© 2005 Tom Jenni
Native dugout canoes on the Baram River
While in Borneo, Dr. Bevis traveled almost daily in native dugout canoes on the broad, 100,000-cfs jungle rivers.
Bill Bevis is a professor emeritus of English at the University of Montana in Missoula, retired since 2003. He has published books on the poetry of Wallace Stevens—Mind of Winter: Wallace Stevens, Meditation, and Literature (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1988)—and on Montana cultural history—Ten Tough Trips: Montana Writers and the West (University of Washington Press, 1990), and a novel, Shorty Harris, which he says has earned obscurity. He spent a year upriver in Borneo with hunting-gathering tribes before the logging, and his environmental book, Borneo Log: the Struggle for Sarawak's Forests (University of Washington Press, 1995) won a Western States Book Award. He was on the Editorial Board of The Last Best Place, a Montana anthology of writing edited by William Kittredge and Annick Smith. Wallace Stegner said of his book on Montana writers, Ten Tough Trips, "This book . . . comes as close as any book I know to defining a culture, the culture of the West."
Ten Tough Trips includes a final chapter that should be of interest to students of Lewis and Clark. Entitled "Cooper: Then and Now," the essay is about James Fenimore Cooper, who left New York for Paris in 1826, having read the Lewis and Clark Journals in the Biddle edition of 1814, and took with him biologist Edwin James' narrative of Steven Long's Expedition to Pikes Peak of 1819-20. In Paris, Osage Indians waved from the balcony of their hotel to crowds below, before their private exhibition at the Royal Palace. Cooper returned with the first novel set in the American west, The Prairie, and those expedition journals, seen from the distance of Paris, produced a surprisingly clear-headed and unromantic view of "the west."