Mountain of wisdom grows steeper each year

By Jeff Petersen, The Observer July 22, 2013 10:18 am
Every day I try to learn something new. Some days it happens quicker than other days. Take Wednesday, for instance. Right after sunup, I learned that foxes come in all shades of red. The fox flitting through my west yard carrying a mountain quail in its mouth looked as if he’d been bleached out by too much time in the July sun.

Other days I get nervous. The curtain is falling on the day and I’m still looking for that first epiphany. Take Tuesday. The sun was setting when I learned from my woodcutting friends that “red fir” is the Eastern Oregon name for “Douglas fir,” the state tree. Yes, Oregon does have a state tree, to go with its state insect (the swallowtail butterfly) and its state beverage (milk).

Now, maybe just maybe, despite not having a gun rack in my Prius, despite catching more rubber boots than fish, I’ll be able to fit in better in this sunburned region I’ve called home for two decades. 

I also learned that a cord of wood weighs 3,000 pounds. Most Mondays, I lift weights for an hour as part of what I call my Gray Seals program. That’s like Navy Seals-type physical training, except for people with a Metamucil habit and graying hair. I decided to substitute stacking two cords of wood, tamarack and red fir, lifting 6,000 pounds in total.

I was proud of my accomplishment until a Facebook friend one-upped me by saying he had lifted 24,000 pounds of wood recently, some of it all the way over his graying head.

At my age — I’m nearly as old as Eagle Cap granite — I have an advantage over younger people in learning “new” stuff. I forget a lot of what I used to know, when I knew it all. That way, nearly everything I learn seems new.

Perhaps you’re like me. If you are, you have my sympathies.

Some of the “facts” I learn may stand on shaky ground. The other day, for example, I learned from a young deer-watching friend that a buck mule deer grows one more point each year. A yearling spike turns into a forked-horn two-year-old and so on.The nine-point buck he was scoping out in a Union neighborhood, where deer are commonly known as “tree rats,” had apparently been born in 2004 and survived nine hunting seasons — and everything the Bush and Obama administrations could throw at him.

Of course, not everything you hear or see — whether in person or on the Internet — can be verified with the authorities. This panel sits on a mountaintop and looks like the prophet Moses in triplicate (yes, even the woman panelist looks like Moses, except hairier). The panel knows it all. They know what species of firewood burns best, what foxes eat when they want fast food and how velvet antlers feel to the touch.

Of course, at my advanced age, it becomes more difficult to climb to the Mountaintop of Knowledge and consult the Moses triplets. The mountain is steep. The slope is slippery. And the mound of knowledge is way bigger than I once believed — and incredibly daunting.

Still, each day, I take two steps up the slope and slide back one. After all, it’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.

Contact Jeff Petersen at 541-963-3161 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Jeff on Twitter @lagrandenewsGo.