The Elk and Us

In the Mosaic

I’ll call him Brett. He was a bowhunter and a woodsman. Before that, he was a downhill skier from California who had taken one look at Boise’s Bogus Basin on the way through and kept going until he found what he wanted in McCall.

He became a finish carpenter, got married, and built a handsome cabin in the pines near Lake Fork Creek, where the couple raised a family. All this was hearsay to me because I fell out of touch with him long ago and then he died of one of those diseases that keep getting people.

Once, I saw him when he came to a piece of land not far from his place where a mutual friend had his trailer. A number of us old pals were sitting in the cold sun under Jughandle when he showed up. The talk turned to elk hunting and he told a stirring tale of tracking a bull that circled around and came upon him from behind. He just had time to wheel and fire the fatal arrow.

Not surprisingly, the conversation veered to bowhunting, and then to wolves and elk, and then to the politics of it. And then it got uncomfortable. The half-dozen of us there that day left with our brows knitted, holding ourselves in. It was the last time I saw Brett.

I think of that day sometimes when I consider where Idahoans can go nowadays to find what unites rather than divides us. Where are the sanctuaries in public discourse from the politicization of everything?

I don’t think politics is what matters most to Idahoans. Too often, it’s what gets in the way of examining what matters most.

In this magazine, our contributors offer differing opinions while eschewing political colorations. It might be argued that as journalists, we editors should be bothered by skipping over politics. Some might say this avoidance is weak and that we’re just trying to offend no one.

Certainly, if we’re ever to breach the political gap, we can’t merely avoid our disagreements. The art of compromise must be revived, and that begins with civil discourse. But the political opinion-mongering that has supplanted much of traditional journalism shouldn’t be allowed to crowd out all other talk. And once politics is pushed out of the way, freer rein is given to virtually all other topics.

In these pages, when our writers convey their opinions absent the burden of partisan ideologies, they are able to venture across the cavernous valley to find again what we hold in common—what unites us despite these lesser differences that can seem so large.

We know what those things are that we hold in common. To start with, we like it here. The place, I mean, especially the outdoors. What else? Adventures, rural life, families, heritage—the list is familiar.

What brings us together can serve not only as a reminder of what we agree on but perhaps even can inspire dialogue that’s stimulating and respectful rather than mean-spirited and dehumanizing.

On occasion in the woods I’ve witnessed an elk execute her balletic stumble into my presence. She freezes and then power-glides back into the mosaic. In that moment, I’m infused with the grace of the place, just as any of us would be.

If only we could hold onto this sense of attachment and appreciation that goes deeper than our differences. Our magazine’s contributors, who come from the pool of our readers, try to do just that. They help to create a refuge from the culture wars and to remind us of what we hold in common. This good work can show that we, too, are part of the wonders of Idaho. Perhaps in a way, it can inspire us to emulate the elk.

—The Editors

Steve Carr took a month to go a-travelin’ but we trust his column will return soon to this page.  

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