More Tracking Books, Michael Yon Online, and Primitive Technology

6 December 2012

It has been two full moons now since I last left Utah. It is nearing the time of year when I start dreaming of returning, when I start really planning for next year. It is also the time of year when I re-read all of Tony Hillerman’s Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn stories. It helps bring me closer to the desert I am so fond of. Those stories also get my mind thinking about tracking- if you aren’t familiar with Hillerman’s writing, tracking plays a part in every story. Jim Chee was an especially good tracker.

Besides Hillerman’s stories, I have recently re-read Theodora Kroeber’s Ishi In Two Worlds. Kroeber’s writing is scientifically interesting and informative, as well as entertaining. The book is not necessarily a book about tracking, but it is definitely a book that addresses what I call “wilderness mind”, or being tuned in, a necessary part of tracking. For Ishi, “the last wild Indian in North America”, what I call “wilderness mind” was just everyday life. Ishi’s life was unique, living as he did on the cusp of “the old way” and modern America. Reading about “the old way” can help anyone interested in tracking develop a better understanding for the attitude that native people lived in, being one with nature, and how they were in a state of awareness, naturally, that few will likely ever achieve in this modern age.

Another book I recently read is Freddy Osuna’s Index Tracking. Osuna, a Yaqui Indian, was a Marine sniper and tracker, and taught tracking to the military. His book is a very clear, quick read, outlining tracking in general including basic terms and concepts as well as his own adaptations to the ancient art. While there are references to hunting and tracking animals, the book is written with a human quarry in mind. The book is full of clear, well-captioned photos and leaves one with a good sense of what tracking is, and a yearning to delve further into it.

My final book reference is one that is highly recommended. Tom Brown’s Case Files of The Tracker is both thought-provoking and at the same time a bit disturbing. In this book Brown outlines what he feels are some of his great mistakes, and at the same time he really brings home what tracking is about to him. The endings to many of the stories are far from what he hoped they would be, and definitely not what I as a reader had hoped would happen. But there are lessons to be learned in every experience- that is what Tom Brown is telling us here, along with the countless other lessons on every page of the book. Again, in this modern age, few will ever achieve what someone such as Tom Brown has, and after reading some of his accounts, we might be thankful for this fact.

Michael Yon Online
Michael Yon is writer, photographer, journalist, and tracker. He is also and old friend from a “past life”. He is rather outspoken in nearly every field he writes about, often criticised, always critical and straightforward in his research and writing. The field he is currently writing about that I want to highlight is that of tracking. He has recently begun a series of articles about tracking and its application for soldiers in combat. Whether or not you care to read about Afghanistan, no matter what side you might take in the issue, the fact that tracking has very practical applications in the modern world cannot be denied. In his first few dispatches on the subject, Michael gives clear and concise examples of the importance of tracking for combat soldiers. Please take a look at his latest articles at his website.

Print from a Bates desert boot, size 10, in a canyon bottom about 28 hours old.

Print from a Bates desert boot, size 10, in a canyon bottom about 28 hours old.

Primitive Technology
I have mentioned the Society of Primitive Technology many times in my blogs, as well as praising their journal The Bulletin of Primitive Technology.  I am going to introduce them one more time. I learned about The Bulletin and the Society about 20 years ago as a student of anthropology, and found it to be one of the best real-world resources out there. In terms of experimental archaeology, that is, physically learning the skills that are studied and conjectured from the archaeological record, The Bulletin is invaluable. If you have even the slightest interest in primitive technology, then I recommend visiting their website and considering joining up.

The Bulletin comes out twice a year and its cost is included in membership, which is minimal and affordable at only 30 dollars a year. One look at the journal and you will be convinced it is worth every penny of membership.  The Bulletin is a full-color, magazine-style publication with articles that run the gamut of simple, clear and informative, to being so detailed and scientific that you will need to do research in order to  fully understand the concepts. And this is the beauty of The Bulletin- you can learn to make a functional scraper from a piece of quartzite and hammer stone after a couple of pages of reading, or you can learn the mechanics of flintknapping in all its intricacies, the qualities of materials, the benefits of heat treating  raw materials at various temperatures, and be on your way to making eccentric lithics like those made by the ancient Maya.

I would also like to mention that I have heard that the printed Bulletin may be going away. Costs are always rising for printing and distribution. And my guess is that memberships have lapsed over the last few years of lean economic times. To let this valuable resource go away would be a shame. Please take a look and consider a membership.

For more on tracking, primitive skills, and our desert adventures visit the Desert Explorer website.