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[ ] My span has covered seven decades that reach back to a greatly different world, one that it was very good to have lived in.—Carl Sauer to J. B. Jackson, 1960 12 A Productive Retirement, 1957–1975 As retirement approached in 1957, Sauer if anything increased his commitments . Between extended stays abroad, he kept up his writing, guest lecturing , and committee work, especially the time-consuming Guggenheim, National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council, and Office of Naval Research meetings. Planning for the geography department’s new home in the Earth Sciences Building (now McCone Hall) made his last year as head of the department in 1954 particularly grueling. “The old horse is staggering down the track, looking no further than the June finish line.”1 The comfortable surplus of time that he had when young now was rushing away from him. Like his oft-repeated line from Chaucer, “The life so short, the craft so long to learn,” a German student song seemed apt: “Es gibt so manche Strasse da nimmer ich marschiert. Es gibt so manchen Wein den ich nimmer noch probiert” (There are so many roads that I have never walked. There are so many wines that I have never tasted).2 Uncertain what he really wanted to do, he started by eliminating what he didn’t. “No more committees, no more conferences, no more lectures. I’ve been getting requests to teach and I don’t want to teach, anywhere. I don’t want a schedule of days and hours that will have to be observed.” He declined many public lectures and would never talk on an assigned subject, 166 to pass on a good earth but only on a topic of his choice. He couldn’t do fieldwork any longer but enjoyed visiting and advising if it did not require physical exertion. “I don’t want to be away from home for more than half a year at the outside. I should be putting in a good deal of time working up notes and studying, for I’ve got a lot of themes partly roughed out that I can do best here. We have a good home and feel at home here. I don’t want to miss out on the grandchildren.” As he summed it up, “A spot of travel to learn and a spot of quiet to study and write is about the way I’d like to go on. I am looking forward to starting over in a new life.”3 The new life’s eighteen years were no less busy or productive than those before. There were trips to Europe and, despite his earlier protestations, teaching semesters in a number of U.S. universities, along with continuing Guggenheim and other service. Most impressive was his writing, the fruits of a lifetime’s reflective gathering: four books, twenty-one articles, and numerous comments, reviews, and obituaries. This was also the period of his greatest prestige, due largely to Agricultural Origins and Dispersals in 1952 and the Man’s Role volume in 1956. By the late 1950s Sauer had come to seem “sage, philosopher-king, and even oracle.”4 Travel The trips to Europe were high points in his new life. They were “a sort of pilgrimage” to find out what was going on where learning was valued for its own sake, untrammeled by the “new fangled” corruptions that bedeviled America. From July to October 1960 he toured German and Austrian geography departments on behalf of the National Science Foundation, but he spent very little time conversing with academic colleagues, whom he found mildly disappointing. In any event, he mainly wanted to soak up the ambience of places in Spain that he had imagined fondly since his youth, and to “visit Germany and Austria, lands of memory to me.”5 On several occasions he was honored—with the Vega Medal from the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography in Stockholm in 1957, the Alexander von Humboldt Medal at the Humboldt Centenary celebration in Berlin in 1959, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow in 1965. By 1975, when he was awarded the Royal Geographical Society’s prestigious Victoria Medal, he was too frail to receive it in person. A Productive Retirement 167 He found his divorce from the classroom unexpectedly hard to take. All his life he had guided students, and he particularly missed the work with postgraduates. Moreover, many of the ideas he would extemporize in class later found their...


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