Thursday, May 14, 2009

May 14-16, 1903 TR & John Muir Camping in Yosemite

I've always enjoyed hearing people answer the question, "With which four historical people would you like to have dinner?" I think Jesus Christ tops the list and everyone from Mother Theresa to Michelangelo and Abraham Lincoln pepper the answers. I recall PBS actually producing some of these for stage and television, of course using actors, and, today, Facebook gives one a chance to play the game with friends.

Today is the 106th anniversary of TR's visit to Yosemite and of the beginning of a three day adventure TR had there with the great naturalist John Muir. As I look forward to a summer with at least a few nights under canvass or under the stars, these two names start my list in answer to the question, "With which four historical people would you like to sit around a camp fire?"

David Brinkley, in The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, due out in June from Harper Collins and excerpted in the May 2009 issue of Vanity Fair, recounts some of the magical moments shared by the two iconic conservationists.

One evening, Muir built a fire of fern and cedar boughs at Yosemite's Glacier Point, where the men would camp for the night. Brinkley:

"At one juncture, Muir became animated. 'Watch this,' he said. Grabbing a flaming branch from the fire, he lit a dead pine tree which was set off on its own and protected on a ledge. With a roar, flame shot like a bonfire up the dead branches. Suddenly Muir did a Scottish jig around the pine torch. Roosevelt, leaping to his feet, hopped around the flaming tree as well, shouting 'Hurrah!' over and over into the night sky. 'That's a candle,' Roosevelt told Muir, that 'took 500 years to make. Hurrah for Yosemite!, Mr. Muir.'

So, "Hurrah!" for two men who spent their lives in service to their fellows and to the cause of conservation. Under Muir's influence, TR would charge the Interior Department to see through greater Federal authority and a greater Federal footprint for Yosemite, a park that pre-dated Yellowstone, though that under California state jurisdiction.

In other issues, like the conflict between preservation advocated by Muir and his Sierra Club and the resource management viewpoint advocated by TR and his ally, Gifford Pinchot, these men would have much about which to disagree. On these nights, in the midst of the grandeur of Yosemite, away from the reporters and the dignitaries, two luminaries agreed on much. May we remember their pine candle as a symbol of the great light shone by these men in the area of conservation.

Oh, by the way, add Jesus Christ and Abe Lincoln to finish my fivesome around the fire.

Have a bully day!

TR Joe

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