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Dark Edge of Nature: The Literary Archives of Jordan Fisher Smith

Shields Library (Lobby - Left Side of Main Staircase)

February 26, 2024 - May 3, 2024

At the age of 22, Jordan Fisher Smith decided to become a park ranger, a job he describes as “protecting the land from the people, the people from the land, the people from each other, and the people from themselves.” His career took him to the Grand Tetons, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, the California coast, the Alaskan bush, and finally the American River canyons northeast of Sacramento. In addition to halting illegal gold mining and evicting squatters, Smith dealt with incidents of drunkenness, theft, assault, accidental death, suicide, and even murder. 

Over the years, in addition to his sidearm and handcuffs, Smith picked up the pen, not just for the endless paperwork that accompanied each citation and arrest, but for his personal journals and field notes. Smith began to write about his experiences as a ranger, and was soon a published author with an elegant command of environmental writing. His works capture the startling beauty of natural places, but also their darker edges; areas of conflict and danger where human activity encroaches into the natural world. 

This exhibit draws from Smith’s personal papers, which he recently donated to the UC Davis Library’s Archives and Special Collections. It tells the story of one ranger’s path to professional writing, and demonstrates the types of resources a literary archive holds for researchers and students of the writer’s craft.