Looking Back: The one that got away

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It hasn’t taken the self-described “new guy at the paper”, editor Jeff Burkhead, long to figure out what local residents talk about continuously throughout the year … hunting and fishing. He mentioned recently that the two most frequent questions he gets asked are, “Do you hunt?” and “Do you fish?” The follow-up inquiry, after hearing a negative response, is never said aloud, but is asked in the form of a facial gesture, a “look” of some sort. It conveys any one of the following responses, “Why the heck not?”, “ Are you an alien?” or even the one Jeff was sure was being asked, “So, why do you live here then?”
He asserts that “Fishing and photography are similar in some ways, I think.” Working at the Meeker Herald years ago taught me that my quarry, pictures in focus, gave new meaning to the “ones that got away.” Hunters, fishermen, and photographers spend hours describing their long wait for just the right moment, I can sum up all of my disasters in a few minutes. There was not one successful trophy hunt.
There is always someone waiting to tell you their own special “one that got away” story, and someone else eager to hear your own version of the seasonal tradition. The version of the third question asked of a newcomer, “So, why do you continue to live here, then” is asked often of the local, who does not appear to appreciate the outdoors as much as the avid hunter and fisherman.
Some of our newest residents find that bringing up their other outdoor interests, such as snowmobiling, hiking, camping and skiing, help break the ice and give them some common ground to share. No matter what hobbies or interests one may have had in other lives, other places, a love of the outdoors is something that most of us share. In fact, a lack of an appreciation for nature is often cited as one reason a newcomer doesn’t stay here.
“What is there to do here?” is not only asked by the youngest newcomer. All ages of the newest residents have always bemoaned the lack of urban amenities. Living on the edge of cities, in suburbs or small towns has ruined most of us in one way, as we have developed an inability to find things to do on our own. I admit that as an avid backpacker I judged places by their nearness to the wilderness, so when I was asked, “What will you do there?”, my answer was always confusing to those who didn’t appreciate the outdoors.
The fact that I was always going farther up into the mountains to get a better view was hard to explain. I never brought anything home, just the memory of the best scenery I could find. This pursuit could never be explained away with measurements or statistics, or any justifiable reasons for continuing to do it. It almost made the cliché about climbing mountains “Because they are there” sound sane.