Friday, April 20, 2012

Out There

At some point in time a year or more ago and possibly under the influence of a spooker or two, I fired off an email to  Tulsa World outdoor writer, Kelly Bostian. I was protesting the proposed hunting season for black bears in Oklahoma. I suggested to Mr. Bostian that many Oklahomans might enjoy the thrill of seeing (or photographing) a black bear in the wild before all the Bubbas started killing them off in pursuit of testicular titillation.

Instead of blowing me off as a tree hugging, PETA loving, anti-NRA liberal, Mr. Bostian replied with the reasonable suggestion that I read a book called Bloodties by Ted Kerasote. The book, he calmly and patiently explained, dealt with man and his natural ties to hunting, a practice we've been using to feed ourselves since the invention of sharp sticks.

I ordered the book and found Mr. Kerasote to be one of the most talented outdoor writers I have had the privilege of reading. Having personally done a little hunting in the past, I must admit to agreeing with about 90% of Ted's philosophy on the subject. But now, well into my "golden" years,  I prefer to use the camera instead of the gun. That doesn’t mean, however, that I would turn down a freshly fried strip of venison given the opportunity to stick a fork in one. Let’s not get silly about this.

Recently, while searching Amazon for anything worth reading,  I happened to think of Mr. Kerasote and found another of his books that sounded interesting. It was titled Out There: In the Wild in a Wired Age. I have not been disappointed. It relates his adventure of taking a canoe trip down an extremely remote river in Northwest Canada (300 miles from the nearest road). The man is a wordsmith of the highest caliber. You can almost feel the misty rain on your skin, the flow of fast water under the canoe, and the bite of the ubiquitous blackflies and mosquitoes. He writes of the silence:

Only when we go to really quiet country do we notice how shocking silence can be, so thick away from the thrum of civilization that it presses against our flesh like the pressure beneath the sea.

Ted’s travelling companion was more of a traditionalist and carried with him all manner of electronics; GPS, Palm Pilot, and satellite telephone. The mans compulsion to call home and chat loudly with his relatives and buddies every evening begins to wear on Ted’s nerves. The sense being that it was almost sinful, destroying the purity of the surroundings, the human voice echoing up and down the canyons. I could relate to a part of that.

The more I read, the more envious I became of his trip and the many other adventures Kerasote has done in his lifetime. While I spent my youth splicing telephone wires together in stinky Tulsa manholes, he, as a young lad, was exploring exotic jungles in South America and watching grizzlies in Canada. Maybe that’s why I enjoy books of that genre so much, to live vicariously through another man’s amazing experiences in the wild.

On the other hand, there was and is very little chance of drowning, freezing to death, or being eaten by a bear in a Tulsa manhole. But only if the Bubbas can keep the population down.

Ted and his dog Merle

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