writers love to share opinions. Our columns are full of personal
preferences in equipment, technique and location for the enjoyment
of outdoor sports. And - when the habitat of fish, fowl or mammals
is threatened - we don't hide our feelings.
opinion may vary in quality from the level of prejudice all the
way up to universally accepted belief. The more curiosity a person
feels, the more zest for life a person feels, the more likely that
person is to develop strong opinions based on fact.
teachers make a point of asking their students to open their minds
to facts and develop opinions gradually. Opinions
long tested by new facts begin to have credibility.
our world, where the World Wide Web and television and radio talk
shows allow millions of people to publish their opinions to millions
of others, opinions don't appear worth much.
in my lifetime, opinions weren't always so easily shared. A newspaper
columnist had a rare privilege, and most whose work I have read
frequently or whom I have known personally valued the privilege
enough to build opinions carefully until they had validity and could
opinions I held at age 8 or 18 or 28 or 38 or even 48 no longer
seem defensible. Those
I hold in my 58th year, however, mean a good deal to me. But I do
not fool myself into believing that another decade or another half
century won't alter some of them.
that I developed young and maintained even as facts and experience
accumulated, however, appear unlikely to change drastically. For
instance, I first believed woods and water were important because
they provided me opportunity to hunt and fish. Before long, however,
I came to value plants and animals and other natural resources for
their inherent worth, some of which I continue to discover.
father, even during the years when I was enjoying a prosperous,
happy career as a full-time outdoor writer and sometime professional
outdoorsman, occasionally said he wished that he had taught me to
farm rather than to hunt and fish.
was talking not only about the satisfaction of seeing things grow
partly as a result of simple hard labor but also about certain values
that are missed by a person traveling around the country in a motorhome
and racing across reservoirs in search of largemouth bass to fill
the livewell of an expensive bass boat.
would be proud today to see me spending time with my laying hens
and pet rabbits and helping water a garden and taking pride in things
he always enjoyed as much as he enjoyed the fishing and hunting
he managed to teach me so well.
I was exposed to farm things not only when visiting grandparents
in the country but also in the Shreveport, La., neighborhood of
my childhood. During World War II, people in town kept chickens
for the eggs and raised gardens because food was rationed. But I
was excited by big woods, swamps and free-flowing streams ‹ not
barnyards. Back then, it was unremarkable that we could drink not
only from relatives' wells but also from springs on their rural
opinion is that it is wonderful that a new pipeline soon will carry
water from Beaver Lake to outlying areas to the west. But stopping
all sources of pollution and making it possible for people in those
areas again to rely on springs, wells and streams seems more reasonable.
And to me that goal should remain regardless of the success of the
new water loop.
building of such opinions begins with the small child's asking "why?"
Parents who sincerely try to give a child an honest answer to each
such query may find their own opinions changing and developing.
cities have rules requiring the paving of parking lots. Why don't
they have rules forbidding unnecessary paving to reduce flooding?
cities have rules limiting the number of domestic animals allowed
on private property and dictating that vegetation be trimmed. Why
don't they have rules requiring every family to keep a few chickens
and to grow a garden and to keep as much natural vegetation around
their homes as possible to provide for the wild things and to help
cleanse the air and water?
are examples of questions leading to opinions that I have long held
and that get stronger as I gather new facts. As a city-reared 3-year-old,
I once asked my father why there were no sidewalks along a natural
lake in Louisiana that he took me to fish. My desire to avoid the
slippery mud has long since disappeared. Now I glory in the natural
areas. I feel sorry for children who would ask such questions, even
as my father must have felt for me. He never forgot that day. I
just hope to learn to explain the interdependence of human life
and nature as he did before my time ends.
its is time to go. I want to sit on the porch awhile and watch the
bumblebees and butterflies work the flowers and maybe help pick
a few vegetables and drag a hose to the garden to help perk up the
plants struggling to survive this long, hot summer.
when the moon gets high, I'll visit a nearby farm pond and try to
find out whether my half-century-old opinion that a Jitterbug is
a great topwater lure for nightfishing is still valid. Dad proved
it to me a long time ago.
SHEPHERD is a veteran outdoor writer and broadcaster who serves
as a news copy editor at the Morning News of Northwest Arkansas.