News from the Secretary

News from the Secretary
Secret places

I suspect that nearly every farm or ranch has a secret place, where people go from time to time just for a little peace.

In a good secret place, no winds of adversity blow; no telephones ring; no clocks tick; no noise distracts; no people unexpectedly intrude.

It might be a particular spot in a hayloft, or under a bridge, or in a secluded bend of a river, or a small clearing in the trees, or a remote hilltop, but rural people know where they are.

Fishermen often have one secret spot. That is the place they go when fishing is an escape from the civilized world. They usually go alone. They won't tell you where it is.

Hunters have a similar thing. They will tell you stories from places where they sat for hours and watch as nature plays out a variety of dramas for them. It might be the place where the largest deer they have ever seen comes to visit. They just watch. They don't even think of lifting the gun. Sometimes it is not loaded anyway. They often don't admit that.

Their stories will contain a different reason why he "got away." They might tell you about the deer, but they won't tell you where he is, or how to get to that special place.

I know of spots on the creek totally surrounded by hills. The prairie winds never blow there, even when a winter blizzard is raging on the hills above. It is like walking into an invisible room.

It is a natural shelter and better than a barn. It requires no upkeep and no increased property taxes. Cows ready to drop a calf often go there.

It is a place of safety. It gives a feeling like sitting snugly in front of a wood burning stove or fireplace in our homes during a winter storm.

There are other such places for other times of the year. There are places deep in the woods where the heat of summer and the blast of a hot south wind never reach, and the earth feels cool and moist.

What rural folks do in such places is not much different than what some call a "wilderness experience" or "communing with nature."

Some people got the idea from John Muir (possibly America's most famous naturalist) that vast areas of true "wilderness" are needed for such experiences. That's not true.

John himself might have agreed that the primary point is to protect our secret places, not just a vast emptiness around them. Muir found hundreds of secret places and told the whole world about them.

Rural folks value special places just as much as the most ardent member of the Sierra Club. We just don't tell where they are. That's the difference. We can keep a secret.

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