List of things not for meAfter tipping a canoe in the dark in a North Carolina swamp in 1971, then doing the same thing at Spiritwood Lake a couple years later with my first wife-to-be in the craft, I have determined that God did not fashion me to be a canoeist. Thus, I have long avoided canoes, and speak in hushed tones about people who can actually operate them without getting dunked. (My wife and three other women canoed down the Upper Missouri River for several hundred miles in 1997 without mishap.)
After tipping a canoe in the dark in a North Carolina swamp in 1971, then doing the same thing at Spiritwood Lake a couple years later with my first wife-to-be in the craft, I have determined that God did not fashion me to be a canoeist. Thus, I have long avoided canoes, and speak in hushed tones about people who can actually operate them without getting dunked. (My wife and three other women canoed down the Upper Missouri River for several hundred miles in 1997 without mishap.)
The same could be said for golf and skiing. During one of the low points in my professional and recreational life while living in Grand Forks, I tried golf. I found it expensive, boring, and predictably, I wasn’t very good at it.
Almost 20 years ago Laurie and the kids bought me a pair of ski boots and skis for Christmas. Consider that Laurie used to be on the Alaska ski patrol, Ben would be known today as an “extreme” skier, and Katrina also was very good. There was no doubt in my mind that I couldn’t ski. Wrong! It took me most of an hour to get down off that dratted mountain, falling down repeatedly, soaked in sweat, hearing the chuckling of the young people on the ski lift overhead. I took off the skis and boots, sold them and never tried it again.
Something else I don’t do is shoot clay birds competitively. It is not that I am a bad shot. (I’ll bet you 20 bucks at any game with a shotgun, if you want to risk it.) I just don’t want to shoot every week, be obligated to “show up.” When I get a chance to shoot some trap, skeet or sporting clays, I always take advantage of the opportunity. I simply don’t want to make a job out of it.
In the hunting realm, I am game for just about anything. However, I haven’t shot a sage grouse in more than a dozen years. Unlike most wild game, I don’t care to eat sage grouse, and believe they have enough problems with survival due to habitat destruction without me shooting them. Also, after taking two black bears in 1973, I haven’t shot one since. Nowadays, at least in Montana, the hunter has to salvage and eat the meat. I have tried bear meat half a dozen times over the years and don’t care for it. So I no longer hunt black bears.
One activity I no longer do is more mundane. See, for 17 years I owned a lawnmower that always worked. When it finally wore out, I bought a new one that didn’t have an adjustable throttle. Every time I used it I thought the lawnmower and I might go into orbit. I sold it last summer, and now we hire the neighbor kid to cut the grass for $15 or $20. (If I liked tennis, I’d have a tennis court built in my backyard to permanently do away with the useless lawn.) Do I miss cutting grass? Are you kidding?
One activity that I haven’t done in a number of years is wilderness backpacking. My last trip was to Ram’s Horn Lake in the Gallatin near the northwestern corner of Yellowstone National Park. My son Ben’s ashes lie there. I used to be an avid backpacker, having packed all over the Washakie Wilderness and South Absaroka Wilderness in northwestern Wyoming, the Spanish Peaks and Lee Metcalf Wilderness in southwestern Montana. And in the northwestern part of the state, I packed into the Scapegoat, Bob Marshall and Great Bear wilderness areas. I backpacked in Idaho, British Columbia, Alaska, and Northwest Territories, and have some very fond memories of those trips.
All that country I explored is still designated wilderness, as it should be, and you won’t hear me clamoring for building roads into it just because I no longer can carry a 50-pound pack all day. I had my turn, and now it is time for other, younger people to enjoy that marvelous country and protect it for their own children.
Backpacking is the only activity in this litany of things I no longer do that I really do miss.