Lesson Learned Sitting In A Restaurant

Gather up as many good experiences as possible.   It increases your chances of being a pleasant old person.   Life is made up of moments.   A reunion among friends.   A first date.   A birthday…

We are in the lucky position to help you create these moments.   Relish them because you will carry them with you forever.

I read these words sitting in a Red Robin restaurant yesterday with my family.   As I was perusing the menu and the specials on the table, a little placard jumped out at me with these words obviously promoting the fact the restaurant would be a good gathering place to meet with friends.   At first glance I thought it was an innocuous little statement on life.   But then as I waited for my burger to be delivered I picked up the card once again and re-read these simple little words.   This next time, they struck more of a chord with me that caused me to do a little day-dreaming to pass the time and to better put the statement in perspective.

I thought about some of the old people I have known in life.   You know the one’s I’m talking about.   The sort of disgruntled old codgers who give living a long life a bad name.   Seasoned citizens who have absolutely no respect for younger folks and in general just have an ornery, mean disposition to everyone.   I’ve known a few…in fact, they’re probably the reason that for many years I didn’t want to grow old.   To these folks they seemingly always feel as though life in general has “dealt them a bad hand” in the game of life and while they know they’re not gonna win…they damn well won’t make the game pleasant for anyone else to play, either.

Okay.   Now let’s flip the coin.   Let’s look at some of the old people in life who are pleasant to be around.   They appear content with growing older not because they look at old age as a curse, but more of a blessing.   They accept the fact they are no longer physically capable to enjoy many of the activities they once participated in during their younger days.   Oh sure, a few more aches and pains may have crept into their daily life…but they realize this is part of the price to pay for being given the privilege of living a long life.   Most importantly, this person seems to understand and comprehend the difficult challenge of being “a pleasant old person.”   They know the choice is theirs to make.

This all got me thinking about some of the older influences in my life and how I once interacted with them.   Truth is, my dad died when I was 10 so I had to learn about all the wonderful ways of the outdoors mostly on my own.   I did so often by seeking out my uncle Art because he was one of the few older people in my life who was a genuine outdoorsman.   Art certainly fit into that category of pleasant old person.   He occasionally took me fishing at his lake cabin, but many other times he took me trapping, hunting and living outdoors vicariously through his many stories.   When he would talk to me about trapping he hadn’t set an animal trap in probably 40 years or more…but that didn’t matter.   The equipment may have changed as well as some of the techniques over that time…but the experience of being outdoors was largely the same shared between our two generations.

You could say during the years when I was “cutting my teeth” to become a sportsman it was older adults, such as Art, who helped form my mental impression of the person I someday wanted to become.   When uncle Art would talked about some experience skunk trapping or perhaps fishing for northerns through the ice we shared a special bond that lives on to this day.   Unfortunately, Art has long since passed on to those happier hunting grounds in the sky…yet several of his happy life experiences continue to live on with me.  

Far too often we forget about the many impressionable younger folks who might be looking up to us and learning from our past ways.   If they hear how you once had a total disregard for wildlife and was a poacher…well, then, how could they possibly grow up respecting wildlife when the only examples they’ve witnessed were bad ones.   On the other hand, if a person takes the culmination of outdoor experiences they have had and relates them to others in a positive way…it can educate, it can inspire, but best of all it can make you an older person others thrive to be around.

I strongly believe that a person largely makes their own good fortunes in life.   If you don’t live out your years doing the sort of things you want to be doing…well, there is nobody else to blame except for yourself.   Maybe it means taking that first step to live out a dream of going elk hunting out west.   Maybe its that trip to Alaska halibut fishing that has been bouncing around in your head for way too many years.   Could it be doing some off-shore fishing down in Florida that always appeared exciting on TV, but maybe a bit beyond the budget unless you begin saving now?   Re-read that first line on this post.   [seriously, scroll back up there and do it].   Tell me how can you gather any good experiences if you don’t make an effort to live them?

This all sort of reminds me of another statement I read several years back.   It went something like this:

When you are 90 years old sitting in your rocking chair reflecting on life…what will you be thinking about?   All the wonderful life experiences you got to enjoy…or instead, will your life be full of regrets about the many things you never even attempted to accomplish?   The choice is yours to make.

It’s really no big secret why some people grow old gracefully while others become more bitter to the very end.   So how are you going to answer this last question?

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

What They Won’t Do…For Your Vote

Here in the Upper Midwest if you go to any local county fair you are apt to see politicians vying for the constituency vote.   And sometimes they will do that in very humbling and often unusual ways.   Take, for instance, the politician who will sit on a stool and milk a cow the old fashioned way — by hand.   In most cases this publicity stunt does very little to prove they will be adept at governing once they hit the capitol steps.   Even so, it gives the onlookers a chance to laugh at someone who often doesn’t work in ways that ordinarily creates much hilarity.

HarrispossumBut courting the constituency vote in this Midwestern manner pales in comparison to what they do down in Florida.   That’s right.   In Florida apparently it’s in vogue in one small city for the politicians to prove their worthiness for office by grabbing a live possum by the tail.   The key here is to hold it high…hold it carefully…hold it tight so…well, the damn thing doesn’t struggle up and bite you in the arm.   It’s not enough to have a positive stance on the issues…nope, here you must also roll up your sleeves and eventually prove there are no bite marks.

Maybe in Florida they use the possum as some kind of political litmus test.   If the possum can bite you…how in the hell would you be able to withstand all the growling and teeth-showing that goes on across from the political isle at the legislature.   Much like ground hogs are relied upon to predict the longevity of winter in Pennsylvania, why not a possum to serve as some sort of soothsayer capable of determining political viability in the Sunshine State.

Of course it extends much deeper than this.   Not only does a candidate need to hold a live possum, but they must also prove they can stomach the taste once it is served up on the platter.   As one candidate put it… “You know that part where they say it tastes like chicken?   That’s a bad chicken.”   I suppose so.   But for the photo-op and the humility it shows, most of these politicians will simply grin and bear it to put on a good show for the voters.

And so it goes for most politicians no matter from what what part of the country they might hail.   They do whatever is necessary to get the vote.   I can’t help but make the comparison to NASCAR and what they call “silly season.”   In the motorsports world this is the time of the year when teams and drivers shuffle their allegiances to sign new deals often with a completely different team.   Is it really much different in political circles?   The political “silly season” lasts for months leading up to election day then the behavior magically disappears usually on the first Wednesday in November.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear a candidate say… “no, I’m not going to grab a possum by the tail or a cow by the teat.   It’s not naturally me to do that sort of thing.   My actions are not just publicity stunts but revolve around serious behavior for making important life decisions that affect many.”   Of course, candidates have long since learned that by doing so will probably not get them elected.   They have to comply with local social pressures even if this dictates they must act out-of-the-ordinary a la some kind of fraternity/sorority pledge behavior.

Indeed, in all parts of the country the political silly season is in full swing.   Sportsmen are likely to see candidates for office performing just about any type of behavior if they believe it will gain them some votes.   This includes hunting and fishing.   Is it enough for you to see a picture of a candidate holding a big fish to prove they are outdoors savvy?   Is it enough evidence for you to see this same candidate holding a gun out pheasant hunting to know they will make the right vote when important conservation measures come before them?

At times politics can be a great source of comedy…but this is usually only during the political silly season.   Once these folks get down to the business we elected them to accomplish the laughing and juvenile behavior must quickly subside.   I’d like to think most sportsmen put careful thought into choosing the right elected official, but the truth is far too many people step into the voting booth not really that educated about the people they plan to vote into office.

Remember, it’s not what the political candidates do before they get into office that really matters to our life.   If they want to play with possums and have their photos snapped doing so…more power to them.   But don’t allow this grandstanding to serve as any kind of proof they are the best candidate for that office.   These folks are not auditioning to do Dave Letterman’s “Stupid Human Tricks.”   Instead, they are auditioning to represent you and the future of our beloved outdoor heritage.   Don’t be confused by all these political antics when the time comes for you to step into that voting booth this coming November.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

It’s Not Easy Keeping A Secret

Something exciting happened today but unfortunately I can’t talk much about it quite yet.   Oh sure, some folks might retort…well, then why bring it up until it can be announced?   Why not wait until you can actually blog about it before even teasing about it?   I suppose that is a fair question…but realize I blog about what is on my mind and this matter has definitely consumed my thoughts in recent days.   What I learned today is likely going to make for one of the most memorable fall seasons of my life and I eventually plan to share most of those happenings with you on this blog.

Indeed, discussions are underway to possibly live out a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this sportsman.   Tonight I am feeling quite honored, fortunate to be selected among thousands of other equally qualified individuals, but happy it will be me to have this unique opportunity.

Keeping secrets is not easy for me, especially when it is good news.   I completely understand why timing is critical and the matter cannot be talked about before its time.   Still, I am so anxious to share my good news with my loyal blog readers that it just about kills me to keep it bottled up.

Needless to say…I plan to reward this blog’s readers for the patience you’ve shown in me by eventually taking you on a journey behind the scenes of something very exciting.   Something, I might add, that few people have ever gotten to experience in the outdoor world.   Stay tuned…and let’s all start getting psyched for the fall hunting season.   I know after this morning I’m sure beginning to feel that way.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.