Jack Ward Thomas photo album
1981 pack trip with Bill Brown, on the Oregon side of the Snake River country. Brown was the co-owner and trainer and keeper of the pack string of mountain horses that he and Thomas maintained for years for their trips into the backcountry of the West. Both Thomas and Brown had a special affection for the "Bench Country" of the Snake River Canyon for two reasons: as Brown put it, the country was big and beautiful with unmatched vistas. At the same time, it was also just too damned hot, dry, and isolated to attract many dudes -- so Brown and Thomas (and their guests) thus had the country mostly all to themselves on these trips.
1998 visit to the Corbett Tiger Reserve in India. Thomas, during his years as a research wildlife biologist for the U.S. Forest Service, made several journeys to India and Pakistan, serving as a technical advisor to government agencies, along with assignments as an instructor for the Wildlife Institute of India. Several of his stories about these trips to India and Pakistan are detailed in his forthcoming book, FORKS IN THE TRAIL.
1990 river trip on northeast Oregon's Grande Ronde River. Here's Thomas ready to go on an early-season float trip on the Grande Ronde ... such raft trips on Oregon's Grande Ronde, Owyhee, Deschutes, and Snake rivers were a favorite Thomas family pastime. From time to time, he was known to take along VIPs on river trips or wilderness horse packing trips when a little politicking was deemed necessary.
1987 pack trip into eastern Oregon's Wallowa Mountains. Jack Thomas aboard his favorite saddle horse Shadow, with Casey the pack horse -- two of the string of mountain horses maintained by Jack Thomas and his traveling companion Bill Brown. Brown said he liked "a touch of thoroughbred" in the string because they were "big, tough, and strong --with a lot of heart." Jack's old Ford pickup "Old Brownie" was tough too - and was given plenty of chances to prove it.
1980 pack trip into the Eagle Cap Wilderness in eastern Oregon. Jack aboard Bill Brown's favorite saddle horse, Keno. Thomas, on very rare occasions, was accorded the distinct privilege of riding Keno, Brown's prize thoroughbred gelding -- which he'd named after a horse called Reno-Keno that he'd had in training for the Three-Day Event in the Olympics just before the beginning of World War II. Locals around eastern Oregon used to rag Brown about the beat-up old station wagon he drove, and he'd respond, "Yes, I drive an ugly car. But I have a beautiful horse."
1979 pack trip in the Snake River country of northeastern Oregon. Thomas and Brown both considered the 4th of July as the time to head for the "Bench Country" of the Snake River between Oregon and Washington. When asked why, the standard reply was that it was so damned hot in the canyon in the summer that the only folks to be encountered were the Basque sheepherders there. They made great companions around the campfire in the evenings; they didn't speak much English but smiled a lot when "cocktail hour" came around.
1980 pack trip in the Snake River Canyon. The Wisnor Place was an old homestead site back in the Snake River country, which still contains a few old buildings from the homesteading days of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The barns and buildings that still survive have stood for over three-quarters of a century. The "Old Wisnor Place," shown here in 1980, had a big apple tree in the side yard that bore huge and very sweet apples; Brown and Thomas would bring pruning shears on their visits and prune the fruit trees. Brown did a bit of research and found that the "Wisnor Apples" were "a variety unknown," but he took some scion wood from the tree and grafted it successfully onto an apple tree at his homestead on Foothill Road just outside La Grande, Oregon. This photo was a favorite of Bill Brown's wife Berniece -- the best seamstress in Union County -- who was delighted with the photo and the horses' obvious wondering at which of them would get the apple.
Jack Thomas with the Brown/Thomas pack string on the "Bench Trail" on the Oregon side of the Snake River Canyon on a rainy day in the fall of 1980. This string of horses, conditioned on a pack trip or two or three early in the season, didn't require many such rest breaks. They could, and often did, go all day -- and all night if need be. Every horse was trained to both ride and pack -- and did plenty of both. A couple of them could double as "cow ponies" if the need arose.
Jack Thomas, in 1994, while serving as Chief of the U.S. Forest Service. President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton each assigned Thomas, the Forest Service's senior wildlife biologist, to organize and head up teams of scientists and technicians to come up with plans to address the issues of old growth and spotted owl controversy in the Pacific Northwest. The result was the Northwest Forest Plan, which was still, years later, the blueprint for management in the region. On the basis of Thomas's performance in that role, President Clinton appointed him Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, where he served three years from December 1993 to December 1996. He followed that with ten years as the Boone and Crockett Professor of Wildlife Conservation at the University of Montana from 1997 to 2008.
1994 elk hunt in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. This photo, by James Applegate, was taken at the top of the Minam River drainage. Thomas did manage to get away from his job as USFS Chief in Washington, DC, to join Bill Brown and various companions now and then in the backcountry areas of the West. When Thomas left northeast Oregon to move to Washington, DC, Brown told him to "remember where he came from" and where he was going back to. In short, "Don't get a fat head." At the end of this trip, Brown escorted Thomas to be picked up by a plane at the La Grande, Oregon, airport. He said, "It is good to remember where you came from and, God willing, where you will end up when you turn back into a pumpkin." Thomas replied that he couldn't wait for "pumpkin time."
1989 river trip -- on the Owyhee River in northeast Oregon. Whitewater rafting was a favorite pastime for the Thomas clan and Forest Service colleagues at the USFS lab in La Grande, Oregon. On this float trip on the Owyhee in far eastern Oregon, the floaters heard the explosion of Mt. St. Helens from hundreds of miles away -- but had no idea what it was. When the floaters reached the take-out point after the trip, there was a helicopter waiting to pick up Thomas and take him to a waiting charter plane for a flight to join a National Academy of Sciences team in Seattle for an initial review of the Mt. St. Helen's blast zone -- much of it USFS land in the state of Washington.
1988 elk hunt in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Left to right: Bob Nelson, USFS Fish & Wildlife, Washington DC office. Jack Ward Thomas, USFS Forestry & Range Sciences Lab, La Grande OR office. James Applegate, Rutgers University Natural Resources Department, New Brunswick, NJ campus.
The group joke here is that Bill Brown completed the foursome but could not be in the photo because he was behind the camera. His mare, Manita, stood in as a proxy for the horse's ass, substituted for Brown in the photo. Some thought it was a definite improvement.