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Edwin Way TealeEdwin Way Teale

Hoosier Connection: Edwin Way Teale authored Dune Boy, a memoir about his summers in Indiana at the sand dunes near Lake Michigan and his grandparents' farm. In it, he discusses the past and present of the dunes.

Works Discussed: Dune Boy

Edwin Way Teale was born in Joliet, Illinois, in 1899. As a child, he lived in Illinois but spent summers at his grandparents' farm, Lone Oak, located near the Indiana Dunes and Valparaiso. He authored one book that dealt with this experience later in his lifetime, entitled Dune Boy.

Teale graduated from Columbia University and began his writing career as a magazine assignment writer and editor in New York. During that time, Teale and his wife, Nellie, planned on breaking away from the city and becoming nature writers, a dream both had held for many years. In 1941, he left his job to pursue a life of nature photography and writing. Two years later, Dune Boy was published.

While writing on insects, Teale discovered new ways to closely photograph his subjects so that his readers could see exactly what he was writing about. He and his wife planned a series of four books about the seasons across the states. After their only son, David, died in World War II, Nellie and Edwin lived their dream, dedicating the series to their son.

In 1959, the Teales bought and moved to Trail Wood, an old farm in Connecticut. The Teales lived there for the rest of their lives. Alhough Edwin died in 1980 and Nellie died in 1993, Trail Wood is still open to the public, with wetlands, meadow, pond and woodland habitats, as well as an Audubon Natural History museum.

During his lifetime, Teale won many awards, most notably a Pulitzer Prize for his 1965 work, Wandering Through Winter. He also received the John Burroughs Award for nature writing and the Ecology Award of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.

In his memoir, Dune Boy, Teale describes his youthful antics with the wisdom of a man grown and comfortable with his own experience. In the following quote, Teale describes the dunes from his own perspective as a child, wondering how the dunes would appear to another.

The boy lay still in the sunshine.... In his mind, he began to picture how the...distant dunes must appear to the eagle and the crane. His eyes again sought the far dunes. They rose like a shining, mysterious land of gold beyond the treetops. (2)

In the following pages, he explains his awe at the mystery suggested by the wilderness. The young Teale yearned to understand the natural world around him. Because of the beauty of the dunes and the wilderness beyond, he dreamed of adventure. Later in life, Teale not only experienced the promised adventure, he also understood the history of the dunes and how they came to be. While Teale as a boy could not understand the significance of a dying tree, the man Teale had become could.

For a great tree death comes as a gradual transformation. Its vitality ebbs slowly. Even when life has abandoned it entirely it remains a majestic thing. (235)

The book is about the value of experience throughout life. Many things remained promising and wild to Teale, even when he became an adult. Later in the book, in an essay entitled "Lone Oak Return," Teale relates the dunes of his childhood to the dunes of today:

I found the land of the dunes today is something of a paradox. As many as 10,000 persons come to the lake shore of the Indiana Dunes State Park on the fourth of July. Yet in the region around foxes have come back and even deer are occasionally seen. Great superhighways now carry their rivers of traffic to the north and south of Lone Oak. Yet its immediate surroundings lie in a kind of quiet backwater. There are changes, of course. But curiously it is less the change than the lack of change that is impressive. (274)

Dune Boy is memoir of life in Indiana, including reflections of the ways in which nature has changed, by human hands or not. During the course of the book, Teale explains that he too has been transformed by the modern world, and yet he still retains his youthful sense of adventure.



Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy Lone Oak Version. NY: Dodd, Mead, and Co., 1957.


Edwin Way Teale, Teale Exhibit at University of Connecticut Website. 15 Oct 2002


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