One Day at Teton Marsh

Sally Carrighar
As I remember it, the critical reception to Miss Carrighar’s One Day on Beetle Rock, published in 1944, was justly generous. Her new book, which repeats the formula but nothing else, is likely to strengthen her reputation as the most imaginative and poetic nature writer in this country. She has not the sheer magic of Henry Williamson; but then he is not likely to be rivaled in his field for a long time to come. On the other hand, she has things to say of her own, and an interpretive sense in dealing with the creatures of earth, sea, and air that is both original and charming. Furthermore, she has a wider range of animal interest than Williamson — extremely wide for a romantic-naturalist. So plausible and effortless is her reporting of the lifespan of anything from the trumpeter swan to the giddy scud, that the reader is completely persuaded. I think perhaps with her, as with Williamson and the other few masters in this developing area of literature, the reporting is at times a little too precise. Granted the thousands of observation hours necessary to represent the moose or the varying hare or the Physa snail alive and ascendant in its appropriate environment, it is possible sometimes to say too much.
One Day at Teton Marsh is the story of a beaver pond, a water meadow, and a creek at Jackson Hole along the Snake River in Wyoming. The inhabitants of this tract of wilderness include an otter, a cutthroat trout, an osprey, a mink, a moose, a mosquito, a leopard frog, and other characters. Their lives are as remarkably intertwined as were the lives of those other denizens on Beetle Rock. It is all an absorbing story with an ever changing point of view. The otter is not quite Tarka (it would hurt me if he were); but he is real, and other of his neighbors are freshly and delightfully drawn as they have not been drawn before. If you think that the micro-cycle of the primitive scud and his superbly aimless pond-life are not worth the recording, read Miss Carrighar’s little chapter on him toward the middle of the book. This is poetry of a kind — a rather remarkable kind.
The firm of Knopf, aided by some excellent (if a little formal) black-and-white drawings, has made a book in this day of indifferent bookmaking that is both beguiling to look at and to read and own.