"My relationship with the river actually started with the lakes of Minneapolis. I grew up on the bank of Cedar Lake in west Minneapolis, both fishing and trapping muskrats. That was a friendly world to me, that was a world without people, that was a world that didn't remember, that was a world that didn't hold grudges, that was a world that was full of all kinds of fascinating detail. When I say grew up I mean from age 6 on upwards. My father was the regional director of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, so our house was full of refuge managers and game wardens and people who dealt with wild things. They were my role models. They were my examples of people. And then the lakes themselves and the lakeshore itself gave me the biology.
"So when I got to, I guess it would be my last year of high school, I was really heavy into muskrat trapping and mink trapping as a way of earning money instead of working at a gas station or something like that. When I got to college it kept right on and I looked for a place that was near the university where I could go and do things, and what I discovered was the sort of flat floodplain between Hastings and Red Wing. I used to put in at Hastings; and put an aluminum canoe in at Hastings, and go down the river and then on to the little side rivers, and there's this incredible section of channels and lakes and oxbows and ridges and swamps and marshes, which is crawling with wildlife. I hunted deer in there, I trapped beaver in there, I hunted ducks in there and spent a lot of time just looking at the natural history of things.
"I know that in that riverbank, in that river edge marsh, I probably learned more about how to be a person in the forest than any other part of my life. That knowledge I still use in Costa Rica as I work there and do things there. But it was growing up in the sort of from 12th grade through college, that period of time, living almost I won't say wild, because I had a canoe, I had a rifle, an outboard motor so it wasn't really primitive, but yet it was a very great closeness that was possible there. The funny thing it was very wild but it wasn't a national park, it wasn't a fish and wildlife refuge so I could be a hunter, I could be a fisherman, I could be a trapper there legally, yet it was wild and it wasn't urban and in golf courses and all of that.
"I would say that all of my understanding of competition, my understanding of mutualism, my understanding of people, all that stuff I can trace easily back to my experiences with beaver and deer and ducks and fishing and everything in that bottomland. That was life to me; a very, very formative period of time. The technologies I learned from the people, the game wardens and refuge managers and those kinds of people. But the feedback for that experience and doing things all took place on the riverbank."