11 April 2012

who indiscreetly venture

We were curious to know how it happened that many of the outward branches of those trees came to be broken off in that solitary place, and were informed that the bears are so discreet as not to trust their unwieldy bodies on the smaller limbs of the tree, that would not bear their weight; but after venturing as far as is safe, which they can judge to an inch, they bite off the end of the branch, which falling down, they are content to finish their repast upon the ground. In the same cautious manner they secure the acorns that grow on the weaker limbs of the oak. And it must be allowed that, in these instances, a bear carries instinct a great way, and acts more reasonably than many of his betters, who indiscreetly venture upon frail projects that will not bear them.
// from William Byrd and Edmund Ruffin (ed), The Westover Manuscripts: Containing the History of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina; A Journey to the land of Eden, a.D. 1733; and A Progress to the Mines. Written from 1728 to 1736, and Now First Published (1841)

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