This is a story of expanded thinking told through an experience in the American frontier. Bears, wolves, buffalo, elk, moose, mountain lions, and wild people coexist within the Yellowstone ecosystem. Beneath the surface and behind the curtains are countless individuals who spend their time clearing trail, patrolling the backcountry, rescuing lost hikers, attending to car accidents, responding to wild fires, and preserving the general order of things. These people sometimes wear the green and grey of the park ranger or else they be strangers in the wind who have come to experience wild harmony.
There were about 15 cars stopped, some in the middle of the road, most on a gravel pullout.
“Jim, go ask those people to move their car off the road,” instructed Jerry. I hopped out of the car and just as I was walking away, Jerry added, “put on your reflector vest, and remember two things: always keep your eyes scanning the cars and always smile when talking with the visitors.”
I laughed at this and walked on over to the first car. The driver had his elbow resting on the car door, the passenger door was left open with nobody inside. I bent down and called for the driver through the passenger side, “sir, I’m going to have to ask you to drive on up to a pull out so that we don’t block traffic.” He just nodded his head.
“Sir, is it alright if I shut this door,” I asked.
“My wife is coming, give me a minute,” he yelled back.
At this point, I straightened up and looked over his car to see what everyone was looking at. About forty yards off the road were three bears, a large one and two cubs. I knew from the previous day’s lesson, that this was big deal.
Immediately, I grabbed the radio and called Jerry who was still a few cars behind due to this car blocking traffic.
“Jerry, we’ve got a grizzly and cubs close to the road.”
“Four-delta-five-three, four-delta-five-two, could you get that car moving,” I heard back from the radio without delay.
I knew I needed to get this car moving. His wife was just getting into the passenger side and before I could ask him, he gave me a wave and drove forward. I motioned with my hands for the cars behind him to move through and Jerry drove up to where I was standing and looked out his window at the bears.
He stepped out of the vehicle, pointed to an open area up the road and said, “Jim, take the wheel and drive up there to that pull out.”
I did as I was told and by the time I got out of the car, I could see Jerry corralling the people back to their cars.
“Four-delta-five-three could you go to scene of action.”
I knew what this meant but didn’t know how to work the radios properly yet, so ran over to him and asked for instructions. He took my radio and spun the dials to the frequency that would stay between us and not go over the waves of the entire district.
“Alright, Jim, the bears are moving off now, but let’s keep traffic moving. This is not a great place for people to be watching.”
Jerry was right. There were too many blind spots as the road curved around the edge of a mountain side and when the bears could be in sight would be too close for comfort. So, I stood near the road, while Jerry kept an eye on the bears. Cars would pull up to me and ask what was out there. I must have said, “grizz with cubs,” at least fifty times before traffic all cleared up and the bears were out of sight.
Over the radio, I heard, “Jim, it looks like the bears are gone, and we’re probably causing more harm than good.”
When I got back in the car, Jerry congratulated me on my first bear jam and explained how he saw the situation develop.
“Any questions,” Jerry asked after telling me that everything had gone pretty customary even though I thought it was total chaos.
“The first guy didn’t seem to listen to me when I asked him to move. Should I have been more stern,” I asked.
“See, the thing is Jim, a lot of these people have never seen anything like this before and asking them to do anything is like prying a child away from his first taste of candy,” Jerry responded eloquently.
“How do you do it then?”
“It gets easier the more often you do it, but it is pretty basic. Be kind and direct.”
I nodded and over the radio, we heard of another bear jam just up the road that was getting out of hand. Jerry hit the gas and we were off. All I could do was smile.
Profound, Funny, Enjoyable
Wild Harmony was truly an enjoyable read. I loved following Jim across the country and through the highs and lows of a life in Yellowstone. The pictures and detailed descriptions of the scenery and wildlife he observed often made me wish I was right there with him to take it all in.
The book was hard to put down, and I was drawn to Jim's unique style of writing. Not only did he propose very weighty and thought-provoking ideas, but he also made me laugh more than a few times. His authenticity and boldness were entertaining and memorable.
A light hearted read about exploration and curiosity
This was a fun book to read. The book starts off with the author bringing us up to speed on where he thinks he is in his life. Many of us can relate to the sense of optimism and uncertainty that comes with facing the open world after college graduation. Often there is a balance between a sense of responsibility and unbridled exploration. While there are many who may give us advice, ultimately the onus lies only on ourselves to make the hard decisions that will put us on a path towards our future self. Our story takes us from Cleveland, OH where the author is helping the family business pouring concrete - back breaking but rewarding work - onto the open road towards Yellowstone National Park where the author has teamed up with a friend bound only by a commitment to see where the journey takes them. Throughout the next few months we get a glimpse into the lives and processes of a volunteer park ranger, where daily routine brings one up close with nature, wonder, death, love, and - most importantly - life. The author's story serves as a refreshing reminder that no one but ourselves are in control as we navigate through the channels of life. With a mix of light hearted introspection, vivid landscape description, and exploration of both natural and human systems, Wild Harmony is one man's "captain's log" of a summer spent heeding to adventure and reflection and the people met, sights seen, and stories told living in the grace of the present.
"All good conversation, manners, and action, come from a spontaneity which forgets usages, and makes the moment great." ~ Emerson, Experience.
In an age where the desire for adventure is easily surrendered in our haste to attain the comforts of security, it is truly a thing of inspiration to rediscover, in the pages of Wild Harmony, that our rich liberty and the American wilderness are still as alive and vivid today as ever they were. This tale of action and honesty is an affirmation, that for those with the bravery and conviction to attain it, adventure, the pursuit of perspective and the revelation of the interconnectedness of us all, remains ours to discover.