Ted Turner: Going Native
Lunch is over. But Turner still wants to talk. “We’re
just trying to return the land to what it was,” he says. “Make it as natural as possible.”
Mostly these days, along with getting rid of the planet’s nukes, he worries about the rise in population and the volume of resources the world is using less judiciously than it might. He worries about whether renewable power is going to work, whether solar and wind energy will make enough of a difference.
Why the fixation on environmental problems?
“When I was a boy, back when we lived in Cincinnati before we moved to Georgia, I used to be fascinated by bison,” he says. “There were still two hundred thousand of them—down from millions of them—and by the time I was an adult, they were almost extinct. And as a boy I would read about them. At the house, growing up, we had a pretty extensive collection of books. And I read everything. I liked reading books on biology. About the environment. About birds and plants.”
The afternoon is beginning in earnest now. After a quick post-lunch rest and a checking of messages and the like, as Turner drives us out to an area of the plantation for a few hours of quail hunting before he heads back north to Atlanta and work, there are a few loose ends to tie up. A few last questions.
Does owning all this land sometimes wear him out?
Turner, who is driving a plantation-owned dark green and unobtrusive Chevy Suburban toward a hunting wagon with mules pulling it (the pointers for this afternoon’s hunt are in metal cages beneath the wagon’s seats), pauses and thinks a moment. Then he nods a quiet affirmative.
He smiles. “Yeah,” he says. He smiles again. “Yes…it does.”
“Okay, then,” I say. “I guess there’s just one last question….Do you feel lucky?”
In his hunting gear, ready to go for a walk across a Georgia-quail grain field beneath a blue late-winter sky on land that he owns and maintains to prime conservation standards,
Turner cracks the smallest version of his trademark grin.
He doesn’t have to think about it much. He knows the answer. But he wants to have a little fun with the idea.
He nods. “Yeah, yeah,…yes,” he says. “Yes, I do feel lucky….Ya know, I mean, I’m lucky I wasn’t born a mosquito….Lucky I didn’t get cancer. I’ve lost a lot of friends to cancer.
And I have been lucky. But you have to work at it. You have to work at your life, you know?”
He brakes the Suburban in the golden field to park it in the tall grass behind the mule wagon. There are saddled horses, too. Mike Finley and Ray Pearce, managers of the plantation, are there, waiting. One horse has a long brown-leather sheath on its flank that holds Turner’s shotgun. He walks toward the horse. Everyone is ready to get busy in the fields. The dogs are excited. Everyone feels something is set to go. Gold fields and blue sky and dogs and horses and an afternoon devoted to this place.
And you can tell, as Ted Turner gets out of the vehicle and takes the whole scene in, that he is also privately pleased by what he sees. You can tell even he is a little amazed by it all.