Ursus Horribilis In Extremis

The Last Stand of King Grizzly

Bears and people have been at war for a long time-possibly longer than two predatory mammals should be, with any hope of mutual survival. In the beginning, the bears won almost every time, though not as often as the great cats did. Together with the great cats, bears provided spice to the human experience. People were obliged to defend themselves, were forced to think . Fires were lit at the mouth of the cave. Weapons were invented. Then the bears began to lose. People pictured them on the walls of caves.Read more »

The Big Thicket

A Last Link with the Living Frontier

 

The Big Thicket is an ecological wonder. This dense forest, sprawling between the Sabine and Trinity rivers in east Texas, constitutes a natural crossroads for plant and animal species from almost every part of the country. No less remarkable is the pioneer way of life that still flourishes where the dwindling generation of settlers’ descendants live in the Thicket’s leafy shadow, just fifty miles from downtown Houston. Read more »

The Social History Of A Singular Fruit

In southern California the orange found a home.

For more than thirty years it stood at the corner of Highland Avenue and Del Rosa Avenue in San Bernardino, California, bordered at the rear by a line of eucalyptus trees and behind that by a thirty-acre grove of fat green trees that joined others in a march to the foothills of the San Bernardino Range. It billed itself as “The World’s Largest Orange Juice Stand,” and perhaps it was. It was big enough—a monstrous globe about sixty feet in diameter, constructed of plaster and chicken wire over a rickety wooden framework and painted a glistening orange.Read more »

Hells Canyon

Man, Land, and History in the Deepest Gorge on Earth

Hells Canyon is awesome. There is no other single word that can adequately describe it. Incredibly deep, austerely magnificent, it slashes between the states of Oregon and Idaho like a raw and gaping wound. To stand on the rim and gaze into that vast hole is to know humility as few places can teach it; to venture into it is to enter a place apart, a separate world-within-a-world where the old scales and comfortable concepts of size and distance fade into irrelevancy. “The grandeur and originality of the views presented on every side,” wrote Benjamin L. E.Read more »

The Terror of the Wilderness

Why have Americans perceived nature as something to be conquered?

Most people who have reflected at all upon the known history of the Americas, particularly North America, have been impressed one way or another with its dominant quality of fierceness. After that early, first blush of paradisial imaginings, stained by the lush colors of the tropic islands and the defenseless peoples found thereon, a somber mood of misgiving settled over the questing Europeans, filtered their perceptions, filtered at last into the bleached bones of their accounts of exploration.Read more »

‘A Continuity Of Place And Blood”

The Seasons of Man in the Ozarks

Sometime in the sleep of every year, between the browning of the oaks and the first greening of the spring wild grasses, that country flamed.

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“full Speed Ahead And Damn The Tomorrows”

Our Frontier Heritage of Waste

Historians of the future, looking back on the twilight years of the twentieth century, may designate the mid-1970’s as worthy of that supreme accolade accorded only the most significant dates in history: to serve as a dividing point between chapters in their textbooks.Read more »

A Step Back In Time

A trip to the Ozarks in 1910 has left us a unique record of a people by-passed by progress

The Ozarks—a young reporter from Kansas City named Charles Phelps Cushing thought in 1910—were “not stunning Rocky Mountains, just graceful old hills. And the backwoods-type inhabitants of the region, though they were hardy and quaint, clearly were living a hundred years or more in the past.” Cushing’s curiosity was piqued.Read more »

Magnificent Monarch Of The Skies

THE AMERICAN BALD EAGLE

Do we still want him for our national bird?

… If so, why do we treat him so badly? There were probably more bald eagles in our skies in 1789 when they were chosen as the national bird than at any time since. The Audubon Society now estimates that hunters, the overrunning of nesting areas, and more recently, DDT have reduced their total population to about two thousand (exclusive of Alaska, where they are still relatively numerous).Read more »

Mules

IN THE DELTA

The low-lying Delta—six and a half million acres of land rich with soil left by the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers in flood—was first opened to a cotton-hungry world in the mid-1820’s. The price of cotton was high. The profitable bluff country along the Mississippi had already been pre-empted. Second sons and questing newcomers were pressing for a chance of their own. Read more »