Photographer's Note

In 1934, a young man of age 20 walked into the canyon just beyond the first ridge in this photo and disappeared. Everett Ruess had wandered all over the southern Utah area, as well as Arizona, Nevada, and many parts of California. He was young and he was an artist and poet. When he needed money, he would sketch or make wood block prints and sell them--or he would stop in small towns to do odd jobs. Then he would continue his vagabond ways.

Travelling with a burro or two, and often a dog, he would suddenly appear in small Utah towns, do a little work, make friends (he was a very friendly lad), and then vanish again into the desert. In 1934, he appeared in Escalante, Utah just in time for a Mormon church dance, which he attended. All the girls wanted to dance with the mysterious, tanned-skin stranger. He worked there for a few days until he had enough money to buy some food and supplies. Then he walked east and south and was never heard of again.

No one really noticed his disappearance, except for his family back in California, until some ranchers came upon his backpack and his burro in Davis Gulch. Mysteriously, the word NEMO was scrawled on the canyon wall. I can imagine that his family back home read through his worn copy of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" several times!

Everett Ruess has now become an official legend here in Utah and in much of the west. His art and poetry are still to be found in books to this day. Years after his disappearance, someone here or there would suddenly comment that they bought some art work from a stranger in the middle of the desert, or gave an artist a ride, so maybe he is dead, and maybe he isn't.

He wrote once, "I am drunk on the fiery elixer of beauty," which was rather characteristic of his notes. Another: "I have seen almost more beauty than I can bear." When as a teenager I would go off on my trips into the desert--often alone--my parents had a vague fear that I would disappear like Everett had, for they were familiar with his story.

I'm going off again tomorrow to wander the deserts that Everett wandered. If you ever have the chance to do the same, I'm sure that you, like me, will understand how Everett could have loved this country so much.

I should be back in a few days. But if I don't return, you'll know that I, like Everett, am just a vagabond for beauty.

I know it's Christmas today, but in two days it will be the last day of Hannukah--so happy Hannukah all! I won't be here to wish it to you when the time comes.

(Just to allay your fears--I plan on returning!)

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Additional Photos by David Sidwell (dsidwell) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2294 W: 168 N: 1911] (9783)
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