The Bird Man and his Travel Log

“Rays of Redwood” by Kim Kemp

I hope to resume the knit to the sea on May 1, and will keep you posted!  

One of my favorite proto-performance artists is Charles Kellogg, a sane and passionate man who took to the road in his Travel Log–a mobile home carved out of a Redwood tree to raise awareness about these magnificent forests before it was too late.  He also gained notoriety for his uncanny ability to sing like a bird…I hope you enjoy learning about this remarkable man as much as I did.

Charles Kellogg and his Travel Log

 “Charles Kellogg (1868-1949) could sing like a bird. Literally. At least that’s the story, and the Humboldt Redwoods State Park Visitor Center is sticking to it. Kellogg would stand in front of an audience, open his mouth, and out would come an aviary of birdcalls. He claimed to have the larynx of a bird (called a syrinx). NPR’s Ketzel Levine tells Kellogg’s story as the first part of her series, Big Trees and the Lives They’ve Changed.

Kellogg maintained that physicists measured his voice with a tuning fork, and discovered it could vibrate up to 40,000 cycles per second. Compare that with the upper range of the human voice — around 500 cycles per second — and you get some idea of just how high the pitch of his voice might have been. If true, Kellogg would have been capable of producing sounds inaudible to the human ear!

Though a consummate performer — he traveled at home and abroad doing vaudeville-style tricks with his voice — Kellogg had a mission. He was a humanitarian and a naturalist who wanted, he wrote, “To awaken interest in the great redwood forests of California, and to assist in their preservation.” His lasting legacy is The Travel Log, the world’s first mobile home, hand-hewn from a chunk of fallen redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), and mounted on the back of a 1917 Nash Quad truck.

From 1917-1921, Kellogg took his Travel Log on the road. He drove it across the country four times, coast-to-coast, bringing word of the redwoods to people who had never heard, let alone imagined, there could be such trees. He spoke of the accelerated logging taking place in the redwood forests, made impassionate pleas for the trees’ preservation, and spread the word about a fledgling organization looking for members. It was called the Save The Redwoods League.” – Ketzel Levine, NPR, November 26, 2013

Listen to the NPR show and hear Kellogg’s bird imitations here.

 

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