Photo by Fort Photo used under a Creative Commons license.
Robert Michael Pyle, The Thunder Tree: Lessons from an Urban Wildland (Houghton Mifflin, 1993).
Pyle grew up in the 1950s in Aurora, Colorado, a suburb of Denver then of 20,000 people on the edge of the country. Back then, Pyle found plenty of space to be outside, often along the High Line Canal, an abandoned part of an irrigation project. Part memoir of his childhood and part natural history, the book is named after a large, old cottonwood tree near the canal under which Pyle and his brother once took shelter during a severe hailstorm. Today, Aurora is ten times more populous, and children are more likely to spend their days inside or in structured activities supervised by grown-ups, losing an experience of nature that used to be mundane (in Pyle’s words, an “extinction of human experience”). Pyle went on to earn a Ph.D. in ecology, and the urban sprawl that has changed Aurora was part of the impetus for this book.
Here is a page about Pyle hosted by Central Washington University’s Department of Geography, with a bio, a bibliography, and links to some of his other writing. NoSurfGirl has more about Butterfly Bob. Here is a review of the book by Sandy D. Donna McIlvaine has what seems to be material from the book’s jacket. Bernard Mergen writes about children and nature in Environmental History.