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Title: "Hunter’s Log: Volumes II & III"

Author: Timothy Murphy

Publisher: North Dakota State University Press

This volume of about 120 poems written by Timothy Murphy was published posthumously in 2019, as he died at age 67 in 2018. Murphy was raised in Moorhead, Minn., where he graduated from high school in 1968. An Eagle Scout, he spent many summers at Camp Wilderness near Park Rapids, Minn. He attended Yale University and studied poetry with the poet and writer Robert Penn Warren, who in 1986 was named the first U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. Murphy, named Scholar of the House in Poetry, graduated from Yale in 1972. He joined his father in the life insurance, pension and estate planning business. His great passion was poetry, and he was well-published. His poems in "Hunter’s Log: Volumes II & III", as the title suggests, are all about hunting with his dogs and his friends in North Dakota and the Great Plains.

The poems have an earthy and local touch, as he often writes about places familiar to many of us who live in North Dakota, and surely to those who hunt birds in the North Dakota wide outdoors. He refers often to his Boy Scout training, and he freely includes observations about his own consumption of alcoholic beverages. His love for his five hunting dogs which he trained and which accompanied him on his many hunts is apparent. And he liked Ford vehicles.

His poem "Ode to Ford" describes taking two of his mother’s friends from Moorhead to Fargo in a snowstorm. It reads in part:

I never carried a heavier load.

The lone vehicles on the road

were Fords bigger than mine,

and Fords? I have owned nine,

little buggers, small SUVs

for fording streams and rounding fallen trees.

Unploughed street were blocked by buried cars,

but it was Christmas, and my fortunate stars

carried my fragile cargo

from Moorhead clear to Fargo,

over the river and through the wood,

and round the groaning board those ladies stood.

Thank God for Ford.

I liked this poem entitled "US Highway 83, an Ode"

I. Gas Station

Everyone treats you as an honored guest.

The boy in camo at the convenience store,

seeing the weathered clothes I wear

and windblown feathers in my hair,

asks, “Didja get yer birds?” Bowing to age

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and knowing firsthand the pheasant hunter’s toil,       

he offers to check my oil

and measure my tire pressure with his gauge.

Pay at the pump, but something more,

Come to the High Plains, hunters, where the best

farm kids on earth start in our Cenex stores,

then win our medals when they wage our wars.

Here is a section of another poem about dogs I enjoyed.

II. Puppy V.

With arms above my head. I’m eight feet tall,

nearly as gruesome as a grizzly bear

to a small puppy by the backyard wall.

Is it Miltonic voice or blue-eyed glare

that makes this creature SIT and FETCH and COME

or biscuits rattling in a coffee drum?

One can allay a new friend’s trembling fear

with skillful fingers scratching a floppy ear.

This part of one poem entitled "Sportsman?" reminded me of my friend Bill Butcher.

Sailing, I was God’s gift to little boats,

reading the wind, its telltales on my sail.

Can a zephyr or a force five gale,

show me the course, the bobbing, anchor floats.

Alas, there came a loss, which quite bereft me.

in Wilbur’s words, The god of that has left me.

As the book consists of many poems, it is one you can pick up and read at any point, and then put it down to later return to it again. I liked this volume of poems because of its sense of place, and because I can relate to much of what Murphy writes. I believe you will find many of his poems speaking to you, and reminding you of why we love the land on which we live.

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Bob Wefald is a retired North Dakota State District Court judge, former attorney general and a retired Navy Captain.

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