Monday, March 17, 2008

Addendum to Expertise


I'm reminded of a story I heard years ago: A park ranger somewhere in the west was out hiking when an excited birder came running up to him. Guy pointed at a feathered critter nearby and said,"Do you know what kind of bird that is?!"

Ranger said, "No, but I have a copy of Peterson's Guide in my backpack."

"Won't help," the man said. "I'm Peterson."

Second story concerns an argument I had with my father last time I went home to visit. My mother has bird seed feeders out, and she also hangs sugar water bottles for the hummingbirds, and we were watching a black bird. I mentioned as how we had some birds out west I had never seen in Louisiana. In eastern Oregon and Washington, there is a kind of black and white bird with a long tail, I said, called a magpie.

No, my father said, that's a barn swallow.

I learned a long time ago I couldn't argue with my father -- he is always right, and if you disagree, you are wrong, period. So I shrugged it off, and let it go.

My mother left the room. When she came back, she was carrying a copy of her bird identification book, opened to the page on magpies. "Is that it?" she asked me.

"Yeah."

Triumphant, she flourished the book at my father. And he said -- and not the first time I had heard him say this -- "Well, the book is wrong!"

I tell these two stories together because a) sometimes the book is wrong -- or incomplete. (And even R.T. Peterson kept on learning, after he was the man to ask.) And b) sometimes the book is right, but people don't want to hear it. You have to be able to figure out which is the case now and again ...

3 comments:

Dave Huss said...

Everyone has opinions and different tastes. Sometimes you have to take a Zen approach at it. I figure it's a good thing that people are diverse, even if they are sometimes adamant in what they believe in the face of fact. What the hell, Viva La difference. Thank God for WWF and NASCAR and Flower shows and etc. etc. If everyone liked the same things and thought the same, they would be in front of me at the MOMA blocking the view of the paintings that I wanted to see.
Dave

Jason Couch said...

Steve, maybe your father just saw "Mr Hobbs Takes a Vacation" one too many times.

Steve Perry said...

Naw. My father was in the WWII generation who grew up during the Great Depression. LIke many other men of his age, his values were "traditional." Get a job, get married, have kids, Men then were head of the household, their word was law. Plus my father was an engineer, and things were very black and white in his world. Men worked. Women stayed home and were responsible for raising the children. Once in a while, you took the boys fishing or hunting. You showed them how to hold their fists and punch, you tossed them into the deep end when you figured they were ready to learn how to swim.

Lot of men who came back from the War had blunted emotional aspects; many of them took that into the War with them.

My father-in-law was the same way. His values revolved around work and money.

If you want to see how men used to deal with their emotional lives -- such that they were -- read Lonesome Dove. McMurtry nails it.

I think it wasn't until the 1960's that a lot of men began to question those traditionals