National Geographic : 1986 Aug
On Assignment FOLLOWING THE WAGON RUTS of emigrants who crossed the continent was mostly a pleasure, says Boyd Gibbons. But pain helped give him important insights for his article on the Oregon Trail in this issue. Gib bons (right), who as a teenager lived on a Mon tana ranch, walked and rode horseback some 200 miles to get a taste of emigrant life. Within a week the saddle sores, blisters, and bone deep fatigue brought him new respect for the people he was writing about. "When your lip is split or your feet blistered, it's on your mind all the time. Still my problems were nothing com pared to what the emigrants went through for six months. I began to wonder... my God, could I have done this? I really came to admire their courage." Like many emigrants, Gibbons changed ca reers in midstream. After practicing law and serving as deputy under secretary of the Interi or Department, he helped develop policy for the President's Council on Environmental Quality in the early 1970s. His life took an abrupt turn when Wye Island, his book about land-development battles on Maryland's Eastern Shore, caught the eye of GEOGRAPHIC editors; he joined the magazine staff in 1976. Photographer Jim Amos (lower) is another two-career man. The Kalamazoo, Michigan, native was perched atop a 16-year sales career with Eastman Kodak when he risked it all on the camera in his desk drawer. One free-lance GEOGRAPHIC assignment after another led to a staff job in 1969; he promptly won the Maga zine Photographer of the Year contest two years running. Amos soon earned a reputation for thoroughness. On the Oregon Trail he spent days tracking down the story behind names carved along the trail (page 164). He logged 25,000 miles-more than ten times the trail's length-in his specially equipped van, often sleeping in the middle of nowhere with nothing but coyotes and Mozart's Clarinet Concerto on the tape deck for company. "I got only one speeding ticket," says Amos. "And BYJAMESL.AMOS(TOP);W.PERRYCONWAY that was on the way home."