- August 28, 1918 – Robert Doherty to JSA –
An Essay on Apperson (For my private memoirs)
It is very fitting and appropriate that after ten days of supreme enjoyment in camp on Dollar Island, I should record completely my impressions of the extraordinary man whose close and very active association with Lake George, with Dollar Island, and through these, with me, has left an indelible imprint of himself upon every blessed thing that comprises this superbly beautiful paradise; so that, to me, whether it is in the soft, musical lapping of waves against the rocks, or in the rustling leaves, or in the sound of rolling rocks, or in the song of the birds, or even in the violent crash and wailing of the elements in a storm – in all of these, the phantom image echoes always “Apperson, Apperson, Apperson.” I am compelled to respect the persistent urge upon my conscience to pay a tribute to this man’s memory, who by a weird genius of marked Machiavellian tendency, and by unbounded perseverance and energy, has not only restored to their natural beauty certain islands which had been stolen and ravaged, but has wrung from reluctant law makers and administrators of the state appropriations to save certain islands, which had been slowly washing away, and has saved them. His opinions regarding the administration of state lands are much respected by some state officials, not so much out of sympathy as out of cautious expediency. Further he has conceived the idea of a recreation camp on Lake George for girl employees of the General Electric Company, has converted the officials, and has established such a camp. Such achievements, inspired, I believe, by a very genuine love of nature’s out-of-doors, must not pass unsung, and I hope that these words may express my own sincere appreciation of them.
But his achievements, while very interesting and, in themselves, commendable, are not all the good that may be said of him. He is a most hospitable fellow in his own camp, and has done much for the health and enjoyment of hundreds whom he has entertained there. Such visitors are looked after in a fatherly way, not only in the essential matters of food and comfort, but also in the trifling details of pastime. Whether one enjoys moving heavy rocks from one location to another, or throwing small stones with one’s toes, such activities are nevertheless frequently engaged in. Like taking a cold plunge in the morning, one may dread these activities; but when they are over, one is glad they have happened.
His love of adventure is unbounded. If he had lived in the sixth century, there is no doubt in my mind that King Arthur might have added immensely to the brilliant history of the Round Table by enlisting this man, whose fame as a knight would surely have surpassed that of Sir Lancelot himself.
Unfortunately, however, his lot has fallen to the present century. But even in these times, he has won a peculiar sort of fame among the civilized people, and, moreover, has awed the natives of the woods by his extraordinary skill, dash and fearlessness. With the fleetness of a deer, the keen instinct of an Indian, and the ambition and courage of Don Quixote, he courts and wins encounters with the elements. The highest waves and the strongest winds of Lake George have complete respect for his canoe and double paddle, when manned by his skillful hand. Mt. Marcy, snow-covered, and shrouded in an atmosphere chilled to zero, makes a moderate climb and a warm bed for this human engine. Contemplate what this abundant energy and skill might have accomplished if they had been directed to the more thrilling adventures of knighthood!
Nor would adventure alone have claimed high honor in Arthur’s court. To experience the adventure was one thing; to relate it in an interesting manner at the Round Table was another, but quite as important; interest being much more essential than mathematical accuracy. Imagine, if you can, the complete amazement of the court upon hearing the narration of the capture and disembowelment of some grotesque monster, which had threatened the universe with destruction. Imagine the burning terror of jealousy which would seize Sir Lancelot when he heard how, by a speed of magic, this Knight had raced his horse for miles to catch a falling fairy, or witch, as the case may have been, and saved from violent death the unfortunate one who had been blown on a skate sail from some unknown land. How stunned Merlin would have been at such tales of magic, can be conceived by only those who have witnessed to what perfection the art of narration can be mastered.
The concluding impression which I shall record has to do with his modus operandi in accomplishing his purpose. I confess that my impression, which has been formed slowly and deliberately through months of personal association with his methods, may not be just, and it may be very different from that of any one else who might have been similarly associated. It is, nevertheless, of very sharp definition in my own mind: that he reaches his goal, once he starts, has been abundantly acknowledged. In results requiring the manipulation of men, as most results do, his methods are very interesting. A strenuous, persistent, irresistible pressure (or I should have said tension, because he is always about two jumps in the lead0 supported by a sometimes clever use of indirect reasoning and frequently by a keen, subtle dissimulation, when this is necessary, generally works admirably for a few times. Usually, a few times is enough. The unfortunate feature of such procedure, which I can not commend, is that, if applied successfully, it leads one inevitably to question his sincerity on all occasions – unless, indeed, as has been my own experience, one acquires, by frequent observation, the instinct to recognize at once what sort of motive prompts him. In such a circumstance, if the subject matter is trifling, it obviously affords occasion for quiet and solitary amusement. In more serious instances, however, where for some reason or other, say, gratitude, one feels each time obliged to respect his purpose, even tho that purpose may involve action against one’s own judgment, a distressing circumstance is thereby created. The horns of a dilemma now prod one’s conscience. What is more distasteful to one’s sense of honor than ingratitude? Yet, what is more distressing that the only alternative of sacrificing self-respect to play the role of a puppet. To face such a circumstance only once and briefly would probably not result in any serious interference with one’s mental peace; but to endure the protracted gnawing of this mental monster, to repeat each day, what, the day before, had brought only exasperation, was ultimately to lead one to the verge of distraction. To have made the decision which led me into such a predicament, is the sine I have to confess. I accept the responsibility for having made it, and in justification offer the only excuse I have: Namely, that I did not understand, as I now do, this extraordinary man, and also that I was profoundly grateful to him for what I had interpreted to be his efforts to help me. But to return from this digression, the impression which grows out of such an experience is obviously not a cherished one, but is nevertheless of a very enduring nature. However, while to indulge in the admiration of his truly wonderful achievements requires on my part a labored suppression of my memory regarding his methods, yet, in the midst of this Paradise of nature, my conscience seems to press me to such indulgence.
Thus, as the sun falls behind Tongue Mountain, I close my essay with a thought of deepest reverence for the sacredness of this beautiful place, and with a tribute to him whose name the elements have immortalized by their constant song, “Apperson, Apperson, Apperson.”
Aug. 28, 1918