u.s.a. Revisited

An American novelist who is most at home in Tidewater, Virginia, JOHN DOS PASSOS,who had served as an ambulance driver in the First World War, made his initial hid with his war novel, THREE SOLDIERS. MANHATTAN TRANSFER,his novel of New York, was the most original of any published in the 1920s, and with his big trilogy, U.S. A., he established his reputation as a close observer of contemporary society with a passion for detail and a sympathy for the underdog. Recently, he has been taking a new look at our country, and these are his findings.




Out of the Jersey truckfarms, the cornfields, the green slopes golden with Guernseys; cowbarns sporting a silo the way a church sports a steeple; bright watertanks, one a huge ball rolling through treetops: the toycolored plants of new industries...


. . . the sixlane highway that arched the reedy rivers and skirted the fields of red clover,

now in whine of windfriction, hiss of tires, valvechatter, grumble of diesels, drone of exhausts, plunges under a rampaging bridge, sixlane under sixlane.


To the right a square brick mansion with curved stone pediments, capped by a glassedin cupola,

(uncompromising as a tintype of General Ulysses S Grant, posed on a porch with his family, all in their stiff Sunday best), stands up and is gone, vanished like the haze of croplands bucolic with summer some long dead landowner viewed with pleasure from his cupola.


The turnpike speeds out of yesterday, mudguard to mudguard through sulphuric gusts into tomorrow’s horizon:

intertwined tubing that curves round aluminum bottleshapes, distillators, retorts: a plumber’s nightmare! Steel pylons supporting hightension powerlines stalk like H. G. Wells’ Martians across the industrial plain.


This was three nights ago. You can still see where the shoulder’s gouged. The night had been misty and after midnight the turnpike troopers set the signs putting the speedlimit at thirty five instead of sixty. As the fog thickened in the predawn chill, smoke from a smoldering dump reduced visibility to zero.

This is the time when the turnpike roars with produce trucks charging into town to make the early market.

The driver of the first tractortrailer to get into trouble told police afterwards he had already slowed down to thirtyfive when he saw a sign warning of fog ahead. Suddenly he found he couldn’t see anything and stepped on his brakes and immediately another tractortrailer, driven by a young man from North Carolina, struck him in the rear. The impact pushed the first tractortrailer about seventyfive feet up the road into a car driven by a New Jersey man.

That car ended up safe in the ditch but the two tractortrailers jackknifed across the traffic lanes. Before anybody could lift a hand ten more tractortrailers and two cars had plowed into the wreckage, Five drivers were killed outright. One died on the way to the hospital and seven men were more or less seriously injured.

The last man to pile up, a man named Gautier from Port Huron, Michigan, who was bringing in a truckload of Great Lakes fish, told a reporter in the hospital he never saw the wreckage before he hit it. All he saw was a fogbank and the brakelights of the truck ahead, and then he crashed. He was lucky to get out of it with minor cuts about the head and hands and was released after treatment. The desk sergeant said it was the worst he’d ever seen. “No cars overturned but the trailers all split open. One was completely buried under wreckage.”

The troopers sealed off the turnpike and deflected the traffic to route 1. Ambulance and rescue squads came in from Elizabeth. It took a fleet of wrecking trucks, bulldozers, a moveable crane and a train of flatcars to clear away enough wreckage so that they could remove the dead. It was twelve hours before the turnpike was completely reopened for traffic.


“Thank you for your patience” on a red ground.

Now there are trucks on every lane:

Suburban Propane

Mason and Dixon Flammable

Liquid Sugar Red Star Express

Dog Food Pigeon Feeds


Continental Truckers

Caution Airbrakes: The left arrow points “Home and Fireside”; the right arrow points “Kingdom Come.”

Airport. Beyond a row of fat bellied yellow old planes of the Air Reserve a control tower glistens festive in the sun. Across the road wharfbuildings, masts, derricks, dance of light on waterways between the straight prows of oceangoing ships.


Then smells of the Jersey salt meadows: sulphur, varnish, a whiff of dead apples, smoldering rags and paper ash, moldy bologny drenched in bay rum, ether . . . obsolete crisco and the strangling stench of burned tires. One good swift reek of a pigpen and always

exhausts, petroleum essences and, like death immediate and undetectable, carbon monoxide.

Last Gasoline.

Through the afternoon haze, beyond the humdrum heights of Weehawken the buildings of Manhattan rise sunflecked in mirage. Empire State.

The sun through girderwork stipples the converging lanes of cars that clog an artery cut through the upthrust rock.

Brakes squeak, tires squeal. Pandemonium pours spiraling downward —

(breathless a lithograph: the old Erie depot, docks and the khakicolored Hudson; seaport smells, tarry ropes, gulls screaming, steamboat whistles, tugs bleating, barges: the North River of my boyhood).

Immediately the traffic is sucked underground into the tranquil routine of the Lincoln Tunnel, interminable as officework. tiled like the bathrooms advertized by roadside motels . . . The even measured lighting fades in harsh sunlight.


It’s New York.

Hall of Fame

Headlines are another sort of death. It was hard not to be reminded of the mortician’s train of funeral cars as the somber limousines crawled past the portal of the fiftystory hostelry so discretely discharging—black tie and the girls in glory the invited guests who in some past incarnation had been the subjects of coverstories in this weekly magazine of national — nay international — circulation.

“I saw your picture in the paper.”

Impeccably gladhanded the guests throng room after salmontinted room where waiters, who left their own faces behind in the pantry, deftly circulate cocktail trays. The aroma of luxury. Every alcoholic exhalation: gin, vermouth and zest of lemon, warmsweel of bourbon, smoky reek of scotch, all buoyed on rafts of toasted cheese, caviar canapes, fat gooseliver, anchovies, olives . . .

Camera men abound. The camera men neither eat nor drink. Tirelessly they snap famous faces, twisting in and out between eminent waistcoats, squirming with dervish whirls under brassiered bosoms, converge on politicians whose eyes roll come hither at the nearest lens.

The photographers are mad for angles. They crouch behind their cocked cameras, shoot up. shoot down, back off on all fours. They teeter on stepladders, they balance on mantels, they crawl up the walls.

The public image is the photograph.

A dozen cameras pin down each front page phiz. Lens stares into lens. Say cheese. Flashlight blanks out flashlight, making eyes blink behind the glare on glasses, picking out a swollen ear. shiny pores on a nose, creases in a woman’s neck, or the peevish wrinkle at the corner of a mouth smiling that public smile.

In the flicker and flare, face stares into face. There’s a phrase that freezes unspoken on every tongue: “By God I thought you were dead.”

Can it be that the Arabs are right, and the dour puebiodwellers of our own Southwest, when they say the camera takes something away that can never be recovered, skims some private value off the soul?

The tactful greeters, the girls sorting indexcards at flowerscented tables, have managed, through their intricate engineering of mass hospitality, to find chairs for this multitude, placecards. Now we are grouped at tables in the grand ballroom that rises tier upon gilded tier into a dim empyrean.

Posycolored ladies and their whitefronted escorts throng every box. The dancefloor is all tables. While spotlights cut satin swaths through the smokeblue air. trays glitter as nimbly the waiters pass brook trout in aspic, some marvel of soup, rare roast beef veiled in sauce, pour just the right wine . . . Nebuchadnezzar never feasted so the day he spelled his doom off the Babylonian wall.

We must listen too. Public address. These tidings are all glad. Keep it light. Informal. Let’s not get stuffy. Penguin figures talk and teeter behind the distant mike, extolling, explaining, wisecracking why and how

each of these poor humans:

bundles of nerves, hearts resolutely pumping blood, anguished tubs of guts, congeries of interacting braincells. suffering nocturnal despair, rejoicing in inexplicable morning aspirations, became.

out of all the infinite possibilities of human kind, Material for a Cover Story.

Palms sting from clapping. On a screen above the stage the enormous simulacrum shines while a tiny black and white figure collared by an inquisitive spot pops up to bumble and bow behind his table.

That simp on the screen can’t be me. Where? When? A case of mistaken identity. No never. Least of all in a photograph redrawn and tinted by the art department. Maybe some inkling of a former self now long since scrapped. It is today’s self that lives. The dead selves linger on as photographs.

“Wouldn’t it be funny,” I ask my neighbors, “if it turned out that we were really all dead, and this Hall of Fame was an ingenious Hell?”

Nobody seems the least amused by the suggestion.

The Greeks might have thought so. For the Greeks the spirits of the dead were simulacra, very like a photograph, bereft of blood and brain and nerve. Those ghosts, that Odysseus, at another famous banquet in the royal hall of the rich Phaeacians. told Alcinous about, —

who crowded so fearfully around him when he cut the ram’s throat on Ocean’s shore that he had to draw his sword to cow them, —

were mere images of men, antique celebrities crowding out of Erebus to drink of the live blood. Achilles hissed he’d rather be a slave, a poor man’s slave on earth, than king of all the celebrated dead. When Odysseus’ own mother’s ghost rose up before the pool of blood he tried to take her in his arms, but like smoke she drifted through his fingers: the image has no life.

The party lasted till long after midnight. Then we all went home to search out our pictures in the morning paper.

A Family Tragedy

The breeze drops with the sun. There’s a hush. Standing with your legs apart to cast from one of the rock ribs of the island’s shore, your feet tread the grooves the ice left in the granite. This time of day the colors run. Greens from emerald to olivebrown seep out from under the clustered spires of sprucewoods into the lake’s sheen. The open reaches are still blue from the sky, and rosy buff and white from clouds reflected. As your lure comes twinkling towards you through the darkclear water the ripples catch a hundred hues.

The air is steeped in redolence of spruce and fir and the mossy loamsmells of untrodden woods. There’s silence now. Not an outboard. Not a plane. In the hush you feel the quiet of ten thousand silent years since the last glacier melted back into the Arctic north and left this immensity of pools and watercourses for the forest to take over.

Silence. Except for the lapping of tiny waves and the sudden idiot titter of a loon. It’s startling at first. The lake is full of loons.

It was Jim Knox who taught us to feel at home with the loons. Jim came from up north in the Canadian plains but he’d lived on this lake from a boy. Summers he guided and took out fishing parties. Winters he went in the woods for the lumbering. The lake was his life. His pleasure in it was catching. He had a special feeling for the loons on the lake.

He told us how they’d come back soon after the ice broke up and lay their eggs and raise their brood. Both birds look after the young loonlets. Their enemy is the big pike, walleyes, northerns, that will come up from under and swallow a baby loon or a duckling at one gulp. When the brood is grown Jim says for the rest of the summer the loons just play. They’ll dive and sport and swim in circles; sometimes it’s like a kind of tag. Maybe that laugh really is when something strikes them funny. At night the loon makes a different sound. That sound at night we thought was owls was a loon crying. “They’ll cry all night, night after night if they’ve lost a wee one.”

The last time we saw Jim he went into town before supper in the skiff we used for trolling. We’d beached the houseboat cosily in a cove of the big bay that skirted the Indian reservation, not too far from the railroad bridge. He took along the frozen chickens we never got to cat because we caught so much fish. They’d make supper for him and his wife. He grinned happily when he said it. He was a man who enjoyed his victuals. He was going to bring us some lures and leaders and a bucket of minnows. He’d be back early for a last day’s fishing.

In the morning we swam at sunup. Practiced casting but there were no fish in the cove. We couldn’t imagine what had become of Jim Knox. We roamed in the rocky woods where we thought we found some trace of the passing of a bear. Still no sign of Jim.

At last, when the sun was already high the skill came shooting out of the sun’s sheen on the lake. Instead of Jim’s rosy Scottish face there was a dark face above the outboard.

He was Fergus, he said quietly as he tied the boat alongside. He said his last name, an Indian name, but he said it so low we couldn’t catch it. He’d come instead. When we asked what had happened to Jim he looked grave but all he would say was “A family tragedy.”

Fergus was probably around twenty but the grave air seemed habitual. He may have had a little white blood but he looked like a fullblooded Indian, not the sort of man you asked questions. That didn’t mean he wasn’t friendly. He was just not talkative. The few English words he used were well chosen and carefully pronounced. We guessed he must at least have finished highschool. Something about him made us think he read books.

Fergus was knowledgeable about many things. He confirmed our hunch that some birds we’d been trying to imagine were halfgrown loons, were really grebes. He knew the European cormorant.

But when we decided to take the skiff out for some trolling his heart wasn’t in it. He kept getting us tangled in the weeds. Fishing wasn’t Fergus’s meat.

Jim Knox, now, loved fishing. That was why he was such an excellent guide. He remembered every fish he ever caught, how the water looked, what time of day it was, what the weather was like. He knew where the northerns lay in the deeps under the steep rocks and how to steer the skiff round the fringes of the weeds to lure the big bass out to strike without tangling up the tackle. He’d grin all over when he scooped one up with the net. If he didn’t find fish in one spot he’d find them in another.

He was a good cook too. He liked to eat well. He described dishes he had at home. He and his wife loved wild rice. He was a domestic sort of man in a backwoods way. Men who live a lot in the wilds have to know housekeeping.

Fish are so plentiful in these lakes nobody thinks of cleaning and scaling them the way we do at home. Jim would just cut a big fillet off each side with a sharp knife and throw the skeleton away. He liked to fry the fish in lard in a castiron skillet. He dipped the fillets in batter and cornflake crumbs and fried them a delicate brown. He laughed about the iron skillet. His wife had never seen an iron skillet, before they were married. She came from away, from a place way south of here. Everything had been strange to her in this north woods country. He guessed she’d get used to it in time.

Some of the best fishing was near a lumber camp where there was a sawmill in the woods. Jim and the man who ran the sawmill had married sisters. Jim often worked for him in the woods in winter. Jim had built himself a cabin there. When we went ashore Jim showed us a long trailerlike job, neatly carpentered. He was proud of his cabin. He pointed out how tight it was against the weather.

It was built that way so that you could move it on skids through the snow. All you needed to do was tow it with a pickup truck. Even the mess shack could be moved that way. This fall Jim’s brotherinlaw was planning to shift the whole camp up into a fresh stand of timber. But Jim said what he thought he’d do with his cabin when the ice was firm was haul it down the lake into town. Twenty miles— what’s that? Winter was when transportation was really easy on the lake. Why you could almost tow it with a snow toboggan.

He showed us his snow toboggan propelled by small caterpillar treads. Hardly burned any more gas than a motorcycle, he said. In winter you could go anywhere on a snow toboggan. Winter on this lake was the big time for commercial fishing with nets under the ice. People who’d never lived in the north woods couldn’t guess how fine it was on the lake in winter.

Jim talked quite a lot about how he was going to move his cabin into town and weatherboard it for more insulation and join it onto his house. His wife said she felt cramped there. He showed even white teeth in a grin. Maybe one of these days they’d need more room for a family.

The last afternoon we had terrific fishing, trolling round the rocky point of an island. The rocks were white with the droppings of the gulls.

The lake abounded in gulls and terns, and on one outcropping we’d passed a row of gaunt black cormorants, with their wings stretched out in the sun. “Enough to scare yous,” Jim said. “Look like something prehistoric don’t they?”

Those northerns rose to the bait at a certain spot on every turn. We’d run out of minnows and were fishing with lures. We hauled in a beautiful smallmouthed bass. We always threw back the pretty little yellow perch. It got so that we had to throw the big northerns back too, because we already had more than we could eat for supper, and we’d run out of ice.

Jim was in high spirits. Every time we passed a small reedy inlet we caught a glimpse of a mallard duck with a flock of ducklings. He kept pointing out how she’d swim out from the shore each time the boat passed to hustle her ducklings back behind the reeds. He was delighted with the way that mallard cared for her ducklings. “Now ain’t she the careful mother?”

When the time came to give up the houseboat back at the float on the edge of town the man who handled the rentals produced an envelope with the money we’d given Jim Knox to buy the minnows.

“What happened?”

“The poor guy.” The man was so shaken up he could hardly talk. “The poor guy,” he kept saying. “He comes home that night and finds his house door locked. Both doors locked. He breaks a window and goes in and finds his wife lying on the bed with her wrists slashed. The blood was already dry on the floor and the bedclothes. She did it herself. She’d been dead for three days.”

Holiday Inn


Weary of the motor’s purr, speed buzzing in the ears, the traffic’s challenge, the slither on asphalt of rubber, the landscape’s green flicker unrolling along roadsides, the slide past of billboards, the trees pirouetting, the glimpses of rivers, lakes, revolving hills, never quite thoroughly pictured because your eye’s on the highway;

by the time the sun—August is the touring month, the family month — the dogday sun sultry in decline, that glares so hot off brightwork and sheening paint, is three quarters down the sky,

the vacationers are ready to turn in

to the nearest motel: stationwagons packed with camping equipment and little children’s heads, convertibles, twodoors, fourdoors, Volkswagen busses, hunched trailers in a dozen shapes (Man like the Snail can drag his house with him wherever he goes), pickups mounted with bunks and a gas stove, the old gypsy wagon motorized and enamelled a delicate blue. There’s a pet dog in every other car: even horses ride, a Chrysler with a brace of scotties on the back seat and a horsepullman in tow turns in right now.

Community housing. The motel’s a latterday pueblo, a pueblo for transients, built, instead of adobe, of stuccoed cinderblock and glass. The travelling public — Dad and Mom and Aunt Susie and the kids — pack themselves into identical cubicles, only these are draped and airconditioned and furnished with walltowall carpets and tiled baths. The men rush for the icecube machines — there’s a bottle of bourbon in the travelling bag. The children raid the cold drink dispensers. Already, in sportshirts and madras shorts, the barelegged tourists exhibit, as they line up for the cafeteria, an assortment of knock knees and bandy legs, seats so tight they’ll surely split. Why do the broadestbottomed women sport the startlingest designs? Purple and green petunias. The baboon effect: Miss Mandril 1963! Bobbypins and serried curlers have reached the distinction of a formal hairdo, like the shockheads of old time Hottentots. The teenage children, whose legs are more often brown and shapely, favor tornoff jeans. A lot go barefoot. Only the old people still dress like citizens.

Other families smelling of sunburn oil and insect repellent straggle towards the swimming pool. A swim, even in chlorinated water asquirm with kids, delightfully strips away fatigue.

We are all hung with cameras. Maybe it’s not quite too late for kodachrome or to use up the few last feet of movie reel on Sister in a red bathingsuit poised on the springboard to dive, or Junior standing on his head: “Now everybody watch this.”


Every cubicle is full.

Poocho is fed and bedded in the car.

The kids have been treated for sunburn and poison ivy, bandaids applied where needed, and tucked away. Their sleep’s a little restless in anticipation of tomorrow.

Thoughtfully Dad and Mom put fresh rolls in their cameras. A wonderful day but the pleasure’s too soon gone.

The way the children looked lined up against the balustrade in front of the great curl of water that hangs glassgreen over Niagara’s thunderous fall before it’s lost in the mist of the gorge, the twins up topside on the blockhouse of the old reconstructed fort, the whole gang grinning as they bite into Mom’s sandwiches at the roadside table, or the littlest peering quaintly down into the clear spring behind the picnic ground. The hours go fast. None of us will ever be quite this way again.

Images of the fleeting world.

The sunny moment’s fled, the pictures of a wonderful day have faded from the retina, the loved voice no longer sounds in the ear. Who can recapture the fragrance of swamp magnolia? Tomorrow’s here before we had a chance to taste today, and death waits to rub it all out at the end of the road.

The snapshot stays. Click. The camera will peel a casual thin scrim of immortality off the fading scene. That’s why we spend so much on film

and that’s why

Mr. George Eastman, who slung all these cameras round everybody’s neck and used to live in a big old stone house among marvelous flowergardens in the handsomest broad elmshaded street of Rochester New York,

made such an incredible amount of money.

The Kodak Man

George Eastman was born in 1854 in Waterbury, in one of those white frame houses, with a flavor of the classical revival about the porch, that give such elegance to the towns and villages of upstate New York.

His people were not well off but they were proud of their first settler stock. The father, George Washington Eastman, taught the lost art of penmanship. There were two girls but George was the only boy.

The year the Civil War broke out, when George was six, the family moved to Rochester. Mr. Eastman hoped to make a better living by setting up what was certainly one of the first commercial colleges. Besides the fine Spencerian pen, he taught his students double entry bookkeeping, the writing of business letters and the rudiments of office management. They were hardly settled in Rochester before Mr. Eastman died. The family had hard sledding. Mrs. Eastman took in boarders. Young George helped out by cutting walnut brackets for bookcases with a scrollsaw. At fourteen he had to go to work as an office boy. Whatever he could earn was sorely needed to make ends meet. He worked for an insurance firm. He was a conscientious lad. When at twenty he secured a position as bookkeeper with the Rochester Savings Bank, the family and friends thought his career was made;

but George had a hobby. He was an amateur photographer. He improvised a dark room. He developed his own plates. His equipment didn’t satisfy him. He coated his own plates. It took too long by hand. By the time he was twentyfive he had worked out a mechanical process for coating dry plates. He put through a patent, and managed to interest a local promoter, who ran a plant for the manufacture of wagoner’s whips, in the factory production of photographic plates on a large scale.

George Eastman resigned from the bank. From that day on he hardly left his factory. He watched every process with an anxious eye. His equipment never satisfied him. Everything had to be improved. He experimented early and late. Trial and error. Many a night he slept in a hammock slung in a corner of his workshop.

In 1884 he patented a paperbacked film you could roll. He never forgot he was an amateur photographer. He wanted a product cheap and practical enough for everybody to use. He drove himself tirelessly.

He hired chemists. He drove them as hard as he drove himself. “The technical men,” he wrote in an instruction manual, “must make a record to hold their jobs. If they do not they are no better than uneducated men: in fact not as good, because an educated man who is not efficient is a spoiled man.”

In 1888 he marketed the first “Kodak,” a fixedfocus box camera that took round pictures two and a half inches in diameter on a paperback roll of a hundred exposures. When you had exposed them all you mailed the box back to the factory for recharging. They developed the negatives and printed the pictures. “You press the button and we do the rest,” was the salesman’s slogan. He called it a kodak because that was what it sounded like when you clicked the shutter.

George Eastman’s whole being was in his factories. Even after his company had several plants he personally supervised them all. He had no time for any life of his own. He remained a wifeless childless man. The kodak caught on so fast that when the company went through one of its periodic reorganizations in 1889 it was capitalized at a million dollars. Competitors he bought up or priced out of the market. By now the kodak was a folding camera equipped with a roll of transparent film you could load in daylight. It was Eastman’s film that Edison used in his early experiments with the kinetoscope that foreshadowed motion pictures.

By the turn of the century the Eastman Kodak Company was capitalized at thirty five million dollars and had plants in Rochester; in Kingsport, Tennessee; in Harrow, England, and Vincennes, France; in Germany and Hungary and Australia, and agencies and subsidiaries in every city in the world. After twenty five years of unremitting work George Eastman found himself one of the richest men in America. He’d been too busy to know exactly how it happened.

All the paternal feelings he might have lavished on a family and children were spent on his company and on his home city of Rochester.

Childless, he had a pathetic concern for children and young people. He endowed Rochester University with thirty five million dollars for a medical department and a music school and a women’s college and a theatre. He gave twenty millions to M.I.T. He financed a dental clinic in Rochester where school children could have their teeth attended to free, and tonsil and adenoid operations, and where hare lips and cleft palates could be remedied. When he saw what bad teeth English children had he started a dental dispensary in London.

His Eastman Kodak Company was the largest producer of photographic material in the world. Already known as one of the world’s great philanthropists,

George Eastman remained a lonely unapproachable man.

He dreaded the public eye. Whenever possible he made his donations anonymous. He almost never talked to reporters. The master of mass photography rarely let his own photograph be taken. In the great age of public millionaires he was the least known of them all.

When war broke out in Europe he was concerned about the children left homeless and orphans. He spent weeks at a time at a sort of home orphanage he set up in the South of France which he called le Chateau des Enfants. A spare whitehaired man in steelrimmed spectacles, he would stand embarrasscdly by watching the children play. The children hardly knew who he was.

At seventyone he retired as president of the company but continued as chairman of the board on the lookout for what he called “interesting new developments.”

Even so time sometimes hung heavy. He had no family. He’d reached the age when a man’s best friends are dying all around. He’d treasured his friends.

At seventy two he got up a party to hunt big game in Africa. “With gun and camera.” They joined the Martin Johnsons, who were the famous wild animal photographers of the time, and spent four months driving in trucks and touring cars around the great plains shooting lions and buffalo, rhinoceros and cheetah, impala and gazelle. He was still a pretty good shot and a tolerable camp cook. Camping out in wild country was one of his pleasures. In camp even on the African veldt he set up a private little kitchen of his own where he could turn out mince pies and ostrichegg omelets for his party.

As the trip neared its end he wrote home to his secretary: “We have travelled four thousand miles with motor car, camel and porter safaris without serious mishap or even discomfort . . . Whether anybody is justified in killing a lot of wild animals (mostly harmless) just for the pleasure of taking home socalled ‘trophies’ to show his friends and bragging (inferentially at least) of his prowess as a hunter, is of course a matter that is open to the opinions of the onlookers, but from whatever viewpoint it is looked at, from that of the sportsman or that of the sentimentalist, the fact remains that the adventure is now over, and this adventurer with his mind filled with memories of many new things he has seen and experienced, now at the end, as always, is turning his face eagerly homeward, to a place where there is an abundance of pure water, where the great majority of the inhabitants are not hopelessly and unspeakably filthy, where the mosquitos are not allowed to spread disease, where the roads are smooth and the streets clean, where the four seasons follow each other in glorious sequence, where there is music, art and science, and boundless scope and unlimited opportunity for the development of all that is admirable in man, and above all where he hopes to enjoy the priceless privilege of a few more years of contact with the friends whom he has gathered about him during the course of a long, interesting and eventful life.”

Old age hung heavy on his hands. He was a very solitary man.

Six years later, at his home in Rochester, when at the age of seventyeight he decided he had lived long enough, he prepared a short note before he killed himself, written in his firm regular hand: “To my friends: my work is done. Why wait?”

Wild Life in the Hills

After the long straight swoop across the pancakeflat prairies, hour after hour of harvested land streaked with yellow wheatstubble to the horizon, it’s exciting to see hills ahead, dark hills under clouds against the west. For dwellers in the flatlands the hills are a tourist attraction. But on what a scale. The advertisers have gone mad. There’s a sign on every fencepost. Billboards zigzag along the highway:

Marvels Ahead Genuine Prairie Dog City DOGTOWN RANCH STORE They Are Alive Show children wild prairie dogs REPTILE GARDENS free ice free water Born Lucky See Free Zoo THINK TALL Chuck Wagon Quartette See the Thunder Mine LOST INJUN MAKE RESERVATION SIOUX MOTEL

Now the plains heave up into buffcolored slopes. Railroad lines converge. Watertanks glint above the distant checkboard of towns. Grain elevators ride the hills the way cathedrals do in Spain.


In Rapid City the traffic is bumper to bumper. It’s a shock after days of empty country under the spacious prairie sky. Camp trailers throng the road to Mt. Rushmore.

DIZZYLAND Where Weight Turns Upside Down Instructive Educational Exciting Alligators Crocodiles Iguanas Giant Lizards Miss This Show and You’ll be Sorry the Rest of Your Life THE GRAVITY SPOT Wild Animal Cubs Snakes

Inside the national park every parking lot is packed. Tents rub elbows with tents under the great black pines in every allotted campsite. Lakes are black with boats. The green upland meadows are dotted with hikers. The Black Hills are as crowded as Central Park on a fine Sunday.

The narrow road through the hills to Mount Rushmore turns out unbelievably winding. Can all these loops be necessary? The cars advance by inches bumper to bumper past marvelous outlooks through tall groves of pine poised above the cloudshadows that travel across the rusty plain.

At last they come into view, the enormous faces carved at such expense out of a cliff upthrust into the sky. The parking places are all full. Every viewpoint is dense with craning heads, brandished cameras, fieldglasses, pointing hands, tots held up so that they can see above the crowd. But it’s not sculpture. Somehow the rockhewn faces look flat like old photographs badly reproduced on newsprint.

George Washington hasn’t enough chin. He looks more like Susan B. Anthony. Teddy Roosevelt has lost his glasses. Poor Jefferson has the air of a female impersonator. Abe Lincoln at least has a profile. Sidewhiskers give his face some shape.

They don’t look big at all way up there on that enormous cliff, under the vast sky and a threatening thunderstorm. “They’ll stand out more at night,” whispers someone hopefully. “The spotlights set them off.”

Won’t do us any good. By night we’ll be a hundred miles to the west, out in the empty drylands of Wyoming.

The National Park Service must be proud of that road. It’s a whimsical road. The touring cars are squeezed along it by the press of traffic like toothpaste out of a tube. It winds up and down the steep mountainside, makes figure eights and switchbacks and actually ties itself in knots. At the sharp curves underloops pass beneath ingenious bridges stoutly built of the great unpeeled trunks of the black pines of these mountains. There are tunnels through the cliff.

The final tunnel is most ingeniously contrived so that we get a last look at the effigies of The Four Great Americans framed in rock. They flicker in the distant sunlight as unsubstantial as faces painted on balloons. They have a dim forgotten look. Coming out of the tunnel there is a curve. The four spook faces slip out of sight behind a magnificent great stand of black pine. The rain pours.

We breast a final hill and wind down into sunlight again in a less crowded valley where every blade of grass glistens from the shower. The lodge we just passed was where Calvin Coolidge used to come on his vacations from the presidency. There’s a lake and crowds of campers beside a hundred parked trailers.

The traffic is held up again. What can be wrong? The people on the incoming lane have a look of blank wonder on their faces. Incredulous wonder. It can’t be an accident. They look pleased. Our lane’s completely stalled.

We climb out of the car. “Goats,” says someone in the car ahead. “Goats nothing,” says a young man in a blue sedan with a Connecticut license, “they are bighorn sheep . . . there is nothing else they could be.”

His wife reaches out a triscuit to a tall slender darkhoofed creature. The long dark muzzle munches. The eyes are dark, fringed with lashes, liquid as brooks.

There is this ewe and a lamb, and up on the slope, a big old ram with spiralled-back horns.

“They haven’t any right to be so tame . . . They are the shyest animal that lives.”

The ewe pokes her head into another car and backs off munching. The lamb seems shyer. Somebody hopefully produces a pretzel. The ram stands on the steep flank of the cutting a few feet above the two lanes of cars. His hoofs are firmly planted in the shale. Every camera whips out of its case. The mountain sheep hold their ground while shutters click all about them.

“Ovis canadiensis,” insists the young man from Connecticut. His voice is shaky with excitement.

People begin to think of the mileage before them, the stalled cars behind. Cameras are shoved back into cases. Motorists climb back into their cars. Everybody drives very carefully as the two lanes of traffic start moving again.

The ewe and the lamb hold their ground, pushing their muzzles towards the passing cars for another cracker, while the ram looks on, for all the world like an old gypsy who’s sent his women off to beg, from his post above the road.