Thursday, August 28, 2014
From my cousin Libby, earlier today, this bit of family history, posted on the Cornell University news site. I didn't know this. I probably should have. I find it especially interesting today, as I finish reading the new Matt Higgins book Bird Dreams: Adventures at the Extremes of Human Flight, a magnificent chronicling of the men (and women) who choose to jump from planes, buildings, antennae, and cliffs, some wearing nothing more than flying-squirrel-shaped suits.
What people will do. What they can do. And apparently Leonard Kephart, my grandfather's brother, chose to scale Africa's great mountain all in a hunt for new grasses, and clover.
Leonard (pictured standing with my grandfather and great aunts (and Laura Mack)) was one of his six children born to Horace Kephart, the librarian-turned-outdoorsman who helped found the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I've written about Horace here. But just moments ago, I found this lovely biography on the Horace Kephart Alaska Center Weblog.Aug. 30, 1927 Leonard W. Kephart, Class of 1913, is the first American to scale Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak. He was in Africa on a search for new grasses for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kephart took four days to reach the peak, slogging through snow-covered gravel the last day. The climb was not entirely without scientific reward, reported the Cornell Alumni News (Nov. 10, 1927). Kephart discovered three new varieties of clover on the expedition.
I learn so much from those who do history well.