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it may not be financially rewarding.” 15 And Henry once wrote Alice that “if, as a young
person, I'd dreamed about my future and the world I'd like to see, it would have been
about the same as the life I've had. Getting a Ph.D., having a loving, supportive wife,
children like you and John and Chester, grandchildren like Tyson, Lena, and Ben, liv-
ing on the Reservation, teaching natural history and studying reptiles, including anoles
and pitvipers, and making two dozen trips to nine countries in the tropics have all been
great experiences.”
My hero and friend passed away at Alice and Tony's home, a few months shy of his
hundredth birthday. Just weeks earlier, when her father asked about watersnakes he
might catch in nearby creeks, Alice replied, “Sure, Dad, but then what?” Henry's re-
sponse—“We'll mark and recapture them”—implicitly answered some of my questions
as well. His inborn curiosity and work ethic flourished in graduate school, and later,
having landed a job that played to his strengths, he needed no further justification. That
gift for field biology and stubborn self-confidence must have been obvious to Grinnell in
1931, when a new student arrived in Berkeley, fresh off an Oregon pear ranch. Henry's
long, happy life was inseparable from his quest to understand nature.
Three gifts of pleasure and revelation, in the form of contemporary literature, bolted
out of the proverbial blue and into the home stretch of this topic. The insights they con-
veyed, along with the reasons I so strongly disagree with one author, help frame my
portrayal of field biology as art.
I'd devoured Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove and admired
the television adaptation, in which Robert Duvall stands out as Gus McCrae, among
his many fine performances. Both versions played to my affection for westerns with
far grittier nostalgia than the Zane Grey yarns and John Wayne movies on which I was
raised, and they touched on troublesome themes to boot. A cowboy's death from cotton-
mouth bites, improbable in the details, captured snakebite's horror; and never mind Co-
manches and desperados—my favorite character was more troubled by his relationships
with women and the changes wrought by his own invasive culture. I vowed to revisit the
novel someday but instead fell into watching the six-hour miniseries every few years,
until Caroline Fraser ended a New York Review of Books essay about McMurtry with a
quote from Gus I immediately coveted. 16 In two sentences, that old rascal had encapsu-
lated my favorite works by Albert Camus, Jim Harrison, Mary Oliver, and Gary Snyder. 17
But I couldn't use his words without seeing their context, and surprisingly—because I
often mark such things—a thorough thumbing of my copy revealed no dog-eared pages.
Course now clear, I dived back into McMurtry's masterpiece and, perhaps for having
reached Gus's age, relished it even more the second time around. I was also uneasy.
Colorful characters, a couple of cute pigs that eat rattlers, some startlingly violent in-
cidents, and six hundred-odd pages later, what if I couldn't find that quote? Then one
night, well into the cattle drive that occupies much of the story, I noticed a folded page
corner. The two-inch-thick topic had been so tightly packed for my move to New York
that the dog-ear was flattened into obscurity, but now its bent page tip beckoned power-
fully. I strained to savor the moment, not rush to what I hoped lay just ahead.
Gus and a teenage cowboy were riding apart from their herd and suddenly found the
ground strewn with bleached animal skeletons. As I turned that page, Newt, orphaned
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