| Ford Church

Everett Reuss: The Artistic Adventurer, by Alys Hansen

“Onward from vast uncharted spaces,
Forward through timeless voids,
Into all of us surges and races
The measureless might of the wind. […]

In the steep silence of thin blue air
High on a lonely cliff-ledge,
Where the air has a clear, clean rarity,
I give to the wind…my pledge:

By the strength of my arm, by the sight of my eyes,
By the skill of my fingers, I swear,
As long as life dwells in me, never will I
Follow any way but the sweeping way of the wind.”

Everett Ruess made this pledge to the wind when he was fifteen; the rest of his life was spent fulfilling it as he wandered through Southern Utah. Ruess was a young artist and poet of the 1920’s. His mother Stella Knight Ruess was a talented Los Angeles Artist and his father, Christopher Ruess, was a professor at UCLA. He grew up in Los Angeles with his father, mother, and brother Waldo. Ruess attended Hollywood High School and graduated at sixteen. He then began his grand exploration of the Southwestern Deserts in January of 1931. His transportation was a small donkey (burro) named Chocolatero that he had purchased from a Navajo (although he had other Donkeys as well.) He hated the cities and found peace in the wilderness, while comparing both Ruess wrote: “Here I wander in beauty and perfection. There one walks in the midst of ugliness and mistakes.”

He continued to be a strong artist, creating wood and linoleum block prints, water color paintings, poems, and songs. As he sat alone in the Grand Canyon Everett Ruess explained: “The world does not want Art – only artists do.” In 1932 Everett Ruess wrote: “When the time comes to die, I’ll find the wildest, loneliest, most desolate spot there is,” when he was only eighteen years old. Some people think that this was a prediction of or for his death that would come a few years later.

He sent his last letter to his family while in the town of Escalante, Utah. These last words read: ”So, tomorrow I take to the trail again, to the Canyons south.” This last stop was made was in November 1934, he was only 20 years old. He disappeared down the Hole in the Rock Trail, his last adventure in the beautiful Utah Wilderness. Approximately three months later his starving donkeys, and mandatory gear were all found in Davis Gulch, near Escalante Canyon. Some say he was shot, or committed suicide… others think that he fell to his death from the cliffs, or was murdered by Cattle Rustlers or a Navajo…his death is a mystery; we will never know what really happened. But through his writings and artwork we find that he still lives.

“Alone I shoulder the sky and hurl my defiance and
shout the song of the conqueror to the four winds,
earth, sea, sun, moon and stars. I live!” ~ Everett Ruess


“I thought that there were two rules in life – never
count the cost, and never do anything unless you can
do it wholeheartedly. Now is the time to live.” ~ Everett Ruess

Categories: Student Entries

Back to Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.