Water Resources People and Issues
A: No. We were all enthusiastic about the University of Chicago, and it was also
the cheapest thing for us to do because we could live at home and walk three
blocks to the university.
Q: Did you major in geography from the very beginning? How did your interest
in geography develop?
A: I decided to go into geography when I was a sophomore at the university and
took a course in geography. But my interest, I think, had already been
formed because my father was a partner in a ranch in the Tongue River
Valley in Wyoming, in addition to his railroad job. I used to spend the
summers at the ranch irrigating, helping with the hay, helping drive the sheep
to the mountains, tending sheep camp. I was interested very early in natural
resources matters. But our ranch experience came to a close in the 1930s
with the combination of the Depression, the drought, and grasshoppers. An
early spring storm made my father go broke and he dropped out of the ranch
[operation]. By the time I got to the university I was quite alert to anything
that was being said about natural resources and water and land. When I
encountered a group in the geography department that was interested in this,
that was to be a logical intellectual home.
Q: Now, was the University of Chicago unusual or even unique in having an
interest in this particular area of geography at that time?
A: It was unique in two respects, I think. It was the first full-fledged geography
department in the United States. The founding chairman as a physical
geographer-geologist, [Rollin D.] Salisbury, with his right-hand person being
Harlan Barrows, who had become the chairman. They were much under the
influence of [Charles R.] Van Hise of the University of Wisconsin, who you
may recall published the first book on conservation of natural resources in the
United States. In addition to establishing an early and strong department, they
had from the outset a clear interest in conservation problems.
Q: Was there a European influence in that department, would you say? The
reason why I ask that is that it's my impression that, in general, geography
departments are more influential in Europe than in the United States. There
seems to be a longer tradition of people majoring in geography-paying