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Doug Leier, Published January 17 2012

Leier: Outdoors is a place to gain perspective


Over the holidays, I bumped into an old high school friend, and true to form for a couple of guys who love the outdoors and also have young families, we began sharing stories.

Living in Montana, Jon has had the opportunity to hunt elk in the same manner we hunt pheasants or ducks, and his kids are right there with him. His eyes sparkled like the ripples on an early-morning lake when he proudly relayed how his daughter, on an outing back in North Dakota, had bagged her first pheasant. “And my dad was along, too.”

This had special meaning to me as well, since Jon’s dad is Mr. Stites, one of my high school math teachers.

For a kid needing a solid math and science background – when even in high school a “C” in math was an “A” in my book – Mr. Stites had a way of making sure I was armed with the knowledge and skills to survive college statistics, calculus and trigonometry. All with a “C” for good measure. But I made it.

And from the sounds of it, Jon was working on the honor roll of the outdoors. The tone of his voice and the excitement in his explanations were a testament to family ties created through outdoor adventure.

While the conversation was merely minutes, it felt like hours as we shared stories back and forth, between bites of a manhandler pizza. Weeks later, on one of my many winter drives with no purpose other than just making sure it’s all still out there, I replayed that conversation and marveled at the role the outdoors plays not only in our lives, but the lives of many current and former North Dakota residents.

All this occurred at roughly the same time I passed the mark of four decades on earth, and quite frankly I’m not sure whether to grasp the philosophy that “age is just a number,” or “you’re only as old as you feel.”

We all face our own struggles, and with a little thought you realize it’s relative to each individual. There’s always someone doing better than you, and others not doing as well. The outdoors sometimes is a place to gain perspective, think through tough decisions and internally reboot our system.

Upon returning home from that drive, I wrote Jon a note and thanked him for the conversation and the privilege of meeting his family. It’s reassuring to know that while pursuit of a trophy elk, a limit of ducks or a lunker walleye can be part of the outdoors, for most of us there’s more to it than that.

And besides, when life sends you a curve, have you ever heard anyone say, “I just need to watch some TV or play a video game?”

Leier, a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at dleier@nd.gov

Leier’s blog can be found online

at www.areavoices.com