I was on Cape Cod for the summers of 1962 and ’63. I had kind of a checkered college career—I dropped out for a year, then went back for a year, then my first wife and I got married and lived in Orleans for a year. In those days, Orleans was an inexpensive place to live in the winter—I think we had a house that was $50 a month. I worked as a carpenter, she worked at a nursery school on the property. We managed to save quite a bit of money that winter, and we went back up to school and finished up. I knew at that point two things: I wanted to be a writer, and I wanted to live on the Cape.
• • •
In the fall of 1971, we returned to Cape Cod. As I was casting around for something else to do, the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History was looking for a part-time publicity person. I got the job, and that was my introduction to John Hay, who was very important in my life . . . I had read a number of nature writers, but John was the first one, to me, who had developed a 20th-century idiom for writing about the natural world.
My first public appearance as a writer, so to speak, was on this radio show called Cape Naturalist of the Air, which aired from 1972 to 1975 on the old Orleans radio station WVLC—Voice of the Lower Cape . . . I don’t think it was very good. John came up to me one day and said, “Bob, maybe radio isn’t your medium.” He was friends with Ray Rogers, who was the editor of the Dennis Register at the time. He arranged for me to write a weekly natural history column in the Register, the Cape Codder, the Advocate in Provincetown, and the Falmouth Enterprise. And that’s really where I got my immersion in natural history because I had to do a lot of research really fast to be able to write these columns. Fortunately, the museum had a good library and I’m a quick study.