Swatworth "The Magnificent"Photo by: Earthfire

 by Susan Eirich, Ph.D. —

There are many tales of Swatworth, self-named the Magnificent, a bobcat of extremely high self-esteem. In fact he is the subject of our first children’s book Swatworth, Josie and the Buffalo Girls based on a true story in which he (nearly) met his match but managed by the skin of his whiskers to save face. In the following Swatworth actually gave something back, though unintentionally.

Several splendid old willow trees used to grace downtown Main Street in Driggs. A developer bought the land and despite diligent efforts to save them, they were cut down. In the endless battle between individual property rights and community values, the focus on property rights reigns supreme here in the west and the trees lost. There were no ordinances in place for the townspeople to save them.

They were so enormous they had to be dismembered limb by limb. As this was happening Jean passed by. Seeing their magnificence, he thought of Swatworth (and also the grizzlies, but Swatworth doesn’t need to know that). Jean received the OK to take a stump for the Wildlife Garden. Townspeople donated the labor to pick up and deliver the massive remnant. They even “planted” it for us in the faint hope it might live again. When all was ready we let Swatworth into the Garden. Recognition was instantaneous. Here was a tree worthy of him. He moved to take possession.

Swatworth on the willow stump | Photo by Earthfire

Perhaps by some miracle the tree will live. We have been watering it just in case. But no matter what, it will have a second life. The wolves will race around it and mark it to their hearts content. The bears will try to push it over. Miss Clover the Badger will dig under its roots, the foxes will play tag, the cougars will elegantly drape themselves, and the coyotes will seek its shade from the summer sun. And stationed at its pinnacle, as high as he can get, Swatworth, self-named the Magnificent, will survey his domain.

In Memory: Swatworth, 1994-2006

Dr. Susan Eirich is the Founder and Executive Director of Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. A licensed psychologist, biologist and educator, her goal is to widen the circle of conversation about conservation to include the voices of all living beings.

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