The Politics of Seatbelts, Smoking and Gun Dogs
Almost every Monday and Wednesday morning in the summers of my youth my mother would load three of us into a 1971 Buick Skylark, a metallic blue with a white vinyl top, and make a trek to the bowling alley, to attend the housewives league, an activity in the 70’s that was a sanity break from laundry and of greater social interaction than a day of soap operas. My sisters and I enjoyed it; we ran like heathens to and fro in a pack with the other bowling youth, jacked up on sugary cereal or the occasional treat of a Hostess Cupcakes and chocolate milk from a small store mid-route from our home.
There are a number of memories in recall of those times but perhaps most vivid are those of the air, and the car rides. The air was remarkable because you could nearly always see it painted with a haze of cigarette smoke when you were indoors. It just sort of hung around, up near the ceiling more or less out of the way, or so we assumed. The car was a far less oppressive mode of transportation back in the day, seats were couch like, mostly of the bench variety in the family car and quite roomy. In fact they allowed for decent foot travel in the three to seven year old demographic, with plenty of passing room as you walked from side to side attending to whatever business you may have in a moving car. The only cause to sit down was when the aforementioned smoke got too heavy up near the headliner, then you had a couple of choices; you could either hand crank the window down an inch or two, or flop down in the seat, as I mentioned it was similar to a couch as the seatbelts were tucked in out of the way and did not encumber the sitting or lying surface.
Now, before anyone calls for the immediate incarceration of my parents the statute of limitations is long gone, 1972 was 39 years ago, I was 7 and mom was 26. Mom quit smoking the very day my wife announced her pregnancy in 1988, her motivation being healthy air and a good example for her grand baby. People gain knowledge and maturity, and times do change.
I have read with considerable interest (and at the expense of a lack of productivity in my day job) a series of threads regarding the perceived or real lack of interest in traditional horseback field trials. As with most crises, manufactured or otherwise, the solution is probably more complex than we want it to be. Quite possibly, because we are so worn out from arguing the points of view that got us where we are to begin with. The logistics of making field trials a spectator sport on a national basis will forever be a challenge. Varying geography inhibits modes of transportation including safe horseback riding and with increasing degrees of difficulty, motorized travel and or walking. Where it’s possible and in large enough events I believe dog wagons for spectators and their libation of choice have proven to be of great value.
Mentorship is a tried and true methodology to engage a neophyte in any activity. However, it does require individual commitment and though impossible to regulate or legislate in a club, the body of the American Brittany Club would certainly benefit based on the free will and motivation of the experienced members. As we read, and take the time to make our opinions known it is appropriate to ask ourselves whether or not our actions are reflective of this solution; should it be one we believe in.
The barrier to entry in horse back field trials is very real. I must reach into conjecture here but I suspect the actual body of the participants in horse back field trials isn’t aging, it has always been old. More than likely, time, money and appreciation for something that is arguably an art form in its judgment rather than something scored, takes maturation to appreciate; I offer wine and Scotch as examples for those of you inclined. I acknowledge that there are old souls in young bodies out there, they say Sir and Ma’am, let us give them their due, but recognize that we still must deal with the kid in the baggy britches with the ball cap on backwards. They are formidable in numbers and short of genocide, which has been frowned on historically, we will be forced to deal with their existence.
A number of venues have sprung up in the shooting sports world that recognize and embrace the changes in modern times. Fewer wild birds, restricted access and competing entertainment options are only a representative few obstacles, but these and others steer the generations before us. I suspect that embracing what I would call the gateway venues is the critical component. NSTRA, NAVHDA, BDC and others offer formats that have fewer barriers to entry, simpler feedback and offer quantifiable rules for those that believe in these metrics. The survival of what we hold dear requires the attention of the impassioned. No society, business or even a room with more than two people in it has ever sustained harmony and advanced without acknowledging the ideas and needs of both the past and the future. Like it or not, we must play the game on the field provided and popular culture is larger than the ABC or field trials in general.
This diatribe is one of ideology and strategy and it is starving for tactics. My own inexperience and point of view may present mountains of ignorance that render my thoughts or solutions impotent, but I suspect not or I would not present them. Those in other venues are open about wanting recognition in their breed, why is that in conflict with the ABC mission or initiatives? It may not be and if it isn’t, what is to stop us from recognizing the titles and accomplishments from the other venues collectively? Mergers are done successfully when the value of the collective organizations are greater than the parts and pieces, and I suspect that is the case in the sporting dog world today.
My momma doesn’t smoke today because she gained wisdom, not because of the law. I suspect that the written law holds little fascination for Mom, the golden rule and common sense have kept both of my parents on the path they have chosen to walk. As they learned and matured I watched their decisions change, and watching that process and my parents’ willingness, nay… demand that I take responsibility for my decisions helped me make better choices earlier in my life. What does not kill us makes us stronger they say; I believe that a top performance in a horseback field trial will capture the heart of someone truly dedicated to the breed and sport if they have a foundation afforded them early on that they can build from. It’s hard for people to learn and enjoy the game if we build too solid a wall around the ball field.