Sunday, December 20, 2009


I don't believe I have ever been one to take major risks --- maybe I should say, simply, to take risk. I don't think it's a place I came to slowly over a lifetime, but rather a place it seems to me I have always been. As a little boy, one of my earliest memories goes back to my father teaching me how to pull out the grass along the sidewalk. You know, to make it look neat. This was in Clearfield: 97 South 450 East.

We didn't have a trimmer back then. In fact, in those early days we didn't have any power tools. It often seemed as if we were very lucky to have a car. Our lawnmower was mechanical, and it didn't include an engine, other than the body behind that pushed it along. To be fair, I don't rightly recall if we had mechanical clippers or not; we may have had. If we did, at the age I think I am remembering, I doubt I could have worked them anyway. So my dad, he taught me how to trim along the sidewalk there and along the other side where the curb was to the street. He put me to work after I had learned sufficiently and told me how far I need to go.

I kept at it. Pretty soon, though, a friend of mine from kitty-corner across the street, Ray Lechenberg, came out and started playing. What he was doing looked a lot more fun than what I was doing. I longed to abandon my assignment and go play with him. However, I didn't take the risk to do so. I don't want to say that I was an obedient child, although perhaps that is the case. However, it seems to me that a lot of it has to do with an unwillingness to take risk.

One more example. My parents liked for me to play in the yard. They didn't like me going out of our yard. "You stay in the yard, Wally," my mother would say. "That way we can keep track of you, and I know you're okay." Well, a commandment like that wasn't an easy thing to want to follow, especially, when the other kids were over across the way playing tag with each other. It was very difficult under such circumstances to stay in the yard. Nonetheless, for some reason that seems like it was inherent then and is inherent in a way now, I didn't want to take the risk to leave the yard and face the consequences that I felt sure my parents would impose.

Now, one could assume that it wasn't a matter of me not wanting to take the risk, but rather me wanting not to disappoint my parents or me wanting to be obedient when I had been righteously commanded to do so. I don't think of was that at all.

In my younger adult years, I liked to backpack and fish. There wasn't a lot of opportunity for me to do that, especially after school was over, I had graduated from college, and I had my first "genuine" job. We lived in the Midwest, in Illinois, and I seemed to be too busy most of the time, and the countryside there in Illinois wasn't the type of countryside that drew me to go backpacking in. I don't think there were any fish to be had there --- well, not any trout to be had, so I just wasn't interested in going backpacking there. However, when I had vacation time, we always went home to Utah, and, if I could, I would arrange a backpacking trip with my younger brother-in-laws, one brother-in-law in particular who also had that interest, Norman.

One year Norman and his friend Cory and I hiked in the back woods in Idaho. It was in a wilderness area, and we were in this kind of box canyon. There was a beautiful lake at its end, but it was walled around with steep walls of scree and rock. We decided --- rather, my younger companions decided --- to try to ascend to the top of the wall. Well, at first I was game. There was one side that didn't seem too severe, and so I assented.

We started up, but it became more and more hazardous because of the loose rock and scree, and so we gave up on that. We made other attempts, with similar results, more or less giving up because I thought it was too dangerous, and Norman's friend Cory sometimes agreed with me. Norman, however, always seemed willing to take a greater risk. So, while Cory and I gave up and went back to camp, Norman tried one more time. He ended up scaring me so badly going up that face that I've never forgotten it. He took a risk, succeeded, and climbed up that wall. Not me. I watched him, but I did not go where he went.

Now, for me it was and is a matter of inherent fear, perhaps, over against a less inherent fear. Otherwise, for me to admit it would seem boastful, from one perspective, or, of having a tendency to be blindly obedient, from another perspective. I don't pretend to have an answer to the question, though. It just seems to me (tonight) that it goes back to some sort of inherent tendency to avoid risk.

No comments: