Saturday, August 8, 2015

Never Fails

    Our family treasures our time in the outdoors. In the words of Frank Lloyd Wright, we “study nature, love nature, [we] stay close to nature. It never fails us.” In fact, my wife has spent most of her July at the cabin. Her father is convinced she may be going feral. She’s been up there with kids and she’s been up there with friends. She is taking advantage of nature’s gymnasium. She comes home rejuvenated and renewed after communing with God while watching the setting sun from a bench she discovered, tucked away up the road from the Cabin. And while she enjoys reading in the hammock, I find myself building an internal compass of the terrain.      
     After travelling with Grandpa, I discovered he knows every landmark in the great state of Wyoming and usually has a story associated with it. He gets great pleasure testing his progeny on both landmarks and stories. I’m still learning. This man has the best internal compass I’ve seen. He has crossed every inch of Wyoming territory, so when I brought up the idea of a Garmin Oregon 650 T GPS unit, I got the ever-so- clear Grandpa “eyebrow raise”. It is accompanied by the “what kind of bologna are you trying to feed me” look. However, he always follows up with the” I’ll hear ya out” smile and gives you a chance to explain your madness.
       The GPS has come in my rescue in a dicey situation or two. A couple years back, it was getting dark and I attempted to take a shortcut to the cabin. My internal compass was a little turned around and I found myself in unfamiliar territory. I pulled out the GPS and realized I wasn’t terribly far off, but off nonetheless. I followed the directions on my trusty Garmin and got back on track. Thinking my adventure was over; I turned off the electronic compass and went back to the internal. I found a solid trail and headed toward the cabin. Unfortunately, it was darker than an inside of a moose and I was off track yet again. I was getting to the point where I thought I may need to hunker down and build a fire, so I sat down and pulled out Garmin, just to see how far off I was. At first I thought it was lying to me as it showed me only about 300 yards away from the cabin. In a dark, heavily wooded area, 300 yards can seem like 300 miles. I headed east and heard a magical sound. My beautiful daughter was calling for her brother outside on the porch and I realized everything was going to be ok. Thank you, Garmin, for Bailout #1. Maybe a year later, I was trying to find my way to my opening morning hunting spot at 4:30 am in the pitch black. Moonlight and flashlight were not cutting it – the landmarks I was searching for were hidden in the darkness and I needed to be on the trail. I pulled out the GPS and it took me right to the sweet spot. Thank you, Garmin, for Bailout #2.        
      Technologic advances have their place and time and a GPS can be a helpful tool. Grandpa is slowly warming up to the idea, but I agree with his warning, “Make sure you know the land, my son.” I am grateful Grandpa sent me on walkabout more than a few times to learn the land. His patient teaching and guidance is the only true way to learn the landmarks I need to be familiar with. I need to know the subtle hills and clumps of trees, the old fences and rushing creeks. I want to know where Ole Luke and Grandpa Gus killed that cow elk or that bull moose. This, my friends, is institutional knowledge. I gotta tell ya, though; nature may never fail me, but every once in awhile my internal compass does. And that’s when Garmin sure comes in handy.

-Long Rifle