Lessons from Grandpa & Nature
By, Colton Jones
Fall is here and wildlife instincts are on full display. The bison of course have already forgone the rut, resulting in mature bulls and groups of mother cows putting sometimes miles of Great Plains between themselves and their older male counterparts. Whitetail and Mule Deer are on the cusp of a similar act, while female deer are foraging in small groups further away from their normal feeding grounds as grasses descend into a state of dormancy. Bucks are now congregating in bachelor groups that will soon break down to individuals violently sparing for an opportunity to stake claim to a territory and the breeding rights that come with it. Male Meadowlarks flutter from grass clump to grass clump, restating their breeding song that was ever so popular to mate seeking females in the spring. This is mostly in part to the similarities in photoperiods that spring and fall share. All things wild seemingly follow a manual written to proliferate each species’ existence.
I’ve always questioned the evolutionary strategy of human existence in contrast to our wild cohabitants. Although humans use an array of complicated mechanisms to achieve the ultimate goal of passing on one’s genetics to ensure the existence of a lineage, many of our strategies aren’t that different from those that can be observed in nature. Most animals fight, compete and love, but some behaviors that humans display contrast greatly to other species. I contribute this to a piece of the human anatomy that could also determine the fate of our future, the human brain.
As humans, we fill our brains with unnecessary garbage and accept untruths and prejudices. We allow it to move us away from the symbiotic relationship we were to have with all of nature. I’ve always envied an animals' ability to move with it. Ever since my grandfather opened up the world of nature to me they have had an intelligence that has always seemed far superior.
Even before I was born, my grandfather has been a world-class horseman. I grew up watching him break colts, fix problematic horses with bad habits, and train many teams of horses used in marathon cart races. From a very young age, I would ride with my grandfather in a four cart around a two track that outlined the perimeter of his and grandma’s farm. It was this path that introduced me to a more simplified world that was made up of milling turkeys, grazing deer, howling coyotes, acrobatic tree swallows, and clouds of monarch butterflies. This was a morning ritual that grandpa followed so religiously that he and his team had become another fixture amongst the wildlife, which enabled us to stop and observe the local fauna in their native state.
We would sit there and watch Tom turkeys strut and gobble as they tried to seduce a group of hens. The world was quiet except the sounds of metal clanking from the horses’ bits being rolled in their mouth and the occasional moan from leather collars as the team shifted weight from leg to leg. I would grill him with questions about why wildlife displayed such odd behaviors. He always circled back to a common theme, “They need to create offspring so that their species can continue to fill their roll in the ecosystem.” To even a small boy, this made perfect sense.
Advancements in human creations such as technology, culture and political agendas have seemingly complicated our ability to exist with nature and each other. We are officially becoming too “intelligent” for our own good. Explaining this concept to my two young sons is a bit complicated, so instead, my wife, Jilian and I, use a similar tactic practiced by my grandfather.
Every chance we get we take the boys with us to check the bison herds on the ranch. We park. We listen. We watch. Our oldest, Lincoln, is an endless supply of questions every time. We do our best to explain answers as to why we have to keep our distance during calving, why bulls fight, and why some bison simply don’t get along with others.
Bison in particular are a perfect example of individuals within a group who display their own personality, their own opinions, and their own differences among others in the herd, much like humans. But, inevitably, every spring the herd instinctively unifies to accomplish one goal. It’s a goal that once seemed clear to Americans, but has recently been distorted by clouds of bureaucracy, greed, and self-perception created by a small group of people who care only about themselves and how much money and possessions they can acquire in their remaining time on earth. That goal is the continuation of existence into the future.
The bison, over thousands of years of evolution, have learned to set aside their differences with one another for the sake of procreation and protection of their offspring. Because bison have escaped our self-limiting parameters such as, greed, self-image and pride that come with the human brain, they can focus on what can be done in their time of existence to ensure the future existence of their genes. This focus has been shaped by nature, the one thing humans continue to try and cheat.
I think we can learn from the bison and their “unity is perseverance” philosophy. We are a species that has long attempted to outsmart the limitations that nature imposes, and to that I say, “give it a break”. Instead, go out into the woods, the beach, a park, or the prairie. Let yourself be consumed by the world in which OUR existence originates from. Take the time to look at a system that is oblivious to racism, tax increases, campaign ads, and other human contrived concepts that continue to divide our country. Only then, you will see true survivorship that doesn’t evaluate political parties, or race, or money, but rather an individual species ability to exist with one another and its environment.
Mother bison who stray from the herd with their little one don’t exist because their lineage was terminated thousands of years ago by a hungry wolf. Instead, only mother cows with the understanding that “together we are stronger” have been deemed fit by nature to carry on their bloodlines for generations to come. WE Americans have encountered a wolf, and our ability to respect one another is being put to the test. I have no doubt that many Americans have had a similar experience to mine with my grandfather. There are some who have not. I encourage those who haven’t, to put aside the political BS, the news, the laundry, the work, and go out and observe a world that still makes sense. Take note on how the birds, deer and coyotes could care less if you’re a Democrat, if you have the latest iPhone, or if you own a condo in Maui. Give yourself the opportunity to envy nature for its raw simplicity the way my grandpa did for me. Share your experience as I am with you now. Encourage others to do the same. Then, just maybe, we will have enough common ground once again to start respecting one another.