Friday, May 11, 2012

FInding Everett Ruess

- David Roberts

Weeks ago, a close friend and family member was telling Malcolm he should read Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. On a whim, I looked in my library's audio selection and found that it was available. So I checked it out and we ended up listening to it together. I remembered Chris McCandless being in the news, him missing and then his body found in Alaska. But I hadn't paid much attention to the story, which Krakauer goes into depth in telling within the pages of Into The Wild.
It was interesting listening to the story. I found myself, to some degrees, thinking his adventures sounded like experiences I wouldn't mind having for myself (I reiterate "to some degree") but for the most part I was kind of disgusted with him and his selfishness and disregard for people who cared for him.

Within the telling of McCandless' story, Krakauer devoted a few pages to a quick summary of another man's life, drawing a comparison between McCandless and a young man who disappeared into the Utah desert in the 1930's and was never heard from again. His name was Everett Ruess.

A few weeks later I was looking through the library audio selection again, and ran across a name that caught my eye. The title was Finding Everett Ruess. I wasn't intensely interested in another story like Into the Wild, but thought Malcolm might be interested, so I checked it out. Malcolm hasn't gotten to it yet, but the other night my audio book ended, and I was bored. So I flipped over to Finding Everett Ruess on the iPod and started listening.

I had never heard of Everett Ruess, though he apparently has acheived some fame in the art world, and also that of adventurers. I can't say why I was intrigued in his story, because there are characteristics about Everett that really bugged me, such as he was spoiled and seemed to have an attitude of entitlement which usually irritates me. But despite this, I was still drawn to him.  And though the book took a slow start to get going, 6 chapters in, it took off and captured me.

Everett was an aspiring writer, poet, and artist who, in his late teen years, enjoyed venturing out into the then frontier of southwestern Utah for months at a time. He was inspired by nature and the beauty of the world, and his love of these things found their way into his writing and paintings. Though I'd never heard of Ruess, I discovered that I was familiar with sayings that are apparently quotes from his journals, and also that I recognized some of his art work, though I never knew who the artist was when I had previously been exposed to his work.

In 1934, Everett, at the age of 20, walked into the Utah desert for another one of his stints in the wilderness, and was never heard from again.  Searchers found his 2 burros waiting in a canyon corral, but his gear and he were never seen again. There apparently was no trace of him ever discovered, though the searches were many and covered a vast territory. The only trace left of his being in the desert was his self-appointed nickname of "NEMO" graffitied on canyon walls in a handful of obscure, hard to reach places.

The book goes into details on searches, and hypothesis on his disappearance. And then goes into great detail on an event that occurred in 2008 that was ground shaking for the case.
I wouldn't have picked this book out of personal interest on a normal day. But after reading it (through audio) I came out of the last pages rather attached to Everett and interested in his work. It's an interesting story, and I would encourage anyone to read it. National Geographic backed a great deal of Roberts research, and feature the story with photographs on their website.

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