Alexander Drummond, born in 1938, is a professional writer and former director of publications for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. Drummond, who grew up and attended the public schools of Boulder, was born Ronald Cox, but in 1989 he legally changed his name to Alexander Drummond taking his late grandfather’s name because he always felt Ron Cox never fit his persona. He has one older brother who is fifteen months his senior.
He was an outdoor enthusiast, well known for his several hundred mile long ski tours, often by himself, and was also a long time climber and hiker. Drummond was the first person ever diagnosed with High Altitude Pulmonary Edema by Dr. Charles Houston. He currently resides in a cabin near Ward in the mountains west of Boulder and has lived there since 1982. Enos Mills: Citizen of Nature was published in 1995 by University Press of Colorado. The exact number is unknown but Drummond has stated that he spent many years working on the biography of Enos Mills. He utilizes a wide variety of primary sources including personal files from the Enos Mills Cabin Collection that are only available at the original homestead site, papers that were donated by the Mills family to the Denver Public Library in the 1960s, a majority of Mills’ books, and a few personal relationships with family members of Enos Mills (pp. xi-xiii).
Drummond wrote Enos Mills: Citizen of Nature to discover who Mills really was and how much of his revered John Muir was in him, how he acquired his beliefs and acted on them, and what his beliefs and actions mean to us today (p. ii). He states, however, “His story cannot be told through dispassionate scholarship alone. His life begs interpretation, and to that task I have inevitably brought some of my own biases” (p. xii). Drummond believed that all history expresses points of view and therefore would be impossible to write a biography without bias. “My story of the life and work of Enos Mills, following no formulas for biographical narrative, is but one of many that could be told” (p. xii). Enos Mills struck a chord with me when I was researching which book I should choose for the review.
I knew right away that I wanted to read a biography of a person that was relevant to Colorado history but unsure of what my criteria was in making this decision. The moment I started researching Mills I knew right away that this was the book for me because of my own love of nature and knowing what nature has to offer. I wanted to learn more about him as I discovered his love for exploring the wilderness and finding out that he played a big part in the formation of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Enos Mills: Citizen of Nature digs deep into the life of the man who, to this day, is called “Father of the Rocky Mountains” and also reflects on Mills’ impact on modern society. Enos Mills was an outdoor enthusiast, naturalist, conservationist, innkeeper, photographer, lecturer, writer and nature guide. He was born on April 22, 1870 in Linn County, Kansas. At the age of fourteen Mills left Kansas for Estes Park, Colorado, according to Mills, for health reasons requiring a mountain climate.
He found work and lodging at the Elkhorn, one of Estes Park’s earliest lodges. Mills discovered his love for the outdoors while assisting his cousin in guiding groups of tourists during ascents up Long’s Peak. At the age of seventeen he began working in the Anaconda mining complex in Butte, Montana where he would continue for the next five years while heading back to Estes Park for the summers to guide tourists up Long’s Peak and to work on building his homestead cabin, now a registered historical landmark and family-run museum.
In 1889 Mills took a trip to California where he met John Muir, a naturalist whom Mills idolized and emulated, for the first time and would get some advice that would prove to be Mills’ inspiration for the rest of his life. Muir told Mills to take his stories of the Rockies to the people choked up in cities, urge them to see the wild places of the west, and arouse their interest in preserving this primal beauty (p. 59). Enos Mills wrote and spoke of countless outdoor adventures that involved near death experiences. In his telling of these incidences never did Mills convey fear or pain, instead he conveyed poetic gratification.
The “cohesiveness” with nature, to Mills, was greater than any fear or infliction of pain. Some people, however, believed Mills’ stories were fabricated and others would say he was clumsy more than an outdoorsman. Mills’ love and interest for nature grew as he spent more time in the outdoors and would spend countless hours observing plants and animals. These observations led to one of his most popular works called In Beaver World. He believed that all men and animals could be friends and Mills himself was able to gain an extraordinary bond with animals.
Mills focused on introducing people to the beauties of nature through his nature guides up Long’s Peak. Mills is considered to be the creator of the nature guide profession (p. 364). In 1907, Theodore Roosevelt appointed Mills as an official conservation spokesman which lasted for two years. During these two years and a couple after, he lectured on behalf of the National Forest Service (NFS) until he started to believe that their priority was not in upholding scenic and recreational values and more towards making a profit.
Mills switched his focus to the national park movement and played a role in the development of the National Park Service. On January 26, 1915 Rocky Mountain National Park was created which Mills played a key role in bringing to fruition. He claimed this to be his crowning achievement. It wasn’t long after the creation of Rocky Mountain National Park that Mills began to butt heads with the Park Service as he did with the Forest Service. The feud was created when the park service allowed a transportation company to conduct business without competition.
This monopoly that was allowed by the federal government infuriated Mills. He battled to put an end to it but didn’t prevail. Ironically, the parks he fought to protect were being destroyed by the very entity that he helped establish. Through most of Enos Mills’ life he was called the “Hermit of the Rockies” because of his lack of a partner in life. Eventually that ended on August 12, 1918 when he married twenty-nine year old Esther Burnell from Cleveland. Mills was forty-eight by the time he finally married and on April 27, 1919 Esther gave birth to Enda, his only daughter and child.
On September 21, 1922 Enos Mills died of blood poisoning. Alexander Drummond’s expansive research on the subject of Enos Mills comes to light in this biography. Drummond not only does a great job of taking you through each phase of Mills’ life but also sheds light on early tourism, politics surrounding the Forest Service and Park Service past and present, and, probably because of Drummond’s own love of the outdoors, helps to give the reader a new awareness of nature.
After reading the biography it is very easy to come away with a sense of ambivalence towards Mills, but his passion for standing up for what he believed in can be admired by anyone. Drummond accomplished what he set out to do with this biography and I would definitely recommend this book to others not only for the historical reference but also for the message of nature awareness that the book portrays.