Eyes of Love

Have you ever noticed a penny on the ground? Did you stop and pick it up? Many times I’ve stood by my school room and beheld a penny on the hallway floor. Students would invariably pass over and not give it a second glance. They paid no attention to something they attached little value to. After a time, not wanting it to clutter the floor, I would rescue the coin and put it in a proper place. Where little value is ascribed, little observation occurs and poor understanding results.

When in the Registered Angus Cattle business, I cherished every cow in the herd. I could look at them lined up at the manger, from their back ends, and identify every individual and give a summation of each one’s traits. To others they all looked alike. But I had a deep love for Angus cattle and therefore noticed things easily. At a Utah State Fair, strolling with my wife through the pavilion that housed art exhibits, we came upon a lady’s sculpture display. She had an excellent one of a bovine bull. She had titled it “Angus”. Though the workmanship was very good, the title did not fit the subject. It was obvious that she had little real understanding of cattle. Wanting to know my thoughts, I was unable to convey to her that “feel” that was needed to have made the piece more authentic. An explanation that would be unnecessary to one absorbed with the subject matter.

My wife and I have developed an unbridled love for the natural world. Our eyes have been opened as a result and there has been a “snow-balling” effect. The more you notice, the greater the ability to notice becomes. When showing others slides of local birds and other life-forms, the comment always surfaces: “I’ve never seen any of those. Where have they been hiding?” It’s amazing – when the “covers” come off the eyes, things appear where they never were before. I’ve witnessed this marvelous event. New vistas of excitement, knowledge, and understanding results. Understanding breeds fondness. Understanding increases as fondness deepens.

Two people with affection for each other, see things in the other person which the average observer cannot comprehend. Why is this? Because there is no one who can view things with as acute accuracy as one who “looks through the eyes of love”!

(A favorite herd bull of mine)

(A favorite herd bull of mine)

A Learning for Life

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. Its 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’s great success was first “rooted” in the fact that he had a total understanding of the “Mormon psyche”.

From all the applied pressures, the ranting, the cussing, 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 is 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 between teams 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 felt relief in the escape 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 students and alumni 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!

Making the Stop

Grizzles and an Indian Myth

The following is a story told to me in a Grizzly Bear seminar I took some years ago. It involves a Flathead Indian tale about the great bear.

Once upon a time, the Great Spirit had his tepee on the top of a tall mountain. He, also, had a daughter who was very winsome and desirable. This daughter loved the beautiful wildflowers that grew on the mountain side. One day, as she was skipping along – singing and picking flowers – the Grizzlies saw her and desired to have her for their own. So, they kidnapped her and married her to one of the bears. After a time, knowing that the Great Spirit would be concerned and worried, they told him what they had done. The Great Spirit quelled his anger upon receiving this knowledge and tempered his justice.

In those days the great bear walked on hind legs and was master of all things wild. But the consequences of the bear’s actions resulted in the Great Spirit requiring the bear to walk on all fours. It could only stand on two legs in order to survey its surroundings, to satisfy its curiosity, or to look for danger.

The result of the daughter’s marriage was a baby that was hairless, like the mother, but brown like the father. It was the first Flathead Indian. The Grizzly now had to share its role as master equally with the Indian – each giving the other mutual respect and space.

The Grizzly, having evolved in more open areas where cover is sparse, grew larger than its cousin the Black Bear. That, also, necessitated the development of a very aggressive disposition to accompany the extra size. There is nothing on the North American continent to challenge this beast except Man – who, also, has a healthy fear and respect for the bear.

It is difficult for the two species to live side by side, but the Indians in past times have accomplished this task. This is, perhaps, because of knowing each others ways and having a mutual respect for each other – to live and let live.

(On the move amid the sage)

Massive Cleanup Required

Our property consists of 50 acres. Four of those acres contain our home and yard. We have a large garden, many shrubs and trees, many lawns, and my wife has many flower plots. The place is a real attraction for birds and other forms of wildlife. There are several local photographers that use our yard to photography wedding parties, etc. All these things are gratifying, but there are draw-backs for the luxury of having all this.

Needless to say, there are tremendous quantities of bio-mass produced in our yard. Besides all the lawn mowing and garden weeding in the summer, there is a massive cleanup required. It starts in November, after the leaves have fallen, through the winter. Cleaning up limbs blown down from winter storms, dead leaves, and old growth from the perennials in the flower plots constitute quite a big job. To date (March 14th) I have hauled off 164 wheel barrow loads and have dealt with several large piles of limbs.

I have often thought that we should name this place BIO-MASS PLANTATION.

Waldo

Have you ever had an animal in your life that left an indelible impression? Perhaps it was a wild one that crossed your path while on excursions in the outdoors. However, it’s more likely to have been a family pet of long standing. My family had such a one. His name was Waldo, and he has a permanent place in our memories.

I’ve always liked big dogs – especially big, friendly, shaggy ones like St. Bernard’s. This feeling was probably prompted by pictures and stories imprinted on me as a small boy. We never felt we had room for one until acquiring a cattle ranch in Montana. Magazines were studied, letters written, and plans laid to obtain one. All the way from Missouri to Idaho because Montana prohibited the shipping of pets.

The day finally arrived. Notice came that our pup had arrived and so I was off on a 80 mile jaunt to the train depot at Dubois. It was a happy station master that greeted me – glad to be rid of this thing that cried continually and begged for food. Besides, he was starting to form an attachment. Safely tucked in beside me as I drove off, his whimpering stopped. He was so glad to have an owner that he accepted me right away – licking my arm affectionately throughout the entire ride home. A great, big, wooly puppy with feet that looked four sizes too big -and was he hungry! He immediately drank over a quart of milk and his belly puffed out happily.

We were young, just fresh in the cattle business, and trying to economize. The first two years on our ranch we lived in a one room bunk house – renting the main dwelling in an effort to obtain living expenses. Well, Waldo was right at home, in fact the closeness of quarters was favored by him. He became such an intrical part of our routine that he could have been part of the family. We called him our anthropomorphic dog. The bunk house was crowded and so he slept close to our bed. Sometimes we would awaken to the feel of a wet tongue cleaning our ear, or a large face peering down into our own. My mother-in-law, upon visiting us once, was awakened in the same manner, much to her chagrin.

Waldo had a large area to roam and a mind of his own. St. Bernard’s are known for this. He was no exception. Maintaining discipline was sometimes difficult. We resorted to rolled-up newspaper spankings. He knew when he had broken the rules. A favorite ploy was to climb on top of the haystack. There he would be – sad eyes and drooling mouth looking down at us as if to say: “You won’t bother me up here”. Or he might be out mingling among the cattle -appearing as large as the calves he was interacting with.

Waldo loved people and especially kids. He was very satisfied to play with them, allowing them to climb on his back or to rough him up. Adults were not quite as receptive to him however. Two women, whose car had stalled one night, were walking across our front field to reach me to get some help. They were shocked into the present by a sudden, cold, wet nose appearing out of the darkness to press against their bare thighs. They then made rapid tracks to our house. Another neighbor, who daily regulated his water from the canal on our place, was afraid of big dogs. We never realized until years later the trauma he experienced each time he checked his water.

Once two missionaries drove into the yard in a small sports car. Noise permeated from the front of the house in the form of laughter. Rushing to the window, we were surprised to see Waldo with his front paws on the driver’s window ledge. His head was extended over the steering wheel in an attempt to lick a missionary’s face. I gave a mighty yell for him to stop but the results were most unexpected. The dog heaved his whole body through the window in a mighty leap into the back seat. A new experience, I’m sure, for the pair in that car that day. On another occasion a man in a truck with a small dog arrived in the yard. The little mutt proceeded to nip at Waldo’s feet. No problem – the cure? Totally encircling the other dog’s head in his mouth, he lifted him off the ground and shook him vigorously. When released, the poor wretch crawled up into the truck’s motor housing – not to appear until time to leave.

A degree of resiliency was exhibited by him at another time. Driving with a load of hay while he loped alongside, I made a sudden turn and caught him under the rear wheels. The total load moving over his hips. I was afraid that I had killed him but such was not the case. He disappeared for a week only to reappear, a little stiff, but recovering quite nicely.

Waldo was a dog of notoriety. People seemed to know him and to know him by name. My wife, on a shopping trip to town, left him in the truck while inside a store. Returning to the truck, she overheard two strangers who were passing by. Noticing the dog in the truck caused one to exclaim: “Hey, there’s Waldo”.

Several years later we sold our ranch and moved to Idaho. Waldo went with us. Living in a smaller more populated area just wasn’t the same and the dog suffered. In fact he didn’t last a year in his new home. Someone, who resented his presence, poisoned him.

We buried him below the garden under a big Weeping Willow tree. A sad day indeed! Since then we’ve had three other Saints: Brandy, Bengy, and Brutus. However, none were able to match the personality of our old original friend.

My Bull Snake – Ms. Relaxation

When I first started teaching Biology at Burley High School,
several students expressed a desire to build a reptile garden and to stock it
with specimens. We started with a couple of lizards and I purchased a small
Columbian Boa Constrictor. The Boa died soon after its acquisition. However it
was replaced by a surprising mail delivery. A calendar cylinder arrived from a
nephew that was in New Mexico and inside was “jammed” a Bull Snake. I’m sure
that postal workers would have been most taken-back if they had known what they
were handling. She became one of two that I kept in the room for 22 years. I
also had a Corn Snake but his demeanor wasn’t as placid as hers. (Surprisingly,
both snakes died the year I retired)

It was impossible to keep them totally secured. Two or three times a year one
would escape its cage. I got so I never worried about where they had gone, as
they were always discovered – when opening a drawer, pulling out a book from the
shelf, or hearing a scream coming from the Chemistry Lab. One time the Corn
Snake was discovered in the girls’ restroom.

But the Bull Snake was of a mild disposition and I could gently pass her
around the classroom to those students that were brave enough to handle her. She
was also a source of great entertainment. Whenever a student brought a mouse or
vole to school to feed her, the kids would hurriedly crowd around the snake cage
to watch; their fascination of the feeding act never diminishing. The snakes got
to eat during the school year but were forced to “fast” over the three summer
months. However, I would periodically stop by to make sure they were still there
and with water in their pans.

Usually, a student would ask to take the Bull Snake home and care for her
over the summer. This I permitted, if I felt that student to be responsible.
During one summer, in the first part of August, I received a phone call at 6:15
in the morning. A woman was on the line and explained that she had just got off
the “graveyard” shift at the hospital and wanted to go to bed. The problem was
that the snake was already in her bed. She explained that her son was in Boise,
on a scouting affair, and so she was calling me to come and get the snake.

Well, I hurried to her house and sure enough – there was the snake, body
under the covers but her head was out and resting nicely upon the pillow.