Podcast Episode 262: A Modern-Day Thoreau


In 1968, Richard Proenneke left his career as a heavy equipment operator and took up an entirely new existence. He flew to a remote Alaskan lake, built a log cabin by hand, and began a life of quiet self-reliance. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll hear Proenneke’s reflections on a simple life lived in harmony with nature.

We’ll also put a rooster on trial and puzzle over a curious purchase.


Joshua Steele preserved David Garrick’s line readings in a “prosodia rationalis.”

The Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 passed because one large MP was counted as 10.

Sources for our feature on Richard Proenneke:

Sam Keith, One Man’s Wilderness, 1973.

John Branson, More Readings From One Man’s Wilderness: The Journals of Richard L. Proenneke, 2012.

“Reflections on a Man in His Wilderness,” National Parks 91:2 (Spring 2017), 52-58.

Rosanne Pagano, “A Pebble in the Water,” National Parks 83:2 (Spring 2009), 24-31.

Rona Marech, “Off the Grid,” National Parks 91:2 (Spring 2017), 4.

Leigh Newman, “Cabin Fever,” Sunset 234:2 (February 2015), 28-32.

“A Modern Day Thoreau,” Alaska 69:7 (Sept. 2003), 78-79.

Jennifer Rebecca Kelly and Stacy Rule, “The Hunt as Love and Kill: Hunter-Prey Relations in the Discourse of Contemporary Hunting Magazines,” Nature and Culture 8:2 (2013), 185-204.

Shelley Fralic, “An Icon for Modern Times; He Lived Alone for 32 Years in a Cabin He Built in Alaska,” Vancouver Sun, March 26, 2010, A.15.

Jene Galvin, “Alaskan Cabin an Adventurer’s Shrine,” Cincinnati Enquirer, Oct. 28, 2007, 1.

Jenna Schnuer, “An Alaska National Park as Big as Connecticut. Annual Visitors? 23,000,” New York Times, July 16, 2018.

Michael Babcock, “Check Out ‘Alone in the Wilderness,'” Great Falls [Mont.] Tribune, Dec. 8, 2011, O.1.

Robert Cross, “Wrangell-St. Elias/Lake Clark: A Pair Too Big to Comprehend,” Knight Ridder Tribune News Service, June 16, 2003, 1.

“Proenneke’s Cabin,” Lake Clark National Park & Preserve, National Park Service (accessed Aug. 11, 2019).

Alan Bennett, “Dick Proenneke – Hiking With a Legend,” The Alaska Life (accessed Aug. 11, 2019).

Alone in the Wilderness, Bob Swerer Productions, 2004.

Listener mail:

Wikipedia, “Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!” (accessed Aug. 15, 2019).

“Saint Louis du Ha!Ha! Gets Guinness World Record Nod for Its Exclamation Marks,” Canadian Press, Sept. 20, 2017.

Wikipedia, “Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump” (accessed Aug. 15, 2019).

Wikipedia, “Buffalo Jump” (accessed Aug. 15, 2019).

Wikipedia, “Happy Adventure” (accessed Aug. 15, 2019).

Wikipedia, “Swastika, Ontario” (accessed Aug. 15, 2019).

Wikipedia, “Pain Court, Ontario” (accessed Aug. 15, 2019).

Wikipedia, “Punkeydoodles Corners” (accessed Aug. 15, 2019).

(Non-family-friendly Newfoundland place name.)

Jack Guy and Antoine Crouin, “Maurice the Rooster in the Dock in Divisive French Trial,” CNN, July 4, 2019.

Henry Samuel, “Trial Over Maurice the Cockerel’s ‘Rowdy’ Dawn Crowing Becomes Gallic Cause Celebre,” Telegraph, July 4, 2019.

“Rooster Maurice in Noisy French Court Battle With Neighbours,” BBC News, July 4, 2019.

Adam Nossiter, “‘The Rooster Must Be Defended’: France’s Culture Clash Reaches a Coop,” New York Times, June 23, 2019.

“The Londoner: Entreprepurr Jeremy Hunt Backs Larry the Cat,” Standard, July 18, 2019.

Boris Johnson, “A very happy #InternationalCatDay to our Chief Mouser, Larry,” Twitter, Aug. 8, 2019.

Jimmy Nsubuga, “Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Could Be Ousted Under Boris,” Metro, July 26, 2019.

Wikipedia, “International Cat Day” (accessed Aug. 15, 2019).

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was adapted from Edward J. Harshman’s 1996 book Fantastic Lateral Thinking Puzzles.

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Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!