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Stace Bare’s TEDx Talk: Wilderness Saved This Veteran’s Life

Stace Bare is a big man; he fits in my Bug the way Captain Kirk fit that K'normian trading ship through the passage between the approaching Klingon structures. He served in the Army in Bosnia and Iraq. He came back to America in 2007 with big problems: post-traumatic stress, adjustment disorder, depression and brain injury. After self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, Bare found salvation (yes, he uses the word saved, and later the word grace) in rock-climbing and the great big wilderness.

That's why he now directs Sierra Club Outdoors. That's why he takes fellow veterans on wilderness adventures. That's why he thinks the 1964 Wilderness Act is one of the best health care laws we have ever passed.

About a half hour after my TEDx Brookings talk, Stace Bare stood up in his hometown and delivered this oratorical masterpiece. (Again, what do you expect? He graduated from Brookings High School, and he debated for Judy Kroll.) He weaves personal pain and growth, American history, and love of nature into a compelling call to go outside:

Next time you hear someone call the Sierra Club and environmentalists in general a bunch of liberal un-American tree huggers, send them this video. Let big Stace Bare explain to them why the wilderness is essential to America's health and identity and why protecting that wilderness is a patriotic and humanitarian duty.


  1. Taunia 2014.11.19

    This vid, along with a couple other similar Sierra Club veterans/wilderness vids, came in my mailbox around the election, but I didn't watch it. Thanks for this.

    The best part of this wilderness re-centering opportunity is it's free. People pay a lot of money for life coaches, therapy, drugs, etc., but the best therapy I ever found was at the Pinnacles in the Badlands at 2:00 a.m., especially in the dead of winter.

    It's the point where the earth touches the heavens and there's nothing else. An atheist's religious experience.

  2. Bill Fleming 2014.11.19

    Excellent talk. He's right. Just a day or two in the wild completely changes one's perspective on everything. Any time I've ever lived away from the Black Hills for more than a year, I've myself getting sick in some inexplicable way. Don't know what it is, but I believe him when he says "we are nature." And that when we think we're not, it's not healthy.

  3. Patrick Duffy 2014.11.19

    Different strokes for different folks. I feel the same way when it's been awhile since I've been in the courtroom for a trial.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.19

    Mr. Duffy, are you saying you feel out of sorts when you're away from the courtroom, and that a trial reinvigorates you somewhat like wilderness reinvigorates Mr. Bare?

    If so, you are a twisted individual. You're also my kind of lawyer. ;-)

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.19

    Taunia: Badlands at 2 a.m.—wow. I've camped out a couple times there, but in summer, and didn't wake up to peek outside until dawn. Remind me to wake up and look next time.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.19

    We are nature, Bill. We mustn't forget that.

    That's an interesting Black Hills health effect you experience. I suppose it will always be your and my and Mr. Kurtz's quiet agony (not to mention our Lakota neighbors') that every year, we have to work a little harder to find a corner of the Hills where we cannot see a road or a house or hear some motor.

  7. Patrick Duffy 2014.11.19

    I am saying that to be in the center of the raging maelstrom that is a jury trial elevates all of us real trial lawyers to a form of "super citizenship," to a place where the hoary bromide to "speak truth to power" comes absolutely alive for those willing to cross that threshold and meet real power on its own terms.

    Mine has been a rich life. I was trained as, and became a fluent translator of Russian for the Navy's intelligence input into the larger intelligence umbrella. I debated in college, played college basketball, won a college boxing title, worked as a stockbroker for a national firm, worked for a New York investment bank, had a short stint on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, all before I went to law school. From the thrill of knocking a man down in a boxing ring to winning a debate round to making a long jump shot, none really compare to the rapture of being a trial lawyer.

    Best of all, I've got seven sons and nine grandchildren and a wife whom I venerate as the center of my life.

    But I fear that I am never perhaps as fully alive as I am in the courtroom. I've done seven figures of pro bono work in environmental litigation, ballot access cases, tried back-to-back the two longest Voting Rights cases in U.S. history, murder, rape, death penalty, securities, anti-trust, medical malpractice, commercial litigation, shareholder disputes, all of it, and have seen and felt the entire gamut of pain, nuanced emotional complexity, triumph and despair that I hoped to see firsthand when I graduated law school almost thirty years ago.

    Mine is a catbird seat to history.

    The drug that courses through your body when you stand up to cross-examine, when you've memorized all you need to know to take and maintain total control and dominance over another human being in the courtroom, is the finest drug one can imagine. It rips through one like pain, makes your hair stand up on end, and at times makes you want to cry out for sheer joy.

    It is an existentially risky way to live one's life.

    Power loathes truth, and often cannot bear those who speak it, and one cannot blame them for that. As Thomas Jefferson once said, every time a jury speaks it's like a little revolution.

    Trying lawsuits nearly kills me and yet rejuvenates me at the same time.

  8. larry kurtz 2014.11.19

    my agony ain't all that quiet, mr. heidelberger.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.19

    Great Caesar's ghost! I ask for clarification, and Counsel issues a clarion call to the noble vocations of law and speaking truth to power!

    Beautiful prose, Mr. Duffy. Seriously—beautiful. I respect your love of the raging maelstrom.

  10. grudznick 2014.11.19

    Back when I used to wander the hollers and hills as fast and agile as a young stag I would often think I heard Mr. kurtz' wails of agony bouncing amoung the steep canyon walls. I suspect they echo there still.

    Next time you're in town, Lar, we should go shoot some dogs together.

  11. Bill Fleming 2014.11.19

    One time I sat crosslegged in front of a big Pacific wave coming in on morning with a mindset kind of along my friend Mr. Duffy's lines. I knew it was big and I wanted to feel how hard it would hit me.

    In an instant I was rolling over and over backwards like I was nothing, 30 yards back up onto the beach. I came up onto my feet and yelled like a fool with pure joy just like Pat does... happy to just be standing there.

    That's probably about as good as I would be in court too, Pat.

    Glad if I could just make it out alive. :-)

  12. Bill Fleming 2014.11.19

    p.s. Yes, it's alway a pleasure to read what Mr. Duffy writes. I've been missing it. Thanks!

  13. Tim 2014.11.19

    What a boring life I must lead, I'm just happy to not get the shit shocked out of me while working.
    The outside explains why I hate winter so much, by the time spring gets here, I can't wait to get back to the hills.

  14. Taunia 2014.11.19

    You're a lineman, Tim?

  15. Tim 2014.11.19

    No, but I'm up close and personal with electricity.

  16. grudznick 2014.11.19

    Despite the distractions of Mr. Duffy's hair and all the wonderful and true things spoken by Mr. Bare, what seems odd here is that Mr. H thinks that only libbies can love the outdoors. That's a shame. That's like me saying that libbies only like tootie frootie ice cream, and can't like rocky road. Many conservatives, especially Conservatives with Common Sense love the outdoors more than any 2 libbies combined.

    They just don't hug trees and do stupid things. They'd shoot wild dogs, not want to pet them and keep them as toys.

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.20

    Grudz, are you even paying attention to what Bare and I are saying, or are you just recycling your own echoes to hear yourself talk?

  18. mike from iowa 2014.11.20

    Where does one seek solace in the "wilderness"after wingnuts have turned "wilderness" over to the koch bros for development?

  19. mike from iowa 2014.11.20

    Mr Duffy,from the single picture I have seen of you,you are one,full,white moustache away from being Mark Twain. If that is true,please send me cousin Shania Twain,postage paid.

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.20

    Mike, that's an important part of Stace's speech. he didn't get nearly as political as I do, but he made the point that the 1964 Congress was able to work together across party lines to protect vast stretches of land from development. Increasing corporate power (you know, the power Rick Weiland has been warning us about) makes such agreement more difficult to achieve. The health of the country, the very soul of America, is at stake.

  21. leslie 2014.11.20

    occasionally we have beautiful beaver dams on rapid creek downtown. firemen kill them remarking "beavers are good for nothing". no problematic inundation has occurred that has been publizied. not sure if we can align sensitivity to the wild politically, but sens. thune&rounds' and gov. perry's hatred for the EPA makes me think there is something to it. we do shoot all moose and mountain lions that follow the creek or the pine trees into town.

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