Two favorites out of thousands

photos by Garry Brandenburg — Picking favorite photographs to share with TR readers can be a daunting task. With thousands of archived images to choose from, how does one go about this almost impossible task? Well, for starters, any image may just be a spur of the moment lucky time, lucky circumstance when I was at the right place with my camera. Today’s hummingbird sipping sugar water and the other, two velvet covered antlered deer in a soybean field fit the criteria....right place, right time and having quality camera gear to make the images. Photography of wildlife is just one of this author’s retirement avocations.

RETIREMENT? I was asked again recently, which is A-okay, how goes retirement? A quick answer is …. it is way ahead of whatever is in second place. Of course I did have a professional conservation working career of 32 years as the Director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. That was from June 1st, 1972 to June 30th, 2004. Time goes fast when the stars align to mesh a career with things I liked to do. It was a great run and I feel fortunate to have contributed much to the conservation programs that are still being offered today. A big thank you to all of you for making it possible.

My time table now revolves around lots of things. Many are nature exploration opportunities, but on a schedule that is of my making, and if the mood suits me. There is always tomorrow if I do not get an item or two undone. I self impose deadlines on myself if it is important enough. Otherwise I take each day as it comes and decide later what to make happen that makes me feel productive.

One of my self-imposed tasks is writing OUTDOORS TODAY columns in order to share tidbits of nature and any aspect of earth’s natural history with you. I find it fun to educate the readers about natural history with fact based scientific information. I began writing for the TR in October, 1991, taking over a SIGHTING UPSTREAM column previously written by long time contributor, the late John Garwood. Today’s story is number 1,532 and I hope you enjoy it. So I how did I get here?

As a kid on a northeast Iowa Bremer County dairy farm, growing up was an adventure and as the years progressed, involved a lot of work. My tasks at first were easy and then as I matured, work became an essential element of day-to-day life on a farm. Farm chores always were waiting so I was ingrained in the notion that work was good for you, instilling a sense of pride for jobs well done, no matter how mundane dirty, hot or cold, dusty or windy the job may be. I learned to not be immune to hard work.

And among other farm boys and girls there was an unspoken friendly competition to excel at home, at work, at school and at play. We never thought about it much, we just did it. Even on Sunday afternoon recreational softball games in a neighbor’s pasture, we enjoyed a good game especially if first, second or third base was a designated cowpie not quite turned hard by summer sunshine. We played hard and had a good time. And if the final score of the game was say 5 to 2, and our team only scored two runs, no one disrespected you or your team’s efforts. We did not give out ‘participation’ trophies. Ice cream and pie under a shade tree was our reward.

4-H club activities kept me busy during the years 1955 through 1963. My projects primarily revolved around Holstein cattle, working with them prior to county fairs or state fair show rings. There was always an immense amount of work associated with the dairy business….stuffing green hay into the front end of a cow, and shoveling away digestive processed hay from the back end of the animal. Milk from the udders of our herd was gathered twice a day, seven days a week, and sold at a local creamery. A milk check was utilized to stretch as far as possible to make financial ends meet.

AIR FORCE military service was next on my list of things to do, 1963-67, with a few world wide tours to Southeast Asia and Guam plus stateside assignments in California and South Dakota. Long story made short, those formative years were terrific and helped me settle upon a new pathway once my active duty service time ended. The GI bill helped pay my way through the Fish & Wildlife program at Iowa State University. It was my bachelor of science degree that helped me obtain my job with the Marshall County Conservation Board. Now 17 years since retirement, I continue to pursue activities that enhance science and learning and enjoyment of the great outdoors.

I am an unabashed supporter of hunting, conducted legally and ethically, because I know that this activity is a primary driver that funds scientific wildlife management across the nation. License fees paid, both in state and as a non-resident to other states or provinces, keeps research and management programs working to help solve on-going decision making policy at local, state and federal levels. And I am an avid proponent of practical, economically viable and common sense stewardship practices to maintain clean air, healthy soils, and usable water.

I enjoy ARCHERY and BOWHUNTING because this form or hunting is harder to master, but it remains a more quiet field experience where getting close, very close, to an animal is an accomplishment in and of itself. Retirement allows me to periodically seek out new places to visit each year as part of my adventure/travel itinerary. I bow hunt close to home of course since white-tailed deer are common and they provide me with fantastic encounters of observation. I have also bow hunted in many western states, several provinces of Canada and to South Africa.

PHOTOGRAPHY: This hobby and self taught method of recording events and places is very satisfying. I enjoy all subjects related to natural history – wildlife, plant life, earth’s history of plate tectonics, volcanism. glacial episodes repeatedly reshaping the landscape, and inter-glacial warm times that allow life to refill and replenish itself. I have amassed thousands of images, many are okay but a few are excellent eye catchers. Photos capture an instant of time forever. And those images allow a viewer to share those magic moments that added so much to my avocation of making images. When I am able to create an image that is noteworthy, you get to share the joy of its magic moment.

And lastly, FLYING remains another of my avocations. Each takeoff in my co-owned Cessna Skyhawk lets me soar with the eagles and view the landscape from high altitude perspectives. It is relaxing to fly while everything on the ground gets smaller as my plane climbs higher into the air. And from this high above the ground viewpoint, I am reminded of the minutia of things working people on the ground have to go through, and I smile because I have been there and done that. My title of retired conservationist is way ahead of whatever is in second place.

“There are two ways to live your life. One is though nothing is a miracle. The other is though everything is a miracle.”

— Albert Einstein


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