, , , about sitting with friends around a campfire, our faces aglow from flickering flames, our voices joined in song.
And doesn’t just the word, “campfire,” bring out the story-telling impulse from deep within us?
I’m reminded of a couple of campfire stories that fueled the most highly successful efforts at greening the earth in a very short span of time.
These two campfire stories juiced the manifestation of national parks — first in the United States, then followed by numerous other countries around the world.
Latter-day curmudgeons debunk one of these stories. They call it nothing but a myth.
And they simply neglect the significance of the other story.
While the debunkers earned their kudos for a meticulous search through dusty bins to prove their point, they seemed oblivious to the role humans played in our conservation history.
It begins with the presumed perpetrator of the Yellowstone myth, Nathaniel Pitt Langford, giving his service to the national park idea, by serving five years without pay as the first superintendent of Yellowstone National Park.
The National Park Service attracted a long list of men like Langford who fathered a work ethic un-rivalled in other agencies of the federal government.
Nor did those debunkers pay much heed to the second campfire story I mentioned, even though the record is clear about how it stimulated president Theodore Roosevelt to set-aside the greatest number of national parks and public land acreage of any other president.
I grew up during a time when park rangers were still impassioned by the Yellowstone campfire myth. They took great pride in their uniformed, knowledgeable, square-shouldered appearance and their outward respect for the public.
This spirit of the park rangers ruled the National Park Service for a hundred years and became the standard for other nations to mimmic.
I will be telling the two campfire stories in my future posts.
The first will be the story of the Yellowstone “myth” of a campfire at the confluence of the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers on September 19, 1870. And how it motivated four generations of park rangers to create and live pride in their work unparalleled in our federal bureaucracy.
How other nation’s are mimicking our national park idea
There is a fine Ken Burns film on the growth of our national parks. It ran for six episodes on PBS television. It is still available on DVDs: National Parks: America’s Best Idea.
While the campfires are not mentioned in the film, it is nonetheless a great tribute to our national park idea. There is also an accompanying book version available by the same title.
Yellowstone National Park was our first. It was established in 1872.
Now we have 59 national parks, 72 national monuments, 560 wildlife refuges, as well as 200 million acres of land set aside in national forests, not counting those under management of the Bureau of Land Management.
There are some 1800 additional national parks in 100 other countries.
I will argue how the national park idea actually did begin at the campfire at the Madison Junction of the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers midst the geysers, hot springs, mud-pots, fumaroles and other thermal features.
Watch for my posts. I will take on the debunkers of the Yellowstone campfire. A key is that all historians find what they are looking for when they gather material to prove their scholarly arguments.
COMING . . .
Yes, I’ll show how Nathiel Pitt Langford found what he was looking for in his diaries when he penned his book, The Discovery of Yellowstone National Park. But, I’ll show how the first debunker, Aubrey L. Haines, also found what he was looking for when he decided to re-write history.