Going for the Gold Outdoors
by Glynn Harris
Nobody can wear the badge of a true outdoorsman if the only time he cohabitates with Mother Nature is when he visits a pristine forest or sparkling stream to hunt and fish, returning home a few hours later, refreshed in body and spirit.
Such nimrods get as much exposure to the real outdoors as they would hitting a couple of Saturday morning garage sales. In order to qualify for the real thing, the experience has to be painful, extremely tiring and generally uncomfortable.
Slipping out to a woodlot after squirrels, or strolling down to the pond to cast for bass, falls short of what is necessary to earn a badge. Although there have been times when I have made such forays to the outdoors, most of my trips have been real badge-grabbers.
Nobody heads outdoors looking for pain, exhaustion and discomfort. If we knew that beforehand, most of us would join the local camellia club instead. No, the pain and discomfort sort of sneak up on you as fringe benefits of the outing.
For example, there was the time I accepted an invitation from a friend to fish for bass on a remote stream. He explained that we would wade and cast spinner baits around cypress knees and logs, and that we were virtually guaranteed a limit of nice bass. He added that we would also have great fun.
He was right on most counts. We cast spinners around logs and cypress knees, caught a bunch of bass...and HE had great fun. I would have undoubtedly have been filled with glee as well had I been able to master the art of standing upright for ten successive steps. My partner was accustomed to the muck and mire we slopped through. My efforts to keep up with him resulted in having my legs cut out from under me time and again by roots and logs that lurked beneath the surface. The badge I earned that day was a small solace for the barked shins and bruised ego I brought home.
One of the most sure-fire ways to earn your outdoorsman badge is to go camping. The VCR in your head plays tricks on you prior to an overnight camping trip. It flashes footage of a cozy campfire beside a sparkling stream while tiny frogs and crickets gently lull you into peaceful sleep on a bed of down.
After the experience, however, you realize the tape in your head should have been playing "The Chainsaw Massacre" to prepare you for what lay ahead.
First, there is no such thing as a cozy campfire. It's either an inferno straight from the pits of Hades that refuses to let you within fifty feet of it. Or - and this always happens when the weather is cold and damp - the only wood you can find is wet and instead of furnishing cozy warmth, it emits acrid, choking smoke that homes in on you like a heat-seeking missile, stalking you as you move around the stone cold logs.
The night-time lullaby the deceptive video shows is, in reality, the incessant whining that occurs as hordes of mosquitoes move in for their nightly feeding frenzy. Sometimes, the mosquitoes whine, too. The sparkling stream is actually a stagnant slough, belching putrid bubbles of swamp gas as arm-sized cottonmouths wriggle across the gelatin-like surface.
A bed of down? Yeah, right. The best you can hope for is to distribute the acorns, pine cones and sweetgum balls so they only poke and probe your less sensitive body parts.
Earning your outdoorsman badge takes dedication, commitment and the ability to endure intense pain and other indignities, but it's worth it.