Friday, June 17, 2011

The Wilderness is there and here

 I keep thinking about the importance of wilderness in our/my life . I firmly believe that it if I still lived in a big city ( bigger than the Bozeangeles metroplex )  and had not been lucky enough to have met  Mrs. Goat, seduced  and married her I'd be dead. I need to be outside I need to escape the confines of asphalt and brick walls. I need to feel the tug of a trout on a fly line , see an elk or bear on a mountain trail. The human race needs to be challenged to thrive.
The mountain west has offered that  refuge to a lot of people. As a result it has produced great writers, climbers, peace makers and soldiers . However it has also provided refuge to radicals, Militants, anarchists  and religious nuts. The uni Bomber ,  the oklahoma city bombers, the posse Commitatus come to mind. Here n the Bozangeles metroplex and the mountains  framing the Galatian valley we have our fair share. the following article from the Bozeangeles Comical  provides a not too old example

Kari Swenson knew she was in trouble the second she spotted the two men. They were scruffy and dirty, armed with knives and rifles, and they were glaring at her.
She had been running fast along a forest trail near Big Sky. The older man blocked her way. She tried to turn and run, but he grabbed her wrists. His eyes had a wild look.
She pleaded with them to let her go. No, the old man said. We'll take you along for a few days and see how you like living in the mountains.
What had started as a beautiful Sunday afternoon was turning into a surreal nightmare. Swenson had just graduated from Montana State University and was working that summer at Lone Mountain Ranch's kitchen. She had gone to Ulreys Lake for a training run.
At 22, she was already a world-class athlete in biathlon, a demanding sport that combines cross-country skiing with rifle marksmanship. Five months before she had helped the U.S. women's team win a bronze medal at the world championships in Chamonix, France.
She was smart and striking looking, with blue eyes, freckles and waist-length auburn hair that she often wore in braids.
The two men tied her wrist with a rope and dragged her through the backcountry. They talked about how they wanted to live free, away from society's rules, live off the land and start a clan. The older man told her he needed a woman to keep his son in the mountains.
She pleaded with the son to free her. No, he said. I want to keep you for myself. You're purty.
Twenty years ago today, Swenson was kidnapped. One day later, she was seriously wounded and Alan Goldstein, one of the men who tried to rescue her, was murdered. Thus began one of the most dramatic news stories ever to unfold in southwest Montana.
The report that two Montana "mountain men" had tried to capture a beautiful young athlete to be their mountain bride was so dramatic, so bizarre, that newspaper reporters and television news crews from around Montana and the nation descended on Big Sky.
Madison County Sheriff Johnny France would end up being profiled in Esquire magazine. NBC would produce a made-for-TV movie, "The Abduction of Kari Swenson."
For reporters, townsfolk and tourists, it was a hell of a yarn.
For the Swenson and Goldstein families, it was simply hell, as recounted in Jan Swenson's book, "Victims, The Kari Swenson Story."
This is a glimpse of what occurred 20 years ago, as pieced together from Chronicle news archives, trial coverage, Swenson's book and France's book, "Incident at Big Sky."
It all happened in about two minutes.
When Kari Swenson hadn't returned to her job at Lone Mountain Ranch by dinner time, her frantic family and friends launched a search, which stretched on past midnight. They headed out again at 5:30 the next morning.
Searchers Jim Schwalbe and Goldstein, friends who worked together at Lone Mountain Ranch, were a mile from the Jack Creek logging road when they heard a shot and a woman's scream.
Schwalbe rushed in to help. The older mountain man yelled, demanding to know if Schwalbe were armed. The younger mountain man was hysterical, moaning, "God, I can't believe I shot her."
Goldstein, armed with a handgun that was aimed at no one, said, "Drop your guns. You're surrounded by 200 men. You can't get away."
The older man, Don Nichols, raised his rifle and shot Goldstein. Schwalbe, fearing he'd be next, ran for his life.
Swenson lay bleeding from a shot to her right chest, where the bullet had torn through her lung. The Nicholses yanked off the chain that had held her to a tree, dumped her out of their sleeping bag and ran off.
For the next four hours, she tried to keep herself alive, struggling to breathe, trying to signal to a helicopter, inching over to a dropped pack to find a drink and a sleeping bag.
Finally, the searchers with Gallatin County Sheriff John Onstad found her.
They experienced a terrifying moment when the helicopter from Madison County that was raising Swenson on a stretcher smashed her into a tree.
Once safely in an ambulance, she was rushed to Bozeman Deaconess Hospital. Her family, terribly shaken but grateful she was alive, was there to meet her. Her long and painful recovery was just beginning.
It was big news in Bozeman and soon the story attracted attention from around the state and nation.
The coverage was controversial from the start.
Sheriff France was quoted comparing 53-year-old Don Nichols to Daniel Boone. Nichols' ex-wife, Verdina Frisbie, described her 19-year-old son as "a nice boy" and said the pair weren't "cold-blooded killers."
Don Nichols' sister and her husband, dairy farmers Betty and Walter Schneiter, said her brother was intelligent and "never a troublemaker."
"Maybe he was just born a hundred years too late," Walter said.
In response, Kari's father, Bob Swenson, chair of MSU's physics department, issued a statement saying the Nicholses were hardly nice guys. They had abducted Kari, threatened her with guns and knives, and after she was shot, dumped her out of a sleeping bag, saying, "'They'll never take us alive - We'll kill anyone who comes after us.'"
The media circus made life tough for lawmen who were trying to search hundreds of square miles of the rugged Madison Range for two armed men who had caches of supplies and plenty of caves and hiding places.
The search began badly. The crime had occurred in Madison County, so Sheriff France was in charge. Communications and trust between the two county sheriffs' offices broke down.
The search included a SWAT team from Yellowstone County, FBI agents, private trackers hired by the Goldstein family, search dogs, special night goggles, high-tech heat sensors and mounted posses.
Yet the mountain men slipped away, embarrassing lawmen and frustrating the victims' families. Onstad said finding a needle in a haystack would be simpler.
Then in October, there was a break. Hunting outfitter Tom Heintz came out of the mountains and said that four days earlier, he and his clients had run into the fugitives, cooking squirrel stew over a campfire. He said Dan Nichols asked about Swenson and looked relieved when told she was alive.
Heintz said both men had scopes on their rifles and anyone who tried to go in like a hero to capture them would probably end up dead.
Rancher Roland Moore was out breaking ice on a stock tank when he spotted smoke rising from a gully about a mile and a half from his house, near Bear Trap Canyon.
It was Dec. 13, and hunting season was over. Moore rode his horse back to the house and phoned Sheriff France, his brother-in-law. Moore drove back with his binoculars and saw two men on a hill. One ran into the bushes. Moore phoned France again.
Within hours, a dozen lawmen were moving in from the two sheriff's offices, the FBI, Montana Highway Patrol and U.S. Forest Service. Onstad was up in a helicopter.
France went in alone, first by snowmobile and then on foot. He panted as he trudged through the snow, radioing in his location.
The light was fading when he spotted the Nicholses under a tree, cooking venison steaks in a pan over a fire.
France had no backup, but felt he had no choice. He startled the fugitives, saying, "You fellas seen any coyotes?" He got the drop on the son, and after a standoff, cajoled and bluffed Don Nichols into putting down his rifle.
In the Chronicle newsroom, reporters listened in disbelief as the drama unfolded over a police scanner.
"I've got a couple of guys down here who need a ride," France's voice crackled over the radio.
"Who you got down there?" Onstad asked, twice.
"I've got Don and Dan Nichols."
The two fugitives who'd sworn they'd never be taken alive had been captured without a shot.
By the end of the Nicholses' trials in Virginia City in 1985, juries found both men guilty of kidnapping, and convicted Don Nichols of deliberate homicide.
But jurors balked at convicting 20-year-old Dan Nichols of murder.
The state's special prosecutor, Marc Racicot, had argued that under the state's felony murder rule, someone who commits a felony that results in death should be found guilty of murder. Racicot also argued the Nicholses were common criminals, not romantic "mountain men," and that the son was not brainwashed by his father.
Three years later, Racicot would win election as attorney general and four years after that would be elected governor. He now heads President Bush's national re-election campaign.
Six months after her kidnapping, Kari Swenson overcame the pain from her wound to win a U.S. gold medal in biathlon in Quebec. She competed with the U.S. women's biathlon team in Norway in 1986, placing fourth and winning cheers from the crowd. In 1988, ABC hired her to provide color commentary for the Calgary Olympics.
For a long time, her mother wrote, Kari had nightmares, flashbacks and pain.
"Unlike television violence, real life trauma does not end with a fadeout and a commercial," Jan Swenson wrote.
Kari realized a childhood dream when she became a veterinarian. She still practices in Bozeman.
And this year, what must have been another dream came true for Kari. She married Mark Richard Albrecht in a ceremony at Lone Mountain Ranch, in the mountains she loved

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