Outdoor pride can leave a man adrift


August 07, 1996|By DAN RODRICKS

I know a guy -- he's very close to me, so I'm going to skip his name to spare him the humiliation -- who bought an aluminum canoe. He never before had a canoe (or a canoeing lesson), but assumed he knew how to handle it on just about any kind of water, starting with a lake.

What's the big deal anyway? Canoeing a lake is easy. You get in the canoe, you sit down, point the thing in a certain direction and paddle. My friend believed the way to keep the canoe on course was to alternate the paddle from his right side to his left side, compensating for the drift as he went.

Little did he realize that he was totally wrong; the person in the stern (that's the back) is supposed to steer the canoe by using the paddle as a rudder.

So what happened?

My friend and his wife went canoeing. And they almost went divorcing. It was ugly.

Because my friend didn't know how to use the paddle as a rudder, he spent the day yelling at his wife and ordering her to compensate for the canoe's wayward drift by shifting her paddle from left to right. They went in circles. Their marriage went into a temporary spin.

Fortunately, my friend called in an expert -- the serene, older gentleman from whom he had purchased the canoe -- who gave a quick lesson in proper use of the paddle as rudder. And that saved the marriage.

My friend should not have been such a ... guy!

He should have opted for some kind of third-party involvement from the beginning. He and his wife should have taken lessons together, or separately. He never should have made himself teacher and his wife student.

So here's a little advice to guys thinking of teaching their significant others how to steer a canoe -- or to fish with a fly rod, start a campfire, identify birds or use a compass: Don't do it. Why go hunting for trouble? You wouldn't try to teach them how to drive a car so don't try to teach them how to field dress an eight-point buck.

Men being men -- and we understand ourselves pretty well, don't fellas? -- we assume we know how to do almost everything in the great outdoors. We see a gun and the Hemingway inside assumes we know how to use it. Same with canoes and fishing rods.

"Put a fly rod in a guy's hand and he automatically assumes he knows how to use it and starts whipping it back and forth," a veteran angler and instructor once told me. "But a woman won't make that assumption. She'll actually listen to your lesson and be patient with her own development of the casting skill."

Men also believe they are born with the knowledge to start a campfire without lighter fluid.

And we like to pass this accumulated ignorance on to others. Which is harmless, of course, unless the "others" are significant others.

The reverse -- women trying to teach husbands and boyfriends certain skills -- doesn't much work, either.

This "spouse thing" is very complicated, as anyone who has ever had one certainly knows. No matter what kind of relationship you're in -- husband-wife, husband-husband, wife-wife, boyfriend-girlfriend, boyfriend-boyfriend, girlfriend-girlfriend; have I covered everybody this side of Michael Jackson? -- you know what I'm saying: Teaching a skill is best left to professionals, not to the person with whom you share toothpaste.

Women seem to be a lot more hip to the problems of this "spouse thing" than men -- how's that for generalization? -- and that might explain why the state Department of Natural Resources' second annual "Becoming an Outdoorswoman" workshop is expected to be a sellout. It was a huge success last year, with more than 100 women making the trip deep into Garrett County for three days of instruction in everything from mountain biking to outdoor survival.

The University of Wisconsin College of Natural Resources came up with this idea in 1991, with the hope of getting more women interested in fishing, hunting, boating and camping and, in general, expanding public support for public parks and forest lands. It worked, and now the Wisconsin model is copied in every state.

The Maryland workshop offers women classes in all kinds of outdoor pursuits, including fly-fishing, firearms safety, deer and wild turkey hunting, bird-watching, campfire cooking, wildflower gardening, outdoor photography, backpacking and archery. Some of the instructors are men but -- and this is key -- they are not married to any of the students.

The workshop, taking place over three days in September in the Catoctin Mountains, costs $165. You can get a registration from Alice Harrison at DNR by calling 974-3545. Note to women who go: Have fun. Enjoy the great outdoors. Learn something. But, please, don't come home and try to show your significant other how to field dress an eight-point buck. Why go hunting for trouble?

Crashes to ashes

Couldn't help but notice... Capitol Crematorium wants to put a human incinerator in Elkridge. The proposed location? An industrial building behind the Normandy Ford body shop.

Plume is off the nose

Couldn't help but notice (part 2)... twenty-something woman -- neatly tailored (cream-colored suit with matching pumps), wearing tasteful gold hoop earrings -- takes a drag on a cigarette, exhales via nose and a tiny stream of smoke exits through her nostril ring. Have I an eye for beauty, or what?

Pub Date: 8/07/96

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