[ Golden Eagle - Digital Art Photo by BRM ]
The Early Years
Perhaps some of us are born to be naturalists. In my case - I was born in a place where everyone is a naturalist to some degree because of the beautiful and wild environment of the Pacific Northwest. They called me 'Ridge-Runner' in school because I was always in the woods when not home or in school. Since my back yard was the Olympic National Forest - I had hundreds of square miles of virgin forest and ridges to run. A great place to spend a childhood - enjoying the great outdoors. And nature can be a great teacher - I got lots of lessons.
[ My Back Yard - Olympic Rainforest - Washington ]
Fishing, hunting, 'rock hounding', berry picking, peeling bark, or just taking a hike - I was in the bush come rain or shine. Being in the woods was it's own reward - so making some money collecting berries or peeling Cascara bark to sell was kind of icing on the cake. Some money could be made gathering stag horn moss or sword ferns for the floral trade too.
[ On the trail - Olympic National Forest - 1957 ]
I think most of us are born 'collectors'. For some it is stamps, Barbies, baseball cards, etc. But for us more primitive types, it is more of a 'hunting - gathering' instinct that supplies that strong urge for us to seek a livelihood in the natural world. Summer vacations in high school was spent commercial fishing for wild salmon out of Westport. For a break I would catch dungeness crabs by hand in the lagoons or dig razor clams on the beach. In Washington you grow up learning how to live off the land.
[ Forty four pound King Salmon - caught with a pole - 1960 ]
Risky adventure I found hard to resist. Rock climbing was one type of adventure I enjoyed - midnight drag racing, another. Nothing like an adrenaline rush to make you feel alive. I went into the Army right out of high school and loved it - mostly. The lack of freedom was not so good, but all the hiking and shooting - that was what I did for fun before the Army! Out of our big group of graduates at Fort Sill's Fire Direction Control School (artillery), a couple of us got picked for 'Forward Observer' training. My grades in FDC were mediocre - many of my classmates were nerds, college grads not wanting to put in two full years in the military. I had the highest score possible in firearms ('Expert' rating) and a 425 point score on the 500 point PT test (physical training), so maybe that is why I qualified for 'Forward Observer' training. Or maybe those other guys, being older and smarter then me, had wisely declined such an offer?! At any rate, the notion of learning how to penetrate enemy territory and call in artillery and air strikes sure sounded like fun - at the time. I almost got killed in the live fire field training - so it was probably a good thing I got out of the service in May of '65 (California National Guard), a few months before everyone started shipping out to 'Nam. For years after my discharge the Military kept contacting me - saying there was a shortage of good Forward Observers and they wanted me to re-enlist. Gee - I wonder why there was a shortage?
Archeology seemed like an adventurous profession to a boy who grew up reading National Geographic Magazine and dreamed about travel to exotic lands. So finishing junior college in California - my wife and I head for Mexico