Legend – Chicago, Illinois

Tom Brown the Legend

So this girl was doing an internship over the summer at an outdoor education place and finds out that Tom Brown, her idol, was coming to make a speech, so she asked her boss if she could be the one to pick him up from the airport.  Her boss agreed, and when Tom Brown arrived, she got to pick him up.  When she was driving with him, she was in such awe that she never got up the nerve to talk to him or ask him any questions.  Soo they got back to the camp and she dropped him off without taking advantage of his knowledge of nature.  So Tom Brown makes his speech and is…er… needs to go back to the airport the next day, so the girl, realizing that she made a mistake the first time begs her boss to let her drive him back to the airport, and he again consents.  So she’s driving back with him, but yet again she is in such awe that she freezes, she doesn’t know what to say or ask him, so she uhh drops him off in the airport, and helps him carry his bags inside.  In the airport Tom Brown suddenly stops right.  Then the guy walks 45 yards away, leans behind a garbage can, and picks up a tiny ass cricket that he takes outside and releases.  The intern of course was amazed.  “How’d you do that?”  she asked. Tom Brown just asked her if she had any change, and she took a few coins out of her pocket and gave them to him.  He then dropped them on the ground, and like everyone around them turns and looks at the two of them.  “You hear what you listen for,” he said, and straight walks away yo.
If you don’t know who Tom Brown is– He is a famous outdoorsman who was raised in nature by a Native American Indian chief and is known for his unbelievable knowledge of the outdoors.

My friend Peter Klimkow, who is a camp counselor in his hometown of Evanston, which is located in Chicago, IL, related this story to me. According to him, the story is told around a campfire where all the campers can gather to hear stories, play games, and sing songs. Apparently, Tom Brown is a known legend at the camp, for this is not the only tale about the nature man, and he is often a camp favorite when they are all in the mood to hear a great story. Peter is not sure whether the man actually exists or not because the stories often seem to far-fetched to be real. Also, it seems most of Tom Brown’s legendary tales carry some sort of meaning to them, such as “you hear what you listen for,” which young kids at the camp can take home with them when they leave the wilderness.

When I asked Peter where he first learned of Tom Brown, he replied that he was first introduced to him at camp as well, where he heard it from an older counselor. This leads me to believe that maybe Tom Brown is just a camp legend passed on from year to year, used in stories as a way to teach children how to appreciate nature. Peter says he has a multitude of tales regarding the nature man and the ways he interacts with the natural world around him. Tom Brown functions as both a legend and tradition because according to Peter, his stories are always told in the same way, the oldest camp counselor sits on a log seat and tells the story over a fire with all the campers gathered in a semi-circle. Perhaps Tom Brown’s legend is made that much more legendary because it is always told in such a fashion and seems to be an event that campers know to look forward to for enjoyment.

Although Tom Brown has achieved legendary status, he is in fact an actual man.  Not only does he run a tracker school, but also Tom Brown is even a renowned author. He was a seven-year-old boy when an Apache chief named Stalking Wolf who used his last years to teach Tom Brown the way to commune with nature took him in. After living outside of civilization for ten years, Tom came back to open a tracker school and share his knowledge of the wilderness. Tom Brown Jr. tells all about himself and his journey to becoming a naturalist in his article “Night of the Red Sky,” which was published in Nexus Magazine. There he relates some of how he became such an expert in the wilderness. Although Tom’s skill is sometimes called into question by skeptics who doubt that such a man could be so skilled in tracking, Tom Brown Jr. has still achieved a level of notoriety befitting of legend status and I believe that he has all the proper makings of legend whose stories will be told for decades to come.


Tom Brown Jr. “Night of the Red Sky.” Nexus Magazine, Volume 7, Number 1 (  December 1999 – January 2000)