Many readers with whom I talk claim the best job a man could want would be writing about the outdoors for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED—the idea of being paid to get out of an office and enjoy the wilderness is one that gets them. By way of setting the record straight, presented here in capsule are the career and obligations of Duncan Barnes, the most outdoorsy writer on our staff. It is true that over the past six years Duncan Barnes has hiked many a mile through wilderness where deer and moose abound in all their antlered magnificence. But just as often, in pursuit of subject matter, he has labored like an average man in the madding crowd, inching along the jam-packed highways where irate motorists lock horns. On the day this is being written, Outdoorsman Barnes is a mere 60 miles south of New York City doing a story on the optimistic anglers who fly-fish for striped bass in the crowded waters of New Jersey. The Jersey coast, beribboned with highways, is not a lonely place these days, and certainly Barnes will not find there any of the natural wonders he writes about in his story of Canada's Mackenzie Mountains on page 78 of this issue.
This is an article from the May 2, 1966 issue
Since there are still vast wild areas like the Mackenzie Mountains, why does Barnes bother with tame places like the Jersey shore? Well, as we see it on this magazine, the quest of an aloof fish like the striper in the cloudy waters near big cities is as much a part of the outdoor scene as the pursuit of a moose in a distant bog. The outdoors is not something that can be measured in miles. It is, in large part, a state of mind. Henry Thoreau, the outdoorsman of everlasting value, never saw much of the American wilderness, but the words he wrote beside a pond 120 years ago have carried to the stars.
Unlike Thoreau, our outdoorsman is not in a constant state of revolt (although he is occasionally revolted by the way the wilderness is being botched). While they differ as much as fire and water, Thoreau of Walden and Duncan Barnes of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED do have something in common: an appreciation of the outdoors born of humble experience. Barnes grew up in New Rochelle, an urban appendage of New York City that was already getting citified back in Thoreau's day. The first memorable fish caught by Barnes, at age 10, was a five-pound brown trout, taken on a worm from Reservoir No. 3 within earshot of the growling traffic on the Hutchinson River Parkway. (The trout had been released there a few days before, after serving as a live display at a New York City sportsman show.) Ten years ago at Dartmouth College he got in as much fly-fishing as possible on weekends. In the summer he worked as a lifeguard, and on his days off he swam, fished and scuba dived in Long Island Sound, which even 10 years ago was well on the way to becoming the world's largest natural sewer.
For the readers who envy Barnes's work, the best I can say is that the job requires the genuine kind of love that endures in the face of unloveliness. The job requires that and something more—a stern sense of discipline. It is one thing to get out under the stars simply to satisfy one's own love of nature; it is quite another thing to sustain that love and successfully put it through the cold heart of a typewriter.