True Crimes

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Outside magazine, August 1999

True Crimes

While I bemoan changes in the Huichol Indians’ traditional way of life, I do not believe the murder of journalist Philip True last spring can be justified by the fact that the Huichols are extraordinarily tense about the modern world’s encroachment into their Mexico territory (“Culture Clash,” June). A Huichol had no more right to kill True, whether for robbery or territorialism, than I have to shoot a visitor to our country in east L.A. The murder doesn’t reflect badly on all Huichols, however; every society has its criminals. I think it is time we stop justifying individual misdeeds with large, society-wide explanations.

Mark Hancock
Ventura, California


I read with great interest and not a small sense of historic déjà vu the recent account of Philip True’s death that appeared in your pages. By all accounts, True was trespassing within Huichol lands, and more than a little rudely to boot. He knew that permission, papers, and a guide were necessities but chose to forgo these because surely he knew more than the Huichols. And when he was apparently confronted by Chivarra, he lied. Did he deserve to die for these transgressions? No. But could it have been foreseen? You bet. Avoided? Undoubtedly.

Will G. Russell
Chandler, Arizona


Meow Mix

I enjoyed James Hamilton-Paterson’s article on the army of stray cats that live on the streets of Rome (“Et Tu, Kitty?” June). There is one irony surrounding the cats that he left unmentioned, however. On my last visit there, an old woman feeding cats at the Colosseum reminded me that Rome has been under siege many times throughout history. At times, she said, many human Romans have faced starvation and had to eat whatever they could find. Seems that even today, those with long memories feed the cats not only out of affection—but also as insurance.

Steve Heilig
San Francisco, California

The Real Rouge

As someone who visited Cambodia prior to the 1997 coup, I was surprised to read Patrick Symmes’s recent article about Khmer Rouge tourism and learn that, from a traveler’s perspective at least, not much has changed (“From the Wonderful People Who Brought You the Killing Fields,” May). I, too, liked the place and found multiple road hazards, such as the rich mixture of right- and left-side-driver cars. And while I never made it to Pailin (nor would I have taken a picture of any former Khmer Rouge), Symmes has inspired me to return to have a beer with Agent Orange, the Khmer Rouge tourism ambassador who I believe saved his life.

Carl Mandabach
Sacramento, California

Best of Enemies

The long-running controversy surrounding the first ascent of Mount McKinley can be settled easily (“A Long and Brutal Assault,” June). Between Frederick Cook, who falsely claimed the summit almost a century ago, and Robert Peary, who aggressively sought to discredit Cook, I side with a comment by Peter Freuchen, an old Arctic explorer who knew both: “Cook was a liar and a gentleman. Peary was neither.”

Carlton R. Appleby

Closed Frontier

No matter how Tim Blixseth rationalizes his Yellowstone Club, he is missing the point of wilderness (“Home on the Range—for Just $5 Million a Pop,” Dispatches, June). I offer a bit of advice to the fat investors in Blixseth’s scheme. Under no circumstances should you leave the confines of your righteous retreat. There are certain toothy creatures outside your wall that don’t give a damn how much you paid for a piece of their Montana.

Nate Cutler
Manhattan, Montana

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