Living 10 minutes away from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we hike weekly on its trails. It was high time for me to read one of John Muir’s books. I chose to start with The Story of My Boyhood and Youth (affiliate link). This book contains a hilarious account of how Muir grew up in Scotland and then immigrated to the US with his family.
In case you do not know, John Muir is considered the Father of our National Parks. As a conservationist, he worked tirelessly to inspire people to preserve the natural beauty of the American landscape. Muir also co-founded the Sierra Club, a prominent American conservation organization.
In this book, Muir describes his Scottish school. To put it bluntly, they received a lot of beatings. Muir wryly comments that the Scotts thought beating a child would somehow make him remember his lessons. He then adds that it did not work.
I loved the story of their pony named Jack, which their father purchased for them once they came over to the US. They would ride him for a bit and then it was time to get off. If they said, “Whoa, Jack!” the pony would stop dead in its tracks.
The momentum would throw the rider over the pony, tumbling through the air, and landing on his feet – a veritable circus act. Apparently, the previous owner had trained Jack to obey very well. Over time, they managed to train Jack to not stop so suddenly when it was time to dismount it.