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.