Wiltz: Fear is a learned emotion
When Betsy and I have embarked on adventures in the past, friends have asked, "How can you go to Africa? What if the plane crashes? What about terrorists? Aren't you afraid?"
One of the great things about growing older is enjoying books you read 20 years ago. It's like you never read them before. Last night, I was rereading Last Horizons by Peter Hathaway Capstick. Peter was in the act of culling a herd of elephants that had brutally killed a fellow control officer friend and one of his tracker/gun bearers. I had forgotten all about this.
Capstick called a herd of unprovoked elephants that attack and kill man a Kali. In the same story, Capstick went on to mention a Kali herd in South Africa's Ado Elephant Reserve. Don and Carol Kaberna and Betsy and I had been to Ado. In fact, we were in Ado when a big male ostrich that was in a "fowl" mood (pretty good pun, eh?) chased Betsy back to the Land Rover when she attempted to take some pictures.
Capstick's story got me to thinking about fear. Fear, like love or anger, is a learned emotion. Babies aren't born with a fear of water, hot stoves, rattlesnakes or speeding cars on the street. We teach it to them.
I found myself wondering if I had been places where some fear might have been a good thing. In another story from Last Horizons, Capstick talked about hippos making unprovoked attacks on humans. Mitchell's Jim Paulson and I fished among hippos and crocs, Africa's two greatest killers, on Africa's Chobe River for two days. On the Amazon, daughter Laurie and I fished for piranhas from a dugout canoe. Fortunately fear never entered our minds.
Capstick saw New York City and his Wall Street broker job far more challenging than Africa. He's right on! In Sioux Falls, 41st Street the day after Thanksgiving terrorizes me! Give me hippos and crocs anytime.
Fear doesn't enter the equation. That's why Afghanistan and Pakistan are some of today's great hunting destinations! What if Mitchell's Muth brothers let airplanes or grizzly bears get in the way of their recent moose hunt? A smaller world it would be.
While I was compiling my recent book, A Dakota Rod and Nimrod, the publisher was after me to omit the word "kill" from hunting stories. I was to substitute the words "harvest" or "collect." Needless to say, I didn't bow to their wishes as I loathe political correctness. I'm not alone. President Trump doesn't concern himself with political correctness, but he is far from the first president to do so. Allow me to relate an amusing anecdote.
I've been aware of Harry Truman since childhood. Mom would have the radio on when a popular
commercial blurted out, "LSMFT — Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco!" Grandma would then chime in with, "LSMFT — Lord Save Me from Truman!" Little Roger wondered about this Truman guy.
Before I talk about the late Lloyd Moses, please realize that I'm not trying to name drop. In spite of his accomplishments, Moses was a humble, regular guy who was as pleased to be in our company as we were to be in his. I often wonder if USD was aware of the greatness in their midst.
Some years ago I became acquainted with General Lloyd Roosevelt Moses through our 1st Infantry of the Dakotas reenactment shooting group. Moses, a Sioux Indian and one-time Commander of the 5th Army during the Korean conflict, knew Truman personally, and was able to tell us some colorful anecdotes about our former president. He even did a very good Truman fist-pounding impersonation.
During the surrender of Japan in 1945, it was necessary for General MacArthur and President Truman to communicate by telegram. When a MacArthur telegram described the Japanese in rather unflattering terms, Truman told MacArthur that his vernacular was lacking in political correctness.
MacArthur then asked Truman to define political correctness.
Truman replied, "Political correctness is a doctrine, recently fostered by a delusional, illogical
minority and promoted by a sick mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a piece of s--- by the clean end."
Though I might question the accuracy of the Truman quote, I will pronounce it as accurate in my
opinion based on the Truman quips as related to me by his friend, Gen. Lloyd Moses. When the Sioux Indian people are looking for a role model, look hard at Moses, a Colome High School alum. There was greatness on our prairie.
With that, I'll see you next week.