Different points on the same path

Jul 2, 2017 By Randy Tucker, Staff Writer

q I learned a thing

or two recently from

a couple of much younger men.

As a child the first person you bond with is your mother. It's a bond that in normal circumstances lasts a lifetime.

But, if you're a boy, your dad and grandpa soon become an integral part of your life.

As you get older, teachers, coaches, bosses and older co-workers play a decisive role in the development of a young man as well.

I was blessed to have a father who showed me how to do things, who realized that the only way to really learn something was to do it yourself, sometimes with mistakes.

My two grandfathers had the same approach. I learned the backwoods, farming, fishing and fun from my Grandpa Tucker. The back roads around his Lee County, Arkansas, farm hold some of my fondest memories. Perhaps the greatest one was standing on his feet as he plowed a huge garden plot with his mule.

My Grandpa Gasser was a vast storehouse of a huge variety of knowledge. He knew just about everything a boy could ask, and when he learned I had an interest in history and geography as an upper elementary student, he quizzed, lectured and fascinated me with the sights he experienced as a young Swiss man in war-torn World War I Europe and later as a homesteader in the wilds of Fremont County.

Wind River High School head custodian Cliff Stickney taught me the value of timely, hard work on the summer crew, and Leroy Sinner motivated more than two entire generations of boys and girls before he retired as a teacher and coach.

Dr. E.B. Long brought history alive one afternoon at the University of Wyoming and changed my life path. I have his definitive reference book on the Civil War on my shelf. A friend bought it for me and had E.B. sign it. He didn't just sign it but covered a full page with comments that I sometimes review to get a taste of the past.

Working at Alder Construction in the late 1970s brought me into contact with the "Amazing Romero," as we called senior carpenter Leonard Romero.The man could build anything. Whether the plans were detailed blueprints or just a comment from the foreman or superintendent, the project would materialize magically in his skilled hands.

I learned the value of craftsmanship, even on something that would soon be covered in concrete or destroyed after it was used just once. He really was amazing.

In the last decade or two my older mentors slowly disappeared, vanishing with the ravages of time, but their lessons live on. It occurred to me recently that mentors have to be older than you, but that you can learn a lot from younger people.

As a teacher and coach for much of my life I was always on the dispensing end of knowledge and skills, but I also learned a lot from the young men and women in my classes and on my teams.

You can learn many things in a variety of settings if you take the time to listen.

I wrote a couple of stories on young local men for The Ranger's 2017 Mining Edition. I'd known both of these guys since they were teenagers. They were about my son Brian's age. When you know someone as a youngster, it's often easy to treat the person eternally like a 16-year-old, but I learned a valuable lesson in interviewing Jacob Tyra and Blaine Dunlavy.

They were still kids to me. I had a good quarter-century of experience on both of them, but when Jake started talking about hard rock mining, and when Blaine matter-of-factly spoke of serving in the Army and working in the Middle East, I was very impressed by the vast knowledge that both of these men expressed.

We shared a commonality of background and many similar interests, but their experiences in the professions they chose was astounding.

The same holds true when Brian speaks of his work in wild-game cooking, outdoor hunting equipment, fishing rods, reels, tents and the myriad assortment of wilderness equipment that wasn't even thought of a generation ago.

The young linemen, electricians and mechanics I've made acquaintance with exemplify these same traits of competence and pride in their work.

If you listen to the national media, you would quickly believe that an entire generation of slackers is now parasitically preying on their parents. Millennials don't get much in the way of positive coverage by the 24/7 talking heads, in spite of all the female reporters being part of that same generation.

Nearly 25 centuries ago the Greek philosopher Socrates wrote this little gem: "The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise."

Sounds familiar doesn't it?

It's the corollary to lyrics from "The Living Years," a hit song by Mike and the Mechanics: "Every generation, blames the one before..." is the verse that fits here.

We all walk the same path, but we are at different points on the trail.Learning from those ahead of and behind you on the walk of life is wisdom personified.

Editor's note: Staff writer Randy Tucker is a retired public school teacher.

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