From the composer, Jake Runestad...
"Once in Alaska, John Muir, and a traveling companion, Samuel Hall Young sailed up the Stikine River, where more than a hundred glaciers could be seen, remnants of the great ice sheet that had recently carved a deep Yosemite-like canyon. Chunks of ice floated around their boat as they continued on to the old Hudson's Bay trading post of Glenora. Here both men set off to climb a nearby mountain and gain a grand view of the coastal range. Near sunset Young, struggling to keep up with his nimble companion slipped on loose rock and slid over the edge. He saved himself from a fatal plunge by clutching at an outcropping, but the effort dislocated both shoulders, leaving him hanging in severe pain over a glacier a thousand feet below. Muir, whistling old Scots songs to cheer him up, managed to get below on a narrow ledge and then swing his companion to safety. Carrying the injured man down to the level surface of the ice, Muir worked until midnight to reset his shoulders and bind his arms tight to his body with a torn-up shirt. "All that night," Young later wrote, "this man of steel and lightning worked, never resting a minute, doing the work of three men...My eyes brim with tears even now when I think of his utter self-abandon as he ministered to my infirmities."
[From A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir by Daniel Worster]
His employers were aware of Muir’s attraction to the outdoors; he had even revealed to them his desire to wander away to South America in the tracks of the famed explorer Alexander von Humboldt. His purpose in working was simply to pocket enough money to pay for the trip. The company valued his services, however, and did its best to chain him to the job with increasing responsibility and generous compensation, eventually even offering him a partnership. Their efforts seem to be paying off, and by the spring of 1867, he appeared to be firmly entrenched in the work of the factory, his dreams of traveling to the jungles of the Southern Hemisphere a distant hope, and even his wanderings in the Indiana woods were infrequent and unfulfilling. However, all that changed late in the night of March 6, 1867. While tightening heavy leather belts that carried power to the factory machines, a sharp tool Muir employed in the task slipped; it’s point embedding in his right eye. Not only did he lose sight in the injured eye, but in the left eye as well would recover in time if given plenty of rest, but that he would remain blind in the other.
In a letter to his mother a few days later he wrote, “I am completely prostrated, and the eye is lost. I have been confined to bed since the accident and for the first two or three days could not eat or drink a mouthful, but I am a little better today and hope to be at work again in a month or two.”
Upon learning of his accident and condition, Muir’s friends in Madison, Wisconsin arranged for an eye specialist to see the patient and that doctor had better news: the injured right eye, too would partially recover, even though Muir would never see perfectly through it.
While following the prescribed treatment of lying for weeks in a dark room as his vision slowly returned and cleared, Muir took a hard look at this life and future. He feared he was becoming a slave to machines of his own devising and determined to invent a better life for himself. As he later explained it, “I could have become a millionaire, but I chose to become a tramp.”
From the book, “John Muir - Magnificent Tramp” by Rod Miller
In 1866 at the age of 22, John Muir studied his map to find a new place of work. He chose Indianapolis, Indiana, as his destination. On paper, the city looked centrally locate, had adequate railroad connections, and appeared large enough to house many factories where a man of his mechanical talents might find work. More important, the town had enough wild forest land surrounding it to satisfy his passion for botany. His instincts proved correct, and soon after his arrival in the city in the spring of 1866, he found work running a circular saw in a carriage parts factory. By the end of his first week on the job he had proven his skill to his supervisors, and all the circular saws and their operators were placed under his charge. Within months, he was earning double wages as a reward for mechanical and time-saving improvements he suggested and implemented throughout the factory. He said in a letter to a sister, “Circumstances over which I have had no control almost compel me to abandon the profession of my choice, and take up the business of an inventor.”
He continued to devise other machines and efficiencies for improved production of carriage wheels and wagon parts. He even completed a thorough time-and-motion study that improved profits for the firm and safety for the workers. When asked by friends if he intended to patent his inventions, Muir said, “All improvements and inventions ought to be the property of the human race. No inventor has the right to profit by an invention for which he deserves no credit. The idea of it was really inspired by the Almighty.”
From the book, "John Muir - Magnificent Tramp" by Rod Miller
John Muir was one of the earliest advocates of the national park idea,
and its most eloquent spokesman.