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815 The Last American Man
Book Review

Last American Man book cover

Growing up, I loved the outdoors. Like so many others, I was a scout and loved to camp, hike, and play in the woods. I read constantly and my list included anything adventurous. What could be better than a dime novel about the adventures of Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Jim Bowie, John Colter or Kit Carson?

My play fantasies, mimicked the stories of the books and placed me in the mountains being chased by a grizzly - saving the day by fending the bear off with my Bowie knife. It was such fun to dream about the days of yore when the west was a wild frontier and the men, women, and children were a special breed. They survived by developing wilderness skills including: stalking, hunting, trapping, gathering, cooking, riding, hide tanning, etc. These adventurers took their skills and traveled into the unknown, they lived off the land.

Ah, but the last of the mountain men has left. Civilization has conquered America from sea to shining sea. All that is left, is to dream, well at least for most ... come to find out - there is one more man of the wilds - the Last American Man, Eustace Conway.

Born in 1961 in the non-wilderness lands of South Carolina, Eustace learned to be the Daniel Boone of today. He honed his skills and lived the life. He learned to live off the land.

Elizabeth Gilbert's "The Last American Man" is Eustace's biography.

A few The Last American Man notes ...

Eustace was a dreamer who lived his dream. He wanted to live off the land and he did. He was a charismatic leader.

His childhood was difficult, especially his relationship with his father. At times the story was painful to read.

After high school he hiked the Appalachian Trail, southbound. Interestingly enough, he did not carry food. He hunted and forged the entire length of the trail!

Eustace became noted as a real wilderness man. He gave talks to schools, scouting groups, camps, etc. He wanted to change the world.

Eventually he bought a tract of land and began living his lifestyle, on his land - Turtle Island. The land developed into a wilderness skills/ survival camp.

Eustace knew exactly what he wanted in life and chased the dream. The journey often required working all day and then some at hard labor. There was nothing easy or romantic about living a primitive lifestyle. It was a hard life for hard folks.

The book was filled with stories of disillusioned interns and girlfriends who wanted to learn the wilderness way, live the dream, until they understood the costs. I would have enjoyed less romance and more about the living skills, but the romance was probably easier to write about.

Other interesting events were the adventures in dumpster diving, building the camp, and a couple of long distance horse travels.

My wife gave me "The Last American Man" for Christmas on a friend's recommendation. It is a good read, but especially to anyone who enjoys the wilderness way.

Happy Eustace trails



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