When Ike cooked with foil in the Dartmouth Grant
Edward Weeks, editor emeritus of The Atlantic Monthly, was editor of the magazine when the events in the following essay occurred. AT the Dartmouth Commencement in June 1950, two editors were among those awarded honorary degrees, Harold Ross of The New Yorker and myself. The exercises were conducted in the open and Ross and I were seated beside each other on the dais. He studied the program. ``It says here,'' he remarked, ``that I'm to be a Doctor of Humane Letters but you're just an ordinary `Litt.D.' Means I'm the kinder man.'' I protested; but at that instant Ross's name was called; he jammed the mortarboard on his thick black hair and stood up for the acclaim.Skip to next paragraph
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During the reception that followed, president John Dickey invited me to join him later in the month to fish for the native trout in the Dartmouth Grant. I accepted eagerly for an expedition I was to relish year after year.
During the Jefferson administration, when Dartmouth was founded, the State of New Hampshire endowed Dartmouth with a forest of 27,000 acres, known as ``the Grant,'' where prudent cutting has preserved many hardwoods, while yielding a net income of $20,000 a year. The Grant begins just below the Canadian border and encompasses 48 square miles of wilderness watered by the two branches of the Diamond River, the Swift Diamond to the west and the Dead Diamond to the north. The best and deepest trout pools are in the Dead and best fished from a canoe.
We left Hanover early on a Thursday morning in the Dickeys' beach wagon. A long green canoe was strapped to the roof, and packed with the fishing gear were emergency rations just in case a heavy rain discolored the water and put the trout down. Our caterer, Mrs. Dickey, selected steaks, homemade bread, a cherry pie, and a tin of her chocolate cookies. Even if we caught our limit of trout, those extras would come in handy.
We drove north for five hours with only a single stop to get our licenses. With us was Dr. Jay Gile, who in boyhood had accompanied his doctor father on distant calls to these upland farms, and he related the personal history of the countryside and explained the source of the wealth which originally built such distinctive homes -- lumber first, he said, then long-staple wool, and always canny economy.
We passed the salmon pool on the Ammonoosuc and then the Oxbow on the upper Connecticut, water vistas that quickened our anticipation. Forest to one side, water on the other, we sped through the Thirteen Mile Woods and soon thereafter turned off to enter the gate of the Grant. John introduced us to the guardian, who reported that the river was high and no record fish had yet been reported. The log gate was lowered behind us and in low gear we climbed to the crest of a very deep canyon, with the white water of the Swift and the Dead Diamond, now a united stream, far below. We entered the clearing of the Forest Management Center and Sam, the Norwegian fire warden, in his comical red hat, came running to greet the president. ``John, I vant to tell you. . . .''
The Dead Diamond is slow and meandering: In its winding course it has created innumerable sandy crescents with deep pools at each end. The sand bears the footprints of wildlife and is not defiled by beer cans, a bedspring, or the chassis of an abandoned Ford, the normal decoration of so many American streams.
We fish in pairs, and for that first evening John chooses me. We drive up to the headwaters, launch the canoe to carry us over the deep water, and then begin wading and casting, shoving the canoe into the bushes before we approach a promising pool and taking turns at the head and the tail of each pool. The trout are rising, wary and strong. We keep only those over 11 inches.
John loves to wade, and from his periscopic height he spots where the fish lie. His plan is for me to cast the first pool and the next three; he will bypass ``my water'' in the canoe and then shove it ashore and begin on his stretch, wading along. When I reach the canoe, I'm to overtake him and then I go in the lead. This leapfrog gives each of us the bliss of fishing untouched water, alone. It is a private experience in which one talks to oneself, cursing the blunders, exclaiming when a trout has struck.