The Woods Were Tossing with Jewels
Marie St. John
About the title
The title of this article could be one of the followings:
  1) My Childhood in the Florida Wildness
  2) My Father, a Man of enterprise
  3) Life in the Florida Wildness
  4) The Woods Were Tossing with Jewels Then why does the author chooses the last one? What does the author want to tell the readers?
In paragraph 12, the author compares the flying birds as jewels tossing with the woods. Reaching the end of the article, we can see those qualities of courage and caring are the jewels with which the woods were tossing.
If we ponder over the last sentence of the article we can see that to the author thinks that self-reliance, freedom, courage, hard, simple life and love of nature and love of family are the precious jewels, the American traditional values, which should cherished.
Structure and organization
Part one: (P1-
  4) background information: time, people, place Part two: (P5-
  19) the trip preparation for the trip preparation for the provision the trip itself our first home in Gopher Key Part three: (P20-
  29) our new home and new life on Gopher Key Part four: (p30-
  37) an encounter with Watson Conclusion: The key to those wonderful times. (para.
Palmetto, Florida
Palmetto, Florida
Stake a claim: announce publicly that you have a right to own something He marked the spot on his map where he had seen the gold and returned later that month to stake his claim. stake somewhere/sth out : to show other people that you claim ownership, control or use of a particular area in a physical way, for example by putting personal items there: Each gang in the city has staked out its territory and defends it ruthlessly from other gangs. They arrived several hours early for the concert and staked out a place at the front of the queue.
What do we know about the father from the first paragraph?
Grew up in a rural environment His childhood experience helped form his simple and natural lifestyle
By age thirty, he was a county sheriff, no mean job in those days, and his territory was wide ranging. The county he served was later split into six or eight counties.
This is to show that the father’s decision to leave for the wilds of Florida was out of his adventurous character rather than financial difficulties. The job of a county sheriff was important and the area under my father’s jurisdiction was far and wide. Mean: low in quality, value or importance; poor; inferior
South Florida was uninviting to many because of the mosquitoes, panthers, crocodiles, swamps, and wetlands. But these marks of wild country called to my father like the legendary siren song.
To some people, South Florida, with its wild animals, backwardness and poor living conditions, wasn’t a pleasant place to live in, but my father was deeply attracted to it precisely because of its unexplored, uncultivated natural state, and the challenges.
The legendary siren song: an allusion to Greek Mythology, the sweet singing by a group of sea nymphs to lure mariners to destruction on the rocks surrounding their island. In this sentence, the attraction of the Florida wilds are compared to the beautiful and seductive voice of women, but in this case following the lane of the siren song has a happy outcome.
siren song: = siren call the enticing appeal of something alluring but potentially dangerous e.g. Deep in his life-processes Life itself sang the siren song of its own majesty, ever a-whisper and urgent, counseling him that he could achieve more than other men, win out where they failed, ride to success where they perished. Obviously Iraqi oil is a siren song to Bush and his followers.
The author describes what their life was in Palmetto. It was a beautiful place and their life was simple but comfortable, natural and safe; yet the father was adventurous and enterprising and insisted on setting out for the untouched land of the Ten Thousand Islands.
Para. 5-9
P.5 : the day they started Flashback : 6,7,8 P.6 : how excited they had been about the trip P. 7,8: what preparations they had done for the trip (the wagon in 7 and the provisions in
  8) P. 9: the little stores along their way At the beginning of each paragraph is a topic sentence, indicating the main idea.
verb [T] FORMAL to fill something up again: Food stocks were replenished by/with imports from the USA. Does your glass need replenishing?
The unsettled wilds: not populated; uninhabited The unsettled times: not in a state of order or calmness; disturbed Unsettled weather: likely to change or vary; variable An unsettle issue: not determined or resolved Be unsettled with respect to their future : uncertain or doubtful And unsettled bill: not paid or adjusted An unsettled style: not fixed or established
What with…
Spoken, used when you are giving a number of reasons for a particular situation or problem The police are having a difficult time, what with all the drugs and violence on our streets..
The incident of the author’s getting sick shows the love and care among the family members.
To begin or take up again after interruption (经打断后)再继续 After saying that, Tom resumed his work and ignored us completely.
Red birds, tanagers, and painted buntings flew back and forth across the trail, leaving a child with the impression that the woods were tossing with jewels…
Redbirds have red plumage鸟的羽毛; tanagers are brightly colored; and buntings are brownish or grayish. The author compares the birds to jewels because of their brightly colored plumage, and since the girls flew back and forth across the trail, the author felt as a little girl that the woods were tossing with jewels. Corresponding with the title, this scene is the highlight of their journey and stays on in the memory of the author. Jewels a person or thing that is greatly valued and treasured. The admirable qualities of the family are fully illustrated in the following parts and later summarized in the last paragraph.
This part is devoted to the legendary figure Edgar Watson to show that life on the unsettled islands was not without danger. Apart from the natural elements, there was also lawlessness, which is personified in Watson. The character of Watson and his way of treating the workers foreshadow what would happen to the author’s father. However, what is presented here is not an entirely cold-blooded killer- the softer side of Watson is also shown.
He had secluded himself in this remote area of the Everglades because he was not welcome elsewhere; from time to time he was halfheartedly sought for trial, though few crimes seemed to lead directly to his door.
Occasionally the law officers would make some effort without real earnest to investigate Watson and to bring him to court, but there seemed to be little concrete evidence to prove that he was responsible for certain illegal activities.
adjective 1 easily influenced or harmed by something: She isn't very susceptible to flattery. These plants are particularly susceptible to frost. Among particularly susceptible children, the disease can develop very fast. 2 describes someone who is easily emotionally influenced: They persuade susceptible teenagers to part with their money. 敏感的, 易受感动的, 易受影响的, 易感染的(to)
noun [C] OLD-FASHIONED ,adj someone who is ill, usually for a long time and often needing to be cared for by another person: Is the invalid in bed? . 病人, 残废者
noun [U] FORMAL fear or anxiety about what is going to happen: We view future developments with some trepidation.
The stranglehold Watson had over this section of Florida was not dissimilar to the unscrupulous activities of certain lawmen, other legal crooks, and even governors that our state was to suffer through its history.
The control Watson had over this part of Florida was much similar to the dishonest or illegal activities of the law-enforcing officials and governors which Florida witnessed in the twentieth century. Unscrupulous: willing to do things that are unfair, dishonest, or illegal不择手段的; 无所不为的; 肆无忌惮的; 寡廉鲜耻的 unscrupulous and vicious 穷凶极恶的 Crook: someone who is dishonest, especially someone who uses their position of power for their own personal advantage. [俚]无赖, 骗子, 窃贼
adjective [before noun] excellent, of highest quality: a crack regiment crack troops a crack player a crack shot
King Richard in his gluttony never sat at a table more sumptuous than ours was three times a day…
We had abundant food on the island, and even the meals enjoyed by King Richard, who was famous for his love of food, couldn’t possibly compare with ours. The narrator was very contented with the simplicity of life and grateful for the adequacy of food supplies on the island. Although living in a remote place, the narrator was familiar with literature and history. Gluttony: the habit or act of eating too much They treat Christmas as just another excuse for gluttony. Sumptuous: luxurious and showing wealth The celebrity guests turned up dressed in sumptuous evening gowns.
Para. 23-26
The author describes their new home step by step, its physical condition, the joy and the work
Despite the unrelenting heat, we were happy to be let off from our hours of school indoors, sessions which our mother kept every day, rain or shine.
Although it was very hot outside in the sun, we were happy to be dismissed from my mother’s sessions indoors. We would have to read and write with her every day no matter what the weather was like. Women on the frontier often performed many different tasks. They were the cook, the spinster, the doctor, and if they had kids, the teacher, like the narrator’s mother. Suspense: why they were let off that day? let off: to allow someone not to do something they are expected to do When we were in port, he let me off work and allowed me to go ashore.
noun [C or U] bad luck, or an unlucky event or accident: The parade was very well organized and passed without mishap. A series of mishaps led to the nuclear power plant blowing up.
Sit tight
informal 坐着静待事态发展, 固执己见, 留在原处等 候 Sit tight, I’ll be ready soon He preferred to sit tight with his present investment 他宁肯坚守自己目前的投资。 Let's not make a decision--let's sit tight我 们不作决定?让我们静观待变吧。
Draw a bead on
用枪瞄准某人, 向某人开枪 The deer bounded into the forest before the hunters could draw a bead on them猎 人还未瞄准,那些鹿就跳回森林里去了。 Whenever a politician makes a mistake, his opponents are ready to draw a bead on him.一个政治家一旦有什么过失,他的 对手就会随时攻击他。
The last paragraph.
The concluding paragraph of the memoir, links up the past with the present and points out the family’s precious qualities. The qualities of courage and caring are just like the jewels and have been passed down to the younger generations. The article ends on the highest tone- right after the father’s victory over Watson, which best embodies such qualities.
Translate the following letter into English. Due next Wednesday/Thursday
我儿: 写这备忘录给你,基于三个原则: 人生福祸无常,谁也不知可以活多久, 有些事情还是早一点说好。 我是你的父亲,我不跟你说,没有人会 跟你说。 这备忘录里记载的,都是我经过惨痛失 败得回来的体验,可以为你的成长省回 不少冤枉路。
以下,便是你在人生中要好好记住的事: (一)对你不好的人,你不要太介怀,在 你一生中,没有人有义务要对你好,除了 我和你妈妈。至于那些对你好的人,你除 了要珍惜、感恩外,也请多防备一点,因 为,每个人做每件事,总有一个原因,他 对你好,未必真的是因为喜欢你,请你必 须搞清楚,而不必太快将对方看作真朋友。
(二)没有人是不可代替,没有东西是必 须拥有。看透了这一点,将来你身边的人 不再要你,或许失去了世间上最爱的一切 时,也应该明白,这并不是甚么大不了的 事。 (三)生命是短暂的,今日你还在浪费着 生命,明日会发觉生命已远离你了。因此, 愈早珍惜生命,你享受生命的日子也愈多, 与其盼望长寿,倒不如早点享受。
(四)世界上并没有最爱这回事,爱情只是一种 霎时的感觉,而这感觉绝对会随时日、心境而改 变。如果你的所谓最爱离开你,请耐心地等候一 下,让时日慢慢冲洗,让心灵慢慢沉淀,你的苦 就会慢慢淡化。不要过分憧憬爱情的美,不要过 分夸大失恋的悲。 (五)虽然,很多有成就的人士都没受过很多教 育,但并不等如不用功读书,就一定可以成功。 你学到的知识,就是你拥有的武器。人,可以白 手兴家,但不可以手无寸铁,紧记!
(六)我不会要求你供养我下半辈子,同样地我 也不会供养你的下半辈子,当你长大到可以独立 的时候,我的责任已经完结。以后,你要坐巴士 还是奔驰


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