John Muir


image preview

Circa Date

circa 1887



feet in diameter [at the base &] [ground] It has been enveloped in fire from top to bottom so that it now looks like a grand black pillar set up as a monument. In this noble shaft [pine ruin] a colony of large [shining] jet black ants have established themselves laboriously cutting tunnels & cells through the [dry dead] wood whether sound or decayed [until] the entire trunk seems to have been [is] honeycombed, [&] judging by the size of the talus of gnawed [a bank of fine] chips like fine sawdust [for is] Piled up [banked] around [the] its base [of the tree shows the magnitude of the work done.] They are [a far] more intelligent looking than their small belligerent strong scented brethren & have better manners [more dignified in demeanor] though [strong] quick to fight when[ever it is][fighting is] required [in defense of [for] home or for necessary food. When a man sits down near] their towns [homes, which] are carved [made] in fallen trunks as well as in those left standing [though] but never in living trees or in the ground. [ground] When you happen to sit down to rest or take notes near a colony, some wandering hunter is sure to find you & come cautiously forward to discover [they approach cautiously to make observations as if eager to find out] the nature of the intruder & what ought to be done. If you are [one is] not too near the town [home] & keep[s] perfectly still


[The first [to] discoverer of your presence] he may run across your feet a few times, over your legs & hands & face, up your trousers [pantaloons] as if [eager] to taking your measure & getting [a] comprehensive view [of all your anatomy], then go in peace without raising an alarm [& without biting]

If however a tempting spot [for food] is offered, or some suspicious [smell or] movement excites him [then] a bite follows, & such a bite! I fancy that the bite of a bear or wolf or any other biter in the woods is not to be compared to it. A quick electric flame of pain [in power. One feels as if struck by lightning. A perfect flame [half pleasurable perfectly sublime in pain] of pain] flashes along the outraged [every] nerves & [one] you discover[s] for the first time how great is [vast] the capacity for sensation you are [he is] possessed of. A shriek, a grab for the animal & a [wild] bewildered stare follows this bite of bites as one comes back to consciousness from [the] sudden eclipse [that sweeps over body & mind]. Fortunately if careful one need not be bitten oftener than once a year. This wonderful electrical ant [of the Yosemite National Park] [machine] is about 3/4 of an inch long. [The] Bears are fond of the[ir] [larvae], & tear & gnaw their home logs to pieces [in which their [nests]cells are]

Date Occurred


Resource Identifier

MuirReel31 Notebook05 Img039.jpg

Contributing Institution

Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library

Rights Management

To view additional information on copyright and related rights of this item, such as to purchase copies of images and/or obtain permission to publish them, click here to view the Holt-Atherton Special Collections policies.