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  • Writer's pictureLouisa Willcox

Episode 36 - Estella Leopold, Part 2

This is the second of four episodes from a fascinating interview I did last summer with Estella Leopold, the last remaining offspring of American conservation icon, philosopher and writer Aldo Leopold, who’s considered by many to be the father of wildlife ecology and the United States Wilderness system. Estella, who inherited his scientific and storytelling gene, is a force of nature herself.

Episode Two features the story of her father’s romance with her mother, also named Estella, and their early years together in New Mexico. After the family moved to Wisconsin, Aldo Leopold bought “the Shack,” a degraded farm along the Wisconsin River, and the place became the center of family life--and later, a mecca for conservationists around the world. Here, the family discovered how to restore the forests and prairie by doing it. Estella’s mother was also an incredible archer. Her story on her mother’s prowess as “Lady Diana,”which newspapers called her, also gives a sense of her parents’ relationship and family adventures –here involving craftsmanship, practice, competitions,and fun bow hunting adventures.


"We children used to like to tell the story about when we first saw the Shack and the property. On a cold early spring day, we were driving in on this road, and we came to the opening of the farm. And there was row of elm trees going perpendicular to that road, right down to the little barn you could see in the distance. And it was a muddy, muddy road... And we got the Shack, and it was cold, and there was no door, there was one window and holes in the roof... as Dad said: “Some of those holes are big enough to throw a cat through.” The question was still in the air was:was he going to buy this place? But we didn’t know he’d already committed. We had walked into this barn and there’s this pile manure about a foot deep in the back part, frozen solid in the back of the barn. So, Mother turns to Dad and said: ‘Aldo, what do you think of this place?’ And he said: ‘I’m very excited we have so many opportunities here!’ Mother said: ‘Yes, there’s going to be a lot of challenges.’"

"There was a log we called “Napoleon,” which we dragged up from the river, and Dad managed to put four maple legs under it, so it became a bench. ...And Luna made a nice pine top to the table that we had got from the dump. And Starker made the privy. Everybody pitched in."

"Dad always loved bows and arrows apparently, because he started in 1926 making bows and they were beautiful, and then he began to make all his own arrows. It turns out that Mother was an unusually good archer. And then Dad said: “Oh, let’s enter one of the archery tournaments.” So, they did, and Mother won first place in the Womens’ for the first year. And Dad was so proud of her. And the press was going gaga all over Mother and she kept saying: “It wasn’t me, it was him, he made all this beautiful equipment and that’s why I was able to hit the target so well today.'”


Saved in Time: The Fight to Establish Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Colorado by Estella B. Leopold and Herbert Meyer

Stories From the Leopold Shack: Sand County Revisited by Estella B. Leopold

A Sand County Almanac: With Essays on Conservation from Round River by Aldo Leopold

The River of the Mother of God: and Other Essays by Aldo Leopold, edited by Susan L. Flader and J. Baird Callicott

For the Health of the Land: Previously Unpublished Essays and Other Writings By Aldo Leopold, edited by J. Baird Callicott and Eric T. Freyfogle

Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work by Curt Meine


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