Saturday, 19 May 2012


HIS NAME WAS BEN LILLY--1856---1936---he lived in my part of the country---the woodlands and swamps of northern Louisiana.  A mile from where I was to be born, he greeted Theodore Roosevelt as he stepped from a train at Roosevelt, La. (We named the siding after the event of course) The president had heard of Ben Lilly as the premier bear hunter of the area---- asked him to guide.  And he did--on that famous hunt where Roosevelt declined to shoot a small bear---because it was "too easy"---giving rise to the "teddy bear" of enduring fame.
Ben Lilly was a Thoreau like personality who "heard a different drummer" ---could not settle down to a career---abandoned his wife to live in the woods.  For long periods he would disappear.
AND THEN ONE DAY---he  left us for good---and no one knew where he went--or if he had died.  Rumor had it that he got it in his head to WALK to the West. 
AND THEN ONE DAY---when I was a boy---a writer came round---asking to speak to anyone who knew Ben Lilly.  The book that resulted was titled THE LEGEND OF BEN LILLY. 
TURNS OUT---Ben Lilly did in fact make it to the West---and became the most famous hunter in NM.----died out here and is buried in Silver City.
OUT OF CURIOSITY---I decided to ask if anyone had ever heard of our home town legend---- Told the lady at the tourist bureau that I was from North Louisiana and wondered if she had ever heard of our hometown maverick.
She smiled and handed me the current telephone directory for Silver City, Deming and Lordsberg.

THERE'S OUR GUY ON THE COVER!  HE IS NOT FORGOTTEN. It is a painting OF Ben (from a photograph I presume) by Lois Duffy. studio  Phone 575-313-9631
He is described by wikipedia as the LAST MOUNTAIN MAN.  click here to see more pictures and get the full story.
Roosevelt was impressed enough with Ben to write a descriptive paragraph of him.
TO MY FRIENDS BACK IN LOUISIANA: Why don't we buy this painting for one of our museums.

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: Ben's life is one more incentive to "follow your bliss"---do the thing you really want to do.  I remind my readers that Buddha abandoned his family---as Did Gaugan ---suggesting to me that Bliss may be more important than commitment. 

No comments:

Post a Comment