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Doug Peacock

dog peacockExcerpt from “Grizzly Years” by Doug Peacock

The bears provided a calendar for me when I got back from Vietnam, when one year would fade into the next and I would lose great hunks of time to memory with no events or people to recall their passing. I had trouble with a world whose idea of vitality was anything other than the naked authenticity of living or dying. The world paled, as did all that my life had been before, and I found myself estranged from my own time. Wild places and grizzly bears solved this problem.

When I ran into the goldish mother bear and her dark cub on the mountainside I was more than a decade away from the war zone, and my seasonal migration to grizzly country had become a pattern. I had come to this place in the spring to meet the grizzlies as they emerged from their winter sleep and again late in the fall to see them into their dens. Since the female always denned in the same area it was easy. What I hadn’t known was whether the young grizzly would return to the den after his mother was killed, or whether he knew how to dig a winter den. On September 20th, I found my answer. Besides what he learned from his mother, this young grizzly had his own instincts.

Doug Peacock Biography
Doug Peacock, like others of his generation, returned from the Vietnam War in spiritual and psychological crisis. He found the balm to sooth his troubled soul in wild places and in the company of North America's largest predator. Grizzly Years (Henry Holt, 1990) is his account of that time. Peacock is believed to have spent more time with grizzlies in the wild than anyone else in the world. His intimate knowledge of their ways is unparalleled, and Grizzly Years has become a recognized classic in nature writing. He has also published numerous stories in periodicals such as Audubon, Outside, Backpacker, and Mother Earth News.

Peacock may be even more famous as the model for George Hayduke, a fictional character in the best-selling novel The Monkey Wrench Gang and the follow-up novel Hayduke Lives!, by his close friend, the late Edward Abbey. Abbey's Hayduke was the original wilderness avenger and saboteur. His type of activism is believed to have inspired the creation of Earth First! and the practice of "monkey wrenching," or "eco-terrorism" as the mainstream media would have it.

Peacock claims to be not nearly as colorful as the character Abbey imagined; he prefers solitude to groups and battles for the protection of wilderness with his pen and his voice.

Although living with the Hayduke legacy strained Peacock's friendship with Abbey, they remained close until Abbey's death in 1989. But there's a lot more to Peacock than there is to any fictional character, even one by a writer the stature of Abbey, as Peacock's own books, articles, and film clearly demonstrate. When he's not communing with the wilderness, he is dedicated to working for its preservation.

In Peacock's view, wilderness is essential to the survival of Homo sapiens as a species, and the question he poses is relevant to everyone living on earth in the 21st century: Where is our modern, consumer lifestyle taking us?

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