Friday, November 21, 2008

(3) Sacred Ground

I could go on and on about these Indian tales in Virginia, but
rather I must make mention that I just got wrapped-up with
what I perceived to be the "indian way," if you will. A youngster,
my approach was no doubt naive. But I decided that rather
than playing Cowboy and Indian, I would instead play Hunter
and Gatherer.

Initially my parents were amused when I proposed starting a
garden in our big backyard. Well, how about this far corner?
I imagine they figured my gardening effort wouldn't last.
However, determined, I spaded a small section, bought seeds,
and raised my own vegetables. I tended the garden dutifully.
I loved getting dirty, getting my hands into the soil. As for
hunting, my parents bulked.

They did offer a solution, which turned out far better. They
bought me a small camera and suggested that I go "hunting"
with it. So I trekked out into the woods, across fields, tracking
animals and photographing them. I was surprised how many
different animals I managed to discover, shooting them with
my camera. Eventually I began to add quasi-learned
commentaries to all the different animal photos I had placed
in my albums.

Complimenting all this, as I grew into my teens, I learned
a lot about nature while a Boy Scout. Scouting included
many aspects, but I especially appreciated its outdoor
programs. There were weekend hikes, summer camps,
and even an emphasis on ecology and the environment.

In my final days at High School, I began to realize that long
ago I had set upon a path. I decided that I would like to be
a park ranger. And I had to thank that ancient Indian who
came down from the sky and woke me up!

In today's world there lots more environmental education
offered in High School curriculums. But that wasn't the case
when I was attending at this level. Our village school building
actually housed all twelve grades. As for kindergarten, well
it wasn't prominent back then. Still, I believe I received a
fairly good basic education. And I tended towards Botany
and Biology, trying to mix it with Zoology. I didn't have many
options, but I read books on the side that might help me
towards becoming a park ranger.

Of course I only vaguely had any idea what I had to do to
become a park ranger. I talked with my favorite High School
teacher, who taught Botany. He said that I would likely have
to attend college or university, no doubt majoring in a field
like Forestry. So I talked with my parents, and fortunately
they had the means to provide me with an advanced education.

My grades had been good, so I needn't worry about getting
accepted at most colleges or universities. The trick was to
find a school that emphasized Forestry. Not all colleges or
universities have these programs. Anyway, I began to make
some serious inquiries--with the help of my Botany teacher.
In those days, it was slow going since we didn't have our
current day Internet. I had to write away for college brochures
and bulletins, and that took an inordinate amount of time.

Eventually I applied at a major Big Ten university, the Ohio
State University in Columbus. Like many of these Midwestern
schools, it originally started as an "agricultural college." Back
in their early days Midwestern states still represented our first
American frontier, beyond the original thirteen colonies that
border the Atlantic. Just beyond the Appalachian Mountains,
the Midwest was open to the farmers of the late 18th and early
19th centuries. This great farmland eventually developed the
need for agricultural colleges.

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