Learning for Life

by Dave Hanks

Some experiences in life stand above others as attitude shapers and lifestyle modifiers. My college athletic education was one of those. In fact, to compare it to the classroom would be unfair. It’s value to me stood “head and shoulders” above the academic learning I experienced. While the college curriculum was mind expanding, much of that type of learning came later while on the job. But participation in sports was a tremendous course in human nature and relationships.

All levels of individuals facilitated this learning process. Starting with the President of the University, who was an SOB, I learned that positions of authority are not necessarily staffed by people with high levels of integrity and that you had better recognize it. Two of the coaches fit that same category while others were somewhat more human. Added to that mix was the vastly divergent personalities of teammates and opponents, and rival school anti-Mormon attitudes. This later attitude, though well camouflaged, at times “leaked” from the head coach who was a Baptist. He never felt comfortable at BYU and it’s a wonder that he was ever hired. I’m convinced that LaVell Edwards great success was first “rooted” in the fact that he had a total understanding of the “Mormon psyche”.

From all the applied pressures, the rantings, the cussings, and in some cases coaches who provided the opposite extreme; I learned much about what does and what doesn’t motivate. Another lesson was how valueless lip-service is and how important is a quiet resolve. You learn that the truly dependable are few while the majority are not. I confess to having become a cynic when it comes to human palaver. Talk is not only worthless, at times it’s downright disgusting. Other things learned were: self discipline, a drive for perfection in all areas, and the experience of physical exertion that the average “Joe” has no concept of. However, mental/emotional aspects outrank the physical – the physical aspect is so closely matched betweenteams that only a slight edge turns out to be a huge difference.

Teamwork, competition, work ethic, getting yourself up when knocked down, etc. are recognized as values worth learning. One thing that is never mentioned is compassion. Compassion for the “other guy” because my success results in his failure. I have sat in losing dressing rooms as both a player and a coach and I guarantee that it is a miserable experience. This realization has made me less critical of how someone else performs a task. Knowing how it feels in the other locker room, I have never rejoiced in the victory but only rejoiced in the escaping from defeat.

There are those who think athletics should be de-emphasized or even done away with. How naive! Extra curricular events are every bit as valuable as the classroom and that is not to demean that area of one’s education. School sports can be a tremendous unifier, especially for LDS church members who may not have much in common otherwise. I am not the typical sports fiend, but I am deeply grateful for the enriching and life expanding gift that my athletic experience bestowed upon me!

The Insatiable Urge

At school and at church, I’m known as a nature man. The “fearless one” who will go anywhere and do anything to observe nature. This is natural for people to believe because I’m a Biology teacher and besides, “that’s what you’d expect out of a large, masculine man”. My wife accompanies me on all excursions and that fact causes questions to continually arise. “Does she always go camping with you?” “How do you get your wife to consent to go along?” “You’re real lucky that your wife will camp out!”

But I have a confession to make. One that could alter the perceived image somewhat. It is my wife who is the major driving force behind most of those expeditions. I’ve never known when she didn’t have an insatiable urge to visit all places, to drive down every remote road, and to investigate everything as close-up as possible. Once, three other husbands and myself were photographing a bear in Yellowstone Park. Some wives were yelling: “don’t get too close, he might kill you!” Then above it all I heard my wife call: “get closer and get a decent picture.”

This urge of hers causes me trouble on occasion. Then even she may become concerned. It is then that I must rely upon “keeping my head under fire” and extricate ourselves from the predicament.

It’s still very vivid in my memory the day, when looking at a map, we discovered a back road leading between two towns. It was mountain country and we anticipated a scenic drive. I wondered why no one else was on that narrow road that led up to the summit. Then suddenly I knew, coming around a corner we met a large snowdrift blocking the way. The drive to the top had been scary, but nothing compared to having to back down that road to a point at which we were able to turn and get off that mountain.

Another back road experience led us into the Bob Marshall Wilderness of north-western Montana. One evening we found a road, how I’ll never know. It wasn’t on the map. It turned out that we were trespassing on Indian lands. Signs on the trees and banners stretching across the road proclaimed: “Salish Indian Territory – Trespassing Prohibited”. Once again the road was too narrow to turn on. It paralleled a quick drop-off into a canal full of water. It followed the ditch for a goodly distance. Besides it was Grizzly country and we wanted to see bears, therefore we resolved to see the road to it’s completion. Well into the interior, the road widened and at this point we met a car-load of Indian teenagers. We stopped them to ask advice. They said: “not to worry as long as we were out before morning”. Each Indian truck we met gave us much scrutiny and many dirty looks. Dire results flashed across my mind because we had dared to encroach into sacred areas.

My wife is a constant prodder for hiking. “I know your knee is still weak from surgery so let’s take it easy, this will be just a short hike. It will only be about a mile and a half up around that cliff and back”. As we transverse each road I watch for trailheads, fully expecting to hear a request for a stop and a short hike. Each hike unfolds into something much longer when she gets her way. “Lets just go on a little bit farther”.

One such hike was very foolish. Fresh Grizzly scat, still steaming, at the trails origin brought that fact home to me. We were in brushy tundra in the northern Yukon but the driving desire to explore all and see all overcame common sense. Besides, my wife is fearless when it comes to wild animals and so we were off. Most uneasily I picked our way through that scrub, expecting at any minute to surprise a bear. Fortunately, the bear responsible for producing those scats was with her cub on the other side of where we had parked our truck. They were in a ravine close to the road. If we had stayed by the truck, they would have been very near.

Yes, I must admit that I will continue to enjoy my role as the “Great White Hunter”; but secretly I’ll know that it is my wife’s constant “barbs” that makes me so.

Photograph of a camper far below in a great expanse of valley

Insignificant against the Yukon expanse – Grizzly country

Getting out of your Comfort Zone

by Dave Hanks

All folks, in any organization, have different skills from the others in their group. The group functions best if everyone is in their comfort zone and by combining all the various skills the organization will make great strides. As a former coach – if I had gotten everyone out of their comfort zone, I would have, also, gotten them out of the win column.

As a college football lineman, I have, in some games, played as much as 55 minutes. I played both ways – offense, defense, and on kickoffs. On offense I did very well because I was in my comfort zone. One former running back teammate said: “I liked to run the ball behind Hanks because there was always a hole”.

On defense I never reached my potential because they kept me out of my comfort zone. In one game, against undefeated Wyoming, they put me in my comfort zone. I had a terrific game and practically shut down their offense on my own. However, the coaches were not smart enough to learn to adjust, and take advantage of what could have won a couple of more games for them. They seem to think that screaming, swearing, and even slapping me across the head should be enough to get what they desired out of me. I grew to detest the coaches and even looked forward to the end of football.

My wrestling coach wasn’t too familiar with wrestling, but he did treat me like a human and let me function in the best way I could. As a result I had great success in what, as a result, became my favorite sport.

So all this talk about getting oneself out of one’s comfort zone, to me, is a lot of phony B.S.!!!

Wrestlers going at it

Rules is for Fools

An old mountain climber (who lived in Hailey, Idaho) was being interviewed on PBS. He had surmounted most of the major peaks in the world. The girl interviewer suggested that he should write a book of rules for mountain climbing. Here was his answer: “RULES IS FOR FOOLS – each situation is different and if you can’t make a value judgment to apply to each, you’re dead!”

by Dave Hanks

Upon much reflection, I think that was one of the most astute comments I’ve ever heard and the longer I live the stronger this statement comes home to me. I have often wondered why we have so many rules. I guess it is because there is an abundance of fools. Fools, by their actions, cause more rules to be laid down.

But when those with leadership responsibilities are incapable (or refuse to) of making a value judgment – they will follow “The Book” to the last word. It is then evident that we are being controlled by fools and we are in big trouble. A good example of this is the endangered species act. The act has been very beneficial – a good thing! However, administrators of that act that won’t compromise or use good judgment in special circumstances, greatly harm the effort to protect the diversity of our planet.

Often, officials are more concerned with foolish perks than in using common sense to reach a realistic decision. Too often the drive to “save face” over-rides all other considerations – even if it results in negative or even harmful situations for others.

Christ gave us the only rules we need in the two great commandments. Some common sense, combined with some self-discipline in applying those two guidelines, would cover all the necessary bases.

What greed gets you

Greed is an insidious thing. Never being satisfied with what you have, even though it may be much, will eventually lead to disaster. “Those who seek greener pastures on the other side of the fence, usually end up with a pile of horse manure” is an old saying with much truth to it. When is more and more and more actually enough ?

A good example is from a football game played recently. TCU was projected to win the Mountain West Conference title. They were also listed in the top 25 and projected as a possible BCS contender. They also led the highly ranked University of Texas for a good share of that game.

In their next game against the lower rated Air Force Academy, they were given stiff competition. However, they held the lead 17 to 10 with 49 seconds left in the game. They also had a first down on the Air Force 22 yard line. All they had to do was run out the clock to secure the win. But they wanted more. They tried to score a TD by throwing a pass to the end zone. It was intercepted and the Falcons got the ball on the 20 yard line. Three plays later it was 4th and one on the 29. TCU, expecting a sneak, bunched up the center of the line. But Air Force ran an option and pitched outside. The pitch recipient went the distance for the score and tied the game. In the overtime, TCU’s field goal bounced off the upright and Air Force made theirs to win the game 20 to 17.

Was that just dumb coaching on TCU’s part or the desire to win by a larger margin?

That seems to be what greed does for you. It will come back to bite you.

The Sacred Cow

By Dave Hanks

How often I have mused about the Hindu tradition of sacred cows and how asinine it is. Ridiculous because millions of people starve while a source of food is running free in the streets. Not only is the meat lost but the cattle put a lot of heavy competition on the human population for the valuable vegetative matter. How tragic – to live by a system that allows this to happen.

However, I have come to realize that India is not the only country with the “sacred bovine”. The desire to elevate the animal seems to run through all cultures and is manifested in various ways. The Children of Israel made their “Golden Calf”. African tribes revere the Zebu – scrawny beasts that contribute little except as status symbols. They repay the tribesmen by being scourges upon the landscape. Other peoples have a more practical relationship. Laplander cattle are their reindeer. Eskimos and northern Indians look to the Caribou with the same reverence. The American Indian felt the same about Bison until “Whiteman ” arrived to slaughter the vast majority of them. Only, in their turn, to replace them with European-type cattle.

Are the “white man’s” cattle sacred? I thought not, but have since had a change of mind. You have to look hard to find another industry that is subsidized by the federal government to the degree that livestock producers are. Their animals run upon the public lands for a mere pittance of a fee. But even that is not as devastating as the greed that motivates the over population of the beasts upon the land in order to harvest every vestige of grass. Even though they damage ecosystems, it’s hands off – they must not be disturbed!

Cattle have always held a soft spot in my heart. To see them grazing on a hillside or in a meadow still causes my heart to “skip a beat”. Fond memories of 4-H projects from my teenage years were a major spur to cause me to seek my dreams in the cattle business. The quest for a high quality Angus herd was an obsession that filled my early adult life. It didn’t matter so much that this quest was, for me, economically unfeasible – what really mattered was that my bovines were of a kind that would place them at the top end of their breed.

Well, economics finally had the say in the end, but dreams die hard. My love for the “cow” is so deep rooted that I couldn’t bear to part with all of them. I would be better of without them. They tie-up my life activities – every trip away from home requires extensive preparations for their care and safety. They are also hard on fences causing constant attention to the same. When they do get out, they’re an irritant to the neighbors. NEVERTHELESS, I CAN’T HELP BUT LOVE THEM. There is something very beautiful about a large, beefy, sleek cow feeding in a pasture. A beauty that endears them as if they were actually a family member.

Yes, upon reflection, I can clearly see that the cow is indeed sacred!

Bird Symbols and the Ibis

Birds have played a large part in ancient lore. The plains Indians decorated their pipes: red feathers for war, or white feathers for peace. New England settlers thought the nighttime call of the Whip-poor-Will was the voice of a lost soul and forecasted death to someone. The hearing or sighting of certain species portended good or evil: an eagle for freedom, a dove for peace, a loon for madness, a raven was seen in both lights, and to see one magpie meant sorrow, but seeing two at once would result in joy.

Owls have especially caused much superstition. The wearing of an owl’s eye around the neck would keep witches away, or to actually eat the eye would improve one’s vision. The appearance of certain species foretold the coming of various weather phenomena.

The Egyptians held the ibis to be sacred – so sacred that ibis were embalmed, wrapped in cloth, and placed in tombs along with deceased royalty. Ibis are gregarious, long-legged waders, with long, slender, downward curving bills used for probing wetlands. There are 33 species of ibis in the world. Three types are native to the USA: White-Faced Ibis, Glossy Ibis, and White Ibis. Glossy Ibis and White Ibis are found in coastal salt water marshes. Glossy Ibis are dark also, but their dark feathers are more iridescent than the White-Faced plumage. White Ibis are larger and very distinctive. White Ibis populations have been counted in colonies of 600.000 to 800,000 individuals

White-Faced Ibis are fairly common in our general area. They are dark birds, with a narrow strip of white next to their beak that surrounds their eye. We often see them in large groups – either overhead or in wet meadows. The Bear River Bird Refuge by Brigham City, Utah is home to a large population of these birds.

(Dave Hanks)

A White-Faced Ibis stalking and probing for prey at the Bear River Refuge

A White-Faced Ibis stalking and probing for prey at the Bear River Refuge

THIS EARTH: Some Thoughts

Van Gogh stated that the creation was a study – a roughed-in sketch. Perhaps that is one reason that his art looks roughed-in. But his view doesn’t seem to be true! The earth is supremely & meticulously put-together; abundantly, extravagantly, and in fine.

While observing the intricacy of form, nothing seems to be ridiculous. The variety of form itself and the multiplicity of forms is mind “boggling”! It seems that anything goes. Form follows function, and function is nature’s only aesthetic consideration. Freedom is the earth’s water and weather, the world’s nourishment freely given, its soil and sap. It definitely has pizzazz!

But only ten percent of the earth’s life forms are still here. Were some forms made with extinction in mind? Created as test models so to speak, to be refined as the adaptation process progresses?

Also, the globe (viewed from afar) may appear smooth but it is anything but smooth. It is jagged and rough. Anything less would be frightfully dull and also very non-utilitarian. Texture is extremely important – both for beauty and for function. The looping, rough inside, nature of intestines is not only necessary for nutrient absorption, but creates more area in a limited space to facilitate the process. Good fishing streams operate on this same principle; and we all would die of thirst if watersheds were smooth and even. In fact there would be no watersheds. .

The tremendous diversity in the earth, points out how important variety is. Why would anyone want to minimize it?

Form and function are important for our physical well-being.

Beauty is important for our mental and emotional well-being.

(Dave Hanks)

The beauty and diversity of REVELSTOKE Park, B.C

The beauty and diversity of REVELSTOKE Park, B.C

Don’t let Dreams Rob you of Joy!

An admonition I once heard in a speech has proven so very apt. It was: “Don’t let what you don’t have, keep you from feeling the joy in what you already have.” This truism, like so many others, is hard to put into practice. It is an admonition that has become more powerful to me the longer I live.

We have a drive to add quality and diversity to our wildlife photo files. This has necessitated much travel – sometimes in less than pleasurable conditions. We have looked for Barred Owls in Missouri, Varied Thrushes on the West Coast, and many other species in other states, only to return home and find many of them right here in Cassia County. Also, on two separate jaunts into the South Hills (once to look for Evening Grosbeaks and the other to find Red-Breasted Nuthatches) we were discouraged and returned home. But, WHOA! – Right on our front lawn were about 50 grosbeaks, and on another occasion the nuthatches were on the trunks of a couple of trees in our yard.

When we’re out and about, people are always asking if I have seen anything exciting. What they really want to know is, if I’ve seen a rare species. My reply is that everything I see is exciting – and I genuinely feel that way. It is strange to me that someone would spend big money to get to a location to get a glimpse of a rare bird, in order to put another check mark on their life list.

North Heglar Canyon has proven to be as good a photography spot as any others we’ve visited. We usually make a couple of trips there each year. Lake Cleveland is also quite productive. Our own yard has given us much joy. Three pair of orioles have been nesting here, plus two pair of grosbeaks. Hawks, buntings, tanagers, goldfinch, towhees, nuthatches, chickadees, woodpeckers, owls, and various mammals – all these and more we see here at home. I especially love grosbeaks: The Evening and the Black-Headed with his yellow front; orange, white, and black sides, and prominent beak, are grosbeaks we have around us regularly and are a source of great satisfaction!

A Black-Headed Grosbeak – Excitement here at home

A Black-Headed Grosbeak – Excitement here at home

Earth School’s Major Lesson

My grandchildren have a dog – a large black Lab. He is confined to a fenced-in back yard. He would love to be in the house or even to run free. But because he goes wild when let inside and raises havoc, he is immediately returned to his back yard abode. If he could just behave himself, he would have free run of the house. A bit more self restraint, on his part, would give him total freedom to roam the community, without bothering the neighbors or their property, and then to return home at the desired times.

The above is an apt analogy, I believe, for human progression. The main lesson, and also the hardest lesson to master in this life, is self discipline. There is a profound saying: FREEDOM IS A LUXURY OF THE SELF DISCIPLINED! This may sound false to many, but is so true that it boggles one’s mind. The more aspects of life that we apply self discipline to, the greater the range of activities that we can enjoy!