We saw a flyer for the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum with the “I Married Adventure” image recently and decided to lump it in with the Neosho Falls/Mildred trip we wanted to take before too late in the year, when things become wildly overgrown. Lots of text about the Johnsons below…
I had never heard of the Johnsons before and their story is amazing. We learned so much at the little museum and I fell in love with Osa, this incredible, beautiful woman from Chanute, Kansas, who at 16 married adventurer and photographer Martin (“the traveling companion of Jack London”). Together the Johnsons made a motion picture record of wildlife and cannibal and head-hunting tribesmen and gathered volumes of valuable geographic and ethnological information on their lengthy photographic trips to islands in the South Pacific and various parts of Africa throughout the 20s and 30s (source).
In the field Martin was the principal photographer and Osa, though only five feet tall, was the stunt-person, guard, hunter, and star. The Johnsons’ marriage was atypical for their time; Martin abandoned “the macho swagger that often preoccupied the men of his time” and “never failed to acknowledge Osa’s contribution to their adventurous work. In his books he titled chapters ‘My Wife Holds the Gun’ and wrote many times about their unique partnership, like: ‘I thought, as I have thought many, many times… how lucky I was. Osa had all the qualities that go to make an ideal traveling companion for an explorer–pluck, endurance, and cheerfulness under discomfort'” (source). Martin died in 1937, but Osa continued their work until her death 16 years later. She led a large expedition from 20th Century Fox into the African bush, produced four more films on her own, wrote seven books, and designed a line of stuffed animals for the National Wildlife Federation (THEY ARE SO CUTE).
Some of what we saw made me uncomfortable (racist conventions of early ethnographic filmmaking that were obviously accepted at the time, thoughtless killing of animals that reacted threateningly to the Johnsons’ getting too close) but I’d really like to learn more about the couple. I loved reading this on Wikipedia: It has been noted the animated film “Up” (2009) contains story elements similar to the Johnsons’ real life story. This ranges from a childless couple to a “scout” on the trip. Muntz’s airship, named “Spirit of Adventure”, sounds like a cross between the Johnsons’ “Spirit of Africa” plane and Osa’s popular “I Married Adventure” autobiography. A fictional poster promotes the launch of the “Spirit of Adventure” on April 25, 1934, from New York City. Coincidentally this was the starting point and the time frame of the Johnsons’ 1933-1934 “Flying Safari”. Also, the Fredricksens’ dream of a home overlooking “Paradise Falls” is reminiscent of the home the Johnsons built overlooking “Lake Paradise” or “Paradise Lake”.
After Chanute, we went to Mildred determined to make more progress exploring the ruins of the cement plant there, but the “no trespassing” signs paired with the inaccessibility of inconspicuous parking scared us off and we only spent about half an hour trekking through the growth that’s already quite thick. When we were in the area with Dan and Jes in February we noticed tons of sheep pasture. On the way home, we made a point to stop and try to see some up-close, but they were all pretty wary and mostly just ran by trying to get away from us. We still used the opportunity to take pictures on the service road where we were parked, cos how long’s it been since we’ve taken tripod pictures of us? (No really it’s been a long time.)
It’s our 11-month wedding anniversary today and a month from now we’ll be back at the Lucas house, this time with a bunch of friends for the long weekend. I’m so excited. And this weekend we’re driving to St. Louis to see Jenae and Megan because can I stick to a no-travel-for-more-than-three-weeks schedule? Nope.