Behind the lines: Nothing new under the sun…

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    Sometimes it takes a comment from someone else to get your mind traveling along an unexpected path. My friend Mark Peters was an outstanding fastpitch softball player. He’d played small college baseball and was one of those rare athletes that were able to move from the world of overhand hardball to the whipping underhand action of softball.

    Mark tallied a lot of strikeouts in his career on both diamonds.


    He didn’t hunt or fish, which seemed strange to me since I’d grown up on both sports and sports they are, albeit of the outdoor nature.

    His comment that growing up in Iowa, he never got into outdoor sports struck me as strange. Strange or not, the world of casting, stalking, studying, and shooting all involve expert-level hand/eye coordination. Laying a perfect fly into a pool 40 feet away from you is not much different than hitting an open 3-point shot, and the rush you get when a big bass hits a topwater plug is just as intense as dropping the running back when he tries your gap. Sport is sport.

    We often think that everything is a new experience, it’s easy for kids to think this way since they’re often so self-centered they have no concept that what they’re up to has been done by others not for just a few generations, but since ancient man first looked to the heavens.

    This isn’t a visit to the metaphysical or the spiritual, the friends of my youth weren’t that deep, and neither was I. This is just a tome on a subject that predates much of human history.


    Ecclesiastes 1:9 says it succinctly, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again, there is nothing new under the sun.”

    How about a rousing “Amen” to that verse. It is one of my favorites. I guess it has a special appeal to someone who has studied history their entire life.

    The rains of last weekend were welcome, but not unique. They fell with the same slow-moving intensity in June of 1995. That was the summer my friend Tad McMillan, and our nephew Mark Smith built our house here on Gasser Road.


    Track was over and I was chomping at the bit to get going but Mother Nature didn’t cooperate. It rained in near biblical proportions for the better part of a week. To satiate the drive to build, I constructed all the steps for our new house in the garage in our old home on Eastview Drive, stored them under tarps, and hauled them the mile or so to the construction site once the deluge ended.

    In 1978, my dad had a nice field of corn north of the house on the home place on Summerhill Road between Pavillion and Kinnear. Winter came in September that year. The snow fell in copious amounts, making it impossible to combine that summer’s crop. 

    We finally harvested the corn in early April the following year. Friends did the same this year since the winter hit early just as it did 45 years ago.


    One benefit of that delayed harvest almost half a century ago came with the Wyoming Game and Fish. The ducks, geese, and deer wreaked havoc on Dad’s corn that year. They let us hunt ducks and geese until March the following year in an attempt to limit the destruction of thousands of feeding ducks, but it was to no avail.

    One cool thing they did provide us were overside firecrackers, that we called “duck crackers.” If you had an outstanding childhood as I did, they were about the size of the legendary “M-80s” that destroyed mailboxes for generations. They also gave us several boxes of 12-gauge “star shells.” These little beauties flew like oversized Roman Candles before exploding in the air.

    With the crackers just add a slow-burning twisted cannon fuse, and you have a duck deterrent, at least in theory. If we lit the cannon fuse, it burned for up to 90 minutes depending on the length. We wrapped the fuses of the duck crackers into the cannon fuse and they exploded every few minutes. The idea was to scare the ducks into flight and prevent them from eating all the corn. No, it didn’t work. The ducks soon grew accustomed to the noise and kept happily feeding away.

    The duck crackers were awesome for other uses the following summer.

    My friend Andy Herbst and Frank Schmidt were bitten by the same outdoor bug that infected me as a teenager and 20-something. Every weekend we were off on an adventure in those free and easy years from 18 to 25. Hunting, fishing, hiking or just exploring, it didn’t matter, Friday afternoon came and we were gone until late Sunday night when work called us back.

    One weekend we were on Union Pass, exploring the Warm Springs drainage. It was an area special to me since my grandfather constructed many of the now decaying flumes that brought railroad ties down the mountain to the Wind River and eventually to the railhead in Riverton.

    Frank was never one to adhere to the letter of the law when it came to hunting and fishing regulations. He wasn’t a poacher by any standard, but he was more than willing to stretch the law to its limit.

    Frank kept fouling hooks and breaking line on a beaver dam that was teeming with brook trout. He finally went back to the truck, pulled out three duck crackers, twisted the fuses together, took a little tie wire, and wrapped them around a rock. The fuses were waterproof and burned underwater with a sputtering, hissing sound.

    Frank took the “trout bomb” waded down below the beaver dam with a net, lit the fuse, and tossed the bomb at the base of the beaver dam.

    The explosion was impressive, but the three explosives blew up separately. A shower of mud, water, sticks, and bits of the dam filled the air and covered Frank with muck. He didn’t snag any trout, but he did get roars of laughter from Andy and me as we looked at him completely covered in muck and goo.

    The next morning, Andy was fishing below us on a good stretch of water. Frank pulled out a wrist-rocket slingshot and pointed silently toward Andy.

    I caught the drift. As he loaded the slingshot with a duck cracker I pulled out a match and lit the fuse. He waited a second or two and let the big firecracker sail toward our friend.

    The duck cracker blew up about six feet above Andy’s head. He didn’t have a clue it was on the way, and when it exploded his reaction was priceless.

    There is nothing new under the sun, that’s for sure, but remembering the stunts you survived as a kid, and the tales you created with your adventures make the continuing trips around the sun worthwhile.

    Athletes? Maybe, sports? Definitely.


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