Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Certified Outdoorsman... or Just Certifiable?

A couple of years ago, I sent out a press release announcing my participation in the 28.3 mile Ultimate Hike Against Children's Cancer. The purpose was to generate awareness of the event and, hopefully, to help me solicit donations for the cause. I was pleased when two local newspapers, the Statesville Record & Landmark and the Lake Norman Citizen picked up the story, but there was one thing about the Citizen article which bothered me a little. The press release was a modification of a boilerplate document provided by Ultimate Hike, and one of the lines read something like, "as an outdoorsman and adventurer, I am familiar with the risks and rewards... yada, yada, yada." The Statesville paper printed that line more or less verbatim, but the Lake Norman paper printed, "Marek, who describes himself as an outdoorsman..." I hate to be disagreeable, Mr. Editor, but when you finish your 28 mile hike and the 100 plus hours of arduous outdoor training for it, perhaps you can question my credentials as an "outdoorsman." Until then, you're just going to have to take my word for it.

It does beg the question, though, what makes someone an outdoorsman? In the economic development world, we speak of industry-recognized credentials. If you're a certified welder, you're a certified welder. If you're a registered nurse, you're a registered nurse. But, short of being a Maine Guide, there's no standardized credential that makes you an outdoorsman. Every year when my new guide license arrives in the mail, I open the envelope and proclaim in my best James Bond voice, "licensed to kill fish, by the State of North Carolina." Does holding a fishing or a hunting license make you an outdoorsman? If so, that's a pretty low standard, as credentials go.

What about clothing? The Robertson clan on Duck Dynasty (remember them?) brought camo so far into the mainstream that ten-year-olds who wouldn't know which end of a rod or gun to hold are dressed to (not) kill in RealTree; but I'm going to confess, I don't own a single piece of camo clothing. It's been my experience that the fish aren't fooled one bit by it, and I'm not sure all that many land animals are either. I've always been more of the L.L. Bean type; button-down flannels and Gore-Tex-lined chinos. Phil, Si and the boys had a nice run, but in ten years no one will remember Duck Dynasty and the world will still be buying L.L. Bean. Some things are timeless... and deserve to be.

So if it's not what you wear, maybe it's what you drive. I was paging through Popular Mechanics the other day and came across an article comparing full-size pick-up trucks, and was kind of surprised to see that the stickers on those bad boys were all a good bit north of 40 grand. Seriously, forty-freakin'-thousand-dollars for a PICK UP TRUCK? No thanks. I've become fond of saying that my next new car is going to be a 30-year-old truck... or more accurately, SUV. Been keeping my eyes open for a late-80's/early-90's Jeep Grand Wagoneer. Now that's an outdoorsman's vehicle. Sure, they get 10 miles to the gallon, but what's a couple of oil wells?

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