Explorers

To Go Where Ones Have Gone Before

We have all heard William Shatner in Star Trek say, “To boldly go where no one has gone before.”  It’s catchy and it makes you want to join the exploration.  But you know what?  You don’t have to go into the future to explore.  It is all around us.  If we occasionally take time to explore our past, I think it can make us better people.   

When I drive by a dilapidated farmhouse out in the country or an abandoned factory in a city, I have the urge to explore them.  Most of the time I do not stop; no trespassing signs, safety concerns, and besides, I’m usually driving purposely towards my destination.  I’m a reflective person.  I like spending a few moments walking in the presence of where others went before.  The few times I have stopped have always been rewarding.

                I believe the word castle creates more imaginative thoughts in most people’s minds than almost any other word I can think of.  The word castle just immediately transports you to a different time.  A land far away: a time of adventure.  Just think how many movies show us the mysterious castles situated high on a hilltop.  Even the sounds of castles conjure up thoughts.  The huge gates being opened with the horses galloping over the bridge spanning the moat.  The blacksmith banging on steel.  The pigeons seeking shelter in the tall towers.  Not to mention all the battle scenes with arrows flying, battering rams, swords, arrows, and hot oil. 

                Farmhouses can do the same for me.  I guess this goes back to my very early years as a child visiting my grandparent’s farm.  They had an 800 acre spread in the central Texas hill country that is hilly, covered with an abundance of oak trees and lots of wildlife, notably deer.  The spring brings the wildflowers and beautiful bluebonnets.  I remember Grandpa milking the cow as he would sometimes squirt the milk at me, and then giggle.  Most mornings Grandma, who we called Mama Sue, would go into the chicken coup, shoo away the hens, and collect the eggs. 

She cooked on an old big black stove.  Everything seemed greasy to me and Grandpa would sip his hot black coffee out of the saucer.  The milk was thick, warm, and had some sort of scum on the top that I did not like.  Being from the city, I was used to cold milk from a bottle, not fresh milk poured from the can that Grandpa had just collected.  She would sometimes get a coat hanger, grab a chicken and cut off his head.  Fried chicken is what we ate in those days.

I really liked riding on the tractor with Grandpa, or in the back of his pickup when he made the rounds to feed the cattle.  I enjoyed messing around in the barn playing hide and seek among the stacked hay bales with my brothers and cousins.  I recall watching a sow with her piglets, a big Billy goat roaming around the barnyard, petting a gentle milk cow, and watching the peacocks fluff up their feathers.  I learned to shoot guns at an early age as we occasionally we would go to the dump with 22 rifles.

My grandparents lived on that farm all of their adult lives before they eventually retired to live in town.  They raised their five kids there, of whom my mom was the middle child.  That was a way of life I will never know.  I think I might have liked it, but of course I will never know the amount of work involved. 

I remember as a second grader working on a craft project where we had to cut out material and paste on an 8 by 12 piece of cardboard to tell what we would like to be when we grew up.  I had Mom help me cut out a red shirt from some old cloth, and from the blue cloth some pants.  I told her I wanted to be a farmer like Grandpa.  She had a quiet, almost sad look on her face.  Years later Mom told me just how much work is involved on a farm.

The next day in class some of the girls had all white dresses on their cardboard because they wanted to be nurses.  I understood that, but some of the guys had all blue uniforms because they wanted to be policeman, or all red uniforms for those wanting to be a fireman, and that I did not understand.  I just thought they would all like to be farmers like their grandparents.  I assumed they all had grandparents from the farm like me.  Funny how we get some thought patterns in our thinking without realizing it can be way off. 

The old farmhouse that I visited in the 1950’s had wood burning stoves, creaky wooden floors and smelled old to me, but I liked it.  When my uncle built a new house on the same spot, the old farmhouse was moved to become a barn, next to the old barn.  Over fifty years later I recall peeking into the old farmhouse that was now storing grain.  There was the bedroom where I had slept, and the den where we warmed ourselves by the fire.  Times past, times long ago, where others had gone before.  Where aunts and uncles had been born and raised.  Where horses, cows, donkeys, sheep and goats had roamed about.  A way of life that most Americans in centuries past lived, yet alien too many of us now. 

I think Mama Sue and Grandpa represented millions in that they were hard working, God fearing, decent people that helped to continue nourishing the sound foundation our country was built on.  Their way of still fascinates me in a lot of ways.  I also felt a lot of love from all my grandparents, all born right about 1900. My grandparent’s generation, those that were adults in the early 20th century, were inspirational to me in many ways.  You don’t have to be an archeologist like Indiana Jones visiting exotic far away places in the quest to explore.  You may not find an ancient artifact worth millions like they do in the movies, which as you know, you are not allowed to keep, but your exploration brings a different kind of treasure.   A treasure you can keep in your heart.  “To go where ones have gone before,” renews my dedication to try and pass the same blessings I received from past generations on to my kids and future generations.  By the way, I have an old oil lamp on my bookcase that came from the junkyard of my grandparent’s farm.  It looks old but may only be 50 or 60 years old.  Not much of an antique, much less an artifact, and it may actually be just trash, but it is treasure to me.  It brings back a treasure trove of wonderful memories.         

 

 

Dr. Livingston

David_Livingstone_memorial_at_Victoria_Falls,_Zimbabwe

   I believe the first time I heard of Dr. Livingston was watching an old Spencer Tracy black and white movie on TV with the family called Stanley and Livingston.  It was about Africa, but that is about all I remember.  The Beatles had a song where the lyrics started with “Dr. Livingston I presume, coming out of the jungle bloom,” and that seemed to stick with me.  I just knew he roamed around in Africa.  I also thought he was like Albert Schweitzer, a missionary doctor to Africa.

            In 1983 my wife and I took a ten day drive through England and Scotland.  We would stop at the spare of a moment if something interested us.  It may have been a castle, a museum, or a quick run to the beach.  As we were driving one day I noticed a sign indicated Dr. Livingston’s home was just up ahead.  We choose to stop, and had a pleasant visit to his childhood home.  I have never ceased to be amazed at the accomplishments of men such as Dr. David Livingston.  I was correct in assuming he was a physician as well as a missionary to Africa during the middle of the 19th century.  However, I did not realize he was also an explorer.  He was driven to locate the source of the Nile River which had remained elusive to explorers for centuries.  At one point he almost disappeared for years until he was eventually contacted by Henry Stanley who had been sent to Africa to locate him.  That encounter inspired the famous quote, “Dr. Livingston I presume,” upon their meeting.

             In death Dr. Livingston is credited with a number of geographical discoveries in Africa, including several lakes.  His true passion was geographical exploration and he was awarded the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society of London.  His life was remarkable exemplified by his being a physician, geographical explorer, missionary, and devout Christian.  He may not have had treasure in monetary value but I’ll venture to say the diary of his life experiences reveal a bounty of treasured adventures and exploration.  

            I enjoyed placing Dr. Livingston on the game board of TreasureTrove

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Conquistadors

photo by etsy.com

                When I hear the word, “explorers,” the first thing that comes to my mind are the Spanish explorers.  Nowadays, I often think of archeologists such as Indiana Jones in the context of explorers with the adventure element.  For the most part my mind is still captivated by the wooden ships of the high seas discovering unknown and exotic far away destinations during the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries.  

            I love history and it began for me in early childhood during the 1950’s with the Davy Crocket and Daniel Boone stories.  Then in fifth grade we studied world history and the chapter on the Spanish explorers still rings in my mind.  I recall memorizing names such as Columbus, Balboa, Pizarro, Cortes, Ponce de Leon, Magellan and many others.  The picture in our schoolbook introducing that chapter had a colorful picture of the Spanish with their swords and muskets strapped to their belts standing on the sandy seashore with the masts of their ships in the nearby blue ocean behind them.  One of the men held the Spanish flag.  They looked like they were about to embark on an adventure.  They also had those cool helmets.

Francisco Pizarro

            We all know the wealth in gold, silver and gems that Spain acquired from the New World and the fortunes to be found.  Stories of fabled gold such as El Dorado in South America and Coronado’s golden Seven Cities of Cibolo in western Texas continue to intrigue us.  Not to mention tales of pirate treasure that also emerged during that same period of European exploration in the context of world history. 

            When I was creating the board game TreasureTrove I wanted to give players an option of choosing a player token representing what they might want to be if they were searching the world for fabled treasure.  For some, that might be like Indiana Jones and therefore they would want to be an archeologist.  Someone else may be fascinated with underwater diving and they might want to SCUBA for wealth such as a deep sea diver.  Others my think of an oil man exploring for black gold such as a wildcatter of the early 20th century.   A tycoon with money to invest in treasure hunts is in many ways the adventuresome individual of modern times.  For me though it will always be pirates and Spanish explorers that come to my mind when treasure is to be found.  Player tokens representing each of these give participants a choice in what they would want to be if they could travel the world hunting for treasure. 

            I choose to use a purple helmet to represent the conquistador.  You had to be of royalty to be given ships to explore the high seas and purple represents royalty.  I thought the helmet more than anything represents the Spanish explorer.  I also think conquistador is a cool name.

player token from TreasureTrove game board

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