Semper Fidelis - Semper Discentes

Eccentricity, a Sense of Wonder, and a Few Old Nerds

In Expeditions on April 2, 2013 at 2:21 pm

I’m sixty-one years old, and have probably been considered odd for most of my life.  Now that I’m a senior citizen, I hope I’ve finally graduated to eccentricity.

Topics and activities, entertainments and hobbies, and modern cultural phenomena that are so important to the majority of Americans do not interest me in the slightest.  I’ve never seen an episode of American Idol.  I am totally unconcerned with the activities of celebrities, and often find myself asking my wife, “Who is that woman?” when some obviously important personage shows up on the television as I walk by.  I really do NOT recognize many actors or actresses who’ve arrived on the scene since about 1985. 

I am totally unconcerned with Oprah Winfrey’s, or Dr. Phil’s, opinions on anything.  I recently seem to be seeing magazine covers and television shows dedicated to a family of rather flashy women named Kardashian, whom I took to be prostitutes, and have yet to find anyone who can tell me why they are considered celebrities.

That being said, I think I have a highly developed sense of wonder, both in the physical and spiritual sense.  From time to time, I find myself just looking around at these Ozark mountains, or these pristine Ozark streams, and thinking, “Wow!”. 

The nightstand beside my bed is covered with books, and I’m usually reading three or four simultaneously.  Right now, there’s a Bible (NASB version), Oswald Chambers‘s My Utmost for His Highest, a Tom Clancy novel, a 1920s Introduction to the Study of Entomology, a copy of Damselflies of North America, a Missouri Department of Conservation publication on beavers, plus a couple of scientific papers about beetles (about 50% of which I can understand).

I’ve been all over Missouri, hunting for dragonflies and damselflies.  On trips to Louisiana, Mississippi, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Montana, I’ve stopped the car at likely streams and ponds, just to spend a few minutes swinging my bug net.  I bring their little corpses home, identify them, and record the data.

I love to travel anywhere in the state, attending conservation workshops.  In the four-and-a-half years I’ve lived in the Ozarks, I’ve been to classes on fish identification, water quality monitoring, crayfish identification, mussel identification, mushrooms, invasive species, and no telling what else.  I’ve never cared to be an expert, or even a  highly-qualified layman, on any subject, but I’ve always wanted to know a little bit about everything.  Some of my friends criticize me from jumping from subject to subject.  Maybe I’m a dilletante.

Right now, on the front porch of my house, I have two large five-gallon buckets.  Into one of them, I placed a large, fresh, cowflop.  Into the other, a similar horsepoop.  I then added water, and stirred them with a big stick.  I’m waiting to see if any beetles float to the top.  I spent last Sunday constructing ten dung beetle traps, from old soda bottles.  After I return from the gym today, I’ll bait them with various types of dung, and place them around my 20-acre valley.  If I find any beetles, I’ll spend a couple of hours trying to identify them, using my rapidly-expanding naturalist library.  Why?

Why not?

The greatest gift we can give our children is a sense of wonder at the world in which they live.  That quality, in my opinion, is quickly disappearing from American youth.  Yes, their friends will call them “nerds”.  No, they may not know all the latest and most vital information about Brittney Spears or Miley Cyrus.

But, as they grow, they’ll find their world amusing, interesting, and worthy of study and respect.  They’ll live for the day when they graduate from “oddity” to “eccentricity”.  I know a LOT of “Old Nerds”, and they’re usually a lot of fun to be around. 

                            The Old Nerds Club

As a matter of fact, back in 1995, a group of four such guys began what turned out to be an Old Nerds Club.  We named it the Bartholomew Society, after a waterway in northeastern Louisiana.  On the wall of my Man Cave is my Bartholomew Society Founding Member certificate, which proclaims me to be:

“A Colonel in all undertakings Martial, Adventurous, or Exploratory, a Captain in those matters Maritime, Nautical, or Riparian, and a Doctor in all affairs Scientific, Literary, or Educational.”

 The Founding of the Bartholomew Society,
 August 13, 1995.
 Captains Sims, Tugwell & McLean (l. to r.).
 Photo by Dr. Franklin.
Life is Good.  Life is Interesting.  And Life is Odd.  Don’t be afraid to enjoy it.  Or to be nerdy.

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