Adirondack Renaissance Man – Fred Streever
When Bolton Landing outdoors writer Fred Streever died in 1955, his passing was mourned in print by other outdoors writers.
“He helped pattern our own outdoor philosophy. When Streever died, we lost more than a friend. We lost a muscle,” wrote Barney Fowler.
Bill Roden noted, “As his family and friends stood at his graveside, one lone hound was heard to tongue in the distance – Fred would have liked that.”
Henry Caldwell of Bolton Landing is intent on preserving the memory of Streever. He grew up listening to stories about Streever from Jim Ross, the caretaker of Mohican Point for more than thirty years. Ross was also a town judge, a member of the town board, and Streever’s hunting partner. Streever wrote frequently about their exploits, much as the 19thcentury Adirondack writer Henry Abbot wrote about his friend, a guide named Bige.
According to Caldwell, the unique thing about Streever is that “he was a jack-of-all trades, but he was the best at everything he did.”
Caldwell discussed Streever’s multi-faceted career at the Darrin Fresh Water Institute on Monday, August 15, as a speaker in Darrin’s summer lecture series.
Throughout his life, Streever was an architect and builder, specializing in what he called “the primitive style” but which, in recent decades, has become better known as the rustic or Adirondack style.
Among the homes he built was the Log House on Northwest Bay, which he built in the 1940s and where he lived for the rest of his life. Today it is owned by Sandy and Gail Keeler.
Streever wrote often about the house. We learn that its porch sits fifty feet above the rocky shore (“a private box in nature’s theater,” he called it) overlooking Northwest Bay and the entrance to the Narrows; that the stone fireplace has an opening four feet high and six feet wide, with a comfortable leather chair close by. The living room walls are stretched with hides and heads: wolverines from Canada, Rocky Mountain goat heads, deer trophies, mountain lion skins, fox hides, moose and elk trophies. The tables are slabs of huge logs, cut and smoothed, with bark left on the edges.
“We have a very wide window in the living room,” Streever wrote. “It is around this window the whole establishment was planned.”
From that window, Streever studied the lake, the clouds, the birdlife, the wooded sides of Tongue, Black, Erebus, Sleeping Beauty and Buck Mountains.
In the kitchen was a wood burning stove, and Streever’s tales of hunting with his hounds invariably concluded with praise for hard maple (the very best firewood, he maintained), the big iron box stove and a hefty meal.
But Streever was much more than a writer and an architect. He achieved international fame as a breeder of trail hounds and he wrote an authoritative (and highly entertaining) book on the subject, “The American Trail Hound.” He was also an inventor of dog muzzles and fishing lures, most notably the “Luna Lure.” Streever felt that a luminescent lure would be an asset when fishing in deep waters, since it would attract the attention of the fish, especially lake trout, which stay close to the bottom in midsummer. Streever experimented for years with luminescent paint applied to wood or metal lures. But, he said, he “had far more ideas than trout.” In 1947 he found a precut sheet of luminous plastic, and out of this he made his lures. He bough an electric range for the Log House, which he used solely for bending the plastic into shape.
A favorite topic of Streever’s columns and articles was his battle with the New York State Conservation Department, which insisted that there were no wolves in the Adirondacks. Streever conceded that the Eastern Timber wolf was extinct here. But they had been replaced by what he called “the brush wolf,” which he asserted was not a hybrid, a coyote, or a coy-dog, but a member of the wolf family. In the late 1940s he began importing wolf hounds from Missouri, and hoped to develop a breed of hound especially suited to wolf hunting in the Adirondacks.
More than fifty years after his death, Streever’s belief was confirmed by DNA tests when the Environmental Conservation officials concluded that a canid struck by a car on the Northway was, in fact, not a coyote but a western breed of wolf. That more or less ended the debate about introducing eastern timber wolves into the Adirondacks, and it also proved that Fred Streever was right, as he was about so many things.