Why were they all looking
so hard at him, was the thought that entered his excited mind.

It seemed that everyone in the office was down on him, and to save his
soul he could not figure out just why. All those stares were bothering
Jim and interfering with his work. Upon asking for an explanation he
discovered that he had not heard the culprit’s name correctly and it
appeared in the newspaper as if one of Detroit’s most highly respected
citizens had been “horsewhipped.” This, Jim slowly began to realize, was
the beginning of the end for him and his newspaper career. He had made a
mistake and he would have to pay for it.

That day Jim Curwood was fired from his job and all his back pay was
withheld from him. It was all due to the fact that he had not checked a
name in the city directory and thus it had appeared that one of
Detroit’s most illustrious citizens had been the object of a common
“horsewhipping.” It was the end of his short but eventful career with
the _News-Tribune_. It was then that Jim Curwood found out just how hard
it was to find work in Detroit in those days. Being undaunted, however,
Jim kept right on with his writing and was determined that despite the
losing of his job he wasn’t whipped yet. Unfortunately, Jim was able to
sell very few of his stories and very soon both he and his wife began to
look underfed and their clothing began to appear rather shabby.

At long last the struggling young author received another break of good
fortune. He chanced upon Alfred Russell, then one of Michigan’s greatest
lawyers, who promptly offered him a job with a pharmaceutical company.
It was named the Parke-Davis Company and was located on Jefferson
Avenue. Jim’s salary to begin with would be $50.00 per month and a
chance for a raise if he worked hard enough and showed enough
improvement. So Jim Curwood turned to making “pills.”

It was indeed most fortunate that the young man knew that this was not
his type of work and he grew discontented with it on each passing day.
Nevertheless, he had a wife to support and to make a living for the both
of them. So he was making pills. He wanted to write, but this moulding
of so-called medicine was constantly interfering.

It seemed to Jim that all his plans, his hopes and his aspirations, all
his fondest dreams and optimistic outlooks on life had all come to an
abrupt end. Would he have to go through life as a “pillmaker,” was a
constant query in his active and alert mind. He shuddered at the
thought.

One day, as he was hard at work, a fellow employee told Jim that there
was a man living very near the company who claimed to be a baron, a man
whose ancestry dated back several hundred years in the old country. Jim
later found out that this man was actually working right there in the
factory, as a common laborer. In those days it was great news to find
one of noble heritage, let alone one who worked at common labor. So, Jim
promptly made it a point to see and talk to the man, gain his well
wishes and get his permission to have a story concerning him published.
Jim carefully gathered the material he needed and at once wrote it up
and mailed it to the Detroit _News-Tribune_.

Being quite capable of seeing far enough in front of their noses, the
editors of the paper not only bought the story but put Jim back on the
payroll. This time, however, it was on a much more important job, for
Jim was made a special writer on the Sunday edition of the
_News-Tribune_ at a salary of $18.00 every week.

Besides the promotion, Jim now had his own private office, tastefully
furnished, on the second floor of the older section of the building. Jim
plunged joyfully into his new assignments. This was not a job for him;
it was a labor of love.

In a comparatively short time Jim was turning out one and two-page
features that were promptly published. He was now working seven days
each week and many times he even worked late into the night.

Time was passing rather rapidly for Jim now and inside of two years
after returning to the _News-Tribune_, his salary had been increased to
$25.00. It was during this time that the first of Jim’s two daughters
was born and there was not to be found a happier man on the face of the
earth than James Oliver Curwood. He had a fine wife, he loved the work
which he was doing, and he actually possessed a wonderful baby daughter
named Carlotta.

Many things were now entering into Jim Curwood’s life and his writing
output was also bothering him considerably. He was striving to do more
than he had been doing in the past, but just how he was going to go
about this he did not know. His time was more than just rationed and he
had to use it sparingly.

Jim at last decided that he would do away with all of his
pleasure-filled hours and devote what time he could at the office as
well as those out of the office to purely creative work and nothing
else. He would, furthermore, branch out farther and with more scope than
he had ever imagined. So he began a series of slick-paper magazine
stories and immediately sold the first one, “The Captain of the
Christopher Duggan,” to the _Munsey_ magazine. He was paid $75.00 for
this story, the most he had ever received for any story before. Jim
Curwood now thought seriously of quitting his newspaper work and
devoting himself exclusively to his literary efforts. But when the
_News-Tribune_ raised his salary to $28.00, he decided to forego his
dreams until a more propitious time. This decision probably saved the
genius of James Oliver Curwood from certain disaster. For as yet he was
not fully prepared to enter the great field of literature entirely upon
his own, even though he did not realize it then.

At the _News-Tribune_ Jim was under the constant tutelage of Annesley
Burrowes, who saw to it that the young writer’s burning spark was never
extinguished and that his imagination was always afire with creative
efforts. Burrowes believed strongly in young James Curwood’s chances of
rising to truly great heights in the field of newspaper writing and in
the fictional world. Time has shown that Mr. Burrowes’ intuition was
correct and accurate.

Shortly after Jim received his raise in salary, Mr. Burrowes resigned
his post at the _News-Tribune_, due to an eye ailment, and with his
going Jim took his place. He now was getting $30.

“I am sure that I only partly filled the position.”

This remark Jim Curwood made in his own modest manner.

Through the years beginning with 1902 up to and including 1905 the
rapidly rising young author published quite a number of articles and
short stories, among which were: “Pills,” which ran in _Frank Leslie’s
Popular Monthly_; another _Munsey_ story, and Jim’s first juvenile
serial was published in _The American Boy_. In 1905 Jim vacationed in
the wilds, whereby he obtained the basis for a number of articles which
appeared in _Outing_, _Outlook_, _Woman’s Home Companion_,
_Cosmopolitan_, and others. It was also during this hectic period that
Jim edited a banker’s publication which was called “_Dollars and
Sense_.”

With the appearance of these numerous articles and fiction works, Hewitt
Hanson Howland, editor of a magazine published by Bobbs-Merrill in
Indianapolis, began to take notice of the rising writer’s works and
asked him to do a series of articles on the Great Lakes for his
magazine. Jim also was contributing nature sketches to _Leslie’s
Weekly_. Of this group he published more than one hundred articles.

Having now been on the staff of special writers of the _News-Tribune_
for three years, Jim Curwood was really beginning to feel like a veteran
“news-hawk.” It was in his third year as a special writer that Jim’s
wife presented him with his second daughter, who was named Viola. Now he
was the father of two fine girls. Jim was gloriously happy, of that
there was little doubt, but for some apparently unknown reason, his wife
was not. Perhaps it was because he had excluded her from his real life.

With the birth of her second child Mrs. Curwood began to seem rather
discontented and nervous. In fact she seemed dissatisfied with her life
with Jim Curwood altogether. Why, Jim was never able fully to find out,
except for the fact that the life of a writer was too confining for her.
Had she stopped to realize that her husband was on his way to the top of
the ladder and would eventually reach that goal, the marriage might have
lasted.

Following his successful contacts with _Munsey’s_ and other famous
magazines, Jim was made one of the “bigshots” of the Detroit paper and
served in that capacity until 1907. He had been writing continuously for
fourteen years, sticking everlastingly to his chosen profession. He
deserved success much more than the average writers of the time.

As fast as the so-called “big breaks” would come to Jim Curwood, he
would turn out better articles and stories than ever before. With each
successive sale it seemed certain that his writing actually was of a
high order. Evidently scores of various publications thought as much,
for Jim was receiving requests for his stories from papers and magazines
throughout the United States and Canada. His work was in great demand at
this time as it so continued to be for many years to pass.

In 1906 Jim Curwood began writing two novels. This was his very first
attempt at book length work and though somewhat hesitant at first, Jim
fought his way through valiantly. The first was entitled “The Wolf
Hunters,” a tale of the Hudson Bay country, and the second one was “The
Courage of Captain Plum.” The latter was an adventurous yarn of the
Mormon settlements on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan.

Late in 1907, the year of Jim’s 29th birthday, he completed both “The
Wolf Hunters” and “The Courage of Captain Plum,” and sent them both off
to the Bobbs-Merrill Company in Indianapolis. Many anxious weeks passed
during which time Jim waited with prayerful hopes as he continued his
newspaper work. Then one day a letter came with the wonderful news that
both his manuscripts had been accepted for publication, and that “The
Courage of Captain Plum” was so well liked that he was being offered a
contract for one book yearly for the next five years. Jim’s books were
to sell for one dollar and a half of which he was to receive a ten per
cent royalty. To say that the young man was jubilant and happy would be
putting it mildly. Jim very nearly tore up the city room of the Detroit
_News-Tribune_ when he had read the letter from the Indianapolis
publishers. Both books were published in 1908.

Now more than ever Jim Curwood realized how swell Pat Baker, George Snow
and Annesley Burrowes, as well as the entire staff of the paper, had
been to him in affording him the great opportunities that he had had.
What they did for him were enshrined as memories deep within his tender,
loving heart. For they had provided the chance for Jim to get his name
before the reading public and thus enabled his works to be read.

Within a few days after receiving the notice that his two book-length
manuscripts had been accepted, James Oliver Curwood handed in his
resignation to the Detroit _News-Tribune_ as assistant editor, and began
to plan and devote his life wholly to literary work. Thus, the
_News-Tribune_ lost one of its finest writers. Jim was a natural born
newspaperman and with his resignation the paper suffered a great loss.

Upon his leaving the Detroit paper, Jim wrote to his brother Ed, who
still was in Ohio and invited him on a long vacation trip into the
wilderness. Ed accepted and the two brothers enjoyed one of the grandest
adventures of their lives in the country surrounding Hudson’s Bay.



                             CHAPTER EIGHT

                             GOD’S COUNTRY


With the acceptance of his first two novels in 1907 Jim Curwood
definitely proved that he knew what he was doing and that he was on the
right road to success. Even then, as the young author received official
word of the forthcoming publication of his first two works, he was
drafting plans for the writing of three other pieces of fiction work.
These were only the forerunners of many others which followed and which
established James Oliver Curwood as one of the foremost authorities on
the Canadian Northwest.

Jim’s first book, “The Wolf Hunters,” was somewhat of a juvenile story
centering about the Hudson Bay wilds. Although starting it had been
rather hard for him, Jim soon developed it into an easy task, and so,
fired with still greater ambition, he wrote a second novel, “The Courage
of Captain Plum.”

Writing book-length novels was new to Jim, but it was work which was
both interesting and good. He was always out of bed by five in the
morning and by six o’clock he could be found fast at work. Jim would
write steadily until noon and many times long past noon. There were many
occasions when his wife would have to call him several times before he
would leave his desk, so engrossed was he in his writing.

For over a year he pounded his typewriter. He never rewrote any of his
work, believing that once a story was written it could never be
rewritten quite so good. Of course, he did take time to correct his
grammar and punctuation, but that was as far as he went.

It was during this period of incessant writing that Jim’s home life
began to suffer a severe blow, for he had been neglecting his family.
Jim began to notice a great change in his wife.

Yet, while he felt that something was wrong in his household, it never
dawned upon him that not only was he driving himself to the limit, but
he also was driving his wife’s patience to the very end. For it was very
little that she saw of him, and even when she was with him, it seemed as
if his mind was always on the waiting typewriter and paper, and not upon
her or their children. In two years the great blow fell. Early in 1908
the inevitable result came ... divorce.

Some time after the divorce had been granted, Jim remarked:

“As we grow older we all learn that it is better to let the dead past
bury its dead in peace.”

After the acceptance and publication of his first two book-length novels
by the Bobbs-Merrill Company Jim began the long drive for publicity that
is so vitally important to an author. Realizing that in order to become
famous he must get his name before the reading public, Jim induced more
than one newspaper to print his success story. Perhaps the best one was
that which appeared in the Detroit _News-Tribune_. Even the _Argus_,
back in Owosso, gave him a great write-up, and Jim Curwood at last knew
that he was really on his way to a colorful and glorious career.

Slowly but surely the little city of Owosso began to claim James Oliver
Curwood as its own native son. In fact, the writer’s name was upon every
tongue. Even those who at one time had felt that they were much too good
to speak to Jim Curwood, now regarded him as a close friend. Even those
who had never seen him boasted of having grown up together. Such talk as
this was going on in and around Owosso and in other parts of the state.
All were eager to make claim upon one whom they had once shunned and
laughed at.

At long last Jim decided that he wanted and needed a vacation very
badly, so he wired his brother Ed, down in Ohio, to come up and join him
for a trip into the wilds.

Jim lost no time in getting ready, and soon the two brothers started on
their long trek into the wilds of northern Canada. Traveling aboard the
Grand Trunk railways, they received free transportation because Jim was
well known by officials and was well liked.

The trip was to be a long one. They were headed for the Athabaska
Landing territory and possibly farther up to the edge of the Great Slave
country that abounds with all sorts of North American wildlife, which
for the most part, roam about at will.

Jim and Ed took to canoes many times, thoroughly enjoying their fight in
the roaring rapids of the swift, turbulent northern streams.

On their walks in the forests Jim stopped many times to listen to the
sounds of wildlife all about them. High above in the towering pine trees
came the ever welcomed songs of the birds. Over on a ridge could be
heard the calls of foxes. Somewhere in the heart of the forests came the
sounds of mink, the hoot of owls, and the roar of the grizzly bear.

[Illustration: _J.C. WEBER_]

Along the banks of the roaring stream, the Marten, the mink and the
weasel could be heard as they slipped down to the water’s edge for a
drink of cooling water. All of these sounds and noises of the twilight
and early nightfall James Oliver Curwood studied and loved. He loved
nature and wildlife with a savage love, and hated those who dared to
disrupt their silent, peaceful and happy abodes.

Jim Curwood fought for those animals throughout all his life and was
even waging a valiant battle for them up until the time he died. Ed
marvelled at his younger brother’s devotion for wildlife, and he, too,
grew to love the wilderness and all it stood for with an undying love
during the first trip of theirs together into “God’s Country.”

For three months the two brothers stayed away from civilization, taking
in all the wonders of nature. Jim took countless photographs of wildlife
during this trip, and these, together with others he took over a period
of years he made into one of the largest and finest collections of its
kind in the world.

With the publication of Jim’s first two books and the release of
numerous articles and short stories in various magazines, all of which
were based upon settings in Canada, the Canadian Government offered the
now somewhat famous James Oliver Curwood the sum of $1800.00 a year with
all his expenses if he would explore the distant wilds of the Dominion
and use all he saw as a basis for material in his future writings.

This plan was primarily to induce tourists and vacationists into the
picturesque provinces. It also was to be used in an effort to bring
settlers into the wilderness to cultivate the soil and provide the
citizens of the Dominion with an abundance of wheat and other fine
crops. Jim was to write all he saw and was interested in for publication
in any form he chose. Jim accepted the offer almost immediately. It was
toward the latter part of 1908.

An exploration trip such as this had long been somewhat of a
“far-fetched dream” of Jim’s, and now at last that dream was becoming a
reality.

Plans were soon under way and he began conferring with government
officials. The Canadian officials complied with Jim’s every request and
within four short and eventful weeks, Jim Curwood was completely ready
for his long journey into the wilderness.

Back in 1902, while employed at the _News-Tribune_ in Detroit, Jim had
become acquainted with M. V. MacInness. MacInness was then representing
the Canadian Immigration Department in Detroit whose offices were
located on Jefferson Avenue. He was affectionately known to all who knew
him as just “Mac,” and Jim was one of his very best friends.

“He was rather portly and always in jovial humor. He never tired of
painting vivid word pictures for me of his beloved Canada, more
particularly the vast panorama of unexplored wilderness toward the north
and west. His mind was filled with information concerning that
magnificent expanse of territory and he never lost an opportunity to
introduce me to important Canadians who came to his office. I met many
Dominion immigration officials, members of Parliament, Hudson Bay
Company officials, officers of the Grand Trunk and Canadian Pacific,
members of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, and scores of others
whose interests were in the vast areas of the Canadian Northland.”

[Illustration: _J.C. WEBER_]

It was MacInness of the Canadian Government who now handed Jim Curwood
the necessary papers for the trip into the northern wilds and at the
same time wished him all the luck in the world. “Dear old Mac” passed
away a short time after Jim returned from his trip. Jim always liked to
speak of M. V. MacInness after his passing in a heart-felt, reverent
voice.

“There has been an empty place in my heart since he died, and whenever I
go up into that great Northland I know Mac’s spirit is there, for it was
God’s Country to him just as surely as it always will be to me.”

At last, after all preparations had been made, Jim started out on the
first of the many exploration trips which he was to make into the wilds
of the Canadian Northwest in years to come. He went first to the vast,
beautiful wilderness of the Peace River Country, over to the sweeping,
towering mountains to the westward, then to the great reaches and
solitary plains of the Arctic to the Athabaska and the Mackenzie. From
there he traveled down to the uninhabited forests and timberlands about
the mighty Hudson’s Bay. These forests later became a ruling passion and
a dominant force in Jim’s life. He wanted “the uneducated people of
civilization” to love them just as he loved them. Upon his return he
pleaded with the populace to conserve and protect the virgin forests and
all the wild life that inhabited them.

“It is my ambition to take my readers with me into the heart of nature,”
Jim Curwood once said and there is little doubt but that he did. Indeed,
Jim took more than seven million of his readers into the heart of that
nature and wilderness. This same devout love he held for the “great
outdoors” later led Jim to start the great conservation movement in the
State of Michigan. He led the onslaught against the “game hogs”
unmercifully, broadening his crusade throughout the country.

It was during these trips into the wilds of Canada that he decided to
make his home in Owosso. So in the little town in central Michigan where
he had been born and raised Jim finally settled down. His father had
quit the cobbling shop and Jim supported him, as he had faithfully
promised.

Within three weeks after his return to Owosso, Lou Allison invited Jim
Curwood to a chicken-pie supper which was to be held at the
Congregational Church. Here he met a very charming and beautiful young
lady named Ethel Greenwood. Jim did not recognize her at first, but at a
later date remembered her as being in school at the same time he was,
two or three grades below him. He especially remembered her sparkling
eyes, and he found that they had not changed with the passing of years.
Jim always liked to think of her as the little schoolgirl of several
years back. Those sparkling eyes made a great impression upon him at
once. Later on during the church supper Jim and Miss Greenwood found
themselves alone.

As they talked, Miss Greenwood told Jim that she had read of his
expeditions into the far North and she appeared to be genuinely
interested in his travels and in his work. It was then that he decided
that he should become better acquainted with the young lady. As time
passed by Jim Curwood found himself thinking a lot of this new and very
interesting personality. As a matter of fact he was beginning to believe
that she would make an ideal companion for him on the many trails of the
wild on which he planned to travel. Her eyes were like shining stars
that sparkled both day and night, and her personality was pleasing.

Then it dawned upon the thirty-three year old writer that he must be
falling madly in love with Miss Greenwood. Of this he was convinced
after meeting her again. Their interests were mutual. She too loved the
wilderness country and all of God’s wonderful Nature. She loved to hear
the murmurs of the streams, the chirping of the birds and the chattering
of the squirrels just as he did. This interest which she expressed and
showed in his work set Jim Curwood to thinking very seriously.

It was not very long before Jim and Ethel Greenwood were married. The
ceremony took place in the old home on John Street, at six o’clock in
the morning. It was quiet and simple. By seven of the same morning the
bride and groom were on board a train headed for the wilderness and
God’s Country.

Jim and his wife were as happy as any couple could ever hope to be.
Together they fought and loved the wilds. Side by side they worked and
built their cabin deep within the heart of the forests surrounding
Hudson’s Bay. That autumn Jim began cutting his supply of wood for the
winter and storing up provisions. Even though they worked hard in
preparation for the long, hard and cold winter, they were gloriously
happy.

Fall soon came and with it the turning of the leaves, the strangely
different sounds of the rivers and the mating calls of the wild. Still
Jim Curwood worked frantically for the oncoming of winter, for he knew
what winters in the north were like, and he did not intend being caught
shorthanded. Cord-wood was cut and still more provisions were added to
their mounting larder. The cabin was made more secure and warm. The cold
months were but a short way off, for the leaves were rapidly beginning
to fall.

Already the bears had gone into hibernation. The chattering squirrels
were providing themselves with their winter’s supply of nuts and the
birds had all returned to the south with the exception of the few
families which always remained behind.

It was during this long winter that Jim began work on his third novel,
“Steele of the Royal Mounted.” What with his regular routine work and
with his writing added, James Oliver Curwood had a rather full and busy
winter. His writing took nearly three quarters of his day. The rest of
the time was given over to his wife, some reading and other activities.

“I had found a wife who was proud of the work by which I earned my
living, who looked fearlessly into the future with me, splendidly caring
for my little daughters; a mother who later gave me my son, James, the
last blessing to our family, now almost ready to go to college.” Indeed
he was happy and content.

As the snows blew and the winds howled about the tiny cabin far off in
the Canadian wilds, Jim’s log fire would burn cheerfully as he and his
wife would sit in front of it and read or talk. Darkness would arrive
around three in the afternoon and sometimes before that.

Jim Curwood continued work on his new novel up until the beginning of
spring. It was then that he proudly announced to his wife that “Steele
of the Royal Mounted” was completed. Not only was he happy over the
completion of the book, but because of his wife’s happiness. He was
happy, also, over the joy and love Ethel had for his two daughters. She
cared for them and loved them just as if they were of her own flesh and
blood. They were a part of Jim and that in itself explains her new-found
happiness. Jim once said that the winter spent in the cabin around
Hudson’s Bay was one of the most supreme winters of their lives.

[Illustration: _J.C. WEBER_]

Spring was at last upon them, and the buds were beginning to pop out on
the trees. Green patches of grass were beginning to show here and there.
Bushes were already taking on their various colors and some of the
animals and creatures of the natural and untouched country had come out
of hibernation.

Towards the close of spring Jim and Ethel returned to Owosso. Here Jim
definitely established himself at home. He built a large, fine house, a
brick structure of two stories. This house still stands. Surrounding it
on all four sides is a large and spacious yard that extends for many
yards around the mansion. Thousands of dollars went into its
construction and today the house remains as it was years ago, except
that its beauty has increased.

Jim Curwood did not remain in Owosso as long as he had expected. For he
now had the money to travel to and from his beloved wilderness at his
own choosing. Jim went back into the forests and wilds at least once a
year, often spending five to six months at a time. Usually Mrs. Curwood
accompanied him, but on a few of his exploration and writing trips, she
did not go. Each year when he returned to upper Canada, he went back
with all the happiness and love one man can possibly have for any one
particular spot.

Perhaps there is one basic reason why Jim built the fine home in Owosso
just where he did. It has been established that on the spot where his
home is located, one of the large camps of the Chippawayan Indians once
stood.

In 1909 Ethel Greenwood Curwood bore her first child for Jim, a son. The
youngster was named James Oliver Curwood II. With the arrival of his
baby son, Jim Curwood became the proudest father in the entire city of
Owosso. For now he had a son to carry on his name, a son who would prove
himself a great man and who would follow in his father’s footsteps.
James Oliver Curwood II was the only child Mrs. Curwood bore.

As soon as the baby had grown somewhat the family began to spend a great
many months far from civilization in the timber country. The two girls
and the baby boy were growing quite rapidly and becoming very healthy by
their constant play and travel in the fresh, cool air.

Ethel and the children grew to love the strange and unusual people, the
“Nomads of the North” who were their only friends away from
civilization. Of course Jim had loved them for many years, but he wanted
his wife and their offspring to regard them in much the same manner as
he did.

Hundreds of miles from civilization the Curwood family would bury
themselves in God’s Country. James Oliver Curwood’s feet have trod many
unknown trails throughout the north. The stars, the heavens and the
virgin forests came to be a living part of all of them. All the things
which Jim had dreamed of as a boy were at last coming true.

Jim had roamed through the boundless prairies, the highest mountains,
fought his way through deep Canadian snows and sub-zero temperatures all
along the northern plains. He was now enjoying himself more than he ever
dared dream.

James Oliver Curwood actually lived each story that he wrote.

He began to realize that the long and arduous struggle that he had had
to go through to reach success had been worth it. He had fought and
battled as few other men ever have in order to reach that pinnacle of
success and fame that he desired. Fortunately enough, Jim was possessed
of the spirit of everlasting perseverance.

About this time came the release of “Steele of the Royal Mounted.” At
the outset its sales were rather disappointing as were the sales of “The
Wolf Hunters.” Eventually, however, after the slow progress that his
books had been making, they began to sell and sell fast. In fact his
first three books sold as few others had ever sold before. Up to that
year, 1911, James Oliver Curwood had three novels and one book of
non-fiction to his credit: “The Wolf Hunters,” “The Courage of Captain
Plum,” the book of non-fiction, “The Great Lakes,” and the sequel to
“The Wolf Hunters,” “The Gold Hunters.” “The Danger Trail” was the last
of Jim’s books for the year 1910. In 1911 Jim published two more works
of fiction, namely: “Steele of the Royal Mounted” and “The Honor of the
Big Snows.” Realizing that he now had a firm foothold on the ladder of
success, Jim Curwood was prompted to write something of non-fiction that
would fully express himself and his beliefs.

At last came that opportunity in the volume “God’s Country—The Trail to
Happiness.” This book is the strangest that Curwood ever produced and
one of the most wonderful messages of hope ever addressed to mankind. It
was a rather small volume and the price was far below the usual price of
Curwood books. “God’s Country—The Trail to Happiness” sold for $1.25.

“Philip Steele of the Royal Mounted” had, of course, been released in
1910, along with “The Honor of the Big Snows,” which was written the
same year. This made a total of two novels and one volume of non-fiction
for 1911, which was indeed a great output of words for that length of
time. In 1912 Jim Curwood’s output was limited to one novel. This one
was entitled, “The Flower of the North,” a saga of the wilderness
country that was chock full of red-blooded adventure and romance. 1913
saw the arrival of another novel, “Isobel.” In 1914 Curwood wrote
probably the greatest work of his entire career. That was when he turned
out “Kazan,” which sold 500,000 copies. This story ranks with “The Call
of the Wild,” and “White Fang,” by the famous Jack London. “Kazan” is
the story of a wolf dog of the far north. The dog is three-quarters
husky and one-quarter wolf strain. Kazan is torn between his wild mate
and the man whom he loves most dearly. The story is so excellently woven
about the dog and so wonderfully told that many thousands of people have
reread it many times.

Although some of the so-called critics did not give this particular book
as high a rating as Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild,” it is the
belief of millions that “Kazan” is equally as good and as thrilling as
Mr. London’s famous book.

After the publication of “Kazan” Jim and his family headed back to the
north country. This time, however, they did not go back to the old
cabin, but to a new one that Jim had built in the British Columbia
mountains some months before. Here among the picturesque mountains of
towering spruce and pine, James Oliver Curwood penned “God’s Country and
the Woman,” a story so well written that it immediately sold better than
one hundred thousand copies. The woman in the story was none other than
his own dear wife, Ethel. Jim once said that he loved this country
devoutly, but it was not God’s Country unless there was a woman. “No
country is God’s Country without a woman.” This was in 1915.

The United States had already declared war on Germany when Jim completed
“God’s Country and the Woman.” So he immediately returned to Owosso with
his family to see if he could help his country. A great deal of time
passed before Jim was eventually assigned to anything. Then, in
1917-1918 he was officially designated as a World War Correspondent.
During the time he received this information and the time that he was to
have sailed, something intervened and Jim did not get a chance to go to
France. The government felt that since he had three children Mr. Curwood
should remain behind. He was given an assignment to do propaganda. He
wanted to go along with the rest of the boys and help protect our
country’s liberty and freedom. Instead, however, he was forced to remain
behind, and from his magazine articles flowed many words of truth and
wisdom during those hectic months of war. Jim termed the war “the thrill
of man killing man.”

In another article came this statement: “The momentary pangs of the war
could be compensated for in time by the benefits it would confer
spiritually.” During the course of the war, however, Jim not only penned
magazine articles, but he also turned out such novels of major rank as
“The Hunted Woman,” in 1916, and the sequel to “Kazan,” “Baree, Son of
Kazan,” which was published in 1917.

After the world’s first great tragedy, Jim’s books began selling faster
than they had before the war. Still, despite the fast sales of his
books, some critics were very harsh toward him.

In 1910, James Oliver Curwood made one great mistake of his life. He
started playing the stock market. Jim invested a sizeable sum of money
and immediately realized a profit of over $100.00. This encouraged him
to further speculation, and in a short space of time he lost all his
savings.

Now there remained but one thing for him to do. So, with his wife, Jim
left for the wilderness once again. From his countless number of friends
Jim borrowed the necessary money for expenses.

This time, the Curwoods went deeper into the wilds of upper Canada than
they had ever gone before, and buried themselves completely away from
civilization. Here Jim Curwood picked up his implement of trade and
commenced writing another one of his famous novels. He had no idea of
what he was going to write, except that he had to write something which
would sell.

Buried deep in the beautiful wilderness of the Canadian Northwest, where
lakes and streams run deep and the forests are thick and quiet, from
Jim’s pen came the wonderful, romantic adventure story of “The Honor of
the Big Snows,” the story of little Melisse and Jan Thoreau, a book
which was, in time, hailed as another great Curwood masterpiece. Again
Jim had money and again with the arrival of spring, Jim and Ethel left
the wilderness and headed back to civilization. He was cured of
gambling.

Shortly before the release of “The Honor of the Big Snows,” Jim’s
contract with the Bobbs-Merrill Company expired. Immediately, Harper and
Brothers brought out his works which included “Flower of the North,”
published in 1912.

After some time with Harper, Jim Curwood began to grow desperate and
returned to Bobbs-Merrill. Upon renewing partnership with the
Indianapolis firm, “Kazan” appeared. He had taken this fine story to
Bobbs-Merrill hoping that it would become as popular and famous as “The
Call of the Wild.” However, the critics denied Jim this honor in their
many reviews of “Kazan.” Despite the reviews the book later sold in
great quantities, particularly in England and later in the cheaper
American editions.

“By the time ‘Kazan’ was written I had made five trips into the
wilderness about Hudson Bay. Thrice had I gone into the Arctic and spent
a winter with the Esquimaux. I had crossed the great Barrens four times
and explored the unknown regions of British Columbia and the Yukon
country.”

Regardless of the critics’ adverse criticism, “Kazan” enjoyed an immense
sale, and continued to do so for many years afterward. This book is
rated by all Curwood admirers as one of his best, regardless of the
opinion of the literary critics. The partnership with Bobbs-Merrill
continued until the latter part of 1914, when Jim left to join
Doubleday, Page and Company of New York City (now Doubleday, Doran and
Company).

Jim’s first book under the new imprint was “God’s Country and the
Woman.”

It seemed at that time that James Oliver Curwood had reached his prime
and the top rung of the ladder of success. Immediately after the
publication of “God’s Country and the Woman,” Jim wrote “The Hunted
Woman,” in 1916, and a year later the grand animal story, “The Grizzly
King.” The latter was the story of Thor, one of the largest grizzlies
ever known to mankind in all the wilds of British Columbia. Over 300,000
out of all the millions of Curwood fans chose “The Grizzly King” as
Jim’s outstanding book on wildlife and nature. Also, in the same year
Jim wrote the sequel to “Kazan,” “Baree, Son of Kazan.” This novel of
wilderness dogs did not quite reach the high standard that “Kazan” did,
but it was excellently written and vividly told.

All sales on his books, which now totaled fifteen, were slowly but
surely increasing. It was during these years that James Oliver Curwood
came to fully understand that peace, love, health and faith may be found
in the presence of Nature and of God’s lowly creatures. He began to
realize more than ever how small and insignificant we human beings are
as compared to the mighty nature that surrounds us. In James Oliver
Curwood’s last work he brought out the latter fact....

“I have often wished that some power might rise to show us how little
and insignificant we are. Only then, I think, could the thorns and
brambles be taken from the paths to that peace and contentment which we
would find if we were not blinded by our own importance. We are the
supreme egotists and monopolists of creation. Our conceit and
self-importance are at times blasphemous. We are human peacocks, puffed
up, inflated, hushed in the conviction that everything in the universe
is made for us. We look down in supercilious lordship on all other life
in creation.”

Jim Curwood came to know that a dead stump of a tree still has life and
a soul. He voiced his opinion many times on that.

“If I did not believe a tree had a soul I could not believe in a God. If
someone convinced me that the life in a flower or the heart in a bird
were not as important in the final analysis as these same things in my
own body I would no longer have faith in a hereafter.”

This thought was reflected somewhat in his following book, “The Courage
of Marge O’Doone,” released in 1918.

Only two more of James Oliver Curwood’s books were to be handled by
Doubleday, Page and Company. These were “The Golden Snare” and “Nomads
of the North.” The latter novel of animal life Jim Curwood thoroughly
enjoyed writing much more than any of his novels depicting North
American wildlife. “The Golden Snare” was made into a motion picture of
the silent film days with Lewis Stone playing the lead role. “Nomads of
the North” was the last of the James Oliver Curwood books to appear from
the presses of Doubleday, Page and Company, for in that year of 1919 a
greater opportunity presented itself for the much wider distribution of
Jim’s novels. So he parted from his good friends at Garden City with
deep regret in his heart and he always cherished the memory of their
association.

Jim Curwood left the Doubleday organization and went to the Cosmopolitan
Book Corporation in 1919. The first book written by the diverse hand of
James Oliver Curwood for that firm was, without a doubt, his greatest
and finest work. “The River’s End” was the first of his novels that sold
more than one hundred thousand copies of the first edition. Modern
advertising arrangements ran up the advance sales on this book alone to
one hundred thousand copies. It later sold while it was still new to the
reading public, and the first edition had been exhausted to over three
hundred thousand. Since the time of its publication, twenty-four years
ago, “The River’s End” has sold many hundreds of thousands of copies,
and many new editions have had to be printed. Sergeant Derwent Conniston
and John Keith, the two principal characters of “The River’s End,” have
now become immortal, as has the entire story. Many motion picture
adaptations of it have been shown. The latest version was filmed and
released in 1941, with Dennis Morgan in the starring role of Sergeant
Conniston.

Very quickly after the release of “The River’s End” came “The Valley of
Silent Men” in 1920. The advance sale on “The Valley of Silent Men” ran
to better than 105,000 copies. Today more than five million people have
read this famous work of fiction. It is the story of the Three River
Country long before the railroads came. Jim traveled more than three
thousand miles down the mighty Saskatchewan before he wrote the great
novel, “The River’s End.” If he had not gone with the “Wild River
Brigades” of God’s Country down those fabled streams that flow north,
the millions of readers who enjoyed James Oliver Curwood’s writings, and
those who still enjoy them today, would never have had the opportunity
of reading the powerful novel, “The Valley of Silent Men.” Jim Curwood
always lived the stories he wrote.

In all of Curwood’s stories he portrayed great souls and strong men who
wage their battles of life, death and love in the open spaces. There is
little wonder why he had the great and loyal following that he at one
time possessed and still retains today. He was truly a master in his
particular field.

The sales on “The Valley of Silent Men” grew into much larger numbers
than the book, “The River’s End,” as far as advance sales were
concerned. The totals on the advance sale of “The Valley of Silent Men”
were 105,000 copies, and “The River’s End” ran up to 100,000. These two
stirring dramas of the Canadian Northwest alone brought out the true
genius of James Oliver Curwood. At long last the world was beginning to
sit up and take notice. The flowering genius of Jim Curwood was at last
beginning to bloom. Owosso townspeople were claiming him now more than
ever before as their native son. Not only they, but thousands upon
thousands of others were hailing James Oliver Curwood as the greatest
writer to appear on the literary horizon since the days of Charles
Dickens and Anton Tchekov.

Shortly following the release of “The Valley of Silent Men,” Jim again
headed into the land of tall timber. During this stay in the backwoods
Jim worked on various jobs. He did a share of sledge driving for he
delighted in seeing the wonderful huskies and malamutes of the big snows
work. He also studied at great length the characters of the people of
the far North.

Six months later Jim returned to his home town and with him came a
series of short stories that he had written during his stay in the
beautiful northwest. These were now edited and compiled into the volume
of short stories published by the Cosmopolitan Book Corporation under
the title of “Back to God’s Country.” This was in 1920.

Many of the stories which appeared in this collection were actually
lived and experienced by Jim Curwood in those six months back in the
“far-reaches.” Among them were: “The Mouse,” “Peter God,” “The Honor of
Her People,” “The Strength of Men,” and “His First Penitent.” “The Honor
of the Big Snows,” Jim’s novel of little Melesse and Jan, originated
from the short story, “The Honor of Her People.” Many of these stories
appeared in such publications as _Good Housekeeping_, _Outing_,
_American Magazine_, and many others.

The title story, “Back to God’s Country,” was later filmed and made into
a great motion picture. With the arrival of this collection of short
stories on the market, it was immediately hailed and heralded as one of
the finest collections of short stories of its type ever published.

In 1921, sixteen years after Jim Curwood started out on his prolific
writing career, came still two more exciting and well-written novels of
rugged adventure: “The Golden Snare” and “The Flaming Forest.” The
latter was praised highly for it was a magnificent story, a story so
well told that it sold nearly 100,000 copies before it was actually
released, thus nearly putting it on an equal with “The Valley of Silent
Men” and “The River’s End.”

“Teddy” Roosevelt praised “The Flaming Forest” with these words:

“I have read with great interest Mr. Curwood’s book, ‘The Flaming
Forest.’ It is excellent. It is good, clean adventure in the open
spaces.”

“The Flaming Forest” was the third and last of Jim’s tense novels about
the Three River Country. The first two had sold better than 100,000
copies in the advance sale. This would have been flattery to the
majority of authors, but to Jim Curwood, who lived in the vivid and
exciting northwoods life of which he wrote, it was just a fighting
challenge.

The advertisement of Jim Curwood’s book, “The Country Beyond,” read
something like this:

“2,000,000 people have bought his books. He is no one book author. Every
one of his novels has outsold its predecessors.”

With the publication of “The Country Beyond” Jim Curwood had reached his
44th birthday and was still considered young in his profession. His
books themselves contained youth and what it stood for and fought
valiantly for. People rushed to the bookstores when they learned a new
James Oliver Curwood novel was coming off the presses. They actually
went in droves to get a single copy of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th
editions. Incidentally, most of his books ran into more than five
editions, for many printings had to be made in order to supply the great
demand for his writings, and printings still continue to be made to this
day.

Three months elapsed before the ever prolific pen of James Oliver
Curwood brought forth another first-rate novel entitled “The Golden
Snare.” Although “The Golden Snare” did not enjoy the major sales of his
other works, it still was listed among the “best sellers” of its day.

In the little volume “God’s Country—The Trail to Happiness,” James
Oliver Curwood did a magnificent job of non-fiction. In this book Jim
tells of his conversion from a “killer of wildlife,” to “a savior of
wildlife.” He openly confesses his sins about his former treatment of
the wild creatures that roam our forests, as no other man of his fame,
ability or popularity has ever done before or probably ever will do
again.

“God’s Country—The Trail to Happiness” is a series of four essays, none
of which was written to please those people who believe that the
organized church is an institution of importance in our national life in
every respect. The four essays were entitled: “My Secret of Happiness,”
“I Became a Killer,” “My Brotherhood,” and “The Road of Faith.” The
little book by itself is nothing else save a summary of the religion of
a nature loving and God fearing man. It has often been called the
strangest thing James Oliver Curwood ever wrote and at the same time a
most wonderful message to all mankind. At the age of 44, James Oliver
Curwood was already at his goal, for he had to his credit a total of
twenty novels and two works of non-fiction, fourteen of which were on
the “best seller” lists, with the remainder selling much better than the
average fiction book.

Early in 1922, Jim constructed his town studio which he named Curwood
Castle, because it was an exact replica of the old Norman fortress. The
Castle itself stands on the edge of the Shiawassee river and within
twenty feet of the old home just off John Street. Frequently Jim was
prompted to burn the old home place, or else tear it down and add those
grounds to the ones of the Castle. But because there were too many
memories embedded within the walls of the old house Jim was reluctant to
destroy it.

The Castle is surrounded on three of its four sides by a great sweeping
expanse of beautiful green lawns, which are kept beautifully trimmed and
immaculately clean. At the front, leading in from John street, is a
long, winding concrete walk which leads to the only entrance to Curwood
Castle. No one is allowed inside the studio at all. It is kept up and
maintained by Mrs. Curwood and once each week a housekeeper thoroughly
cleans the studio from top to bottom.

Overlooking the Shiawassee is the tower study which James Oliver Curwood
loved so well. It is the room and study from whence many of his writings
were created. The tower study has windows extending around it in
circular fashion and from all directions Jim could look out upon the
peaceful little town of Owosso and the lazy sweeping river. Down the
river, a short distance from the Castle, lies a small island. Here the
tall, weeping willows gently bend their heads down to the water’s edge
and sway in the gentle breeze. Here the birds of a thousand different
varieties gather and sing. This was one of the spots which Jim was
entirely devoted to.

In the old home next to the Castle remain all those wonderful Curwood
memories of not so long ago. There stands the second-hand Caligraph
typewriter and improvised desk his parents provided for Jim when he was
yet only a budding author. In his room the walls still hold the old
magazine and newspaper pictures that Jim had cut out as a boy and had
pasted and pinned up.

Long after Curwood Castle had been constructed and in use, Jim Curwood
used to go back to the old bedroom-study to finish many of his articles
and stories. Here he recaptured the inspiration that drove him onward
when he felt that he was going stale. But James Oliver Curwood never
went stale in his writing, for he kept constantly at it both day and
night and led a full and happy life.

Many, many times Jim would leave his town studio in Owosso for his
northern Michigan studio along the banks of the Au Sable, where it is
quiet and peaceful. Jim’s northern studio, in the thick forests of
northern Michigan, was built as a hunting lodge far away from mankind
and the noises of the city. It was indeed a beautiful spot.

Not very far from the only entrance to the Castle there stands a large,
stately tree. It was under this masterpiece of nature that James Oliver
Curwood once sat and talked by the hours with his many friends. Here
beneath this old oak Jim used to sit with prospectors from the wilds of
Alaska and northern Canada who had come to visit him.

Jim would carefully listen to these men of the north and have enough
material to weave a wonderful adventure story. Time and again he would
invite the swarthy, weatherbeaten men of the gold fields down to spend
days and weeks with him so that they might spin yarns for him and thus
provide him with material for future stories. It was not only that he
wanted stories from them, but he also wanted to see their faces again
and hear them talk.

Many were the nights when several of them would gather at the Castle
after a long journey and sit before a great open fire, swapping yarns
and smoking huge cigars and strong pipes. All this Jim Curwood enjoyed
to the fullest extent. He loved to have his old friends around him.

Many residents of Owosso and of other parts of the country have told
that regardless of how famous James Oliver Curwood ever grew to be, he
always remained “Jim” to everyone. He might be walking down the street
or be riding in an automobile and still he would throw up his hand to
those people he knew and even speak to those who were strangers. He
considered everyone a human being and felt that all men and women should
act as “brother humans,” and not try to appear superior. Jim’s usual
reply to anyone who spoke to him was this:

“Hello, there, Bill! What’s new?”

James Oliver Curwood, the famous man that he was, loved his home town of
Owosso with an undying love. It had persecuted him, laughed at him,
scorned him, but still he loved it. Of Owosso he would say to his
friends in New York:

“Come out and see, I think it is the nicest place in the world. I was
born there and I hope to die there. Of course my love for it does not
make me blind to its defects. We have our poor, pathetic smart set, our
misguided flappers and a wee bit of the salt and pepper of life ... and
we make coffins for half the world. I tell you these things because it
would take too long to tell you all the good things about my home town.
I think the nicest thing is that we’re not afraid to let the geese go
barefoot around about where we live. Come out and see.”

A good many people have done that very thing and many who came to see
have remained behind and have made their homes in Owosso or nearby. Such
is Owosso, the town where James Oliver Curwood was born and died—one of
the nicest, most beautiful little towns to be found anywhere on the
North American continent. There is no wonder Jim loved it as he did.

Today the lodge that once belonged to Jim is no more in Curwood hands.
In the fall of 1939 Mrs. Curwood sold it to a buyer who wanted it very
much. Fortunately enough it was sold to a great lover of James Oliver
Curwood stories as well as a great admirer of Jim himself—a man who
promised to keep it as it always was.

Today in Owosso, at 508 Williams Street, stands the home of Mr. and Mrs.
James Oliver Curwood, where Mrs. Curwood still resides. The house is a
very large, majestically built domicile standing on the very spot on
which the former tribes of the Chippawayan Indians camped. Jim chose
this site for that reason alone. The home could more readily be called a
mansion, it is so large and beautiful, with spacious gardens surrounding
it. It is just a few hundred yards from Curwood Castle.

Jim Curwood was without much doubt the greatest and foremost naturalist
of his time. He loved nature so sincerely and lived in such intimate
communion with it, that, as he once put it so naively:

“I have become a bit estranged from a large part of the rest of
humanity.”

Any and all times are good times to seek nature in all of her wondrous
glory, and that was precisely what he believed.

Jim Curwood believed that even a twig from off a tree, or a blade of
grass have souls. Souls that are every bit as important as the vital
organs and souls of human beings.

James Oliver Curwood’s God was nature. The same nature that he so
wonderfully preaches about in all his writings. He vividly tells of
nature, the reasons, the idea of nature and just why we must protect and
conserve it. Jim’s books and writings go straight to the hearts of his
readers for he was a common man even when his fame had been assured. His
readers knew that. Everyone knew him as Jim ... just Jim.

One of his common hobbies was raising radishes and onions. Jim once said
concerning these two vegetables that he delighted in raising:

“I can beat anyone in Shiawassee county raising onions. I mean green
onions, the kind you eat with bread and butter.”

Even about his own home somewhere in the back Jim always had an onion
patch along with some fine and assorted radishes. He loved to work in
the rich, black earth.

No matter where Jim might happen to be, whether on the stream in a
birchbark canoe, in the forest, or in his studios or gardens, his mind
was constantly upon the subject of nature. In fact Jim devoted much of
his life to the helping of nature and the consistent fighting of “game
hogs.”

True enough, Jim Curwood did not know all the scientific names for the
trees, toads, shrubs and so forth, but he could tell you all about them;
all about their life from birth to death. Jim practically knew the day a
certain plant or flower would die, so intent had been his study.



                              CHAPTER NINE

                            HIS BROTHERHOOD


After long years of successfully hunting and selfishly killing game,
James Oliver Curwood had at last ceased, and suddenly launched a
campaign by which he hoped to stop “game hogs” from taking wild life
from the forests.

This campaign was also an attempt to stop “ordinary hunters for the time
being, until the game had ample time to replenish itself.” He founded
the first conservation movement in the state of Michigan and remained as
its head for several years.

Jim pleaded through his books and his articles for the public to stop
the slaughtering of innocent, wild and untamed animals, to preserve the
natural resources and not to dynamite the streams in which fish
abounded.

Slowly the public began to take heed, but not quite soon enough, for
already a number of species had been all but destroyed. Many of those
species of animals and birds that were killed off then, have not been
able to recreate themselves even to this day. Jim realized that this was
not fair to either wildlife or mankind. “It must stop and it shall
stop.”

On January 1, 1927, Jim Curwood was made chairman of the “Game, Fish and
Wildlife Committee of the Conservation Department of the State of
Michigan,” and later was in charge of the activities of the entire
conservation commission. He was held in high regard and esteem by many
thousands of people who firmly believed and were convinced that he was
doing something fine and worthwhile. Others hated Jim with a vengeance.
They believed, as there are so many who do today, that James Oliver
Curwood, and the so called conservationists, were meddling into other
people’s business. Likewise Jim hated the “game hog” who was attempting
to destroy the very thing which God had intended to live and to make the
world more beautiful for mankind.

Since James Oliver Curwood was born and raised within the heart of the
timber country, and lived most of his life in it, he could respect and
love it more readily and naturally than people of large metropolitan
cities. As a boy he had gone into the deep forests unescorted many times
when it was known to be dangerous. Often he did not even carry a rifle
for protection, for even as a small boy he believed in a mutual feeling
between animals and men. Jim believed that he could make friends with
the animals and make those creatures understand him. He did just that.
Many of Jim’s friends who have been fortunate enough to accompany him on
one of his trips into the wilds, still describe how they saw him make
friends with the most fierce of all North American animals—the Grizzly.

Because of his wanderings and explorations throughout the whole of the
Dominion of Canada, Jim developed what he chose to call a “Creed of the
Wild!”

“To hunt and fish is the first great law of nature. Everything ‘hunts
and fishes,’ from man to the weakest of the creatures and things which
he destroys. It is ordained that the ashes of destruction shall give
birth to life, and that in killing, if it is within the immutable bounds
prescribed by nature, there is rejuvenation; but to adventure beyond
those limitations, until killing becomes a lust, is to invite
destruction of the balance of those laws of nature which makes existence
possible.

“I believe that many generations, if not centuries, will pass before man
arrives at a point where he will view all manifestations of life as so
nearly akin to his own that he will cease to slaughter for pleasure.”

This alone was Jim Curwood’s “Creed of the Wild,” as well as his creed
of life. He loved everything and hated nothing save the “game hogs.”

When Jim Curwood assumed his position on the conservation commission on
January 1, 1927, he immediately set to work to make adjustments. For one
thing he immediately began clamping down on the capturing of certain
species of birds. In some cases he closed the season long before it was
to have officially closed, or else set the bag limit very low. Many
people objected to this as they did not understand the real purpose
behind it.

Jim took several trips around the state, entirely on his own initiative,
and issued “official communiques” with great abandon regarding the
closing of seasons on certain types of wildlife. The conservation
commission felt that he was not justified in these actions and believed
that he was causing the commission undue trouble. As a matter of fact
one of the members of the original commission had this to say of Jim:

“He took a trip around the state, entirely on his own, issuing official
communiques with great abandon, and getting the department into hot
water. I recall particularly the decidedly vexing problem of an open
season on birds (perhaps deer, but I’m pretty sure it was birds).
Curwood said that his survey had shown beyond the shadow of a doubt that
the birds were scarce and therefore the season should be closed. I
believe he gave newspaper interviews declaring the season closed in
certain sections.”

Jim Curwood’s policy of riding roughshod over the statutes and his
fellow commissioners, plus the fact that he had his great reputation as
an out-of-doors expert to live up to, was becoming very serious and
embarrassing, or so certain members of the conservation commission felt,
for what he believed in he fought for, regardless of how the rest of the
commission felt or thought. So intent was he upon his ideas of
conservation that he had to have his way in everything which was
undertaken. And as another fellow commissioner once said of Jim:

“If I were to write a chapter on Curwood’s activities as a member of the
commission it would be in the section of the book devoted to wild life,
sub-classification, ‘stormy petrel.’ I recall that he simply had to have
his own way, and so perhaps if one were to look him up in the index it
would be in the list of fauna, under lone wolf.”

Despite the fact that some so-called conservation experts felt that Jim
Curwood was radical in his ideas, and beliefs concerning conservation
movements, he proved conclusively that he was right in most of his ideas
at some time or other.

“Jim was almost exclusively interested in protecting wild life from man,
shorter or no, seasons; reduced bag limits, banning of spears, etc.,
were items for which he would fight. He had an academic interest in
fire, a sentimental leaning toward the planting of trees, no time for
research or land acquisition. Jim was just too starry-eyed for the
others to get.” So spoke another fellow member of the original
commission on which Curwood served and directed during 1927.

Because of his short term on the conservation commission it was
impossible for him to carry out many of his ideas. Had not the mighty
hand of the Great Reaper struck, the conservation movements today would
be much stronger and more firm than they are. He was the first and in
reality the last man to start such a movement which carried over such a
widespread field.

During this time with the Department of Conservation of the State of
Michigan, Curwood was made a head of the Izaak Walton League. This is
the largest organization on the conservation of natural resources in the
world today. During a stormy meeting held in Chicago Jim almost
resigned. At that meeting Jim drafted a plan whereby thousands and
thousands of animals might be spared from the hunters’ guns. He was
promptly informed that this plan would not work and could not possibly
materialize. He arose and spoke with bated breath as he informed the
large gathering that despite what they thought, the plan would and could
be used effectively. He further stated that either the plan would be put
into operation immediately or else his resignation would be forthcoming.

Many members of the Izaak Walton League could not as yet understand Jim
and hesitated to vote. Eventually Jim Curwood had his way and his plan
was put into operation. It worked better than even he had anticipated.

Today Jim Curwood stands as a typical example of righteousness in the
halls of the State Conservation Department of Michigan. Even though many
have felt that his work for the preservation of our natural resources
was in vain, his work alone speaks for itself.

“One’s work is the voice that is heard most clearly and is most
enduring.” Jim proved his belief that “it is the work that counts” only
too well. His experience and intimate knowledge of the outdoors were his
guides on all matters.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The first book to appear from Jim’s pen after the completion of Curwood
Castle, was the widely read novel, “The Alaskan.” This book had an
exceptionally large advance sale.

In the early spring of 1924, two short years after his studio had been
constructed, Jim and Ethel returned from another one of his famous
expeditions into the North. It was then that Jim released to his
publishers his newest work entitled “A Gentleman of Courage,” a book
which brought him still more widespread fame and glory. People were
growing more and more each day to love this writer of the wilderness. He
wrote undeniably about a land that seemed so wonderful and far off, and
yet in reality so very close. Prompted by Jim’s writings many people
have journeyed into the Dominion of Canada to make their homes.

The following year Jim published the first of his historical novels,
“The Ancient Highway,” the locale being around old Quebec and its
plains. Many critics praised this new type of work Jim had put out, but
as he often remarked:

“A novelist of romance and adventure can never become a successful
historian.”

Jim spoke those words, but it doubtless did not occur to him at the time
that he was probably the greatest of all romantic historians on the
Dominion of Canada. Through his novels of romance and history he painted
a picture of the Canadian Northlands not only as they used to be years
ago but as they really are today.

James Oliver Curwood was both a novelist and a historian even if he did
not believe himself to be a recorder of both ancient and modern history.
It was said of “The Ancient Highway” that this story of modern Quebec
takes you down the old world highway of romance, while woodland beauty
brings nature near in that communion which Curwood lovers find a healing
and tonic force. “The Ancient Highway” is truly a fine piece of
historical work and deserved the praise which it received.

It was about this time that Lewis Galantiere reported that James Oliver
Curwood was by all odds the most popular of American writers among the
French people. Where it once had been Jack London and Upton Sinclair it
now was Curwood. Edith Wharton had attempted to establish herself as our
literary ambassadress to France, but she had failed.

In England, Germany, Denmark, Norway and numerous other countries, Jim
Curwood had built for himself a great reputation and his fame among the
various peoples of the world was definitely assured.



                              CHAPTER TEN

                              TRAIL’S END


Unlike most authors of Jim Curwood’s day, thousands of people annually
came to visit him and to see the fair city of Owosso, they came to meet
him from all parts of the country, and to ask him countless, rather
foolish questions. Being the well-bred, cultured man that he was, Jim
complied by answering each question and replying to each letter written
to him, to the very best of his ability.

During the morning hours, no one was allowed to see him or to interrupt
his writing schedule in the slightest manner. For he had his daily
writing stint of five hundred words to write and it must all be
thoroughly checked. Jim never wrote more than five hundred words a day,
for he felt that writing beyond that limit would tend to make his work
slighty. In the afternoon, however, his duties were more numerous. The
first part of the afternoon was devoted to the dictating of letters and
to all general business that might be at hand. Then and only then would
those people who wished to see him and ask him questions be admitted to
his private study.

One of Jim’s greatest enjoyments was in the many letters he received
daily from small children; letters that asked about only those things
which small children could possibly want to know. He loved every one of
those scrawled letters, for it not only showed him that people were
reading his books, but that even small children loved his stories of his
beloved northland.

Many were the times that great numbers of small children from Owosso
would come and visit with the man from God’s Country. On these visits,
Jim always saw to it that there was a treat for them on hand. He would
take each in turn upon his knee and always managed to tell wonderful
stories. Many residents of Owosso of the present time were among that
group. They like to recall those days when they had the honor of sitting
upon the knee of one of America’s most famous writers. The citizens of
Owosso loved him immensely. For his undying love for humanity and his
unquenchable love for all nature had indeed made Jim Curwood a patient,
kindly and loving personality.

Many of the questions that Jim received in his morning mail ranged from
the “ridiculous to the sublime.” “How shall I begin on my writing
career?” “How do I construct or build a plot?” “Ought I to go to college
for four years?” “How much education is needed to become a successful
writer?” These and countless more just like them were Jim’s daily
plight. Perhaps the most frequent question found in those letters was:
“Will you sell my story for me?”

Many are the times that Jim’s laughter echoed throughout the walls of
Curwood Castle as he pored over the amusing letters.

One of the principal reasons Jim Curwood received so many letters was
the desire for the author’s signature. But there were those who, Jim
realized, were struggling up that long, hard and difficult trail over
which he had traveled, and so to these he always sent forth some kind
and encouraging words. For the young man who is embarking upon a
literary career, Jim’s advice was always this:

“Hard work and steady work for years, with a fixed purpose is most
important.” He also said that an author trains himself for his life’s
work just as a farmer learns to use the plough or hoe, or in the same
manner that a surgeon studies to use his scalpel.

“Most authors are but ordinary men and women who have trained themselves
to earn a livelihood with the pen.”

Perhaps the wisest and most important advice that James Oliver Curwood
ever gave anyone was the importance of good physical condition at all
times.

Jim’s advice to a young writer with plenty of ambition was to get plenty
of sleep and always to arise early. By this he meant about four-thirty
or five o’clock in the morning. Then to snap through a vigorous
limbering-up exercise, followed by two or three glasses of good, cold
water. The latter is a truly important factor. What with going to bed
early and rising early of a morning along with the many different type
exercises, James Oliver Curwood often voiced his opinion that he himself
would live to be one hundred years old.

“After a bath, which includes the use of cold water, I have a breakfast
which consists of half a bowl of bran with creamy milk. Dinner is at
noon. There are many excellent reasons why a heavy meal should not be
eaten at night. My dinner is largely composed of vegetables, though not
infrequently we have fish or fowl. Meat once a week is quite enough for
a man who wants a long life.

“After breakfast I walk vigorously for ten minutes, and as I have eaten
lightly I do not thus disturb my digestive tract. I walk rapidly, for
slow walking is no exercise at all, and am at my studio by half-past
seven, vibrantly alive and eager to get to work for the sheer pleasure
of it. My brain is clear and my body healthy because I have started the
day right by taking the opportunity which Nature intended all men should
have.”

The very first thing which he always did upon arriving at his studio of
a morning was to have a fifteen-minute conference with his secretary,
during which he gave out his daily instructions and explained just what
was most important for her to do during the course of the day. Then into
the tower study he went where he immediately disconnected the telephone
and locked the door. This was a precaution he used so that he would not
be disturbed. Here Jim buried himself until eleven-thirty in the
morning. Under no consideration could anybody get in to see him unless
it was the most urgent business which could not possibly wait. All
morning hours were devoted entirely to his writing and he disliked very
much being disturbed during those hours.

Once inside his study, Jim always looked over the previous day’s
correspondence, checked it and then carefully filed it away. Upon
completing this he would pick up his notes and yesterday’s planning for
today’s work and study it carefully for several minutes. Then he would
clear his desk of all unnecessary materials and begin the work which did
not let up until four-thirty in the afternoon, except for a brief lunch
period.

Some days Jim’s work would come easily, clearly and distinctly; but on
other days he would feverishly wrack his brain in order to drag forth
words one by one.

For the most part, the majority of authors hurriedly write the first
draft of their story, check it thoroughly and then carefully write the
second draft. Finally the third and final draft is written and then the
yarn is ready for the publisher. Such a procedure was against Jim
Curwood’s policy, for he did not believe in writing a story too
hurriedly, checking it and later revising it. He was a slow, deliberate
worker and never averaged more than five hundred words per day, or only
two full-sized manuscript pages. He slowly and methodically built every
sentence and every paragraph as he went along. He never returned to
rebuild that which he had already constructed.

“I build every line and page of my manuscript to the best of my ability,
with the result that I am a very slow worker, as compared with many. I
average only about five hundred words per day. Often I have spent an
entire forenoon on one paragraph of a dozen lines. I stay with a
difficult passage until it is done satisfactorily. I never put off until
to-morrow what I find hard today, for to-morrow rarely brings the needed
skill.”

At noontime Jim would always lay off from his work for a half an hour.
This always afforded him ample time to look over his gardens, which
consisted mainly of onions and radishes. The raising of onions and
radishes was his hobby and one of which he was indeed proud. He always
took particular pride in his ability to raise the finest of these
vegetables in the surrounding territory.

Promptly at four-thirty of an afternoon, Jim was up and away from the
studio, unless he had a story which he felt must be completed, or else
some important business matter that must have his personal attention.
And when he did leave his studio, he immediately looked for recreation,
which as a whole was not very hard to find. He was very fond of a brisk
walk, a swim, golf, or a horseback ride. His two favorite sports,
however, above all others, were horseback-riding and handball. On many
of his trips into the wilds he would take along a few horseshoes and a
handball outfit to help keep trim as well as to provide relaxation. Jim
played handball with a vengeance and could never quite get enough of it.
Regardless of what sport he participated in, he always played hard,
industriously and squarely. As it was with his writing, Jim never knew
quite when to call a halt to his recreational activities.

As twilight would begin to break forth Jim always liked to sit out on
the terrace that he loved so well or else take a long walk or a drive in
his auto. Twilight would lengthen into dusk and unless he had something
else more important to do he would spend the evening with his wife and
children before retiring. But Jim did not retire to rest and to sleep as
most men do. Instead he went to bed to think and meditate and ponder
over his problems.

On one particular occasion, Ray Long visited Jim at his home in Owosso.
The two men sat up late one night in order to develop a plot for the new
novel Jim had in mind. It had to be something different from anything
previously written, and so for many hours Ray and Jim studied earnestly
and tirelessly over the possibilities. The new work Jim had in mind was
to be entitled “Nomads of the North.” Mr. Long eventually suggested a
situation that appealed to Jim’s vivid imagination and so together the
two of them developed their idea for all it was worth. That night both
men went to bed elated and highly satisfied over the prospects of the
new story. Mr. Long later explained how surprised he was the next
morning when Jim appeared at the breakfast table and informed him that
the plot would not do. Obviously he had gone to bed the night before and
had laid awake for most of the night turning the plot and situation over
and over in his mind. Then at last he had come to the conclusion that
the animals involved would not be likely to do the things that he had
planned for them to do.

The very popular and famous Ray Long, who published numerous James
Oliver Curwood stories serially in his magazine, once spoke of Jim:

“James Oliver Curwood is a writing man because he has something to say,
and he writes only of those things which he knows best. His novels are
set in the far North region of Canada because he not only knows but
actually loves that country.”

That Curwood’s God is Nature and that in his books he preaches
constantly the beauty and glory of his creed the reading public quite
generally knows. He is a writing man because he has something important
to talk about.

James Oliver Curwood loved the North as few men have ever loved a
country in which they have not been registered citizens. Even long
before he was employed by the Canadian government as an exploratory
writer on the Northlands, Jim had already grown to love that land, for
many trips already lay behind him. He knew many of the Mounties, he had
trapped and prospected in the Yukon and in and around Hudson’s Bay; he
knew his North as few men ever could know it. But the element which made
him so popular was that he loved the country about which he wrote. Ray
Long, then editor of _Redbook Magazine_, knew the author quite well and
told many wonderful things about him.

“When Jim Curwood described the coming of spring in the northern
mountains, he saw and wrote of beauty which brought a lump to my throat.
He wrote melodrama, yes; there was action and vigor and at times
brutality in his stories; he was far from being the greatest
psychologist who ever wrote: but he was sincere, he loved nature, he
made you love nature. And that’s not a bad epitaph for a writer, is it?”

For two full years Curwood was an employee of the Dominion and it was
during those years that he gathered much of the material about which he
has written. Also, during that time, Jim lived among the Eskimos and the
Indians. Few people, if any, realize that the trips before and after his
government contract had expired were entirely at his own expense, so
sincere was he about that which he wrote. Many were the times that Jim
formed his own expeditions and went farther north than most men have
ever dared penetrate, save those internationally famous explorers who
have reached and discovered the North Pole.

He has actually been up as far as the Arctic sea and has oft times gone
out upon it in search of adventure and material for his stories. He has
braved every type of danger and adventure practically known to mankind,
as far as the North goes, to bring back thrill-packed stories for the
world at large to enjoy. A. J. Donovan, of Owosso, who was a school-mate
of Jim’s, often said this of him in later life:

“Jim passed on just when he was doing his home town, his state and his
country the most good.”

By that Mr. Donovan meant that Jim Curwood’s work in conservation was at
last being heeded and that wild life was beginning to be conserved. He
also had in mind that Jim was doing his people more good by his
inspirational and courageous writings than few men of his time have ever
done.

Many, many times Jim had openly declared that he simply could not write
in his fine, new home.

“I just cannot write in my own home. Something is missing there that
gives me the inspiration that I do so need.”

Jim’s home is one of the most beautiful and stately ones in all of
Owosso. But because he was a wilderness man, a true disciple of the
wilds, and because of the Indian blood flowing in his veins, he found it
difficult to write inside four walls. He found it difficult even to do
so inside the walls of Curwood Castle, his own especially-built writing
studio. His great-grandmother was a full blooded Mohawk Indian princess,
and his famous ancestor, Captain Frederick A. Marrayat, was a great
seaman and world renowned novelist. It is therefore easy to see how the
adventure blood must have been surging through Jim’s veins.

Jim loved the great open spaces where all was silent and peaceful so
much, that when he was away from it for a long period of time, he was
quite hard to get along with. That was one of the reasons for building
his Castle so he could decorate it to his own satisfaction and still
feel the tang of the wilds about him. That was why he built it along the
shores of the Shiawassee, “Sparkling Waters.” It had that ancient and
wild look about it that gave him inspiration.

Jim lived and died an outdoorsman, believing in “the fundamental rights
to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for all creatures of the
wilderness. And so during his climb to the top rung of the ladder of
success he had acquired several thousands of acres of forest land in
northern Michigan, just a short way from the little city of Roscommon.
There in the very center of “his own wilderness,” Jim Curwood built
himself what was almost a baronial castle done in logs. Each log was
from a tree which he had selected himself, making sure that his
“out-of-the-way retreat” was constructed with the finest the forests had
to offer.

Although situated along the banks of the Au Sable River and just a short
way from the town of Roscommon, Jim would not consider having a
telephone in his cabin. Although within that same distance there were
electric light wires, Jim absolutely refused to have them in his
wilderness home. He insisted upon keeping his lodge absolutely
primitive, and that is exactly what he did.

The place cost him many thousands of dollars, but he would have no
modern plumbing of any sort installed. He maintained that it was
possible “to be luxuriously primitive—or primitively luxurious,” and in
the end it cost him his life.

Here in this “stag hiding place” were some of Jim’s very best friends.
Namely, they were the mink, the wildcat, the marten, squirrel and many
other creatures of the wilds. It was here at the cabin in upper Michigan
and the place in the upper part of Canada that Jim had a most contented
peace, and could note wildlife at its very best.

Bruce Otto, the noted timber country guide, made many trips with Jim
Curwood and helped him build several of his cabins which are scattered
all over the wilds of the Canadian Northlands, ranging from the
mountains of British Columbia to the wilds surrounding Hudson’s Bay.
Those two men have lived entirely off the land for months at a time,
securing whatever food was necessary when the time arrived. It was on
journeys as these that Jim secured material for such great novels of the
North as “River’s End,” “The Valley of Silent Men,” and “The Flaming
Forest.”

“I traveled three thousand miles up and down the mighty Saskatchewan
before I wrote ‘The River’s End,’ and if I had not gone down the
Athabaska, the Slave and the Mackenzie with the ‘Wild river brigades,’
of God’s Country, I could never have written ‘The Valley of Silent
Men.’”

Jim Curwood actually lived with those wonderful characters of his books.
He has lived with the strong men and brave women from such books as
“God’s Country and the Woman,” “The Honor of the Big Snows,” “Kazan” and
many others.

In Jim Curwood’s home are twenty-seven guns of all types and calibers.
Each of them has seen much service, and all of them have notches cut
into them recording the number of kills made. The entire place, from
attic to basement, is filled with pelts and mounted heads. These
trophies, denoting the days when he was known as a great hunter, are
regarded as martyrs. For, from that day when the “great light appeared,”
Jim Curwood ceased being the hunter, the trapper, the destroyer of
nature and wild life. For, in what he terms his religion, Jim believed
that the wild creatures understood him and believed in him as their
friend. This understanding and belief was eventually written into the
volume entitled “God’s Country—The Trail to Happiness.” This was James
Oliver Curwood’s worldly confession as a “killer.” At the time and for
years after, Jim vowed that he was far more happier writing this
particular book than any others he had ever penned.

“Nature is my religion; and my desire, my ambition, the great goal I
wish to achieve, is to take my readers with me into the heart of this
nature. I love it and I feel that they must love it—if only I can get
the two acquainted!”

In his article, “James Oliver Curwood and His Far North,” Ray Long gave
forth his ideas concerning Jim’s fame:

“My belief in Curwood’s accuracy was based on my knowledge of the man
and on my scant knowledge of wild animal life gained on short vacations.
To have a man like Thomas Linklader confirm him meant more to me than
the confirmation from a dozen Stepanssons, for Thomas really knew his
woods. Jim took me one day to the scene of a caribou battle, and from
the footprints in the gravel by the shore of a stream reconstructed the
entire fight. He could tell me with greater accuracy than any man I ever
met in the North, just where we would find any particular kind of fish.
He absolutely knew what he was talking about.

“I returned to my desk with still greater faith in Curwood, and from
then on published practically everything he wrote. I think I enjoy as
much as he possibly can, the announcement that 105,000 copies of his
latest novel, ‘The Valley of Silent Men,’ were sold before publication.
For Curwood had come into his own. He had won a vast audience among
novel readers as he long ago won a great number of magazine readers.”

This in itself shows the faith that millions of people had in Jim
Curwood. All who could purchased his books, for they knew that what he
wrote was accurate, authentic and realistic. They knew that he had
practically lived the stories about which he wrote. That accounts for
the great pre-publication sales of over two dozen or so of his novels.

On many occasions Jim was asked just what a writer should write about,
and he always came forth with this reply:

“Authors should write only about those people, things and places which
they know. This should be self-evident; yet nearly every one of them has
almost a fatalistic passion to do otherwise. If you live in a
picturesque country village, don’t write about the city. On the other
hand, if your life is in the city, don’t try to write of the characters
and settings you know little or nothing about. There is no sufficient
reason why a Michigan author should write of Arizona. Nor is there any
excuse for a young woman who lives in a lovely cove by the sea with a
world of rich material about her, to write of what is happening at
Newport or Palm Beach. Stick to truth when you write fiction—truth as to
details, habits, and settings—even though the story be wholly imaginary.
No other books have a chance to live.”

Those few lines explain why Curwood’s works have been “best sellers,”
and are still in great use today. He possessed that “certain something”
that all writers of fiction pray for—that vivid imagination and
forseeable power behind them to keep driving constantly forward. Jim had
the courage to fight almost insurmountable odds and consequently he came
through. What Jim Curwood started he usually finished. Some advice which
came directly from his lips should be well to heed:

“Only those who are quite prepared to labor long and hard for little
pay, and without assurance of fame, should undertake to write for a
living. A few earn large sums—but only a few. The great majority eke out
a bare existence, living in anticipation of the great good fortune that
is just around the corner.”

Jim Curwood wrote for ten long years before he was ever able to place
and sell a story; at the end of that tenth year, Jim sold his first one
for $5.00. $5.00 for ten years of work! He merely overcame those fits of
despondency that attacked him through the hundreds and hundreds of
rejection slips that came to him. Jim learned to believe what each one
said. He kept at his work tirelessly throughout those ten long years.

With the arrival of 1926, the public saw the last of Jim’s historical
novels and the last book length work which he ever wrote. This one was
entitled “The Black Hunter.” Its sale was widespread.

Following the publication of “The Black Hunter” Curwood devoted himself
to shorter forms of fiction and several articles on the preservation of
natural resources. During this period Jim came closer to God in his love
of nature than ever before. His life thus far was a success. Upon many
occasions while relaxing in his studio, he would unconsciously pick up
his pen and write his feelings about God and mankind. A few of these
memorable writings have been preserved:

“The Great Master has opened to me the book wherein is written the
secret of a joyful life—a secret which he never intended to be hidden,
but which has been concealed for untold years because men will not read
what is spread upon the pages of the wonderful book, or having read,
will not believe. Their eyes are hidden so that they do not see the
glory of living and their ears do not hear the myriad sounds which blend
in life’s immortal melody.”

“I have found the great understanding heart of Nature, and the thrill of
its discovery has set the blood coursing faster in my veins. I have
learned to understand the voice of Nature, and in doing so have obtained
health, developed faith, and partaken of the glory of living. In that
voice there is inspiration, and it whispers to me the hope that all
shall soon understand.”

Jim lived a life wherein he had found the true joy of living and
consequently his habits were of the best type. Believing strongly that
there is good in every man and woman, he wrote and created his
characters in much the same manner:

“The world is filled with strong and good men, and with women who are
beautiful and virtuous, people who are the equals or superiors of those
who live in the pages of my books. It is about such folks that I choose
to write.

“I thank God that in only one of my books, and that an early one, have I
approached what would have evidently pleased that critic. Why should I
not write of wholesome men and women, of clean actions, of just and
upright conduct? Why should I not recount tales of people who cherished
ideals? Why should I refrain from telling of the things to which we all
aspire?

“I see no good reason why I should take a woman of the streets and
glorify her, though once, when I was a boy, one of them gave me a
glimpse of as unselfish a devotion to the finer things in life as I have
ever known in any woman. There are too many good women whom I may
glorify and clothe with ideals. Why should I make my women ugly in
character or in appearance when we all love beauty? We always choose the
most beautiful flowers of the entire garden for the bed chambers of our
guests.

“Why shouldn’t I punish the bad people in my books and make a record
that happiness came eventually to those who deserved it? Some critics
may say, ‘people are not like that and things don’t come out that way,’
but my experience has been to the contrary. Happiness does come to those
who deserve it. Eventually their ears do catch the immortal melody of
life, as Melisse heard the music of her people; and they often learn to
appreciate it long before they pass on to another existence.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Although from the beautiful Au Sable River less than one hundred yards
away Jim could have had water delivered into the cabin by the very
simple process of having an electric pump, only a handpump in the
kitchen was permitted to be installed.

The isolated place of beauty cost him thousands and thousands of
dollars, but he would not have in it any modern plumbing.

Due to the absence of a few modern conveniences Jim was bitten by a
poisonous spider, and even though he had often boasted that he intended
to live to be at least one hundred years old, and had so arranged his
life that under ordinary conditions he might have lived to be that age,
a spider upset his life’s plans.

Shortly after the insect had bitten him Jim left for his home in Owosso
seeking medical attention. This was on August 8, 1927. The physicians
were strangely puzzled by the malady which plagued Owosso’s favorite
son. He was seriously ill with an unusual and seemingly unknown disease.
The newspapers throughout the country carried stories of Jim’s condition
and almost immediately specialists from everywhere rushed to his aid, if
aid were possible. All the efforts of the doctors and specialists who
rushed to the bedside of James Oliver Curwood in those early days of
August, 1927, were futile. He was given a blood transfusion by his
daughter, Mrs. Carlotta Jirus, of Detroit, but this, too, was of no
avail ... on August 13, with his wife, Ethel, his son, James, his two
daughters, Carlotta and Viola, his brother, Ed, and his two sisters, Amy
and Cora, at his bedside, James Oliver Curwood, writer, conservationist,
exponent and lover of Nature, passed away.

The Detroit _Free Press_ ran this story on August 14, 1927.

                   CURWOOD’S FUNERAL SET FOR TOMORROW
                               AFTERNOON

                  Author to be buried in Owosso beside
                      graves of father and mother.

    Owosso, Mich., Aug. 14—A.P.—Funeral services for James Oliver
    Curwood, author and noted conservationist, who died late last
    night after a week’s illness of a general infection, will be
    conducted at the residence at 2:30 o’clock by the Rev. J. Twyson
    Jones, of the First Congregational Church.

    Interment will be in Oakhill Cemetery where his father and
    mother are buried. Pallbearers had not been selected today, but
    in compliance with the author’s wish, will be Owosso residents.

                           BLOOD GIVING FAILS

    Death came to the writer of stories of the Northlands at his
    home, “Curwood Castle,” here, after a desperate battle against
    the infection that steadily sapped his strength. In an effort to
    stay the ravages of the infection, a daughter, Mrs. Antonio P.
    Jirus, of Detroit, gave of her blood in a transfusion operation.

    After rallying somewhat, the author weakened again rapidly and
    his physicians announced that his death was a matter of hours
    only.

    Curwood was born in Owosso on June 12, 1878, the son of James
    Moran and Abigail (Griffen) Curwood, and spent his boyhood near
    Vermillion, Ohio, his family later returning to Owosso. He
    attended the University of Michigan. He spent the greater part
    of his life at his birthplace.

                          FIRST NOVEL IN 1908

    “The Courage of Captain Plum,” his first novel, was written in
    1908, after he had spent seven years in newspaper work.

    From then on the books flowed from his pen. There followed “The
    Wolf Hunters,” 1908; “The Great Lakes,” and “The Gold Hunters,”
    in 1909; “The Danger Trail,” in 1910; “The Honor of the Big
    Snows,” and “Philip Steele of the Royal Mounted,” written in
    1911.

    Others of his novels included “Kazan,” 1914; “Nomads of the
    North,” 1919; “The Valley of Silent Men,” 1920; and “The Flaming
    Forest,” in 1921, and his latest “The Black Hunter.” Writing was
    in Curwood’s blood. On his father’s side, he was descended from
    Captain Marrayat, the novelist.

    A zealous crusader for conservation of natural resources,
    Curwood was considered an authority on the Canadian northland,
    and was the only American ever employed by the Canadian
    government as an exploratory and descriptive writer.

    His championship of conservation in the fullest sense often
    brought him into conflict, and in several meetings, national and
    state, he stirred a storm of controversy.

    In 1926 he abruptly resigned as a director of the Izaak Walton
    League in a stormy meeting in Chicago. At a meeting held in
    Owosso, he opposed policies of John Baird, then Michigan
    director of conservation, so heatedly that the state
    conservationists formed factions to which they held strongly for
    several years.

    With the conclusion of the term of office of Baird, and the
    election of Governor Fred W. Green, Curwood was appointed to the
    new conservation commission. Frequently at meetings he protested
    against what he termed the lethargy of the other members.

    Besides his keen interest in conservation, Curwood was deeply
    interested in civic enterprises in his home city, contributing
    liberally to such undertakings.

    Two daughters are children of Curwood’s first marriage. A son,
    James Oliver Curwood II, and his second wife, who was Miss Ethel
    Greenwood, Owosso teacher, also survive.

On that fateful thirteenth day of August, 1927, the news was flashed to
the entire world that one of the greatest of all outdoor fiction writers
was dead. James Oliver Curwood, beloved teller of tales of the beautiful
Canadian Northwest, had passed away. It was an unexpected blow which the
entire world mourned and bitterly regretted. For, in losing Jim Curwood,
no longer could the great tradition of the mighty northlands be upheld.

Even the Crees, the Chippawayans and the Shiwashes Indian tribes of the
far reaches of the north mourned the loss of the “great white father,”
who to them was “Jeems.”

The old sourdoughs along the wilderness trails also felt the loss of
Jim’s cheerful presence. The old men of the north whom Jim had invited
down to his Castle on many occasions from the distant reaches felt the
hurt of losing Jim Curwood probably more than anyone else, save that of
his own immediate family.

The following epitaph appeared along with James Oliver Curwood’s last
article, his last work. It was entitled “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” and was
written and completed but a few days before he was stricken. The
foreword to this article was written by the editor of _American
Magazine_ in the December, 1927, issue, exactly four months after Jim’s
passing. Of all the articles he had ever written, this last one, his
last and final plea for wild life, affected the public most of all. It
was truly his last stand, and a glorious ending it was:

“James Oliver Curwood is dead. One of the most popular fiction writers
of his generation, one of the most ardent and courageous lovers of
outdoor life, he leaves millions of devoted admirers to mourn him.

“Only a month before his death, Mr. Curwood sent me this telegram:

‘Am working on an article for you which I have wanted to write for five
years, and I think it is the best thing I have ever done. Shall have
copy ready to mail you within week. Good wishes.’

“But it was nearly a fortnight before the article reached us, for the
author was already in the primary stages of his fatal malady.

“Almost at the beginning of this, his last article, Mr. Curwood wrote:

‘When I am ready to enter this most glorious of adventures, the mystery
and privilege of death, I shall need no greater comforts in the first
abysmal moments of its presence than these things—the grass, the
flowers, the beautiful dove on her nest, the voice of the birds, the
rippling song of water, the inspiration and courage of the trees.’

“Before that message could be put into type the hand that had written it
lay in eternal rest.

“These pages hold Mr. Curwood’s final plea for the preservation of our
wildlife, a movement in which he was a veritable crusader. He hated game
hogs, with an undying hatred, because he loved nature with an undying
love. Here you will find, simply and sincerely expressed, his creed of
the wild.

                                                           _The Editor”_

Two days after his death, on the fifteenth of August, James Oliver
Curwood was laid to rest in the quiet, peaceful little cemetery of Oak
Hill, in Owosso.

            The Detroit _Free Press_ recorded the ceremony:—

                      CURWOOD RITES HELD IN OWOSSO

                  Simplicity marks services for noted
                    author; business at standstill.

                         SPECIAL TO FREE PRESS

    Owosso, Mich., Aug. 16—With Governor Fred W. Green, the state
    conservation director and several members of the conservation
    commission acting as honorary pallbearers, James Oliver Curwood,
    author and conservationist, was laid to rest here this afternoon
    following funeral services at his home.

    Burial took place in Oak Hill Cemetery, beside the graves of his
    parents, Mr. and Mrs. James Moran Curwood.

    The rites were marked by simplicity.

    The home of the author was filled with intimate friends while
    hundreds stood about the spacious grounds and streets adjacent
    to the residence. State Police led the funeral cortege. Members
    of the Shiawassee Conservation Association, of which Mr. Curwood
    was a director, attended in a body, as did members of Owosso
    Lodge No. 81, F. & A. M., which the author had recently joined.

    Dr. J. Twyson Jones, pastor of the First Congregational Church,
    and an intimate friend of the author, in the funeral sermon,
    eulogized Curwood as “a man who has written his own eulogy on
    the imperishable scroll of undying fame.”

    The pastor said Curwood’s three hobbies were writing,
    conservation and social betterment, declaring that “the passive
    and selfish politician” did not command Curwood’s respect. Dr.
    Jones also paid the writer tribute for the many things he had
    done for Owosso, the town of his birth.

    Following the services, the massive copper casket was carried to
    the waiting hearse through a line formed by the Masons.

    The cortege moved through the streets lined with sorrowing
    fellow townsmen of the author, to the cemetery where, after a
    brief service, the body of Owosso’s most distinguished son was
    interred.

    Business activities throughout the city were suspended during
    the services.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                           Transcriber’s Note

Variations in hyphenation and compound words have been preserved.

Italicized words and phrases in the text version are presented by
surrounding the text with underscores.





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