When I was a kid my mom would always read to my brother and I before we went to bed. One of our favorite series to read through was a series of books written by naturalist Sam Campbell. “How’s Inky” is the first in the series, although there’s no strict chronology to them. In each book Mr. Campbell recounts his adventures in natures and with animals during a season as his cabin in a nature sanctuary. Doing some research, I found out this sanctuary is in northern Wisconsin. Growing up in California, I imagined his sanctuary was in some backwoods Canadian wilderness. If I’m being honest, I still feel like northern Wisconsin is that foreign.
“How’s Inky?” is the first book Mr. Campbell published and starts introducing us to some of the animals and people we will meet later in the series. Mr. Campbell, along with two friends, Judge Norton and Bobby, are spending a relaxing season (April-November) at the cabin. They are contacted by some forest rangers that an accident has orphaned a porcupine and would they take it in? The three immediately say yes. Suddenly and in quick succession they are contacted about several other animals that life that are orphans: a fawn, a woodchuck, and two raccoons.
The three men make a side-cabin a nursery of sorts where these various baby creatures can be kept safe and fed. The porcupine they name Inky, the fawn Bobette, the raccoons Rack and Ruin, the woodchuck Sausage befriend each other and cause all sorts of mayhem for the men.
Mr. Campbell weaves life lessons throughout his memoirs. In this book, the main idea is that nature always knows best. Sometimes humans feel they know better and this is sometimes to human and animal detriment. In this case, the animals get out of the cabin one day and the men worry themselves trying to track them down. The problem is, the animals are listening to their instinct and camouflage themselves. The men calm down and most of the animals do come back to the cabin. From that time on though the creatures become more and more independent and more wild. Bobette leaves the clan first and becomes the most shy at approaching the men when they see her out in the wild. Sausage builds her tunnels under the cabin, Rack and Ruin make a home in a tree and only Rack seems to maintain his relationship with humans. Inky sets up home in trees all over the sanctuary but is the friendlies to the men, calling out to them when he sees/hears them or when they call to him.
From this, Mr. Campbell reminds us that there’s an order to things and sometimes when we try to control more than we are supposed to, we upset this balance. Instead, we should work on observing the natural order and doing our part to help nature continue on it path. I appreciated this approach mostly because it seems the animals seem able to adapt to the wild, which should be the goal when you’re raising wild animals. It’s also a good reminder that as humans we can’t control each other, not even other humans. I’ve had to learn this lesson as a teacher. It’s been hard not to make decisions for students (and sometimes parents), but there comes a point where I have to recognize a situation in which I can’t control everyone’s decisions and I can only be responsible for my reaction and the choices I give people. Of course, remembering all of this it makes me want to spent months alone in the wilderness.