Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Oh, to be a game warden

For we writers, one of the most humbling – and thrilling, at the same time – things is to look back on our past work. On the one hand, we can see how we’ve improved our craft. On the other hand, it makes us realize there was a time when our work wasn’t very good.

But writing is a learning process and truly one in which practice gets you closer to the unachievable perfect. So in that sense, I – and other writers, I assume – take pride in our early work, even if the lens of time and experience reveals lots of areas in need of obvious improvement.

The other day I stumbled across a paper I wrote during my sophomore year of high school entitled “Conservation Officers.”

I’ve long been fascinated by the work of conservation officers – or game wardens, as they’re also commonly called. As part of my full-time gig as an outdoors writer, conversing with conservation officers is one of my favorite parts.

And Two Shots, my fiction novel that’s been out for about 11 months now, features a game warden as the main character. (The book is FREE on Amazon April 11-12, so pick it up for yourself, or tell your friends).

But there was a time in my life when I thought that perhaps being a game warden was my life’s calling. Which brings me back to that paper I wrote in high school.

As I reread the paper, it feels like I wrote it just yesterday. Included are interviews with several officers and an admittedly romantic view of the occupation. (Most of the focus was on working outside – on lakes and in forests – and living in remote areas.)

This is what I remember most, though, about doing the interviews for that paper, and then writing it: The crushing realization that I wouldn’t be a game warden.

At the time – as it is now – law enforcement training was a necessity. While I’ve never been cut out to be a cop, I figured I could manage anyway. But the real downer for me was learning about the importance of classes such as biology, botany, chemistry, and physics, to name a few. Such courses are still helpful today, but they’re not the make or break requirements they were back then. Simply put, I just wasn’t that good at the science classes, so I shelved the dream.

Interestingly enough, the Minnesota DNR is proposing a new program that would allow people like me to become conservation officers. (It still needs legislative approval, though things look good at this point.) Basically, the agency is looking for people with diverse backgrounds and a four-year degree, and will help them get the law enforcement education necessary to become a conservation officer in Minnesota.

It’s a really cool program, and something I’d potentially consider if I were at a different point in my life.

For now, though, I guess I’ll just be happy to write about game wardens.

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