“More Tales from the High Country” extends the excellent storytelling compiled in the original “Tales from the High Country.” With essays by Dave Caffey, Mark Stinnett, Dawn Chandler, Steve Zimmer, William Cass and more you’ll find it an excellent companion to the first. Warren Smith edited “More Tales” and Dawn Chandler’s artwork graces the cover.
Below the excerpted Introduction by Warren Smith you will find links to purchase “More Tales from the High Country” as well as both books as a set if you don’t have the first.
Tell Me A Story
Storytelling is an act of great optimism. When the story is about a comic or heroic event, the story is a way of saying that the world is not so bad, that good can and often does win over evil. When the story is about a tragic event, the very telling of the story itself is a way of saying that the tragedy was not in vain. A tragic story says that what happened, however horrible, has a meaning. It can nonetheless instruct, or inspire, or warn us.
An ancient saying goes like this: “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” But it might be more accurate to say, “Whatever doesn’t kill you (and even what does kill you) makes a great story.”
Storytelling also seems to be a defining element of the human experience. All arts, even the visual arts, have at their center a story. “Every picture tells a story,” the old saying goes. We know this from early age. It is a rare child who, at one time or another, does not beg his parents: “Tell me a story.”
There are, of course, reasons stories have such power over us. Stories entertain us. They instruct us. They help us bring order out of chaos. They help us understand who we are and why we’re here.
Storytelling has always been a part of the Philmont experience. From the moment a camper arrives at the Ranch, the stories begin. The New Mexico Story. The Philmont Story. The story of Charlie Kennedy, or the Blue Lights of Urraca Mesa. Each summer adds a chapter to the ongoing Philmont narrative. From the Flood of ‘65 to the first year there were women in the backcountry. From the year the Baldy Country became a part of the Ranch to the year the Valle Vidal became a part of the Philmont program. New stories are created; old stories are remembered and retold. And all of them become a part of the ongoing story – the meta-narrative – that is the Philmont experience. In fact, it might not be too much to say that the real essence of Philmont, its real “product,” is not a trek, but a story.
Aristotle, who many say is the greatest philosopher of all time, once teased his students by asking them what characteristics all great stories must have. His students agonized over the answer, knowing that their brilliant teacher would expect deep and careful thought. Aristotle relieved their agony by saying simply: “Every great story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.”
Aristotle’s definition might explain why Philmont is such a magnificent place for story-making and storytelling. Most experiences in life are incomplete, partial, tentative. They take years to unfold, decades to reveal their full meaning – if at all. But at Philmont, for tens of thousands of young people every year (about a million of us so far), an unforgettable story unfolds with a beginning, middle, and end over the course of a 12-day Philmont trek. In one sense, all these stories are the same: the mountains of Philmont come into view, you do things you’ve never done before, and as you depart you see those same mountains again, but in a new way.
That’s the Philmont story. The same for each of us, but different for us