Dusting Off: True Grit
When he was 13 years old, John Fairfax ran away from home to live in the jungle, emerging periodically in town to exchange ocelot skins for knives—which he used to skin more ocelots, and so on. After having been dumped by a college girlfriend in Argentina at the age of 20, he attempted suicide—by letting a 400-pound jaguar attack him. A decade later, he drew upon navigational skills picked up as captain of a Panamanian pirate ship, braved numerous typhoons and shark attacks, and crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a rowboat stocked only with Spam, oatmeal and brandy. Then, after a brief stint as a mink farmer, he traversed the Pacific Ocean in identical fashion, only this time he brought along a female companion.
Yes, Mr. Fairfax’s eulogy in Saturday’s New York Times reads a whole lot like a Dos Equis commercial.
That is, if the Most Interesting Man in the World had anywhere near the sand of John Fairfax…
It seems this sand has been eroding for years: bull-ravaged matadors replaced with professional wrestlers, perilous summits neutered by high-speed chairlifts, fighter pilots grounded in place of unmanned drones.
Yes, the post-Apollo generations have spawned their share of unmitigated badasses. SEAL Team 6, we’re looking in your (classified) direction. But even they would admit: assassinating a pirate is one thing. Being a pirate is another.
Citing Mr. Fairfax as a hero, 15-year-old Jordan Romero became the youngest person to scale the highest mountains on each of the world’s seven continents. It’s time we, too, recommit ourselves to adventure for adventure’s sake, to exploration for exploration’s sake, to crossing all forms of nature simply because, as Fairfax said of the Pacific Ocean, “it is there.”
- — C. Brian Smith