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July 18th, 2008
Brad Rollins’ Blog: The amazing Mr. Kellogg


Sometime back — when gasoline was still less than $3 a gallon — I joined in a road trip down the Pacific coast, starting in Seattle and ending in Sacramento. We toured the Boeing plant in Everett, Wash., hiked on Mount Rainer, looked at Mount St. Helens through a coin-operated telescope and hit three state capitols in three days — all in fewer miles than it takes to get from here to El Paso.

The best part may have been the days we spent in a cabin amid the colossuses of the Humboldt Redwoods State Park in northern California. This is one of the memories I hope flash through my mind in the nursing home someday: Coasting along the Avenue of the Giants between trees so tall you can’t see the tops through low-slung clouds, sunlight streaking through the canopy and into your core.

At a Rangers station somewhere along we happened across an exhibit dedicated to “naturalist, woodsman, rancher and artist” Charles Kellogg and his motorized vehicle carved from the trunk of a single Redwood. I picked up a reprint of a historical pamphlet Mr Kellogg (1868-1949) used to stir up interest in his vaudeville show as he trekked across the country in his massive tree truck, putting “scholars to rout by solving through Nature’s teaching, problems that have fretted their trained minds.”

The other day, I came across the document in an avalanche of file folders and — for irresistible reasons I don’t understand myself — wanted to share it with you:

Who is Charles Kellogg

Charles Kellogg was born in the high Sierras of California many days’ journey from the nearest railroad. He was born with the gift of singing as the birds do, actually singing bird songs with his throat as they do.

There was no one in those far wilds to teach him save a few Digger Indians (sic), who taught him the mysterious art of producing fire by rubbing sticks, and other wood lore.

He played with snakes and birds and wild creatures, much as Mowgli did in the Jungle with the beasts. He learned their ways; became keen of eye as they, as alert to the softest sound, as acute to the faintest scent.

He is a naturalist, born not made; a true woodsman, of grand physique, calm pulse, poise and a magnetism that demands the most profound attention.

Poet, Philosopher, Worker, Teacher, Artist, Mr. Kellogg’s message is inspiring not only because it tells of a life work that is play and health and joy and service, but he gives us assurance that a measure of this at least may be ours.

Nine months out of every year he tramps the forests, experiments on his ranch in California, in water development, in plant life and things pertaining to the soil.

He is a scientist by gift of nature, not by stress of research. He puts scholars to rout by solving through Nature’s teaching, problems that have fretted their trained minds.

What has Charles Kellogg done

  • He has given three thousand performances in the United States, Canada and Europe.
  • He is the most noted Headliner in Vaudeville.
  • He has walked five hundred miles in the West Indies with John Burroughs.
  • He has tramped in the high Sierras with John Muir.
  • He was the guest of August Rodin in Paris.
  • He has sung to a vast audience of twenty thousand on the terrace of the Crystal Palace, London.
  • He has tramped in the forests of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Labrador, Alaska, Europe and the Tropics without a gun, compass or fish rod. He does not kill, for he does not eat meat.
  • From Boston to Los Angeles, public schools have closed for the afternoon that the teachers and principals could attend Mr. Kellogg’s performance.
  • He delivered the Sunday address in the great Salt Lake Tabernacle.
  • In Washington, D. C., the highest honor was paid to Mr. Kellogg. He was invited to go before the Bureau of Standards (one of the most august bodies of scientists in America) and demonstrate his knowledge of science and nature.
  • He is the only human being that has succeeded in actually reproducing the songs of birds – reproductions, not imitations. Mr. Kellogg makes records exclusively for The Victor Talking Machine Co.

What is Mr. Kellogg’s Purpose in Life?

To eliminate fear from every living creature including man. To teach through love the joy, dignity and necessity of labor. To impart the love of the soil and to show new ways by which man can achieve his rightful domain over the earth. To awaken interest in the great redwood forests of California, and to assist in their preservation.

In all the cities of the United states there have been arranged special performances by request, once each week, in order that a representative group of divergent interests could testify to the scope, variety, and authenticity of Mr. Kellogg’s work.

There have been present, the Chief of police, two physicists, two bankers, two members of the board of education, two preachers (one the Jewish Rabbi), two blind men, two merchants, two boy scouts, two members of the Women’s Club, two Rotary Club members, the Chief of the fire department, two building inspectors, two doctors, two musicians, two deaf men, two lawyers, two naturalists.

What will Charles Kellogg do for you

  • Sing birds songs (a gift absolutely unique to him).
  • Play several talking machines together in perfect harmony at different speeds.
  • Create fire in the most primitive manner by rubbing sticks in a way never before accomplished by even the Indian.
  • Extinguish a flame of fire with his voice audibly.
  • Control suspended balls by vibration.
  • Throw eye glasses and glass plates all over the stage without breaking them.
  • Demonstrate the use of the divining rod. (Mr. Kellogg now produces streams of water on his ranch in California as assuredly as others grow vegetables in their garden.)
  • Mr. Kellogg will show the Digger Indian Death Tie (sic).
  • Mr. Kellogg will sing to an enormous ordinary flame of fire and it will become a Bunsen flame, a phenomenon inexplicable to scientists.
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2 thoughts on “Brad Rollins’ Blog: The amazing Mr. Kellogg

  1. Brad,

    I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed learning about the amazing Mr. Kellogg. I remember the name from traveling through those amazing redwoods many years ago. You know, it’s the only place on the planet where those Giant Sequoias exist and many of them started growing before Jesus was born. It’s more than a little shocking that they are now being cut down at an alarming rate.

    You never recover from seeing those trees, do you? It’s like looking at the Texas sky– it burns itself into your heart.

    Wouldn’t it have been fun to have met that Kellogg guy?
    Thanks much for introducing me to him.

  2. Thanks Hap. I think the Redwoods and the Sequoias may be different forests but you’re right — both inspire awe. I hate to be glib in calling something a spiritual experience but it kind of was. Mr Kellogg is quite a character, kind of a latter-day snake oil salesman with an environmentalism twist. Hang around Hays County long enough and you’ll meet some of his descendants.

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