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SCOTT RALL COLUMN: Flames, barbecue and the outdoor connection

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SCOTT RALL COLUMN: Flames, barbecue and the outdoor connection
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- The human/animal interaction is an ancient attraction handed down for hundreds of thousands of years. We cannot make it go away, but we can ignore it or deny it exists in us.

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A speaker at the 30th annual Pheasant Fest shared an eye-opening explanation into the human/wild animal spiritual connection. Shane Mahoney gave the audience a glimpse of why every human is connected to wild animals and a few examples that neither you nor I can dispute.

The first example begins with a question. Why, with all of the modern electric lighting available to the population of the United States today, is there still a billion dollar wax candle industry in this nation? Who would need a candle? One or two candles for emergency lighting might be appropriate, but that is not a billion dollars worth of candle sales.

Why is it that when we get home after a hard day, a warm bath and the gentle flickering light of a candle soothes us?

Imagine this setting one hundred thousand years ago. Ancient man hunted a wild animal and, if successful, cooked that animal over an open fire. Open fire for cooking meat after a successful hunt was the "relax and unwind" for pre-modern people.

Whether you hunt often or never hunt, almost everyone talks about just how cool it is to sit around a camp fire. Where did this attraction come from? Hours can be spent without conversation watching a fire.

This is a connection born from ancient man killing wild animals and then sitting around a fire consuming it. You might not have ever done this, but you cannot deny that your very modern existence is and was dependent upon it by ancient hunters and gatherers. It is so deep in our evolution that it's hard to describe in words.

The next example Shane used was about cooking. When was the last time you entertained a group of friends and cooked a meal for the group at your house? If you do this very often you will often find that many of the guests will gather in the kitchen. It might be closer to the refrigerator and that is where the cold beverages might be. If you used the oven to cook a ham, turkey of something similar, how many times did your guests actually open the oven to check on the progress of the meal? They gather in the kitchen, but not at the oven.

Now take that same group of friends at an outdoor barbeque. When there is meat on the grill, almost everyone will come over and lift the lid. Why is this? Why is it that the cook gets lots of attention at a barbeque, but not in a modern kitchen?

It stems back to when man hunted and killed animals to survive. Seeing a slab of meat cooking over a fire or gas flame and hearing it sizzle as it does so is as close as modern man can get to cooking a wild animal over an open fire in the dark hundreds of thousands of years ago.

We all have an unexplainable connection to wild animals. In current culture there is only a small percentage of the population that voices concern for the preservation of wild animals and the wild spaces they occupy. This has never really been any different.

Back in the day of Teddy Roosevelt, it was he and just a handful of other individuals who campaigned for the preservation of wild spaces. Teddy, on his own in the face of intense opposition, preserved millions of acres for wild animals in national parks and other land preservation efforts. He was joined by a few others who created the modern era of wildlife conservation and the North American Model.

The North American Model is based on the fact that wild animals belong to all of the people and are not owned by the owner of the land they survived on. It was these few, courageous individuals who have created the modern day conservation movement.

What does all this really mean to you and me? What I got out of the 2½ hours that I listened to Shane Mahoney was that every person has a connection to wild animals and wild spaces, even if we don't realize it.

The next question is, what are you going to do with that connection? There is still only a small percentage of the population who will stand up and act in the defense of wild animals and wild places. This is the way it has always been and most likely will always be.

What would life on the planet be like without large wild animals? When we lose the large animals, we are soon to lose the small animals as well.

If you can get yourself involved and act, then do so. If you are not in a position or not motivated enough to do so, then at least support the organizations and individuals that are trying to make a difference in the preservation and conservation of our most important wildlife resources. It matters little which one you choose, as long as you choose one.

The list of actively engaged habitat organizations is long. Pheasants Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation are but a few that are willing to stand up and defend our wildlife and the wild places that sustain them.

The next time you sit around a fire or watch meat sizzling on a barbeque with friends, think about your connection to wild animals. Ask yourself if you are one of the few who will stand up and work to preserve and support the wild animals in our world. There will never be very many of us, but life is changed by the individual. You might just be that individual.

Scott Rall is The Daily Globe's outdoor columnist. His column can also be read weekly at www.dglobe.com.

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