THE SNIPE: An essay of personal history

By Dave Hanks

What is a Snipe? Is it a mammal? Is it a bird ? Just what is it ? And why did it cause a turning point in my life, a new awakening, you could say? Well it's a bird. But how could a brownish, medium sized, wading bird change anyone? But the first one I ever saw caused a significant emotional experience in me to say the least. A moment that opened my eyes and attitudes into a much wider perspective. Snipe weren't supposed to be real, only mystical creatures of boy scout pranks.

It happened in a summer Biology workshop called: "Animals in the classroom". That previous spring some students and I had built a "Reptile Garden" in my High School classroom. They had expressed a desire to have some snakes and lizards to look at. When I read about this workshop, it seemed like just the thing to give a new dimension to my Biology classes. It was a week long course but one day was devoted to bird watching - "sissy stuff". One morning early, the class hopped into a van and headed out to a marsh only to come to a sudden stop by an odd looking bird with a long, heavy beak sitting on a farm post. In the morning sun it appeared larger than life. "What's that?" I cried. "A Wilson's Snipe" the professor said. "What! They aren't real!" But there it was, just as chunky and cute, and relaxed as it could be. Well I was hooked, and when I arrived back home, I started trying to identify every bird I saw; a difficult task without a field guide or binoculars, so those items were purchased and life took on a new meaning.

Now events changed in a hurry. Field trips were added to my various class agendas and I discovered something. You can't study one thing without becoming more aware of everything else surrounding it. It's like "Hugging and Kissing" - "one thing leads to another"! Trees, shrubs, wildflowers, insects, mammals, reptiles; I had to become proficient in all these areas in order to lead a class in the field. As a result, every summer included two to three new workshops of natural science.

One workshop ( Ecology unbelievably ) even required us to write two nature poems - much to my dismay. I was going home rather than do that, but I stayed and suffered through it. Well, Surprise! - I actually liked writing. After all the English classes I'd had, it took an Ecology class to get me hooked. The drive home was spent making up verses and I haven't stopped writing since.

What a wondrous thing open eyes give to a person: new vistas, life shaping occurrences, and a big change in attitudes about everything from philosophy, science, life in general, and even politics. It was inevitable that photography would eventually be added to preserve and enhance all these new experiences.

Life's subtle pleasures are so rewarding that I don't have to seek "a thrill a minute" for pleasure. A new richness has superseded all other frivolous pleasures. It all began with that Snipe on the post and I'm so thankful that he was there!

(A common resting spot - A fence post by a wet meadow)