Saturday, May 19, 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. 


Sondra said...

Elisha Walling, the Longhunter is in my family tree way back...he had a hunt camp in what is now VA and entertained the likes of Daniel Boone, and he was an adventurer and mountain man for sure but the Eastern Mt Variety. He stuck around with wife enough to plant seeds of the future, such as ME.

Randy said...

I'm so glad he did Sondra.---And speaking of bliss---hope you are following yours. I and my caravan friends are hoping to meet you some day.

Glenn Morrissette said...

Good stuff, Randy. I remember having a nice chat with Lois Duffy when I was in Silver City last year. Small world. As I recall, her studio is a block west of the main steet downtown...worth a visit!

Anonymous said...

Columbus, NM ? No AC!! temp in 90's this time of year, must have a hell of a toothache!

John W. Abert said...

Another unique and intersting thing about Silver City is the layout of our solar system, in exact scale, inbedded in the sidewalks of the downtown area. I hope you have time to check it out while you're there.

Anonymous said...

I remind my readers that Buddha abandoned his family---as Did Gaugan ---suggesting to me that Bliss may be more important than commitment.

Hmmm... bliss more important than commitment - let's see - is that ego talking or what? Following your bliss could be the ultimate in the pursuit of narcissism, i.e., the only important thing is myself. Maybe that is why you are pursuing your "caravan friends" so ferociously - finally discovered that maybe there is more to life than following your bliss and that maybe you missed out on something by avoiding commitment.

Red Meador said...

Ima thinking someone who is reluctant to publish his/her name is a tad jealous of Randy. personally Ima thinking Randy is 100% correct.

Anonymous said...

Hi Randy,
Thanks for an interesting post on Ben Lilly. In the early '70s, I lived down on the Blue River, west of Silver City and 35 miles south of Alpine Arizona. Several of the old timers down there claimed to have known "Ol' Lilly".

One would say, "Ol' Ben, why he never took a bath in his life!"

The next old timer would relate, a few days later, how Ben started out every day by bathing in the river, regardless of the weather.

My favorite story was of the time Ben jumped a Griz on the Blue and set out after it, on foot, as was his wont, with his hounds. He would follow it for six days at a time, but always rest on the Sabbath. Then, on Monday, pick up the trail and continue. They say he trailed that bear all the way down into Mexico's Sierra Madre Mountains, then all the way back to. Near where they started out, and there he killed it.

Randy, you would have loved meeting and visiting with the likes of my nearest neighbor, Internationally known Mountain Lion Hunter Clell Lee, Frank "Pappy" Lyon, the last man to use a mule and a Fresno Scraper to maintain wilderness trails for the Forest Service, and the Joys, who maintained the Post Office, such as it was. Margie Joy once told me she would forget to go into town, Alpine, sometimes for three years at a time.

The last time I was there, Budlow Joy, their son was running the PO. He could tell you a tale or two if he's still there.

John Juanderlust Farnsworth

Randy said...

Thanks John for the stories and tips. I'm headed for Alpine soon--will look up Mr Budlow