Please, teacher, don’t call my name

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I made a trip to Trappers Lake last week. It was only my second time to visit the area.
I was even more impressed this time.
To begin with, the drive was beautiful. The leaves are definitely turning. And the weather couldn’t have been better.
I accompanied a group of fourth-graders from Meeker on a field trip.
OK, I didn’t join them on the school bus, which turned out to be a good thing, since the bus broke down on the way back. Nor did I pack a lunch, like the students did. Instead, I had lunch at the Trappers Lake Lodge.
Holly, who owns Trappers Lodge along with her sister Carol, fixed me a cheeseburger. This was not your typical cheeseburger. It was huge, two big patties of beef stacked on top of each other.
I kept telling myself, “You don’t have to eat the whole thing.” And then I would take another bite. I didn’t stop until I had eaten the whole thing.
I figure I must have worked up an appetite trekking around the trails at Trappers. Actually, the burger just tasted so darn good, I “had to” eat the whole thing.
Or maybe it was all of the brain power I had used up that made me hungry.
I have to admit, it was fascinating to learn more about Trappers. The Forest Service folks did a great job telling the kids about the area. They also quizzed them along the way.
During one of the stops along the hiking trails, Mary Cunningham, a wilderness biologist, asked each of the students if they could name an animal or plant that could be found in the forest.
Then she turned and asked me. I was standing — or hiding — at the back of the line.
“Let’s see if the photographer can name an animal or a plant found in the wilderness,” Mary said.
All of a sudden, I had this flashback, “This feels like when I was back in school.”
You know that scary feeling, when the teacher would call on you in front of the class, and the rest of the students would stare at you to see if you gave the correct answer. I froze. My mind went blank. I started to sweat.
I mumbled something like, “Oh, uh, I was taking pictures. I didn’t hear what you said.”
I knew Mary could tell I was making excuses.
Even one of the teachers tried to help me out, whispering the name of some kind of thistle or something, but I couldn’t quite hear what he was saying.
It was a humbling experience.
Later in the day, however, I was given a second chance.
When the group I was with returned to the parking lot to gather for lunch, Mary reviewed what she had covered with the students. Once again, she asked if anyone could name an animal or plant that was indigenous to the area.
I quickly raised my hand. I felt like Arnold Horshack on the old “Welcome Back, Kotter” TV show. I was determined to answer the question right this time.
I think Mary must have felt sorry for me, because she ignored the other raised hands and called on me.
“A cutthroat trout,” I said, beaming proudly as if I had just aced a big test.
“Hey, the photographer has redeemed himself,” Mary said.
I raised both arms in the air like I had just scored a touchdown. I’m not sure Mary was impressed, but I think a few of the kids might have been.
As I was preparing to leave, I handed my business card to Mary and thanked her for allowing me to tag along for part of the day.
“Is that your husband?” I heard one of the students ask Mary as I was walking back to my Jeep.
“Oh, no, that’s not my husband,” Mary said.
She wasted no time in setting the student straight, I noticed.
n n n
The two most frequent questions I have been asked since moving to northwest Colorado are: Do you hunt? No, I say. The first question is quickly followed by the next one: Do you fish? No, I don’t do that, either.
Typically, then, the person asking the questions gives me a look, which says, “So, why do you live here?”
As a photographer, though, I can relate to fishing. Fishing and photography are similar in some ways, I think. Both require a fair amount of patience. Luck is involved, too. Being at the right place at the right time.
And like fishing, when taking photos, I sometimes lament about “the one that got away.”
n n n
I participated in the 5K walk during last Saturday’s Fall Festival. I’ll do about anything for a free shirt.
A 5K translates to a little more than three miles, though I think a few of those hills along the course should have counted for extra distance. I know my calves were feeling it by the end of the walk.
At one point, one of the youngsters who did the 5K walk turned to me and asked, “How come you didn’t do the (5K) run?”
I made some wisecrack, like, “Hey, I’m doing good to do the 5K walk.”
What I felt like saying was, “Give me a break, kid, I’m almost 50 and I haven’t run three miles in probably five years.”
But I didn’t think he would understand.

Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at