I got to know Bud Schuller when I was in high school, and had landed a summer job as a counselor at Camp Taum Sauk up the river from me. I still don’t know how I got that job; I think the owner, George Smith, hearing that I was a farm boy, thought I would be good with the horses, when in fact I have never been fond of horses and was quickly dispatched to other duties. In any event, I got the job, and that’s where I met this guy.
Bud (he acquired that nickname later) was the nature counselor, and while I fancied myself to be woods-wise, I quickly learned that there were people far more attuned to natural world than I was. A devotee of John Muir and Aldo Leopold, Bud went on to teach in the Clearwater school district for many years, imparting his love of nature and appreciation for its complexity to hundreds of young people in the region. And he continued his involvement with the camp, introducing many more hundreds of kids, mostly from the St. Louis area, to the pleasures of life in the Ozarks.
Kids are usually pretty quick to spot a fake, and I think that’s one of the reasons kids always take to Bud. They recognize that he is the genuine article and that his interest in them is real. He’s a master storyteller whose tales are usually about as tall as he is. But there’s always something worth paying attention to in his tales, even if they don’t get it at the time. He’s an indelible personality who leaves a lasting impact, and it was an absolute delight to reconnect with him while I was on a book-promotion trip to Poplar Bluff last weekend.