American Outdoor Guide|February 2022
Christopher Nyerges

Tom Grover is 82 years old, living in Idaho and has been married to his wife, Joyce, for 62 years. And, he's had a remarkable life.

I began corresponding with him because he was sharing his discoveries about how to make a fire piston that actually worked. He sent me many that a worked quite well-much to my surprise (see the related article on the fire pistons beginning on page 64 of this issue).

Tom and Joyce met in junior high school and got married in 1960.

"Joyce and I spent 10 years in a trailer below Palisade Dam at the south fork of the Snake River," he said. "We lived there from the end of May to October each year, and we went back to Boise for the winter. However, we sold the trailer and the jet boat around 2016."

While living in the woods, he ran a trap line ("before I knew better!" Grover quipped). He did lots of hunting, mostly with a handgun, and he has taken bear, deer and elk with it. He pointed out that he's eaten everything from rattlesnakes to elk in the outdoors.

For six years, Grover was part of the Idaho Air Guard, learning a lot about fire and fighting fires. He lived in the woods most of his life but recently moved into Boise because of age and health issues. He's lost his hearing and so doesn't take phone calls. He also doesn't use e-mail.


Tom Grover was born in Driggs, Idaho, on August 20, 1939. His father was an Eagle Scout who guided his son onto a path of wilderness adventures that would last a lifetime.

"Life in the woods was simple, with the hard work of cutting fire wood-lots of firewood," explained Grover. “After Dad died, Mom was alone in the woods. There was a very big pine tree leaning over the cabin, and she was afraid it would fall on the cabin. No one would cut it down. So, I told her, I'll cut it down." Grover got a 5/8-inch-diameter cable, climbed up the tree and hooked onto it. He then ran the cable around another nearby big tree, which he thought was a good plan. He began to cut with his 36-inch chainsaw and felt he was doing everything right. But, when the tree started to fall, the chainsaw stuck, and Grover said he "ran like hell" to get out of the way.

The cable snapped as if it were just a string, and the top of the tree went right into the cabin's roof-right to the floor of the cabin.

"Mom had a very nice Christmas tree from the floor right out the roof. Life in the woods!" Grover joked.

Grover explained that he hunted alone the majority of the time. He learned a lot about survival from Tom Brown Jr. and the Woodsmoke journals. He also learned a lot from Scriptures.

"What worked 2,500 years ago worked a lot better than the modern-day, unnecessarily complicated B.S.," he pointed out.


Grover said that he was a die-hard canoer, using a pole, and has traveled more than 3,000 miles by canoe.

"I think I'm the only person ever to pole up north of Boise River to French Creek and back.

It's a very narrow canyon, with fast, rocky water. The territory has lots of rattlesnakes, bears, wolves, mountain lions, deer and elk. It took me three days." He's also run white-water jet boats on six Western rivers and says he's been a "rock hound" since his childhood.

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