Hunting: An Interview with Ted Kerasote

Interview by Elizabeth Geoghegan

Click Here To Read Fathers by Ted Kerasote

"If you think you're such a man, why don't you just take a spear and go hunting with that-why do you have to use a rifle?" This was just one of the many angry questions hurled from the back of the room at Ted Kerasote in Boulder last Fall. I had wandered into Kerasote's reading an unsuspecting vegetarian. Little did I know I was going to encounter the hunter with a conscience versus the animal rightists of the Front Range. Nor did I expect the slicing open of an elk's belly to be written in lyrical prose.

Kerasote read from his recent book Bloodties-Nature, Culture and the Hunt , an exploration of the ongoing hunting controversy, as well as the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels in support of agri-business. Whether observing seal hunts in Greenland, shadowing trophy hunting expeditions in Siberia, or filling his own freezer in northwestern Wyoming Kerasote has throroughly probed the choices surrounding animals and food.

After listening to Kerasote, it was hard to imagine this soft-spoken man hefting a rifle to his shoulder, sighting an elk and pulling the trigger. But that's exactly what he does. I called Kerasote at his office near Grand Teton Park to continue the to hunt or not to hunt dialog.

EG: How did you come to write Bloodties ?

TK: I have a background in non-fiction, I wrote nonfiction essays and started selling them when I was in high school, so I've worked as a freelance writer specializing in outdoor sports and natural history for a long time. I came to write Bloodties because I thought that the argument between hunters and nonhunters had become really extreme and polarized and that there was a lot of misinformation out there on both the far left of the animal welfare community and the far right of the hunting community. The far left would like to eradicate all hunting and fishing and the far right wants to circle the wagons and defend all of it even if some of the practices are execrable and have no business being defended. I thought this was really crazy and that there are a lot of uncommitted people in the middle who maybe could profit by some more clear-sighted discussion of the issues at hand.

I also felt that hunters were getting a bad rap-yes there are quite a few unethical hunters out there, hunters whom we could do without, but from my experience in the field I often knew that there were a lot of well-meaning people who hunted respectfully and hunted to put food on there family's table. And to me these people seemed to be getting unfairly criticized especially in a culture that's hardly a Hindu culture or a Buddhist culture, a culture that consumes billions of McDonald's hamburgers and Purdue chickens-so why the uproar about someone who goes and kills a deer and eats it all? Bloodties grew out of an increasing dissatisfaction on my part from hearing a lot of arguments that I thought were nonsensical on both sides of the field. I started to think about how I could put together a book that dealt with the issues in a more coherent way-not trying to take sides-and present enough evidence to let the readers decide for themselves how they feel about hunting.

EG: At your reading here in Boulder you said that you had gone through a phase of not hunting. Were you hunting when you began the book?

TK: I've hunted since I was a kid. I grew up in a family that hunted and fished and I was fishing when I was four and hunting when I was ten, so I came from a background that looked at fish and animals as food and as sport. It wasn't until I got to college that I really started thinking, "Well, maybe this is not a great thing to do." This was during the Viet Nam war and it seemed at that time that hunting partook of a lot of the violence that I saw happening in the world and maybe we could do without it. It wasn't until I traveled and lived with some native peoples that I saw that hunting and war were two very different things-that one was destructive and the other one supported life. I went back and forth for a number of years and actually did quit hunting for three years, was a vegetarian, and experienced what that was like.

EG: Your writing style really brings a sense of place to life. It seems like you are so in tune with your environment-so respectful of it. I wondered, even though you've examined the choices and made this conscious decision to feed yourself by hunting, if it is hard to reconcile that moment of actually having to skin an elk ?

TK: The hard moment is not skinning the elk. The harder moment is actually shooting the animal, no matter how one rationalizes it. Animals have to die some place for me to eat even if I'm a vegetarian. So few of us get to live off some organic plot of farmland close by our house where maybe we're harming some worms and slugs and displacing some wildlife that once grazed there. Virtually all of us, even if we claim to be vegans, are impacting wildlife someplace, and in the book I made the case, well, if I'm going to impact wildlife someplace then I personally want to be responsible for it and so I will go hunt close by my house and hunt creatures that inhabit the landscape without changing it very much-in country that's still the way it was thousands of years ago. Given that, it's still pretty hard to say, "Okay, elk, you're the one that I'm going to kill this year, you're the one that is being chosen, you're the one that has to make the sacrifice so I can be alive and I'm going to do this instead of having some other deaths over the horizon support me; so you're replacing those other over-the-horizon deaths."

Well that's all well and good as an intellectual argument, but when it actually comes down to killing that animal, it's a real animal and it's never easy. The hardest part is always about why this elk and not another elk? I don't think there is really any way to resolve that. It comes down to the only way not to cause any more harm on the earth is to opt out of it, is to commit suicide. If you logically extend the argument the whole way and want to do no harm at all then you don't want to be born. I don't see a lot of people opting out that way so it comes down to, "Well, here we are alive on this lovely planet that somehow has evolved death as a way of continuing other life." I think finally all of us, in one way or another, have to accept our place in that cycle and be comfortable with whatever ways we choose to deal with it. Whether it is being a vegan and eating as low on the food chain as possible or being a hunter in one's home place or even going to King Soopers and buying a beef steak (laughs.) At least I think it's important for all of us to recognize the consequences of our actions and say, "Okay, this is the harm I'm causing and I'm willing to deal with that, I'm willing to face it."

EG: You made that pretty clear with your research into the other animal lives lost when harvesting or combining a field. At your reading there were a few anti-hunting voices from the back of the room that got really angry with you. I'm a vegetarian and I was shocked when you started reciting figures. It really made me rethink how I could walk down to the market and feel like I wasn't doing anything wrong just because I was eating a certain way. In the last section of your book, you went to D.C. and spent time with the PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) and the Fund for Animals groups. Here again, some of them were very angry. They really didn't want to hear that you've led this examined life-that you're not just a hunter and that your book tends to discount the groups whom they want to blame.

TK: It's always easier to stereotype people and that way it's easy to put them in their little niche and rail against them. But, you know, none of us are that stereotypical, we're really all complex, and when you take people in all their complexity, you have to be willing to compromise a little bit more and deal with them. I think that's the place I came from in writing the book: a lot of hunters just want to discount vegetarians, discount animal rightists as crazy people-and they're anything but that. I feel like the animal rights people have a very, very important message to tell everyone, and I really believe in a lot of the things that they say. It doesn't stop me from hunting certain animals but they are an important voice in our society and it would behoove a lot more hunters to listen to them.

In a lot of ways it's like the abortion issue-people just can't let other people be. The abortion issue says that fetal life is sacred, it's human life, and therefore mothers don't have the right to choose whether they are going to abort a fetus. And then the Pro-Choice movement says, "Of course they do, that's their body and they have the right to make that choice." The hunting argument is very similar in people saying that other people should not have the choice to consciously hunt other sentient creatures and eat them, that those are lives that need to be preserved instead of saying, "Well, I don't like this, personally I would never do it, I would never abort a kid, or hunt a deer, but I'm going to allow other members of my culture the freedom to make that choice." It seems like the two arguments have come out pretty similarly. And you know what `s pretty interesting? A great preponderance of Animal Rights' people are Pro-Choice-I find that to be fascinating and ironic that although they are Pro Choice about human life, they are not Pro Choice about animal life. That seems like something they need to examine.

EG: You've written about Trophy Hunters and also went along with a group of them to Siberia. Admittedly, I didn't want to like these guys at all, and then I got going with their individual stories, and sort of started to come around-and then you revealed that some of them had actually hunted endangered species. Do you want to say anything about that?

TK: There is a segment of the Trophy Hunting community that will do almost anything to get a specimen for the record book or their trophy halls and the book has been criticized by the trophy hunting community as being unfair to all those members of the trophy hunting community who abide by the law. And, that's true, it does not represent all those people who abide by the law. But I didn't purposefully go out to find law-breakers. I went to Safari Club International, out in the open, and said to one of their vice-presidents, "I'm writing this book about hunting and I'd like to find some trophy hunters who you think really tell the trophy hunting story and could you introduce me to them?" The first person I was introduced to was Don Cox, the fellow who ended up using a helicopter to shoot the sheep in Siberia. He's one of the most decorated, if you will, people in Safari Club International and was held up as an example of a sportsman and conservationist, so I came to him through the organization itself.

I didn't go out to find a law breaker or to tell this muckraking story about trophy hunting. Don Cox agreed for me to go along to Siberia with him and I went. The people who were also on the trip were simply, I think, an average cross section of the Safari Club membership, people who can afford to do that sort of trip. I didn't pick them as examples of egregious behavior. They were just there. They were an absolutely fortuitous and statistically average group of folks that had showed up for this hunt. Maybe it was just synchronous that one of them ended up in prison for violations of the endangered species act- not on that hunt, but in the past. I certainly didn't plan that. I just told the story as it transpired in their words.

EG: It did strike me as an elitist sport. It also seemed like a sort of penis envy situation (Ted laughs) where the Trophy Hunters were measuring the horns on these rams and if they weren't forty inches then they weren't big enough-and I thought this isn't really a sport, this is just ego. It depressed me to find out that he (Don Cox) had violated those laws, especially because he espoused a sort of moral ethic about his hunting.

TK: It's always disappointing to find those sorts of things out. And you find them out on both sides of the political fence. If you want to dig into how the environmentalist community works, people like The Nature Conservancy, there's stuff that they do that is illegal and unethical and yet they talk a very good line. So I think that it's not merely related to the right side of the political spectrum. You can find it on both sides and whenever it happens, you go, "I feel like I've been duped."

EG: When you hunt you have a ritual where you apologize to the animal and then put its feet back in a running position. I thought that was really beautiful and I wondered if you had any writing rituals or if there was any kind of symbiotic relationship between writing and hunting-how they play off one another.

TK: I don't think I have any writing rituals, more of a writing routine of getting up in the morning and going to work. I think-and I don't know if this is a ritual or simply a recognition of the place that informs my writing-when I'm writing really well, at the end of the day or at the end of an essay, I feel indebted in a way and thankful that it happened. I don't know when it struck me that I wasn't personally responsible for it. I wrote it. And, yes, I was born with a certain talent for stringing sentences together nicely, but living in a place that really speaks to my soul, I often think of the writing as being created by a plural "We." A mixture of landscape and person. Actually, a mixture of landscape and other people around me that inform me. And so when I'm thankful for the writing that has been produced it doesn't seem to spring from an "I," an "I did this or I wrote this," but a "We." "We" produced this together, the country I live in, the people who make up my community and family and myself all seem to coalesce on certain days and produce a certain piece of writing. I've never really spoken to other writers or artists about how they feel about their production, but it seems that for at least six or seven years I've felt this way.

EG: I actually have read where some writers refer to themselves as a sort of medium for the writing or for their characters, but I've only heard of it in a fictional way. I suppose it could apply to anything, certainly to a feeling of place, a place that is going to resonate in your work. Your writing brings so many different geographies to life; which, again, seems to come from being attuned with an environment. So, what are you going to write next, or rather, what are "we" writing next?

TK: Other than the magazine stuff that is always happening, I'm writing two books. One is a collection of my best short pieces, some of which have been published and some of which haven't. And then I'm also trying to write a novel about, oh, some people have called it an "Eco-Thriller." (Laughs)

EG: Is this going to be your first novel?

TK: I hope its the first good one. I've written several bad ones that are stuck away in file cabinets and have never been published, but I hope that I'll be able to write this one. I'm not sure that I can write good fiction. I think it takes a different state of mind and a different talent to write fiction than non-fiction. It's fun trying to do that, to invent characters rather than go out and find them. One of the problems with Bloodties and one of the reasons it took quite a while to finish was there were big delays when I couldn't find the right character. It took a year to find those trophy hunters, and then it took about another year to find Wayne Pacelle the director of The Fund for Animals. I knew who he was, but it took about a year before I got to know him well enough that he would agree to a week long interview. And the book really needed a character to balance Bob Kubick the trophy hunter from Alaska, who was equally committed and kind of roguish in another way and in a way as kind of outlandish as Bob was.

If you're writing fiction you just invent that person. You just say, "Well, let's create this person out of the bits and pieces of people that I know and I can imagine." With non-fiction you just can't do that and sometimes you get stuck. I guess my feeling right now is, "Do I have the sort of mindset that can create those kind of people? Or will I create really flat, dull characters that no one wants to read about?" So, I guess I'll know in about another year. I've actually been procrastinating for a long time, doing research on things I don't know much about like the economy, how corporations work, and how the congress works. I've also managed to take on a bunch of magazine assignments which are finally done and which I wanted to write-they were interesting-but also, deep down in the frightened recesses of my soul I was thinking, "Aaaah, this is a good way to avoid actually writing the novel for another four months."

EG: Is your publisher excited for you to write fiction?

TK: No! (Laughs.) Publishers are fairly conservative people especially when you have a book that was a success, like Bloodties; the hardback sold out, it's in paperback now, it was reviewed twice in the New York Times, in the daily and the Sunday Book Review section. They say, "You want to write a novel ? You just wrote this book that was really well received-follow it with another non-fiction book, especially a natural history book." They pressed pretty hard for me to do another non-fiction book, and I suggested one on the plight of Brown Bears around the world, which they were very happy with-wanted to give me a huge advance-and I thought, "God, I really don't want to write a book about bears." Even though I'd done a lot of the research and I love bears, it seemed to me to be a real subset. What's happening to bears is really just a small symbol of how industrial society uses the planet. To me that seemed a much more important thing and compelling subject to write about. I thought I could weave the bears' story into this much larger subject, so I proposed that. They said, "Well write three chapters and we'll look at it and then we'll talk." So that's the point I'm at now. I need to write three good chapters and hook them before they will say, "Okay, here's some money and go fly with it."

EG: But you could reach so many people with a story-people who might not pick up the non-fiction.

TK: Exactly! That was exactly my reason! Not many people read non-fiction. But if you can write a good storyline that's exciting and entertaining-you can also get lots of people to think about subjects they would not think about otherwise. You're absolutely right, that was one of my reasons for wanting to write a novel-just how many people you reach.

EG: This is sort of back to the issue of hunting. In Bloodties you discussed the Buddhist theory of animal souls- do you really believe that you will come back as all the different animals whose lives you've taken?

TK: You mean what the Rinpoche told me?

EG: Yes.

TK: No, I don't believe that. I don't believe that I have to go through a thousand trout lives. I don't know about the idea of reincarnation, though. Sometimes I look at my dog Merle, and of all the dogs I've had, and all the dogs I know, he has the most human soul I've ever encountered in an animal. He does things that just leave me shaking my head and saying, "Where did he get this understanding, if he's just quote end quote `a dog?'" So, sometimes I wonder about those animals that seemingly have human attributes and where their spirit got its informing.

Certainly reincarnation is a very firmly held belief in many Buddhist societies. I don't know about it. Sometimes there have been moments when I've had an eerie and disconcerting feeling of Deja Vu. The latest time it happened was last summer, riding up on the Continental Divide above the Buffalo River. We were about twelve thousand feet on the tundra and its a big, broad plateau there on the Absoroka Mountains, South and East of Yellowstone Park. It's the country in which the trappers and the mountain men lived before 1830 and trapped and road horses and hunted. I was riding along. It was a cloudy afternoon, wind was blowing hard, looked like a thunderstorm coming up and all of a sudden I just seemed to have one of those out of body experiences in which "I had been here before" and felt as if I were someone in another century who had ridden that ground before-it lasted about four or five seconds-and it was almost a feeling of vertigo, of being in another body that was strangely unfamiliar, yet familiar to me, and when I came out of it it was almost with a start that I was back on Whisk and back in Ted. When those sorts of things happen it always makes me wonder about what other lives we've been in touch with. I don't have a really good, definitive answer about whether I believe in reincarnation or transmigration of spirits. I can just offer those instances of being physically disconcerted and seeming to have lived in another body.

EG: Yeah, there are those moments. I suppose it could be a completely urban experience, but it seems like there is something that stimulates us visually first-and that type of sensation is most often triggered by a natural landscape. I came through Jackson for the first time this summer-and it was just stunning.

TK: Yeah, it is really pretty. I think that's one of the reasons that I like it so much-it mixes big mountains with plains. It actually reminds me of the steps of Tibet in some ways. It's this great mixture where you see mountains and you can also see a long way away. And there are also forests. I really like the meeting of different ecological zones. I've spent a lot of time in the Pacific Northwest and when I get in those big, temperate rain forests-their beautiful-but I can't see any place.

EG: When did you go to CU?

TK: I went to CU from `80 to 83 in the Graduate Program (for Creative Writing.) I took three years to do it, because I was also teaching and working as a freelance journalist. It just seemed too much to carry a full course load. Plus, I was just having a lot of fun rock climbing and skiing. I had moved from Crested Butte and I really missed being in the mountains all the time and I wasn't willing to suddenly give all that up. So, I had a ski pass at Eldora, and sometimes I would just come home for lunch, run up Boulder Canyon and Solo something-then go back to class. But it's more of a real life in a way. I think when people become students and are just students, it's not a healthy way to be. It's better to take a little more time. I saw some of my fellow Grad Students who did nothing but go to school and teach and they seemed so unhappy.

EG: There's so much here that's accessible, so why not?

TK: I think a lot of other people feel that way and that's why places like Boulder are growing.

EG: Well, Wyoming's population is still pretty tiny-you have that going for you.

TK: It is. It's a hard place to make a living; there's just not much here and 450,000 people is not a lot of people in a state that has 90,000 square miles. It's pretty nice, it's one of the real magic parts, I think, of living in this country. I love the drive from Boulder, I thought about this, what was it, last month? Drove up past Ft. Collins and Tie Siding and around the Medicine Bow and then that long stretch across the Red Desert and then up past The Winds, and up the Hoback . And it's about an eight and a half-nine hour drive and you feel like your on another planet-it's just so different in that four or five hundred miles. And what was really interesting was going from shorts and a T-shirt, drinking cappuccinos at Starbucks, to a snow storm and being in Sorels and pile jackets the next day, or actually, that night, after having left Boulder. It's been snowy ever since the beginning of October. It was an early winter and the skiing's been great so far-really, really good powder skiing.

And it's been a good hunting season. I got a deer and elk this year. It was a very private kind of hunting-it was really snowy and cold and cloudy and dark, and it just seemed-well, as a kid did you ever have one of those little bubbles in which there was a creche with water and those fake snowflakes and you shook `em up? That's what the world has reminded me of-the climate has reminded me of-here the last month or so. Just being in this bubble of snowflakes and if you didn't turn on the radio the rest of the world didn't exist.


by Ted Kerasote

An excerpt from a forthcoming collection of essays. When I was a teenager, in the 1960's the world was a darker place. Sunlight wasn't the issue. It was the speed at which people and information moved. The Interstate Highway System had just been started, we still went to Europe by ship, and a letter from my Venezuelan pen pal took a month to arrive. When information came, it came in black and white, the first grainy film clips from Vietnam days or even weeks old, the men who had fallen in fire fights already cold and in the ground. As for CNN, FAXs, and the Internet, they were barely a dream.

Plus I was spending a lot of time in the actual dark, trying to know better the fish and birds who moved around my home as easily under starlight and in the foggy dusks as my cousin Pete and I moved around during the day.

He was my brother in rod and arms (we were born only six months apart), and together we fished for striped bass, meeting the tides at two a.m., three, four, catching enormous alabaster fish with sea-green stripes to no witnesses except ourselves, the surf, and the wind. Around the winter solstice he and I would sit for entire days in our small boat, surrounded by a chicken wire stockade of cattails and rushes, as Oyster Bay turned to icy slush and the flocks of scaup, scraggly charcoal lines on the horizon, broke and wheeled, attracted to our decoys. Sometime there were also Canada geese, their honking in the somnolent twilight a lonesome and lovely message from the tundra, those empty and dreamlike places of my imaginings that the great birds made palpable as I held their grey and white bodies in my hands.

Now it is hard to believe that Pete and I walked in the dark dawns from our housed to Oyster Bay on dirt roads, our shotguns over our shoulders like country boys out of Huck Finn. The words drive-by shootings, inner city, and crack which have made guns hated objects, did not exist because the societal circumstances they now describe did not exist. Our coves and forested hills were rural and empty, and when people said the name of the place we lived, "Long Island," their voices didn't swell with derision or pity. Our boyhood home wasn't filled with vast stretches of highways, malls, and fear. I don't remember ever locking a door, not even against the ghosts that the countryside still held: George Washington, who had slept down the road; Theodore Roosevelt, whose estate was just across the bay; and nameless Indian boys who, like ourselves, had speared shad when they ran up Mill Creek. Back then, in our wonderful naivete, we still called them "Indians" because we, being the grandchildren of immigrants, thought of ourselves as native Americans."

Sometimes, in the lazy ending days of summer, when the fish weren't biting, I rode my bike along the cove road, through the sleepy town of Oyster Bay, and up to Sagamore Hill, where Roosevelt had lived. My grandfather had been named Theodore, and his grandfather before him as well, and my mother kept the old tradition going by naming me after my male grandparent. For me, thought, the coincidence of having the same name as Rough Rider and African hunter was far more pleasing.

Out of some subconscious magician's hat, my mother had also plucked John for my middle name, a move that made the family question her sanity, since there wasn't a John to be found in the clan. I, on the other hand, though she had exhibited good taste, naming me after my other hero, John Muir, who did what Roosevelt could not-explore for the sake of exploring, bringing home neither life list nor trophy, counting a dance in a thunder storm a good day's work.

It was a treat, after the long bike ride to Sagamore Hill, to sit in the deep leather armchairs of the library, under the doleful eyes of the Cape Buffalo TR had brought home from Kenya, and read of his adventures and of the adventures of Muir, whose books I had also brought along. If someone had asked me, at the age of sixteen, to explain the difference between Roosevelt and Muir in the terms we use now-respectively fathers of the the conservation and preservation movements-I couldn't have. But I knew then, as well as I knew my own two names, that the men I cared for so deeply represented two very different directions of the spirit, two directions that pulled me first one way then another, yet which I knew to have been born from the same womb-the love of country.

When I discovered, one afternoon there in the library, that they had been more than correspondents, that they had actually met, ridden into the high country of Yosemite together, and camped, I was ecstatic. I felt as if my spiritual ancestors were about to have the conversation that had taken place so many times with myself... as I cast for striped bass from the dark sea I heard the tremolo of geese echoing through the falling snow. In my excitement, I almost tore the pages from the old book...

The year was 1903 and TR, wearing a broad-brimmed western hat and a bandana knotted around his throat, climbed aboard the stage to Wawona, California. At forty-five, he had already been president for nearly two years, and still retained his powerful, stocky physique despite the stomach he had put on since the Spanish-American War when, leading his Rough Riders, he had charged up Kettle Hill, bullets whining around him. Drawing his revolver, he had bowled over a Spanish trooper "neatly as a jackrabbit," as he later put it. Now, eyes flashing behind his pince-nez, teeth leering from his enormous primate grin, he raised his hands to the onlookers, ducked inside the stage, and began to listen to Muir, whom he counted a comrade in the fight to save America's vanishing forests as well as a fellow lover of the outdoors. In fact, before this political swing through the West, he had written to Muir, asking the well know explorer, naturalist, and writer to be his guide in Yosemite. "I do not want anyone with me but you," wrote TR, "and I want to drop politics absolutely for four days and just be out in the open with you." Gray-bearded, hollow-cheeked, ascetic, the first citizen of Yosemite and, in national magazines like the Atlantic, a constant voice for the creation of national parks and forests, Muir had bought a ridiculous yellow suit, too short in the arms and legs, especially for the occasion. Directing the president to a seat by the window, Muir sat behind him, his blue eyes still shining luminously despite his sixty-one years. The long awaited moment to turn the president's ear had arrived.

"There are the first big trees, Mr. President."
TR turned and said, "Mr. Muir, it is good to be with you."
(This was an age when people still spoke to each other as if the were characters in Boswell's biography of Johnson.)
Reaching Yosemite's south entrance and disembarking, Roosevelt asked for his valise, which was nowhere to be seen. The Yosemite Park Commission-intent on keeping the valley under state jurisdiction, and knowing that Muir would present a case for federal control-had sent the president's luggage ahead to a banquet that they had scheduled.

"Get it!" snapped TR.
The two men didn't wait for it to arrive. They mounted horses and rode off into the great trees, making camp beneath what TR thought a "more beautiful cathedral than was ever conceived by human architect." In the stillness of the evening, the flames of the campfire crackling, a hermit thrush sang and it astonished TR, as he later confided to his journal, that John Muir, the naturalist, geologist, mountaineer, and writer of paeans to the Sierra Nevada, couldn't identify the bird. Muir, on the other hand, was pleasantly surprised that the cowboy, war hero, and politician "knew so much natural history."

Like many famous men, each lived within the blinkers of his specialty-Roosevelt one of the leading ornithologists and mammalogists of his day; Muir an amazingly keen observer of natural processes, especially geology, and an ecologist who saw the whole while ignoring some of the specifics.

The next day, while the aides, hangers-on, and commissioners took stages into the valley, TR and Muir ascended on horseback through forest and snow patches to Glacier Point. As the sun set they camped without tents on its summit, cooking steaks over an open fire. After dinner TR leaned back against his saddle, stretched his feet to the fire, laced his fingers around his mug of coffee, and declared, "Now this is bully!"

Muir, making up their beds of fern and cedar boughs, looked up with a mischievous grin, and said, "Watch this." Taking some flaming brands from the campfire, he ignited a dead pine tree, standing alone on a rocky point. As the flames soared up the dry branches, Muir began dancing a Scottish jig around it, just as he once danced away from his Calvanist father, who had tried to keep him indoors with no other book for company except the Bible. Roosevelt, catching the older man's enthusiasm, leapt up before the enormous torch. Hopping from one foot to the other, he shouted, "Hurrah! Hurrah! That's a candle it took five hundred years to make. Hurrah for Yosemite! Mr. Muir."

It was an innocent age when both men had had the good fortune to walk through the first bloom of what history would think of as a change in consciousness.

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