Tom Brown, Jr. (born January 29 1950) is a famous American naturalist. He is the author of numerous autobiographical nonfiction books, including The Tracker, and a series of Field Guides. His skills in this field and philosophy were taught to him by an Apache man, referred to as "Grandfather."
When Tom Brown left the wilderness he knew so well, he set out to find people who were interested in the skills he had developed through first-hand experience with nature. He met with little success, but eventually he was called on to locate a missing person, and since then he has been widely known as "the Tracker." Building upon this reputation, Brown developed his profession as a full-time tracker by locating lost persons, dangerous animals and fugitives from the law.
All students that attend Tracker School begin with the 'Standard' class, which serves as a foundation for future, more advanced skills to be built upon. Standard class involves instruction in knife handling and safety, carving, building a primitive shelter, safe procurement and treatment of water, various fire-making techniques such as bowdrill, mouth-drill and hand-drill, making cordage (rope) from natural materials, trap-building, flint-knapping, camouflage, stalking, brain tanning, cooking, plant studies, throwing stick handling, awareness and of course, tracking. Tracking is broken up into two main sections: pressure release studies and sign tracking. While both pressure releases and sign tracking are self-sufficient disciplines, they complement each other well.
His first audio book "Grandfather," was released in September, 2007.
Other books include: Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival, Tom Brown's Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking, Tom Brown's Field Guide to Living with the Earth, Tom Brown's Field Guide to City and Suburban Survival, Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants, Tom Brown's Guide to Nature and Survival for Children, and Tom Brown's Field Guide to the Forgotten Wilderness. In addition to the field guides, he has written The Science and Art of Tracking, The Vision, The Quest, The Journey, Grandfather, Awakening Spirits, The Way of the Scout, The Tracker, The Search, and Case Files of the Tracker.
There also may be little independent documentation in print on Rick (Brown's childhood friend who died at a young age), on Stalking Wolf (a Native American who was quite solitary and of whom there is only one photograph), or on Brown's lone adventures away from society. There is also an error in Tom's Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking when it depicts a porcupine as having 5 toes on its front foot when in fact it has only 4. This same mistake appears in Olaus Murie's classic Peterson Field Guide to Animal Tracks. Additionally, his categorization of animal gaits into "diagonal walkers", "pacers", "bounders", and "gallopers" is simplified, when any given animal can have various gaits, depending on if it is stalking, walking, running, and so on.
A major difficulty with the errors and inconsistencies in Tom Brown's stories and books is his use of a teaching style he calls "Coyote Teaching". One of the main elements of this teaching style is to lead students on a path that will teach them a deeper lesson. The classic example from his books is Grandfather advising him to make a bowdrill fire from green oak. After extreme yet fruitless efforts, he tried with a dry wood and had instant success, the lesson being that perfect form is more important than instant success. The problem with this teaching method is that Tom can never be caught in a lie or making a mistake because it could always be a "Coyote Teaching".
Tom's brother, Dr. Jim Brown, the Dean of Science, Engineering, Health Sciences and Human Performance at Ocean County College in Toms River, New Jersey, and Chairman of the Board of the New Jersey Public Health Association, verifies his brother's biography:
I remember Tommy taking me into the Pine Barrens when I was about seven, Tommy was ten. He perfected the art of 'deer smacking.' Tommy would slowly stalk up on a deer and smack it in the backside. It was truly spectacular to see. He would take nearly a half hour to slowly approach the deer. Tommy was amazing in the woods! He also fashioned a bone knife and killed a large buck with it, dragged it home and brain tanned the hide just as the Native Americans did. He actually wore the buckskins to Toms River High School despite the fact that they had a strict dress code at the time. It was like growing up with Daniel Boone!
Tommy was probably the most amazing person I have ever met. As a younger brother I worshiped Tommy as all younger brothers do to their older brothers. I disliked Rick (Tom's friend) who at the time I felt, took Tommy away from me. Rick didn't like having me around when they were off on one of their adventures. Looking back this is quite a normal part of growing up. Tom had his friends and I had mine." Jim was very close to their maternal grandfather, William McLaughlin who died in 1960 and spent his spare time working with the homeless. "I resented Tommy calling Stalking Wolf 'grandfather' when our own grandfather had recently died. I didn't realize then what a wonderful impact he would have on Tommy's life. Tommy was close to Stalking Wolf, I was close to our maternal grandfather, it turns out they both had tremendous impacts on our lives. Stalking Wolf opened the world of nature to Tommy whereas "Grandpa" opened the world of public health to me."
Tom's first book, The Tracker, is used in both elementary schools and in middle schools as a reader. "Tom was a true environmentalist before people even knew what Earth Day was. Tom learned to live in peace and harmony with nature and not the style of survival that you see today as reality TV. I think this is the compelling reason people see something very different and unique in Tom.Jim Brown jokes that he may have his Ph.D. in Microbiology, but Tom has his Ph.D. in "the wilderness." "The world of nature is Tom's classroom, and Tom is the finest teacher I have ever met!"
Ocean Township Police Lt. Scott Sprague, who worked with Tom in 2003 to successfully find a missing boy, says of Brown:
Have you watched him (Brown) do this? You watch him and you say to yourself, "This guy is trying to pull the wool over my eyes. There's no tracks on the pavement to see. Who does he think he's kidding?" Yet, he was able to do in two hours what nine cops, a bloodhound and a guy in a helicopter could not do in twice that time.
Tom Brown and his tracker school were featured briefly on Penn & Teller: Bullshit!.
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