A Man of Many Hats
Although there are many dairy farmers in the Eastern Townships, I know of only one who is also an archeologist and an author in between the morning and evening ‘chores’. Michael Royea, who has been raising Brown Swiss and Jersey cows for the past thirty years on his farm in Ogden, also
teaches Archeology part-time at Bishop’s University and has just written his first book: he Grand Circle our.
The book is a travel and reference guide to a popular tourist destination in the American Southwest that Mr. Royea first discovered when he set out from Beebe, where he grew up, to tour the United States at nineteen years of age. “I took my first trip out west in 1977. I think I got the travel bug from my grandpa; he was part Gypsy. I headed out to Yellowstone and to the Grand Canyon, and visited other sites in that area that I knew nothing about at the time,” explained Mr. Royea in an interview with the Stanstead Journal.
Known as the Colorado Plateau Region, besides the spectacular geological formations in the area, there are also literally thousands of archeological sites that date back as early as 1200 BC, to the emergence of the Ancestral Puebloans, a remarkable, ancient culture best known for their architectural wonders that can still be visited today.
Not so surprisingly, a few years after his first visit to the Southwest, Michael began taking an Archeology course at Bishop’s University and also enrolled in an archeological ‘field school’ in Utah, back in his favorite region. By 1995, the dairy farmer began
teaching Archeology at Bishop’s, never seeing a reason to give up one interest, though seemingly miles apart, for the other. “I built an archeological site on the campus, bringing in big stones from around the area and burying broken clay pots and fake arrowheads. The students got to learn exactly what they needed to see if archeology was really what they wanted to do. They see the reality of it, like working in the hot sun for hours; it’s not really like it is in the movies. The other teachers could always tell which students were mine. They’d be busy rubbing dirt off themselves in class!” Mr. Royea also conducted many study tours of the Southwest region with students.
After well over twenty trips to the American Southwest, Mr. Royea wrote The Grand Circle
Tour for tourists planning to visit the famed region and armchair travelers alike. Published last spring, the comprehensive 450page book that features descriptions of the sites as well as historical information, is already selling well. “The point was to write a book that someone could sit and read, look at all the photos, and really enjoy the area. The Ancestral Puebloans were a remarkable people to be able to have lived in that area, now a dessert,” said the author.
“In the Colorado Plateau Region, there are the most number of archeological ruins that are easy to get to, ruins that you can walk around and explore. That’s rare. The Puebloans were much more advanced architecturally than they were in Europe at the time, and it’s amazing to see the things that they built.”
One of the sites in the book that caught my interest was the Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park: elaborate dwellings built right into the side of a cliff, accessible only by steep stairs and ladders. “Why build it there? They would have had to bring all the food and water down to the cliff palace from the village on top. There has been a hundred years of research on it and it is still a mystery why the Puebloans built into a cliff,” he commented.
Since he also worked as a professional photographer when he was younger, Mr. Royea took all of the photographs himself for the book and they are spectacular. “I have about 150,000 to 200,000 images of the area in total. I know the area as well as I know Beebe, and I can get around easily without a map.” The photographs are black and white in the paper edition of the book and in colour in the e-book version.
Now that Mr. Royea has also caught the ‘writing bug’, he is working on a second travel guide to highlight the four other ancient cultures of the American Southwest. “It will be a companion book to the first one,” he said. He has also finished his first fictional book, an archeological adventure story that takes place on the island of Crete, and is looking for a publisher for that. Michael Royea’s The
Grand Circle Tour can be found at the Bishop’s University bookstore and on the internet.
Dairy farmer and archeologist Michael Royea holds his debut book, he Grand Circle our, at his farmhouse in Ogden.
Farmer, archeologist and author, Michael Royea, on the porch of his dairy farm in Ogden.