Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Mountain Men, Modern and Old, and Those Who Follow Them

The New York Times runs a story on July 5th on the story and mystery of Everett Ruess, a young, 'modern' mountain man, who disappeared in Utah three quarters of a century ago — in 1934 — at just 20 years of age.

His remains were believed found and confirmed by DNA analysis until the Utah State Archaeologist raised questions about the dentition.

I put "modern" in scare quotes (thus, 'scare') because some might dispute 1934 being "modern" and Utah was far more wild then than it is now.

Ruess "followed his bliss", as Joseph Campbell would have said, lived very much by his own devices, traded his woodcut prints for food, trekked about with a horse or burro. Lived Henry David Thoreau's imagined ideal — simple.

Jon Krakauer writes of Ruess briefly in "Into the Wild" (briefly, because there is little to be said about him).

It's a mystery. A young wanderer probably murdered. Of kind, I think, with Kit Carson, John Colter, Jim Bridger, Hugh Glass, and others who seemed to prefer comparative isolation, the wilderness.

I am among their admirers, even idolaters. The idolaters of those who go alone, or near alone, into the wilderness (rarely, but nevertheless occasionally, against the wilderness). A simpler life. A life of pure beauty, pure art.

I sound like a fucking self-help book.

More to come.

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