Monday, November 17, 2008

Seton and Lobo on TV

The Seton Legacy Project, a program of the Academy for the Love of Learning in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is working to make known the accomplishments of Ernest Thompson Seton to the broadest possible audience. One or our activities has included consulting on television productions. One of these, Lobo, The Wolf That Changed America, will air on the PBS program Nature on Sunday, November 23. It is a retelling of the "Lobo" story and how the wolf utterly transformed Seton. For more information about Seton and New Mexico, including an announcement about the major Seton exhibition at the New Mexico History Museum in 2010, go to

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Another Pete Seeger Interview - He's 89 and still chopping wood!

From Pitchfork Read it all here.

Pete Seeger: An internet magazine! So you don't have to cut down trees. I'll be damned. I'm living in the past. I tried to learn how to use a computer a year ago, but I gave up on it. I'm a read-aholic. I was an early reader. My older brothers were reading and I wanted to be like them. At age seven, a librarian saw that I could read fairly well and recommended me a book written for teenagers by a nature writer called Ernest Thompson Seton. He was quite a best selling author 100 years ago. He wrote books like Wild Animals I Have Known and Lives of the Hunted. The one I got into was Rolf in the Woods, about a teenager who runs away from his stepfather-- who's beating him-- and is adopted by a middle-aged Indian whose tribe was massacred, and whose wife was sold into slavery, and is living alone. So he takes this 13-year old and says, you know your books, but I know the book of nature. They flee up to the Upper Adirondacks, and every chapter is a short nature lesson.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Forests, Woodcraft and the Human Condition

by Stephen Bigger Read it all here

Today we are interested again in conservation and outdoor pursuits, even adventures as an important part of a child's education. The "forest school" has returned to the fore. I am reading two related books currently, Leslie Paul's An Angry Young Man (1952) and Trail of an Artist-Naturalist, the autobiography of Ernest Thompson Seton (1951).

Leslie Paul's title gave rise to the phrase 'angry young men' being used of various writers and playwrights in the 1950s. Leslie Paul, a Londoner, founded "The Woodcraft Folk" in 1925 to introduce inner-city lads to the joys of the countryside, with an emphasis on building inner strengths and on conservation. Now under the wing of the cooperative societies, the movement is still thriving and has many local groups. Paul took many of his ideas from scouting, but without the militarism it had at the time of the first world war. Beyond that he drew on the work of Ernest Thompson Seton who began the Woodcraft Movement in America, and from it developed the American scout movement, of which he became chief scout. Readers are more likely to have heard of his daughter Ann, who wrote fiction as Anya Seton.

As a boy in Canada, Ernest set up his own Indian tribe in 1874 in order to enjoy outdoor activities. Before long it had been renamed as "The Robin Hood Band", and once outgrown the attraction of the outdoor life continued. He made studies of animals and plants, and published many stories based on the forest. He prized the wisdom of the "Indian" first nation tribes on bushcraft, which he called "woodcraft". In setting up an education programme for boys, Robin Hood became replaced with the last of the Mohicans, of Fenimore Cooper's story. The movement was named The Woodcraft Indians. He devised a range of "exploits", each of which had a badge, starting with physical activities, and developing to mental development towards the highest "spiritual" level of "service".

He described his strict Calvinist Christian upbringing which assumed "the total depravity of human nature" [p.291]. He was a rebel, and (happily) thought himself depraved. As a young cowpuncher, he notes that his very rough mates all loved their mothers, and went to church mainly so they could tell their mother that they had been. In one service in a schoolroom, the preacher said "in sin did our mothers conceive us", at which one jumped up saying his mother was a decent woman and if the preacher insult her he would fill him full of lead. Ernest came to the view: "all children come here direct from God and are pure as God can make them. We do not have to reform them, but rather to keep them from being deformed [p.292]. He bought a derelict farm to turn into a conservation area, complete with Indian village, but the local lads declared total war as their age-old haunts were now off bounds. They did nightly damage. Instead of bringing in the law, as advised, he invited them to an adventure weekend with free food and no rules. 42 came, and the Woodland Indians had begun. The area criminal was democratically elected the Chief, and, taking his responsibilities very seriously, this began his transformation. There were rules - mainly for safety and against vandalism. The cardinal virtues were chivalry, kindness, courage and honour. The motto was "The best things of the best Indians". Feathers were awarded for "exploits", 'can do' skills but not competitive. They all received the 'can swim' feather because they could all swim. Fifty years later, all 42 had made something significant of their lives.

Lina and Adelia Beard, promoting scouting for girls in America,produced An Outdoor Book for Girls in America in 1915, recently republished. There is a chapter on ‘woodcraft’ which begins with the importance of the balsam fir tree: like a Christmas tree, it has aromatic needles and makes the best outdoor bedding. These are the trees on the Woodcraft Folk logo. The book teaches girls about how to track, swim, take wildlife photos, camp, find food and cope with accidents.

There are lessons here for families and schools - such personal strengths are not built up in front of televisions or in the back of people-carriers. Skills for life cannot be taught. But they can be encouraged, facilitated, directed, respected and applauded.

From the Czech Republic

Here's a link to an article about a Woodcraft Camp in the Czech Republic. It is Czech, but you can get something of a translation from Google. There are some nice photos

Our ursine persecution not a bear necessity

Bear with me. This is personal.

Try to forgive the opening play on words. The topic is bears.

We should be ashamed of our hype and hypocrisy. Such sentimental hype, such blatant hypocrisy.

Distant polar bears tug at our heartstrings. But bears in our North Shore gardens? For many, sentimentality ends at our rose bushes and fragrant barbecues. Shoot them, they say.

And if they are pushed close to the point of extinction? No contest. We'd shed crocodile tears . There'd be the charade of debate, open-line chatter, op-ed pieces and such. But human needs always trump nature's when our safety, food supply and species imperialism are involved. It's them or us, right?

Not so for me.

I admit to being a city boy who has never had to contend with the harsh realities of country life. And -- here the promised personal note -- my wildlife views were shaped early and indelibly by Ernest Thompson Seton's books, once very popular.

One was Monarch, the Big Bear of Tallac. This small blue book about a huge bear that ended up caged at Golden Gate Park was lent and never returned, but I as good as have it in my hands now.

My lifelong enthusiasm for the fresh phrase, sharp insight and concise aphorism began with Seton: "The life of a wild animal always has a tragic end." (And also, upliftingly: "Because I have known the torment of thirst I would dig a well where others may drink.")

Monarch's story, fully available on the web through the Project Gutenberg e-book, and other Seton stories stoked my childhood eagerness to live the life of a hunter and trapper. Until, with a distant lucky shot of a BB gun, I shot a sparrow from our attic window. My hunting career skidded to a stop.

In the last few years this sensitivity led at last to an unsteady, maybe 95-per-cent vegetarianism. I still guiltily fall off the vegetable wagon now and then.

Back to the black bears, of which about 650 are killed each year across the province: The nut of it is I feel for anything with a mouth, anything that's hungry. (I not only know the torment of thirst that Seton mentioned but I've been hungry in Italy, a poignant place to want food.) Embarrassing to say, I have trouble killing mosquitoes, and any spider or ant in our abode is tenderly transported to the outdoors.

The wild berry crop has been sparse on the North Shore. Shooting any animal is revolting. Shooting a hungry animal is revolting and barbaric. It should be a last resort.

Even some people who survive mauling by a bear aren't angry at the bear, even sympathizng with it. But the offending bear is usually tracked down and "executed" by the authorities, as if it were a criminal with moral sentience. Why is such nonsense -- anthropomorphism elevated to absurdity -- tolerated?

Passenger pigeons -- to be fair, birds of annoyingly messy toilet habits, if their pigeon cousins are typical -- were once so numerous that the great Audubon (1785-1851) once carefully estimated a single flock contained one billion birds.

In his entry for the passenger pigeon P.A. Taverner, whose 1937 book Birds of Canada in my view still overshadows its successors, tersely wrote: "Field marks: The species being extinct, field marks are unnecessary." The last one died in a Cincinnati zoo in 1914.

West Vancouverite Neil Thompson, whose property abuts a bear area, is a retired stockbroker -- an unlikely champion of wildlife, one might think. He recalls that Buffalo Bill Cody on a visit to Canada shot 500 buffalo "just for fun."

Thompson is scathing about the Liberals' lifting of the B.C. ban on trophy hunting of grizzlies, one of the earliest acts of the Gordon Campbell government. I share Thompson's disgust. The idea of hunting any animal for sport -- death as entertainment -- should sicken everyone.

Yes, I count myself an anguished hypocrite. If a bear were attacking one of my children, and if I had a gun, and if I could shoot straight, I'd kill it. There would be plenty of time later for sorrow.

But I'm a big sissy. The killing of bears breaks my heart. (And others' hearts, especially children's. The shooting of a bear chomping on cherries at the 2004 Kaslo Jazz Festival, witnessed by 1,700 shocked -- some weeping -- people, will be remembered longer than the music.)

In my neighbourhood there seems to be a tacit agreement: If you see a bear, don't call the authorities.

My proposal: Three or four bear food banks high on the Lower Mainland's remote slopes. God knows the appalling waste of food in restaurants, separated from hard garbage, would provide a cornucopia.

Crazy idea? Make the bears dependent? Mess up their diet? I don't care. Anything is better than the idiocy of luring them with the trap of food and other human-generated attractants and then shooting them.

And not to forget the polar bears. Canada is the only country in the world where hunting these beautiful, threatened animals is still legal. The allowed limit for the 2007-08 season in Nunavut was a stunning 468. The hunters are mostly stupid-rich and plain stupid Americans. Shame.

- - -

I asked West Vancouver's councillors three questions: Have you decided to run for re-election in November? Have you decided not to run? Have you not yet decided?

Running: Bill Soprovich. A "definite undecided": Mike Smith. No response at this writing: Jean Ferguson, John Clark, Rod Day.

Coun. Vivian Vaughan of course is running against Pam Goldsmith-Jones for mayor.

Rumours: Ferguson and Day aren't running. Clark is. And here's a speculation by a close council-watcher: Mike Smith will run for mayor. Verrry interesting.

And another sticky wicket for Goldsmith-Jones: Rod Hesp, treasurer of the West Vancouver Cricket Club, which feels betrayed by town hall over its Hugo Park facility (the club's very unofficial slogan: "Keep West Vancouver Green. Turf Pam") is mulling running for council.

- - -

Jim Kearney, who died last Friday after painful months in hospital, was an outstanding, much-respected Vancouver Sun sports columnist who ran against the jock stereotype: In person and on paper he was measured, literate, gentlemanly and an engaging raconteur with a million stories who didn't need formulaic locker-room yackety-yack or wise-guy prose to tell his stories.

Especially admirable, and not all that common, was that Jim often passed over the hyped, big-advertising professional sports for neglected amateur athletes and games. That gave depth and variety to his columns and for 17 years he flourished in the demanding days of five a week, as the Sun's Lyndon Little reported.

Not widely known is that Jim, long a resident of Horseshoe Bay and then Bowen Island, had to leave his Sun job largely because of the new technology, the computers that replaced the lovely music of the newsroom typewriters: He suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome. But he went on to other successes, including years as a CBC Radio regular.

© North Shore News 2008

The Naturalist Guiding Light - Why we keep buying new field guides.

The golden age of large-mammal discovery has long since passed. Maybe that’s why the recent news that a police offer and car salesman from Georgia had found the body of Bigfoot was met with both predictable skepticism and a bit of discreet excitement. Nobody’s ever identified a Bigfoot before, so nobody knew exactly how to prove that what the men had was one, but the California-based Searching for Bigfoot, Inc., was willing to take a crack at the problem.

The determination, it turns out, ended up being relatively simple. After buying the frozen “corpse,” the group initially observed that the fur “melted into a ball uncharacteristic of hair.” Further thawing revealed that the head was “unusually hollow in one small section.” An hour later, in the final and most conclusive test, an examiner touched the foot and discovered that, alas, it was made of rubber, and that what they had on their hands wasn’t a Bigfoot specimen, but a gorilla costume.

The newest version of Peterson's classic guide.

Fortunately not all species identification is as fruitless. In fact, while Searching for Bigfoot laments its false discovery (as well as, one assumes, the money it paid the Georgia con men), the nature-loving world is celebrating a milestone in the world of animal identification. This month sees the centennial of the man credited with creating the modern field guide, Roger Troy Peterson. The moment is marked with the release of the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America, combining for the first time the famed birder’s guides to eastern and western birds.

Aids for attaching names to species, to be fair, existed long before Peterson was born. The bird illustrations of Alexander Wilson and John James Audubon are well-known, but their tomes were multi-volume sets too bulky (and expensive) to be taken on outdoor journeys. At 800 pages, though, Thomas Nuttall’s Manual of the Ornithology of the United States and Canada, published in 1832 and 1834, was small enough to carry into the field — its text and woodcut illustrations together make up what’s considered the first field guide.

In a cruelly ironic twist, the identification of birds through the 19th century meant killing the very things being appreciated. It wasn’t until the conservation movement of the late 1800s (fueled by the rapid decline in birds at the hands of both collectors and ladies’ hats makers) that birders began identifying not with shotguns but with binoculars; Florence Merriam Bailey’s Birds Through an Opera-Glass in 1889 was the first guide to help them do so.

Such books proliferated, but they relied heavily on text and few images. It was actually the 24 duck illustrations that writer Ernest Thompson Seton included in 1903’s fictional Two Little Savages that inspired Peterson 31 years later to create a guide that for the first time used text in service of images, and not the other way around.

Read it all here.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

After the Fire ; Center To Pay Tribute to Seton and His Iconic Castle

Raam Wong Journal Staff Writer
1174 words
4 August 2008

The burned-out ruins of the historic Seton Castle loom atop a hill southeast of Santa Fe, a melancholy reminder of the rambling 30- room structure that once was.

In November, it will be three years since flames and smoke engulfed the 70-year-old building off Old Las Vegas Highway, reducing its five uneven stories down to one.

Ernest Thompson Seton may have co-founded the Boy Scouts of America and earned fame as an early American naturalist, but even his admirers have acknowledged that he was a pretty terrible builder.

"I always imagined he had a hammer in his hand when he died," said Aaron Stern, founder of the nonprofit that owns the castle. The Academy for the Love of Learning was midway through a $2 million renovation of the 6,900-square-foot building when the fire broke out.

The Academy had considered rebuilding the castle, a national historic landmark, before determining the cost of bringing it up to code was too high. But this summer, a new building echoing Seton's spirit -- if not his building methods -- is rising in the castle's shadow.

Seton Village

In the early 1930s, Seton divorced his first wife, married his secretary and assistant, adopted a daughter and moved from the East Coast to 2,500 acres south of Santa Fe, where he went to work building an "academy of outdoor life." Seton was in his 70s, with a bushy white mustache that curled up at the ends.

He had spent his life drawing and writing about wildlife and the environment and establishing the Woodcraft League, an alternative version of the Boy Scouts that honors nature and wildlife and encourages people to protect and nurture the natural world.

A community eventually grew on Seton's sprawling compound, as he established a college, printing press and even a zoo, according to Stearn.

Many of the Seton Village homes today dotting the hills trace their lineage to tepees that Seton had installed for visitors to his summer camps. The tepees were later replaced by railroad boxcars, some of which still form the core of many of the high-priced homes in the area.

At the center of it all has sat Seton's ramshackle castle, whose oddly shaped rooms stuffed with all sorts of curiosities stirred the imaginations of generations of children peaking through the windows.

Since Seton's death in 1946 at the age of 96, followers and admirers from all over the world have made pilgrimages to the castle. His daughter, Dee Seton Barber, lived in the home through the late 1990s before opting to sell it.

The Academy for the Love of Learning purchased the structure in 2003. The castle had a million problems, with no foundation in some places and walls with no studs. The place reeked of mildew and was filled with numerous buckets meant to catch the rain water.

The academy embarked on a $2 million renovation. The bottom level where carriages once parked was to be used as office space for the 12-employee academy, while the rest was slated for leadership and ecological awareness programs for young people.

On Nov. 15, 2005, Stern was on a flight to New York when a problem with the airplane's hydraulic system forced an emergency landing, as numerous firetrucks were on standby on the runway. The frightening experience seemed to foretell the conversation he would have with his office after the plane safely landed.

Back in Seton Village, the fire had spread quickly through the castles' adobe and stone walls, wood floors and vigas, as construction workers involved in the restoration fled for safety. The cause of the blaze was never determined.

"It was a shock," Stern said. "It was horrible."

Academy, take two

Today, the castle appears frozen in time to that November afternoon. An open trench holds pipes where DSL lines were to carry high-speed internet into the castle, while a pile of vigas waiting to be installed sit roasting in the sun. Weeds grow amid the gutted castle walls and the bell above the entry gate hasn't been rung in years.

Rebuilding the castle would have meant widening the stairways and hallways and other costly steps to bring the building up to code, Stern said.

But new life is coming to Seton Village. Earlier this year, the academy broke ground nearby on a $10 million, stucco-and-glass building in which Seton's legacy will play a prominent role.

Part of the bottom floor will house Seton's voluminous collection of art and writings, his library and other artifacts that were safe in storage at another location when the fire hit. The collection includes a letter from Helen Keller and signed books by Theodore Roosevelt, along with pots made by Maria Martinez, American Indian blankets and serapes, and Seton's classical music records. A major showing of Seton's work is planned for 2010 at the Palace of the Governors.

Seton Gallery will open onto a trail leading up to the castle site. Of the remaining walls, the academy plans to preserve and strengthen the west and south facades that will be woven into meditative gardens, with markers showing the castle's former footprint.

Just as Seton Castle was a center for learning and living-room gatherings of more than a hundred people, the new 14,000-square- foot center will have rooms and gardens for intimate, contemplative discussions, central to the academy's work, as well as a Great Room for occasional group gatherings. On the second floor, a circular adobe meditation room is under construction.

The "green" center is being built into a hillside, keeping it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Solar arrays and geothermal wells will also allow the academy to sell electricity back to the grid. Rooftop rainwater will be collected and stored in four, 10,000-gallon underground tanks.

While the castle was built from stone quarried on-site, the center's walls are being constructed out of recycled plastic that's been compressed and filled with concrete.

Standing just beyond the chain-link fence wrapped around Seton Castle recently, Stern mourned its destruction and looked towards the land's future. The academy should be completed by October 2009, he said.

"It was a great loss," Stern said as he looked at a ceramic mural of a peacock embedded in the charred castle wall. "And the new building is going to be fabulous. Both are true."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

TermitePrevent: Woodcraft Environmental Renaissance

TermitePrevent: Woodcraft Environmental Renaissance: "Sunday, August 10, 2008
Woodcraft Environmental Renaissance

Why is the rabbit unafraid? Because he's smarter than the panther. - The Edge (film)

Woodcraft is the art of carving or fashioning objects from wood. It is also defined as the dexterity and experience in matters relating to the woods, such as hunting, fishing, camping or simply surviving in the wild by staying one step ahead of the panther. For thousands of years, human beings have survived only because they were able to adapt and obtain their basic necessities from their surrounding habitat, usually employing little more technology than their own hands."

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Dispatches from No. 3 Equity Court

From Roger Curry's Blog... Here's a link to the full post and his full blog.

I am a common sort of guy. I drink a little beer, but only when it is extremely, extremely cold. I drink wine to impress women. Otherwise, I consider it a shame that some idiot let bacteria screw up the grape juice. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a drink of wine, so perhaps my cynicism belies impressing women these days. The first thing I think of when the term “art” is used is the something-or-other-on-canvas painting. I like Norman Rockwell, particularly a painting called “The Scoutmaster.” It’s realistic (and I’m sure there’s a “Realist” view of painting) and it reminds me of stuff I’ve done. It brings a tear to the eye, and I can smell the “woodsmoke at twilight.” (Kipling) Other stuff, I’m not always so impressed. Let’s see: Monet should have stopped at WalMart and gotten some glasses, then his paintings might not have been so fuzzy. (Yeah, I know, “Impressionism,” but I Just Don’t Get It.) Ernest Thompson Seton, gruesome stuff, but again, realism. TR loved him, but he wasn’t a noted art enthusiast, either. Maxfield Parrish, too cute but, OK, it is a nice shade of blue. Jackson Pollock, if there’s something to understand there, damfino what it is. M. C. Escher, that guy must have been abused as a youth by a dysphoric architect. The stuff by amateurs who know how to draw & paint some looks fundamentally OK to me – I used to share an office with some guys, one of whom had this big (4 foot x 5 foot) acrylic painting of a sort of post-apocalyptic distant city skyline in browns and oranges that just fascinated me. I’m sure someone who “knows art” would say that it’s totally prosaic. Who’s right? I like it. It gets me thinking a little. It’s a starting point for thoughts with misty edges that make me uneasy which feels like a stretching thing that I need to do mentally. Anyway, somehow that painting ended up over at the County Clerk’s Office, and I don’t know how others react to it these days. I keep seeing ads in various catalogs and magazines (Smithsonian, National Geographic, Sojourner, even Popular Mechanics) for prints of stuff by Thomas Kinkade. His paintings are either quasi-religioius (images of the Little Church in the Valley) or the equivalent (small town scenes from the 1960's or before) and he does something that seems to play with light in a pleasant way. I’m betting that most Artistic Folks think he’s a commercial hack, but I could be wrong. I like his stuff, it prompts me to feel good. There’s a strange painter from around 1500 who fascinates me, Hieronymus Bosch - Not because of the color or shapes, this guy was so far into symbolism that even the culturally clueless such as this ignorant scribe have an even chance of thinking of some plausible explanation for his images – maybe the wrong one, but plausible, and Bosch isn’t around to give rebuttal testimony. I googled “modern art” and got a long list of artists (mostly painters) I’d never heard of or, if I’d heard of them, it wasn’t about their art. Matisse, there was an odd sci-fi story themed on his painting eyes on poker chips which also involved a beer tap in a prosthetic arm, and I doubt any of that comes from real life. Dali had a helluva moustache, that’s the sort of irrelevant things I remember.,,,

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Lobo The Wolf Who Changed America to Air November 23 on PBS

The Public Broadcasting Service's Nature series will air its version of the film Lobo, The Wolf Who Changed America on November 23. Check local listings as the time nears.

This film unleashed an enormous renewal of interest in Seton when it aired in the UK earlier this year and I would expect something similar, perhaps much greater, when it airs in the U.S.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

From Nature Articles by Earl N Plato

Ernest Thompson Seton in Canada from England - They made fun of him at nis new school in Toronto. It was such a big school that none of his brothers were in his class. “When I was four in England I was riding “horsey”on a high sofa. I fell on my head. I saw two two mothers and two clocks and two of everything!” My eyes became badly crossed and I had to squint. I was called “Squinty.” Despite his eyesight he still continued to love books. A favourite was his father’s Pictorial Book of Nature. He started sketching - flowers, birds and animals. Then he heard about Ross’s Birds of Canada. Ernest wanted a copy and saved his money until he had a dollar . He walked into the big book store and purchased his prized book. He was inspired to draw more. “At the age of 13 I built my own cabin in the Don Valley. It was my favourite place toget away. I did more art - mostly nature but also city buildings and people. All the time I wanted to be a naturalist. I talked with my mother about my anbitions. My father overheard and said, “NO! You will become an artist!” At Art school he won a gold medal at the Ontario School of Art and won a scholarship to study art in England. He went to England but his father gave him little help. He studied at the Royal Academy of Art but was very lonely and almost destitute. He learned more skills but after the scholarship was over he returned home as a 21 year old. He felt like a failure to his father who had kept a list of all the money and things he had given to Ernest. His father demanded to be paid back in full for his support. His mother welcomed him back and continued to believe in his dreams. Now back in Ontario he had no job. To him all wildlife was interesting - especially birds. “I will become a naturalist.” With his mother’s blessing he headed west to Manitoba. It was a happy time for Ernest. “I explored across the vast prairie - learning more and more. My poor health was over and for the next two years I was blessed with increasing strength. I had my books, my birds and animals, and my dreams.” Ernest was oficially appointed naturalist for the government of Manitoba. He drew more and more - sold sketches and drawings - did well. paid his father in full ion return visit to Toronto. He missed his mother very much but returned west to his job.
In defference to her he changed his surname to his mothers. Born Ernest Seton Thompson he now became ERNEST THOMPSON SETON. He was invited to New Mexico by the United States government to write four volumes - Life History of North American Animals. He was now writing short stories and novels about wildlife and was getting widespread fame. His most famous book, Wild Animals I Have Known, is still being reprinted in 2008.. Check it out, eh.

Read it here.

Why eat bugs when there's fresh citrus?

(from New

A former Manchester resident admits, “My wife and I are not avid birdwatchers, although we enjoy having them around and keep the birdbath filled with fresh water for their enjoyment. We live in a small city on the west coast of Florida, just across the bay from Tampa.

“Several days ago we enjoyed your article about the red-bellied woodpecker. It was of particular interest to us because we were in the last days of observing a pair raising their brood of two. We were very fortunate to have a front-row seat ,with the nest in a hollow dead branch of a live oak that was about 20 feet from our screen porch. Their squawking would alert us to activity at the nest. We enjoyed watching them grow up and leave the nest.

“The most unusual activity we observed was the parents feeding citrus to the young while in the nest and later watching the teaching of the young to peck a hole in the orange, feed some to the young two or three times, then fly up to a branch and watch for several minutes coaxing them to eat on their own. This took several tries before the young would eat on their own...

In the 1901 book “Wild Animals I have Known,” Ernest Seton-Thompson narrates the true story of a partial albino crow named Silverspot.

Actually, Silverspot was not much of an albino as was illustrated by the author when he wrote, “His name was given because of a silvery white spot that was like a nickel, stuck on his right side, between the eye and the bill, and it was owing to this spot that I was able to know him from the other crows, and to put together the parts of history that came to my knowledge.”

Read it all.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Red Lodge

We often receive inquiries about The Red Lodge, a brief work published by Seton in 1912, which was a version of Woodcraft aimed at adults. I have just posted a scanned version of this very rare booklet on The Ernest Thompson Seton Pages at

Friday, May 30, 2008

Changeling Turkey: FINALLY!!!

Changeling Turkey: FINALLY!!!

This blog is "podcasting" Biography of a Grizzly. They have done a really nice job with it.

Sit back and listen to Biography of a Grizzly as it is read to you.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Manly Palmer Hall

I have lately been looking for people who know of the connection between Ernest Thompson Seton and Manly Palmer Hall. Hall was a philosopher and mystic of sorts, author of numerous books, including the classic Secret Teachings of All Ages. Seton dedicated Santa The Hero Dog of France to Hall. Dee Seton Barber told me that she rememberered Hall coming to visit Seton at the Castle in the 1940s.

There is a soon-to-be-published book on Hall's life entitled 'MASTER OF THE MYSTERIES: the life of Manly Palmer Hall’ by Louis Sahagun. Mr. Sahagun is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. I spoke with Mr. Sahagun today and learned that the book will be published in late June It already appears on

He says the book will contain information about the link between Hall and Seton. He told me that hall first met Seton when Seton lectured at the Author's Club in Hollywood. Hall wentup to Seton following the lecture, introcuced himself and told Seton, "Mr. Seton, I want to know you!." He also relates several trips to Seton Village.

I am looking forward to the book.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Lobo - The Wolf That Changed America (BBC Natural World)

Here is the link you have all been waiting for. Watch the BBC Natural World video "Lobo - The Wolf That Changed America.'

This is a FANTAstic film and has ignited a huge amount of Seton interest in the U.K.

Online Videos by

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Let's Have a Little Bird Music

From the Winnipeg Free Press. Excerpts here. Click here to read it all.

BALMORAL -- It's the male birds that sing and it's mating that turns them into little Pavarottis.

But it was a threat to habitat that transformed birds here into recording artists.

Aluminum maker Alcan wanted to build a smelter near Balmoral, 30 kilometres north of Winnipeg, and one of the comments people kept making was "at least there's nothing up there."

"I thought, 'There's lots up here,' " said Catherine Thexton, who lived on a farm in the area with her late husband George. To prove it, Thexton would venture into the bush on their Interlake farm and record bird sounds.

The Alcan plan was scrapped but a recording industry was launched. Thexton's first vinyl record, In Praise of Spring (1981), sold more than 1,000 copies, followed by Meadowlark Music (1983), also on vinyl, which sold more than 7,000 copies.


Another of Thexton's recordings, Dusk to Dawn, sounds as if it's about all-nighters at a drive-in theatre. It came about after many nights when Thexton would lie in bed with the screen window open and wonder what bird and animal sounds she heard.

For example, she wondered if the "pahh" sound was an owl or a fox. (Naturalist writer Ernest Thompson Seton encountered the same dilemma. In his case, he determined it was an owl only after he killed the owl and found the noise stopped.) Dusk to Dawn includes the red fox and various species of toads, frogs and night owls.

With her parabolic microphone, shaped like a satellite dish, Thexton looks more like someone trying to intercept extraterrestrial signals. The apparatus amplifies sound 75 times for her recordings, but she has to pinpoint a bird's location. Even then, birds don't speak on cue.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

That Good Ol' Tipi Living

From Mother Earth News

A few summers ago I had the opportunity to be involved in a mountain goat research project. Needless to say, I was excited by the prospect of spending half a year in the wilds of Montana ... but I did foresee one serious problem. My assistant and I planned to live—from summer through early winter—on top of an 8,660-foot peak ... but we weren't sure just what in blue blazes we were going to live in!

I studied the alternatives and rejected everything from "space age" tents (too cramped) to geodesic domes (not practical) to log cabins (too permanent ... suppose the goats moved?). No, we had to have something roomy, portable, inexpensive, easy to build, and able to adjust to a wide range of temperatures. In short, what we needed was a tipi!


Most folks will probably be surprised—as I was—to learn that the best movable shelter ever devised was perfected hundreds of years ago by the Plains Indians of the American Southwest. But the more I looked into the subject, the more convinced I became that—although they look like uncomplicated structures—tipis are actually more precisely designed than most of the "high technology" houses that are being built today!

As Caleb Clark, the old trapper in Ernest Thompson Seton's Two Little Savages, said: "Ye kin live in it forty below zero and fifty 'bove suffocation an' still be happy. It's the changeablest kind of a layout for livin' in." And Caleb wasn't talking majority, either. A tipi can be snugged down to endure subfreezing winters or—with its skirts lifted—will keep its residents cool in roasting summer weather. Its conical shape sheds rain ... and withstands hurricane winds that would dislodge any tent (and a good many stone or brick homes!). And the Indian dwelling will hold the heat-but not the smoke -of a toasty f ire.

I was also surprised to discover how spacious the cone-shaped homes are. My fellow -goater"' and I found we had plenty of room in our 16-foot-diameter shelter. In fact, on occasion we had five people bedded down 'round the fire ... without a single crowding problem. And these practical accommodations have another, more subtle, advantage: Living in a tipi provides a unique, at-one-with-nature experience. A cone dweller is in touch with—and yet shielded from—all the changing whims of weather. Tipi walls let the sun illuminate the interior by day ... and provide a curved screen for firelit shadow dances at night Chipmunks may perch on the shelter's poles , violets sprout from its floor, or moonlight stream through the smoke hole—mixing with the glow of a fading fire—and form a sight too beautiful for words. Little wonder the Indians (who revered nature) considered a tipi a temple as well as a home.

Read it all here

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

High Goals

from Health Beyond Civilization Remedial health for the aspiring indigenous soul

Having established a certain degree of grounding in our experience of our own health, it’s worth it to start exploring goals.
I’d like to set the bar sky-high by looking at a few accounts of, for lack of a better term, superhuman feats.
Ernest Thompson Seton, in Gospel of the Redman, wrote,
The most famous runner of ancient Greece was Pheidippides, whose record run from Athens to Sparta was 140 miles in 36 hours. Among our Indians, such a feat would have been considered very second-rate. In 1882, at Fort Ellice, I saw a young Cree who, on foot, had just brought in despatches from Fort Qu’Appelle (125 miles away) in 25 hours. It created almost no comment. I heard little from the traders but cool remarks like, “A good boy”, “pretty good run”. It was obviously a very usual exploit, among Indians.
The two Indian runners, Thomas Zafiro and Leonicio San Miguel, ran 62 1/2 miles, i.e. from Pachuca to Mexico City, in 9 hours, 37 minutes, November 8, 1926, according to the El Paso Times, February 14, 1932. This was 9 1/4 minutes to the mile.
The Zunis have a race called, “Kicked Stick.” In this, the contestants each kick a stick before them as they run. Dr. F. W. Hodge tells me that there is a record of 20 miles covered in 2 hours by one of the kickers.
The Tarahumare mail carrier runs 70 miles a day, every day in the week, carrying a heavy mailbag, and he doesn’t know that he is doing an exploit. In addition, we are told: “The Tarahumare mail carrier from Chihuahua to Batopiles, Mexico, runs regularly more than 500 miles a week; a Hopi messenger has been known to run 120 miles in 15 hours.”
The Arizona Indians are known to run down deer by sheer endurance, and every student of Southwestern history will remember that Coronado’s mounted men were unable to overtake the natives when in the hill country, such was their speed and activity on foot.

Read it all

Monday, April 21, 2008

here's the chance to go to school on what master naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton called "the oldest of writing",tracks.

A new approach to the art of tracking mammals.

Blest with a Magic Power is he,
Drinks deep where others sipped;
And Wild Things write their lives for him
In endless manuscript.

-Ernest Thompson Seton
("The Trailer")

YOU WAKE ON AN UNNATURALLY bright winter's morning and, squinting, peer out your bedroom window. As unexpected as enchantment, a half-foot of snow has fallen while you slept, and you're fairly pulled out of bed by the childish urge to be the first to mark the clean white sheet that's settled over your yard. Ignoring coffee for once, you dress quickly, fired by the adrenaline high of dramatic weather, and rush outside . . . only to find that smaller feet have written where you'd hoped to scratch your name. Put your petty disappointment aside; here's the chance to go to school on what master naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton called "the oldest of writing",tracks.

From Mother Earth News. Read it all here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

'Immersive' museum to showcase N.M. -

'Immersive' museum to showcase N.M. -

This new museum, The New Mexican History Museum, opening next year adjacent to The Palace of the Governors, plans an exhibition featuring Ernest Thompson Seton in 2011.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Reading Copy » Blog Archive » Slow Food and Ernest Thompson Seton

Slow Food and Ernest Thompson Seton

I cam across this blog entry from abe.books. So Wild Animals I Have Known is a best seller one hundred and ten years after it was first published. Incidentally, both Blue Skies Today and our sister site Blue Sky! - The Ernest Thompson Seton Pages ( had record-breaking numbers of visits over the past week too, presumably due to the BBC special. Unfortunately, we have not been able to view it in the U.S. because the website blocks viewing outside the U.K. Hopefully, it will be shown on PBSinthe future.

Slow Food and Ernest Thompson Seton

On the back of a BBC2 feature titled Lobo: The Wolf that Changed America, Ernest Thompson Seton’s 110-year-old classic Wild Animals I Have Known shot to No.1 on’s bestseller list last week.

Seton was one of the key pioneers of the Boy Scout movement, which incidentally is celebrating its centennial this year. You can read about it on our Boy Scouts feature.

Also on the top 10 is W.M.W. Fowler’s Countryman’s Cooking. The book was first sold 40 years ago by Willie Fowler in his local pub and was forgotten until recently when it was rediscovered in a charity shop and republished. Featuring traditional English countryside recipes the book is a gift from the heavens for slow foodies.

Top 10 bestsellers for for the week of March 31-April 6

1. Wild Animals I Have Known by Ernest Thompson Seton
2. Countryman’s Cooking by W.M.W. Fowler
3. The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
4. Shamanic Journeying: A Beginner’s Guide by Sandra Ingerman
5. The New Strategic Selling by Stephen E. Heiman
6. Ulysses by James Joyce
7. Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill
8. Cancer Vixen: A True Story by Marisa Acocella Marchetto
9. Paul for Everyone: Romans by Tom Wright
10. Once Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Farm School

Farm School

This is a fantastic website and blog which should appeal to Seton afficionados. Here is a link to a great comprehensive post about Seton on that site.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A man, a wolf and a whole new world - Telegraph

Steve Gooder tells the tale of a British-born hunter and his mighty foe - and how their duel in the dying days of the Wild West led to the birth of America's conservation movement

It was the moment Ernest Thompson Seton had been waiting for. After months of frustration, the professional wolf hunter finally had his quarry in his sights.

Ernest Thompson Seton (top) and the photo he took of Old Lobo caught in four steel traps

He raised his Winchester rifle and prepared to put a
bullet between the eyes of "Old Lobo", a notorious wolf that had killed hundreds of cattle.

But, face to face with his adversary for the first time, something deep within the hunter changed. He slowly lowered his gun and decided to take Lobo back alive.

The year was 1894 and it was a moment that would prove a crucial turning point, not just for Seton, but also for the fate of America's wilderness and its wild creatures.

British-born Seton had grown up with wolves on the Canadian frontier and written the definitive manual on how to catch them. More than two centuries earlier, his Scottish ancestors had helped wipe out the last of Britain's wild wolves.

Yet there was another, less bloodthirsty, side to Seton. His backwoods childhood had left him with a real love and fascination for nature and he would eventually go on to become both a leading light in America's emerging conservation movement and a tireless advocate for the protection of wolves.

It all began in October 1893, when Seton travelled to a remote corner of New Mexico "to catch vermin". What had once been the land of the Apache and the buffalo had now become the domain of cattle ranchers, and the last remaining wolves were being picked off as fast as the bounty hunters could trap and shoot them. But a few "outlaw wolves" still eluded capture.

Among these elite survivors was a reputedly giant beast, known as Old Lobo, who had thwarted every attempt to kill him. Seton was merely the latest in a string of would-be assassins who had come and gone.

BBC - Science & Nature - Natural World

BBC - Science & Nature - Natural World: "Lobo - The wolf that changed America
Wed 2 Apr 8.00pm (GMT) BBC Two

Ernest Thompson Seton's account of how he hunted a cattle-killing wolf became a pivotal part of American history, helping to change the way people see wolves and the wilderness. In his efforts to find, capture, and kill Lobo, Seton came to understand the animal's intelligence, loyalty and warmth. Although he finally succeeded in his task, he never killed a wolf again. A combination of wildlife and history, this film is based on the personal diaries of Ernest Thompson Seton himself."

From Michelle Styles in the U.K.

Ernest Thompson Seton Read it all here

On Tuesday, BBC2 will broadcast a programme about Ernest Thompson Seton, one of America's early environmentalists. He was born in South Shields, Durham, grew up in Canada and spent the end of his life at Seton Castle near Santa Fe New Mexico. And as it happens someone my father knew as a boy when he lived in Santa Fe. Seton was an old man at the time, and my father always spoke of him with awe.
I can remember watching the Walt Disney movie about Lobo the wolf and my father getting out Wild Animals I Have Known and showing me Seton's signature. Seton had signed the book for my grandfather and had included a picture of a hangman's noose with the words -- hang Hitler. My grandfather was an officer in the US navy. My grandmother and father had moved to Santa Fe during WW2 because my father suffered from asthma. Seton lived a few miles from Santa Fe. My father as a boy was quite active in the boy scouts which may be why they knew him. Seton was one of the founding members of the Boy Scouts and wrote the first Boy Scout manual among other things. However, at that point, Santa Fe was not a large place...
My father was very impressed with him and had me read Wild Animals I Have Known after I watched the programme. Seton was a natural storyteller and brought the various animals to life, so it was a delight to read.
The book now sits proudly in the bookcase in the dining room. My children have all enjoyed the stories. And it is a book that should be read by anyone interested in natural history and conservation.
Seton's daughter Ann wrote historical romance novels under the pen name of Anya Seton. I did not realise this until yesterday, but thought it interesting.
Anyway, I shall look forward to watching the programme. Seton's book apparently had a profound influence on David Attenborough. And he deserves to remembered.


posted by Michelle Styles @ 11:07 AM

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Scouting and Culture Wars

Editor's note: I found this guest column by our friend and Scouting historian, Nelson Block, published in the Waco Tribune. It is definitely worth reading in its entirety.

Nelson Block, guest column: Scouting and 'culture wars'

Monday, March 17, 2008

HOUSTON — Rick Perry’s new book, On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For, is portrayed as a tribute. Actually, it’s the latest attack on a great American institution.

Perry praises the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) as a paragon of “traditional American values” then co-opts scouting to vilify those he and like-minded politicians and talk-show hosts consider political enemies.

This group invented the “culture war” and casts liberals as the religion-bashing, authority-hating, character-deficient bad guys in it who would create a world “where moral relativism reigns and individualism runs amok.”

If the governor understood scouting’s history, he would know it uses many concepts championed by liberal and progressive leaders among its founders.

Scouting and several other movements evolved to alleviate poor social, public health and educational conditions created by the Industrial Revolution in England and America, as young people left their rural homes for cities with low-paying factory jobs and dissolute pursuits far from moderating family relationships.

Victorian and Edwardian reformers responded by helping people improve their lives, promoting the idea that hard work brings rewards, among other principles. Although Perry suggests that industriousness and faith are not liberal values, Scouting’s liberal and progressive founders embraced them.

In 1902, liberal American naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton established the Woodcraft Movement, based on camping and American Indian life, to enrich modern leisure time.

He incorporated educational principles described by liberal educator John Dewey, who advocated children working together in social situations where the child would “emerge from his original narrowness of action and feeling to conceive of himself from the standpoint of the welfare of the group.” BSA later named Seton its first chief Scout.

In 1908, British general R.S.S. Baden-Powell published the book that popularized the Boy Scouts, Scouting for Boys. He incorporated concepts then considered liberal perfected during his army years: encouraging noncommissioned officers to exercise leadership, personally training soldiers in military scouting and providing them with wholesome entertainment.

The principle was the same for both soldiers and Scouts — make the individual responsible for a task, then give him the freedom to accomplish it.

When Scouting came to America, liberals and progressives immediately supported it, including Theodore Roosevelt and James E. West, BSA’s first chief Scout executive. West began his progressive activism as a teenager in a Washington, D.C., orphanage, fighting for the children to have a library and attend public school.

These leaders used liberal social principles to build the Boy Scouts. Unfortunately, Perry uses Scouting to build support for his particular social principles.

For example, Perry considers public prayer an important part of religion, and by extension, Scouting. However, Baden-Powell held that beyond a personal belief in God, religion was about helping people. When people asked if he prayed, he was tempted to reply, “Not often: I am far too busy giving thanks.”

Yes, the Boy Scouts’ values are worth fighting for, but Perry picks a fight with his fellow Americans and misrepresents this institution by claiming it is at odds with liberalism.

Liberalism then and now recognizes that people realize their greatest potential in exercising personal freedom, and that such freedom comes with responsibility to the society that supports it.

Nelson R. Block, a Houston Boy Scout leader for almost 30 years , co-chaired the Johns Hopkins University program “Scouting: A Centennial History Symposium.”

Here is the link to the Waco Tribune.

Paw prints could lead to a wildcat

Follow the tracks

Yes! Follow the tracks. In the words of naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton, "Look ever for the track . . . it is the priceless, unimpeachable record of the creature's life and thought, in the oldest writing known on earth."

Follow the tracks. Leave the city. Climb into the chaparral. Walk among the scrub oak, watching for signs- claw marks low on a gnarled tree trunk, a trace of scat, scratch marks on the ground.

And at last, look there! A print, scalloped front and back. Four toes, no claw marks. Another, and another, some even made by a two-legged animal.

From The Thousand Oaks Acorn Read it all here.

Monday, March 10, 2008

In the wings

From the Charlotte Observer:
"Another month will wind down by the end of this week, even with the leap day added to February every fourth year to realign our calendars.
February's full moon is often referred to as the Hunger Moon. Perhaps there's another, more appropriate name for the silvery globe, round as a medallion and bright as a silver dollar, rising late in a brittle eastern sky. The late artist-naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton suggested it be known as our Awakening Moon. Arriving without heat, it brings on the winds of change."

Read it all

Monday, February 11, 2008

Self-Sufficient Living » Blog Archive » How to Construct A Plains Indian Tipi (Part 1)

Self-Sufficient Living » Blog Archive » How to Construct A Plains Indian Tipi (Part 1)

There were 50 tents made of tanned hides, very bright red and white in color and bell-shaped, with flaps and openings, and built as skillfully as those of Italy, and so large that in the most ordinary ones four different mattresses and beds were easily accommodated. The Indians . . . are as well sheltered in their tents as they could be in any house. ”
From Don Juan de OƱate’s account of a 1599 Great Plains expedition
“Tazhebute came to join us with a good Indian tent . . . Those tents have no equal for camping purposes. They shed the rain well, and in cold weather one can build afire right in the center of them, with the smoke rising cleanly up out of the top, where the flaps are set to suit the way of the wind.
“Thomas Henry Tibbles, describing an 1881 trip among the Ponca Indians in his book, BUCKSKIN AND BLANKET DAYS
“Ye kin live in it forty below zero and fifty ‘bove suffocation an’ still be happy. It’s the changeablest kind of a layout for livin’ in. ”Caleb Clark, The Old Trapper, in Ernest Thompson Seton’s TWO LITTLESAVAGES, 1903

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

100 Years of Illustration : Ernest Thompson Seton's The American Bison or Buffalo

Ernest Thompson Seton's The American Bison or Buffalo

Ernest Thompson Seton was a force to be reckoned with as author and illustrator of scores of books about nature and Indian lore. He was a Scot born Ernest Evan Thompson in England on 14 August 1860, who with his parents emigrated to Canada at the age of six. To avoid an abusive father he took to the woods as an escape, where he became fascinated by nature and drawing animal life. His work was good enough for him to win a scholarship at the Royal Academy in London.

Later, he changed his last name to Seton and began a career as an artist, writer and naturalist, eventually moving to New York City where he became successful enough to build a home in Cos Cob, Connecticut, a suburb of Greenwich.

He was also famous as a mover and shaper in the U.S.A. of the Boy Scout movement, founded by Lord Baden-Powell, who took Scouting world wide.

You can read more about this as well as biographical information at the following links:



and here.

These are scans from his lead article in the October 1906 issue of Scribner's Magazine, The American Bison or Buffalo.

Click on images to enlarge them.


A Buffalo Herd in Early Fall.


Detail of the illustration above.


One of the studies Seton made while drawing buffalos.


A large bull buffalo.


A Catalo, or hybrid cow.


A Catalo yearling.


A very high-humped old bull buffalo.


Seton titled this, The old bull's last fight.

Posted by PAUL GIAMBARBA on February 01, 2008 at 12:59 PM in Ernest Thompson Seton 1860-1946 | Permalink

Powered by ScribeFire.