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Friday, January 4, 2008

Tracking Myself

I stumbled on to Tom Brown, Jr's book "The Tracker" back when it was first published. I can trace my path from where I am now right back to that book. It's a convoluted trail I've left. I almost never take a straight path to anything.

In his wonderful book, Tom tells the story of being mentored by a friend's elder Indian grandfather in the art of tracking - and the art of living. It's an exciting story, and I remember reading in People Magazine some time later that he was holding tracking classes in New Jersey. I so wanted to go spend a week in the woods with Tom Brown, Jr.

I'm a hunter...always have been, always will be. I could see the practical applications of learning from the master. My ex, the Rat B*****d, thought that he could teach me everything I needed to know about tracking. And his outdoor skills are pretty good. He doesn't have a clue about the true art of tracking.

The first time I realized that I was on the way to reading the woods, we were hunting whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in western Missouri. It was cold, the wind was blowing, and the deer were not moving much. Needing to walk to keep warm, I followed a deer trail into the deeper into the trees along the dry creek bed. Soon, I was on a reasonably fresh deer track. The regular pattern of hoof prints suddenly changed - in my imagination, I saw the deer slide to a halt, then jump several feet to the right of the path and kick up mud as it ran away...I wondered what caused the deer to bolt. It didn't take me long to locate the largish canine tracks - to this day I can't decide if they were coyote or farm dog - which intersected the deer trail. I laughed out loud when I "saw" the whole event as if I'd been there the moment the deer realized it was being stalked by a predator. That's the moment I became a tracker.

Since then, I've followed all sorts of tracks, hoping for a similar experience. By reading more Tom Brown, Jr. books, and those by Paul Rezendes, James Halfpenny and others, I taught myself the rudimentary skills of tracking.

In June of 2006 I was on-line looking for a list of Tom Brown books to give to the ladies who were going to be taking a tracking class that I was coordinating for a Women In the Outdoors day. I never did find a definitive list, but I did keep running into links to the WAS web site. It wasn't until early July that I e-mailed for information...I was intrigued by the Residential Program, which offered tracking as one of the skills of a naturalist. Of course, there was no way that I would be able to do it...I was too old, to broke, too out-of-shape, and too timid.

Check back to see how I changed my mind and came to Washington.

Note: I didn't see the swans today, but Alexia, our office bird expert says that Trumpeters are more common than Tundra Swans here...

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy reading your new posts everyday. Swans for your birthday? Magic!

    I have shared some new stories and thoughts on my nature blog:

    Please read it and leave a comment. It would be the first comment I have gotten on my blog so far...



My Favorite Fiction Authors and Books

  • Suzanne Arruda- the Jade del Cameron mysteries: "The Mark of the Lion" "Stalking Ivory", "The Serpent's Daughter", "The Leopard's Prey" and "The Golden Cheetah"
  • Ken Goddard - "Balefire" and others
  • Stephen White - the Dr. Alan Gregory books are all great. "Kill Me" is my favorite.
  • Harlan Coben - anything he writes is great
  • Elizabeth Peters - Amelia Peabody mysteries

My Favorite Nonfiction Authors and Books

  • "Coyote's Guide to Connecting With Nature" by Jon Young, Ellen Haas and Evan McGown- 2nd edition coming soon!
  • Gavin De Becker - "The Gift of Fear"
  • "Deep Survival" by Laurence Gonzales- the best survival book I've ever read! Not a how-to, its more of a who does,and why.
  • Candice Millard - "The River of Doubt -Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey"
  • Anything that starts with "Peterson's Field Guide To..."
  • Tom Brown, Jr. - "The Tracker" and others
  • Mark Elbroch - "Mammal Tracks and Sign" and "Animal Skulls"