I like to garden - veggies, perennial flowers, shrubs and trees, annuals, etc. Tropical plants stay outside in the summer and then move inside to escape winter's wrath, just like us. Hanging plants are nurtured inside throughout the long winter months, as I await the first sign of new growth. One day their roots awaken and begin the regrowth process once again.
However, plants aren't the only living things that can have a "root awakening."
I recently followed a group of middle-aged customers, as I left work one day, headed toward the Bass Pro Shops Altoona exit doors. Suddenly, just inside the automatic exit doors, I overheard one of them exclaim, "There it is...there's the picture!"
As I trailed them out the automatic exit door, they stopped in front of a large, aged photo in our exit area.
They huddled together. A woman in the group pointed and said, "There he is."
I had to stop.
"Do you know these people?" I asked.
They explained that the gentleman on the right was their neighbor now and in his 80s. They guessed he was about 17 in the photo. We visited about how he had been a life-long hunter and how hunting and fishing have played such an important role in the lives of so many Iowans.
As I headed to my car, the reality of the photos hit me. Despite the many times I've looked at them, I had not listened to them. These are the people who created our state. Hunting and fishing were not simply a sport. It was a way of life and a means of survival. Living off the land was not the latest fad - it put food on the table, especially during harsh economic times. The rivers, lakes, ponds, timber, and fields were nature's grocery store.
Later that night, my husband and I settled in to begin watching The National Parks: America's Best Idea, being rebroadcast on public television. We had watched part of it last year, and knew it was worth watching again.
Over the course of the week, during the series and in special programming in conjunction with it, we soaked up the history of the national parks and the passion of park pioneers like John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt. What did I learn? That important aspects of conservation and wildlife management came from fellow Iowans. Aldo Leopold, environmentalist and instrumental in land ethics, and John Lacey, a Republican Congressman, and author of the first federal conservation legislation (Lacey Act of 1900) and supporter of a national park service, were both from Iowa. These are the leaders who helped put giant trees, granite cliffs, winding canyons, and more, into the forefront of U.S. citizens' minds. They used artists, writings, newspapers, and photographs to show Americans that our country's natural treasures were far more important than any man-made castle in Europe, that we should be proud to have such wonders to enjoy, and that they needed to be managed with care. Then I thought about Iowan Ding Darling, long-time newspaper cartoonist and well-known conservationist (J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge), who continued that fight.
So, thank you, guys cleaning your guns by the pot-bellied stove...
Thank you, women pheasant hunters having a good time...
Thank you, dashing looking young man with a giant cat...
Thank you, duck hunters out in the field, smiling and celebrating your successful hunt.
Because of you, I had my root awakening that week. A regrowth of pride in my natural heritage as an Iowan, combined with a revitalized passion for our country's land and natural treasures, and a reaffirmed disdain for those who abuse it through littering, vandalism, or total disregard for laws and etiquette. Knowledge that my roots are shared by the people who grace our store walls and with Iowans, like Leopold and Lacey and Darling, who led the charge to help protect our wilderness and natural beauty for years to come.
"We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” ― Aldo Leopold
"I do not believe that any man can adequately appreciate the world of today unless he has some knowledge of -- a little more than a slight knowledge, some feeling for and of -- the history of the world of the past." - Teddy Roosevelt