Outdoors/Adventure

How can we revive generations of lost knowledge?

In the course of our daily lives we meet many people. Most urbanites are introduced to new folks quite often. Their impact on daily lives is usually quite minor in our complicated society.

In the Alaska Bush, it is quite different. I, who am terrible with names, remember Tex Greathouse, Shorty Kersher, Bernie Bevis, Fred Pancrest and others who touched my life in some small way many years ago. These guys are faded snapshots of a bygone era.

Their contributions were not important by worldly standards. They made no lifetime impacts on society as a whole. In their own way they did shape and form a small part of the world they lived in; just as the generation before touched them.

I fear for the present. We no longer learn from those who came before. Our knowledge comes from the internet. And — who wrote that article? Was the writer ever physically out there?

How many know how to make a working pair of mukluks from materials at hand? Could you make pemmican without having to buy the ingredients? Heck, how many even know what pemmican is?

We have lost a generation or two of knowledge. The information is on the “internet.” Can you follow that info in hands-on practice? Could you make a practical sewing needle from bone? Why would you, when Walmart has a six-pack for a couple bucks?

The point is not what we have to do, rather what we are capable of doing, before we have to.

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Many hunters take a GPS into the woods these days. Some cannot find the way out unless they have a GPS. Kill sites are now routinely marked on these electronic tools. Satellite phones have become commonplace. Self-reliance is quickly disappearing. People believe all of these fancy tools are a good thing. Improvements?

They are not. They teach us not to think. A few weeks ago, in Fairbanks, I was looking for a business address. I called. The receptionist could not tell me the streets to turn on to reach the place she worked at every day. “Plug it in to Google maps,” she told me. Why do we have street signs? I finally asked a taxi driver, who explained the directions. Imagine a hunter trying to tell me how to reach his downed caribou. Rather than Google maps, I would prefer a dog with a good nose.

Tex Greathouse taught me how to make raisin brandy behind the wood stove in his trapping cabin. Shorty Kersher told me how to keep spring trapping trails useable until late April. Bernie Bevis taught me how to “think” mechanically.

None of the lessons I learned as a trapline rookie from these crusty old dudes were Earth-shaking. However, they did give me a lesson in thinking on the fly, outside of the box. That is important.

But as hunters, fishermen and outdoorsmen it is not just thinking that is being lost, it is the ability to execute. Few hunt in the rain these days. Yet that is the best time: scent doesn’t carry far, nor does sound. Comfort has overcome inclination. Can we get inclination back?

Is it on the internet??

John Schandelmeier

Outdoor opinion columnist John Schandelmeier is a lifelong Alaskan who lives with his family near Paxson. He is a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman and two-time winner of the Yukon Quest.

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