The Nature of Here: Touchstones and Resources from Johnny’s Talk


Johnny talks at the McElroy House

Our February Living Room Conversation featured Johnny Sain, author of the site A View from the Backroads and assistant director at the Arkansas Wildlife Federation.

His talk was entitled the Nature of Here, and explored what it means to call a place home.

From Johnny’s description:

A “sense of place” is best described as recognizing the identity and character of a location. It’s an understanding of what makes here “here.” Various aspects such as flora, fauna, topography, climate, and history can all contribute to the distinct aura of the place you call home. An awareness of place is the foundation of culture. But sadly, this awareness is dwindling.


People at the gathering looking through the resources Johnny brought.

He shared stories about how he went from being a young hunter posting photos of dead animals to appreciating the seasons as a spiritual practice grounded in a concept of land and home.

One of the most powerful parts of his talk was how he walked through all the steps it took for him to get to the world view he has today. He talked about childhood, killing his first animals with bb guns, being a hog farmer, going back to school, and his slow walk to becoming a writer. It was an interactive discussion, with everyone contributing their own stories and questions to the mix.

From Johnny:

The key to resolving many of our environmental issues is understanding and appreciating our relationship to place. This can be accomplished by once again becoming aware. It really is as simple as opening our eyes and ears, of taking a deep breath and savoring the flavors. From this awareness will spring humility and gratitude. And establishing this deep, even emotional connection is how we will protect, preserve and even enhance what is left of our natural world.

Below is a list of books and resources Johnny shared as touchstones along his journey. We’d love to have these books on hand, so if you have spare copies lying around you’d like to donate, we’ll take them!

Ecology, nature writing, a sense of place, hunting/fishing as a natural human act, natural heritage, etc.

~A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold
~A Rough Sort of Beauty From U of A Press

Heartsblood by David Petersen

~Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey

~ The Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game by Paul Shepherd

~With Respect for Nature by J. Claude Evans

~ Walden by HD Thoreau

Scots-Irish culture:

~ Albion’s Seed by David Hacket Fischer

~ Cracker Culture by Grady McWhiney

~ Ozark Magic and Folklore by Vance Randolph


~ Anything by Mary Oliver Anything by Gary Snyder

In recent year’s Johnny has become a well-known nature and wildlife writer. Here are a few of some of his best pieces.

Read more of Johnny’s writings here:

“Through my veins” Hatch magazine.
 “So what do the creeks mean to you, Johnny?” The documentary producer asked me this question while we were standing on the banks of Big Creek in Newton County, Arkansas, while videoing a segment for his upcoming documentary.


“A Personal Rewilding” Hatch magazine

Click here to read:

“If you don’t know who Aldo Leopold was, please, stop reading and do a Google search. I’m not kidding. If you’re into fish and wildlife and healthy ecosystems and how biological systems — from the formation of proteins on up to the biosphere — hinge on one another to encourage and enable life on this…”

“Hallelujah” – ABOUT…the River Valley Online

 Throaty hoots of a great horned owl echo through the trees as I swig the last lukewarm coffee and gently close the truck door. Hunting license — check. Shotgun — check. Pocketful of shells — check. Apple and water bottle — check. Keys slide into a front pocket and into the dark woods I go. …


“The New Normal” –Hatch magazine

August in Arkansas. Lawns dried to a crispy, dusty brown. Bathwater lake temperatures, creeks cinched down to trickling riffles with pools full of hungry smallmouth bass. Day after day of 95-105 degree sunshine, which seems a damn near impossible combination with the ungodly and stifling humidity …”

“Work of the Quiet Mountains” | Arkansas Life
  In Newton County, there is the rugged terrain and native culture. But there are also devotees of Buddhism and an aging population of back-to-the-landers, all of whom have come from far-flung places. And somehow, they fit together

“Last Word” | Arkansas Life

Chocolate-milk-colored seeps and tinkling rocky rivulets no wider than a long stride are the most persuasive. I know the denizens of those tiny waters, and they call as well. They whisper of a time that seems not long ago when all I wanted could be found at the end of a long dirt drivew…
“Little Lives of the Creek”
My first memories of a creek trace back to Hacker Creek. As water runs its course, Hacker transforms it from the spirited rapids of the Ozark Mountains to the somber brown might of the Arkansas River. Topography is the deciding influence for any creek’s personality, and Hacker reflects the gentler r…


“A Sense of Place on Your Plate” – ABOUT…the River Valley Online
Fire and meat. Is there a pairing more quintessentially human than fire and meat? The hunks of whitetail tenderloin in front of me just came off the grill. Seasoned with garlic, salt, pepper, cumin and just a dash of crushed red pepper they were every bit as mouth-watering delicious as they looked.…

 About Johnny:


Johnny Sain is an Atkins native who now lives in Dover. He’s a hunter, writer, editor, and environmentalist and has been referred to as a “philosophical hillbilly.”  You can read of his writings via his site, A View from the Backroads. 





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