Outdoorsmen come in all shapes and sizes, from all eras and walks of life. It is only fair to say that most of these gentlemen have varying degrees of faults as well. Most men of adventure have at least one or two flaws and in some cases their liabilities outweigh their accomplishments but we won’t dwell on that too much. I have attempted today to select the cream of the crop and have tried to place some historical perspective on it by choosing from as many different periods of time as possible. With that said let’s get down to it.
No. 10 - Marco Polo - 1254-1324 A.D. - An Italian explorer who tramped all over Asia most notably China. Got to hand it to him, it’s a long way from Italy to China whether you are walking, riding a horse or perched atop a camel. Bonus points for the camel riding part. Saddling up between those double humps has to be rough on the hemorrhoids. His claim to fame was that he became close friends with Kublai Khan, no small feat considering Khan’s notorious penchant for making foreign trespassers walk over hot coals before beheading them.
No. 9 - Leif Eriksson - 975-1020 A.D. - An Icelander noted for his seagoing adventures. The famous Viking first sailed from Iceland to Norway to in an attempt to find the home of his ancestors. Later on his way back to Iceland decided to try to venture further west to Greenland but missed the mark by a wide margin and bumped into North America instead. Although an eminent adventurer and sailor of the northern seas he was not noted for his navigational skills. He was the son of Eric the Red who was also a dyslexic map reader.
No. 8 - Ponce De Leon - 1460-1521 - Spanish explorer who made his claim to fame by being the first European to set foot in what is today Florida. He had to be a brave guy to put up with all those Indians, snakes and obnoxious Gator fans even though their football team in the 1500s was of little note. He also traipsed around looking for the Fountain of Youth. Must not have found it because he died at the age of 61 from a poisoned arrow wound but gets an “A” for creative exploration.
No. 7 - Augustus (Gus) McCrae - Circa 1890 - The fun loving Texas Ranger and star of Lonesome Dove was a man’s man. He could drive cattle, kill outlaws, eat rattlesnakes for breakfast, rescue damsels in distress from wild Indians and cook biscuits over a fire. On the other hand he enjoyed skinny dipping in the creek before breakfast with only his boots on, wooing the ladies, and cutting the cards with ladies of the night. Was known to say “It’s not dying I’m talking about its living.” Died because he wouldn’t let a surgeon cut off the only leg he had left. You gotta love him.
No. 6 - Dr. David Livingstone - 1813-1873 - Scottish missionary who was one of the first Europeans to wander around in the jungles of Central and South Africa. He is credited with being the first white man to see Victoria Falls. A really nice person who was thoughtful enough to take his entire family with him on a crossing of the infamous Kalahari Desert. Livingstone had a notorious aversion to back tracking and thus his most famous comment was “I am prepared to go anywhere provided it is forward.” Spoken like a true man of adventure.
No. 5 - Roald Amundsen - 1872-1928? - This Norwegian was a polar explorer extraordinaire. He was the first man to reach the South Pole, first to take a ship voyage through the Northwest Passage and first to fly over North Pole from Europe to Alaska. Needless to say the boy had plenty of cold weather gear at his disposal. Rumors still fly that he only saw the sun come up three times in his life. Amundsen died in a plane accident attempting to rescue the engineer that built that same specialized aircraft. Oh the irony of that friendship.
No. 4 - Jeremiah Johnson - Circa 1870 - The star of that movie portrayed by Robert Redford left society forever to be a mountain man. Now there’s a real outdoorsman’s label for you. This mountain man could hunt, trap, survive the cold winters of the Rocky Mountains and cook up a scrumptious rabbit over the fire. Additionally he was capable of building a log cabin, taking lethal revenge on those who harmed his family and could even defeat an onslaught of Crow Indians intent on seeing to his demise. A real man.
No. 3 - Daniel Boone - 1734-1820 - Born to Quaker parents Boone took a right turn away from his heritage by donning a coon skin hat and became the ultimate symbol for frontier heroes. He blazed a trail through the wild country of the Cumberland Gap, lived with the Indians for a time and later moved on westward because he wanted to live in unpopulated areas. Some reports of his death indicate that the famous marksman died at the ripe old age of 84 under the claws of a bear when Boone’s aim failed him for the first time.
No. 2 - Neil Armstrong - 1930-Present - You gotta give it up for a guy who went to the moon. How are you going to beat that? I mean that’s the very definition of outdoor adventure. He drove through outer space, got in a little pod and landed in place called the Sea of Tranquility. Bet he wouldn’t have much trouble handling a four-wheeler over muddy roads to get to his deer stand.
No. 1 - Davy Crockett - 1786-1836 - Perhaps the most colorful of our top ten, Crockett was a hunting and storytelling legend. He actually is credited with feeding an entire army during the Creek War with the game he killed. Was eventually elected to Congress but lost his bid for re-election whereupon told the voters, “…You may all go to hell; I’m going to Texas.” He promptly fulfilled his threat and was even more promptly killed fighting at the Alamo.
E-mail dar8589@ bellsouth.net if you have any other nominees.