Some Things Don’t Change

January 25, 2011 by  

By Nick Simonson

I lifted my right foot as the slight humming noise approached from behind me. A few moments later, I lifted my left foot and hopped a step over to keep my balance. The whir, beep and buzz of the floor-cleaning robot my wife received as a Christmas present continued on as I put the last ingredients into my pheasant casserole and preheated the oven before settling in for the first of the day’s football games.

The youngest team on the slate – the New York Jets – was founded in 1960; the other three went back nearly a century. As I thought about that era, where football was a leather helmet (if any) and fishing wasn’t much more than a hunk of garden worm on a hook with some split shot above it, I wondered what someone of that time would think of our modern world.
A TV with a screen as long as a person is tall, a vacuuming robot that cleans floors without any assistance and an entire dialogue between two people that can be condensed into a handful of 140-character entries on the internet – or a phone for that matter – might seem commonplace to the man or woman of today, but to the person of yesterday, it would be truly mind boggling. Now, imagine if that person was an angler or a hunter, what would they think of GPS, laser rangefinders and satellite-guided motors? They probably couldn’t wait to get out there and try all these neat gadgets which have made hunting and fishing so much simpler, albeit somewhat more expensive. Then again, they might find out that people really don’t even need to get out there to catch or shoot the big one.

Because technology has changed so much of what we do outdoors today, we even begin to second-guess the accomplishment of those in the field and on the water. Did you see the eight-point deer with the 32-inch inside spread in your email inbox this fall? (I can’t help but hear Jerry Seinfeld: “Email – what’s email!?) How about the picture of the elk hunter being stalked by the mountain lion (www.snopes.com might help with this one)? What about a recent would-be world record pike from Norway (or was it Holland or Sweden)? With the internet, Photoshop, and the ease of image manipulation, it might be that those folks from the past need only take back with them a stretched-out photo of a 16-inch walleye to convince their friends that the future truly is as wonderful as could be imagined and big fish abound for all. All that and they could blur the background out of the photo, so their buddies at the bait shop won’t have a clue where to go to catch the same fish in fifty years.

With compound bows accurate over a football field, muzzleloader models about as primitive as a laser pointer and slug guns with a mere two-inch drop out to 200 yards, the accounting for user error is almost unnecessary. To the hunter from fifty years ago, it would seem like the deer practically hang themselves up on the gambrels outside of the modern shack – which by the way has running water, electricity, a silver-gray satellite dish and 140 channels, including four showing deer hunting programs right now on the five-foot screen hanging next to the wood stove. But it might still be more comfortable for visitors to the modern day deer camp to sleep in the four-wheel-drive leather-coated palace parked on the dirt drive leading up to the shack. Show them how to plug in a DVD of soothing rainforest sounds, or kick back and drift off knowing the auto-start will turn on every 30 minutes to keep them toasty warm, and they might just opt to sleep outside.

The timeless teams matching up on the big screen reminded me that some things never change. Excellence isn’t necessarily achieved by the best technology. Happiness isn’t found by doing things on the quick and easy. Rather, heart, perseverance and some old fashioned luck are what account for a lot of the great stories we experience in the outdoors, and likely made up a good number of those tales from our forefathers in the field.

It was fitting then, as I pushed the pause button on the DVR remote in the waning seconds of the day’s last game to check my Facebook account on my smartphone, that the two oldest and most storied teams left in the hunt from each conference were set to face each other, having won by playing good old fashioned smashmouth football. I smiled and thought of the time-traveling outdoorsman and figured he would probably do the same today, and emerge with a bird in hand or a stringer of fish for the frying pan regardless of the technology available to him. Just like he did five decades ago…in our outdoors.


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