Gary Spina grew up reading Jack London and Robert Louis Stevenson, hunting squirrels, exploring the woods, and failing in school. “I never wanted to see the inside of a school again,” he recalls. “I knew I wanted to experience things.” So when his circuitous career path—including stints in the military, the police, and the merchant marine—delivered him back to a classroom to teach English, he understood his students’ aversion to studying grammar. He tried to make it less painful by replacing the dry examples from the textbooks with sentences about his many adventures. Recently, he parlayed these into a book called The Mountain Man’s Field Guide to Grammar. With words like “pemmican” in the glossary and sentence examples like “Dirty Doris spit tobacco juice,” it’s no Strunk and White’s—and Spina likes it that way. “I thought, ‘Let me try to make it fun,’” he says.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.