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Friday, 17 January 2014

"Too many men work at parts of things, doing a job to completion satisfies me"

Richard (Dick) Proenneke had worked as a naval carpenter, a diesel mechanic, heavy equipment operator, fisherman and sheep rancher before retiring, not to comfort but to one of the harshest wildernesses on the planet. And he didn't even have a house to live in, he built a beautiful cabin from the resources available to him, the trees, rocks, sand and moss which could be found along the banks of the lake he had made his home. The place was Twin Lakes in Alaska, a remote but beautiful part of the state. Not only a skilled carpenter Dick was a keen naturalist and took many hours of footage using a cine camera of the Alaskan wildlife and also documented his cabin building project in film and extensive journals. 

Of all the heroic figures that feature on the history of outdoor pursuits Dick Proenneke stands out for me as someone who lived the dream, short sharp experiences of being in the wilderness were not enough for him, the fleeting visit to the summit of a mountain before descending or even the most prolonged camping trip were not enough. He lived in the wilderness and made himself comfortable in it, a goal I would love to achieve myself.  

What an example to modern students of bushcraft and the environment, this man packed basic gear with him into the wilderness and literally plucked his life from the wilderness. He survived from the fish and meat he harvested from his surroundings, vegetables from his small garden and the occasional resupply by float plane. Even the basic skills of being able to make and/or repair the handles of tools and make containers from waste cans that he demonstrated are often overlooked by modern practitioners of bushcraft who want the shiny kit that the latest TV survival expert is using.    

His saying; "Too many men work at parts of things, doing a job to completion satisfies me" is a continuing inspiration for me in everything I do, In my eyes Dick Proenneke is truly a hero of outdoor adventure, perhaps especially because he never intended to be. 


One Mans Wilderness; An Alaskan Odyssey (2006) By Richard Proenneke and Sam Keith; Alaska Northwest Books,U.S.; 26 Anv edition 

Alone in the Wilderness (2003) Bob Swerer Productions 

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