Gateway to the Classics: Stephen of Philadelphia by James Otis
Stephen of Philadelphia by  James Otis

Game in Plenty

I can well fancy that you are wondering why I do not speak of what we had to eat in those days when we were living in caves, waiting for the remainder of the company to arrive that it might be decided where the city was to be built.

There is little need for me to say that we had brought with us enough of pickled beef, pork, meal, flour, and such things, to keep hunger far from us a full year; but straightway we were done with making those shelters which served in the stead of houses, we came to know that there was an abundance of food in the forest and rivers.

I had thought we were in the midst of plenty while in England, where one might buy whatsoever he desired, provided he had the money with which to pay for it; but here it was as if you need only venture out in any direction to get food such as would have caused the mouth of a king to water.

The wild pigeons came into the forest near us in such numbers that one could hardly see the sun when a flock flew overhead, and I, with none other to help me save Jethro, have knocked down from the branches of the trees, after the birds had gone to roost, a full two bushels of them in a single evening. What is more, I have actually seen the birds settle in such great numbers on a single limb as to break it off because of their immense weight.


Mother preserved as many of these pigeons as she could care for in what jars of stone or delft we brought with us, and had it been possible to step out and buy all the crockery-ware she wanted, I dare say we might have had of potted pigeons enough to serve us as food a full year, if so be one could eat of such meat for so long a time.

Nor were pigeons the only game to be found in these woods of Penn. He who was a fair marksman could, by going less than half a mile into the forest in the early morning, or just when the sun was setting, bring down a wild turkey of from twenty to forty pounds weight; and let me tell you that there is no more pleasing meat than can be found in a turkey that has been roasted on a spit, before a fire of chestnut wood, until the outside is crisp like that which, in England, we call the crackling of a young pig.

Then what think you of deer meat so plentiful that one may buy a fine fat buck for two shillings? We had so much of venison during the winter when we lived in the cave that I have more than once turned up my nose at it, and yet an alderman's nose might well grow red at sight of the haunches mother served to us on that makeshift of a table which I had built.

We also had not a little of bear meat; and although others may eat that kind of food, if they are so disposed, it tastes too nearly like fresh pork on which sugar has been sprinkled, to please me.

Then there were elk in the forests as large as small oxen, and rabbits, squirrels, pheasants, and partridges in great numbers, while on the water could be found, in season, swan, geese, ducks, teal, and many other kinds of fowl.

Jethro and I went often into the forest, making as excuse that we would have a turkey, some partridges, or, perhaps, a deer; but the taking of game for food required but little time, and we spent the remainder of the day watching the wild creatures who had not come to know what a cruel enemy man is to them.


My father held strictly to it that it is sinful to kill more than may be needed for food, and I have come to have the same belief. God gave them to us that we should not go hungry; but surely the poor creatures were never put in this world that we might find sport in depriving them of life.

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