When I was a kid I used to ride my bike over to Bud Moore's place, where I would listen to his stories for hours and hours.
He would make big root beer floats and we would hide out in his office, called the "Moore's Woodsmanship Center," where he was in the process of writing "The Lochsa Story." He told me stories about being a Marine in World War II, of the fierce battles in the South Pacific where he lost so many friends. He told me stories about being alone in the wild Lochsa country, of the long winters he spent trapping there before the highway went through. He told me many stories of his long career with the Forest Service.
But the stories that held me were his stories of the mountains and the places and people he loved. The trappers, miners, loggers and packers - all those friends who lived so close to the earth as he did. Bud had a way of telling the stories with such conviction and enthusiasm, I felt like I was right there with him.
For the next 40 years his stories were a steady source of education, inspiration, and encouragement for myself and for many, many others. Everyone was welcome in his home at Coyote Forest. No matter who you were, Bud would stop the sawmill or whatever he was doing and offer you a story - usually with a cup of coffee so black it could float a mule shoe. When you left you carried his smile and his handshake or hug with you for a long time.
Laced throughout Bud's stories was always his reverence for the earth and wild places. "Sustainability and ecosystem management" were not only words in stories, but were the principles he lived by. Bud would say, "When we take something from the earth, we should consider all the parts in and around it because everything is connected. For a place to be healthy and whole it has to have all its parts, so we can't take too much too fast."
I was with staying with Bud at his cabin during his very last days. One evening he was laying back on his couch watching a soft snowfall settle on the forest outside. Fire crackled in the woodstove and Bud turned his gaze from the window to a photo on the wall of an old fellow whose hat, long hair and shaggy beard almost hid his wry smile and piercing, honest eyes.
Bud had told me many stories about Skookum Bill. When Bud was a boy the Moore family lived up Lolo Creek where old Skook would often stop by for a visit and perhaps a home-cooked meal. He always brought candy and stories and soon became Bud's mentor and close friend.
"I want to tell ya 'bout Skook," Bud said. So I pulled up a chair. Bud was very weak and had to rest a long time between words. I sensed it was something he really wanted to say. I believe this is Bud's last story.
"Skookum Bill was raised with the Indians and he was kind of a free spirit. He never had his own home so he would drift around. Sometimes he would stay a while at a rancher's bunkhouse, then he would move on and maybe hole up in some old trapper's or miner's cabin somewhere. But wherever he went, he was a part of that place. The whole place. The plants, animals, land and the people. He could communicate with the whole place. He loved all the life around him and people could feel that love." Then Bud said in a stronger voice, "We have to learn how to get a hold of that kind of love for the earth and for each other. We have to learn how to take it further than we have done before if we want to get out of the trouble we are in."
Bud Moore reached out to all people. He had friends from all walks of life. The fire is quiet now in his cabin at Coyote Forest but many who knew him will in their own way, in their own time, "take it further."
Mike Stevenson is a former packer, trapper and guide who builds custom homes in the Swan Valley and does wildlife research on the side. He has been friends with Bud Moore for 40 years and was one of his caretakers in his final months.