Science

History

Art & Literature

GIS & Mapping

Library

ChatRoom
Search
TrailHead
Base Camp






In Memory
A Warm Biography on Adolf Bandelier
by Charles Lummis

One day of August,1888, in the teeth of a particular New Mexico sand-storm that whipped pebbles the size of a bean straight in your face, a ruddy, bronzed, middle-aged man, dusty but unweary with his sixty mile tramp from Zuni, walked into my solitary camp at Los Alamitos. Within the afternoon I knew that here was the most extraordinary mind I had met. There and then began an uncommon friendship which lasted till his death, a quarter of a century later; and a love and admiration which will be of my dearest memories so long as I shall live.

I was at first suspicious of the "pigeon-hole memory" which could not only ell me some Queres word I was searching for, but add: "Polocarpio explained that to me in Cochiti, November 23, 1881." But I discovered that this classified memory was an integral part of this extraordinary genius. The acid tests of life-long collaboration proved not only this but the judicial poise, the marvelous insight and intellectual chastity of Bandelier's mind. I cannot conceive of anything in the world which would have made him trim his sails as a historian or a student for any advantage here or hereafter.

Aside from keen mutual interests of documentary and ethnological study, we came to know one another humanly by the hard proof of the Frontier. Thousands of miles of wilderness and desert we trudged side by side - camped, starved, shivered, learned and were Glad together. ..There as no decent road, We had no endowment, no vehicles. Bandelier was once loaned a horse; and after riding two miles, led it the rest of the thirty.

So we went always by foot; my big camera and glass plates in the knapsack on my back, the heavy tripod under my arm; his aneroid, surveying instruments, and satchel of the almost microscopic notes which he kept fully and precisely every night by the camp-fire (even when I had to crouch over him and the precious paper with my water-proof focusing cloth) somehow bestowed about him. Up and down pathless cliff. Through tangled canyons, fording icy streams and ankle-deep sands, we travailed; no blankets, overcoats, or other shelter; and the only commissary a few cakes of sweet chocolate, and a small sack of parched popcorn meal. Our "lodging was the cold ground". When we could find a cave, a tree, or anything to temper the wind or keep off part of the rain, all right. If not, the Open. So I came to love him as well as revere.

I had known may "scientists" and what happened when they really got Outdoors. He was in now way an athlete - nor even muscular. I was both - and not very long before had completed my thirty-five-hundred-mile "Tramp Across the Continent." But I never had to "slow down" for him. Sometimes it was necessary to use laughing force to detain him at dark where we had water and a leaning cliff, instead of stumbling on through trackless night to an unknown "Somewheres."

He has always reminded me of John Muir, the only other man I have known intimately what was as insatiate a climber and inspiring a talker. But Bandelier had one advantage. He could find common ground with anyone. I have seen him with Presidents, diplomats, Irish sectionhands, Mexican peons, Indians, authors, scientists and "society." Within an hour or so he was easily the Center.

Not unconscious of his power, he had an extraordinary and sensitive modesty, which handicapped him through life among those who had the "gift of push." He never put himself forward either in person or in his writing. But something about him fascinated all these far-apart classes of people, when he spoke. His command of English, French, Spanish and German might have been expected; but his facility in acquiring "dialects" of railroad men and cowboys, to the language of an Indian tribe, was almost uncanny. When he first visited me, in Isleta, he knew three words of Tigua. In ten days he could make himself understood by the hour with the Principales in their own unwritten tongue. Of course, this was one secret of his extraordinary success in learning the inner heart of the Indians.

I have known many scholars and some heroes - but they seldom come in the same original package. … I have never known such student and such explorer lodged in one tenement.


The Delightmakers