July 11th, 10:16pm

On Wednesday evening, we caught “Conversations with a Tramp,” a program at Yosemite Theater, developed by Lee Stetson, who has been performing as John Muir for over 25 years. We found ourselves as guests in John Muir’s home, just after he learned the fate of his beloved Hetch Hetchy Valley, which congress had just approved flooding, to provide water and electricity for nearby San Francisco. Over the next hour, Lee wove together many of John Muir’s famous stories: climbing a willow tree in the midst of a thunderstorm, encountering and “interviewing” a bear. He expressed Muir’s confusion for tourists who relied on their automobiles, or demanded butter with their bread and milk with their tea - as if every piece of food needed to be put under a cow before it could be eaten. Drawing out the character of Muir, our performer led us on a journey to share the depth of the personal loss Muir felt in losing the Hetch Hetchy valley. With pain and anger in his eyes, he started:

“Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed — chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones.”

Stetson, as Muir, asked the audience to lend their voice to protect the wilderness. After such an expert performance, we hope we’ll be able to speak with Lee himself while we’re in Yosemite!