After 30 years, D.S. Pledger turns in outdoor pen

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D.S. Pledger
Saturday, May 3, 2014

Many years ago as a small boy growing up in Northern Wisconsin, I learned the difference between “outdoors” and “indoors.”

It seemed to me that a good 90 percent of things worth doing took place in the former.

Thus began my first outdoors column that was published on May 8th of 1984. It seems appropriate that it should also be the lead sentence of my final column 30 years later.

After writing three decades worth of pieces on the opening weekend of hunting season, the arrival of the seasons, and other annual events, I've pretty much run out of anything resembling a new angle on them. Indeed, it's probably high time that I pass this space on to someone with a different slant on things.

I'm sure that everyone is pretty aware (and perhaps a little tired) of my views on technology in the outdoors and all the shortcuts to success in outdoor endeavors that have become the norm these days.

I also suspect that some Gazette readers—especially the younger generation who might not have been born when I started writing—would like to read about topics such as ATVs, snowmobiles, crossbows, jet skis, fishing tournaments and various other things that I have no interest in, and, therefore, never include in my writing.

Over the years I've cranked out something like 2,000 pieces, give or take a few hundred (for many years my column appeared twice a week). Calculating on an average of about 650 words each, that's 1.3 million words, or a single-width column of newsprint 10 football fields long.

No wonder I'm starting to get tired!

During my tenure on this page, I've seen many changes.

My early articles were handwritten and delivered to the Gazette in person on my way to work. There was a photo lab where we rolled our own film, shot it, developed it, made proof sheets and printed the negatives on an enlarger.

Now, of course, all of that is gone, and the photo lab is an office. Everything is done on computer and sent over the Internet.

The DNR still had an Ethics Board in 1984 that decried things like using bait to attract deer as unsporting, and the crossbow was scorned as the tool of the poacher. We didn't have 26 different .30-caliber rifles, and there were, perhaps, only half a dozen patterns of camouflage.

Yes, things have changed a lot.

There is, however, one thing that has remained, and that's a basic truth about the outdoors.

Going back again to that first column, I ended it with Thoreau's famous quote “in wildness is the preservation of the world.”

I've always taken this to mean, I wrote, that the things of nature are what keep modern man sane. Should we ever see the day when urban sprawl takes over the countryside, we'll have lost our last escape from the pressures of living in a crowded, noisy society.

I've yet to see a person fail to benefit physically or mentally from time spent in the out-of-doors, whether it's biking along a quiet country lane in the heat and lushness of July, guiding a canoe through the foam and thunder of a wild river, or laboring in hip boots through the mud and ooze of a partially frozen marsh to a duck blind in the half-light just before dawn.

Outdoors experiences, whatever they are, seem to put one's cares on the back burner for a time and have a way of rejuvenating the spirit, while the fresh air, and exercise involved help firm up that sedentary flab that infects many of us city dwellers.

While our memories of parties or trips to an amusement park may fade rather quickly, a disproportionate number of outdoor experiences remain vividly etched in our memory.

Perhaps our subconscious minds are trying to tell us something.

D.S. Pledger is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at maus16@centurytel.net

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