Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Rocking Horse Effect

At last we have a real summer day, the mercury has climbed into the high 90s and with the humidity we’re having a heat index of 107. For us, that’s a lot of heat. We’ll be dropping back into the 80s and below in a few days so we will have had our “summer heat wave.”

One of my pleasures in life is thinking. I know that all of us “think,” but what I enjoy doing is taking a problem and putting it in my head, somewhere in the subconscious, and letting it percolate. After some amount of time I have my answer. This is probably why I am lousy at taking tests. I want to spend too much time looking at the problem before presenting my answer. This is the point of “The Thinking Hunter.” I am not interested in presenting quick answers to questions that are presented to me, but answers that I try to reach after working with the question. I like to research the question and the ramifications of the different answers before I settle on one. I am not saying that my answer to a question or problem is “the” answer, but that when I do offer an answer it is one that has been carefully thought about. Some questions have no viable answer because each answer creates a new set of problems that require different answers. Philosophers have dealt with this problem for centuries and while they understand it, have identified it and provide several different descriptive names and analyses for it, are no closer to resolving it. An example of this (in our world of the outdoors) is the question of wild geese. Regardless of the course of action taken to control wild geese numbers that have reached problematic population levels the action is going to produce both negative and positive results. Plus, if the action taken is emphasized to produce greater results, whether negative or positive, more negative results will be produced.

For Example: If, in one population area, the action taken removes 500 geese and the positive result is a cleaner (but not completely clean) park then removing 1000 geese should increase the positive result. In fact, the result will depend entirely on the remaining population. If the number of remaining geese is too low to insure the population’s survival of the annual migration there are new problems to consider. Will the park’s aesthetic value be decreased by the lack of returning geese? Or, perhaps the value will increase because the geese were actually decreasing the value. The list of consequences for each action goes on.

So what am I getting at?

Recently I was in a discussion in which the primary topic was whether we (humans) could actually manage wildlife and/or nature. The center of the discussion consisted of the fires, floods, geese and of course wild hogs, all which were brought up by one side as examples of failures of human efforts, while the other side claimed that the present flood situation is a product of humans never having seen this much water, the fires are wholly nature’s doing because of the droughts, the geese populations are a success story and the spread of wild hogs is a benefit by providing meat (when on accessible lands) and income (guides, etc.). I retreated from offering an opinion because I wanted to think about the question: Can we humans manage wildlife/nature without creating such imbalances that nature’s corrections create an ecological rocking horse effect?

Think about it--I am.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Farm Connection

Yikes! I’ve been so wrapped up in working on the remodeling of our house I’ve ignored the rest of the world in favor of hammer, nails and wood. My project was to finish the built-in shelves between the dining room and living room--I did. Now I can begin working on the cabinets/counter that will be between the dining room and kitchen. Lots of work but something I enjoy. I like the feel of wood being transformed into something lasting and naturally beautiful with its own colors and designs. When I am working on wood I can block out the world and let my mind go through all the garbage that has been forced into it and toss out the junk--which is a surprising amount.

In addition to building the cabinets and shelves and general remodeling, I am collecting wood from Michelle’s family farm. I’ll be incorporating that wood into the dining room set for Michelle. When it is all finished it will be something that I hope will be passed down to future generations on her side, who will be told that it was made by “Papa-G.” Recently the project took on a little more importance because Michelle’s parents had to sell the farm. A brother (M’s uncle) who passed away a couple of years ago didn’t have a will so his interest in the farm passed to his wife, who also passed away without a will. They didn’t have any children so their interest in the farm (there is also a sister who owned the final third) passed to a niece or some such obscure relative who had no connection to M’s family, who saw dollar signs and not the intrinsic value of the farm. Fortunately, the buyer is someone who does appreciate the value of the farm and when I called to ask about gathering wood for my winter office heat, and cutting wood for the furniture for Michelle (and for her sister) he told me it wouldn’t be a problem and to continue as I have.

The value of something like a farm is an interesting and extraordinarily complex thing. I believe it takes someone who has at least a little experience with the pleasure of having a farm to understand that value. My family had a farm in Oklahoma (the farm has an interesting history--for another time) and while I never lived on it (some of my siblings did) I do have many memories of “going to the farm” in the spring and summer. First for planting a garden, then maintaining it and finally harvesting it. It was enough for me that when my parents sold the farm I somehow felt a sudden disconnection that exists to this very day. On my last trip “home” (Blackwell, Oklahoma) I drove to Lamont and then out to the site of the farm. I was secretly hoping to see some trace reminder of what had been “the farm.” There was nothing. Not a tree nor a bush and when I walked where I was reasonably sure the farmhouse had been I couldn’t even find a splinter of wood. Every inch of ground was cleared, plowed and part of what had once been the fields where my father had grown up and later farmed. Now it is all one field and the memories that should haunt it have all but drifted away.

Here in North Dakota Michelle’s family farm was not “my” family farm and yet I had developed a connection to it. For the past ten years I have cut a winter’s supply of firewood out of the farmstead’s dead trees. I’ve hunted ducks and deer on the farm and driven across the harvested fields to hunt other sloughs and dove in the trees. I’m sure the new owner will let me hunt deer in the trees and waterfowl on the slough and dove in the trees, but the connection is forever severed. I’ll cut the wood that I’ll make into furniture and eventually that project will be finished and I’ll be through searching for straight logs to cut into lumber. The only wood I’ll then be cutting will be firewood and finally that too will end. I don’t know if my deer and duck hunting will end before the firewood, or after, but they will end. I have to believe the new owner’s children will develop a connection that will lead to future generations of deer and ducks and hunters.

Think about it.