By Shane Reynolds
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” ~ John Muir
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” ~ John Muir
When I contemplate why I have learned to love nature, wilderness and the outdoors, I look no further than my childhood. So often the answer to this question involves people from other generations, family, friends and the knowledge and experience they shared.
My first memories enjoying nature are as a child going to Cajun parties with my parents in southern Louisiana. Cajuns simply know how to party, and these parties usually start late morning or mid-day and stretch well into the night. All the children who attended these parties where left to explore the land and surrounding areas on our own, which always included trips to the swamp, creeks and ponds on the property we were visiting. I can recall at a very young age that most wildlife in southern Louisiana commanded respect, whether messing with a loggerhead turtle, water moccasin, alligator, catfish, etc., all of which would inflict severe pain on you if you did not give them their due space.
When I was five, my parents moved to east Texas as my father went to work for a lumber company. Fortunately for my cousins and myself, my grandparents lived nearby, were retired, and all thoroughly enjoyed bass fishing. One set of my grandparents lived near us on Lake Sam Rayburn and my other grandparents lived on Steinhagen Lake, or as the locals call it, Dam B Reservoir. These two lakes are joined by the Angelina River, which in itself is a wonderful fishery.
When not in school, I was always either in the woods with my cousins and friends, at the lake with my grandparents and parents or with my father on one of the vast forest properties the lumber company owned where my father worked. It was during my late childhood years that I learned the definition of a renewable forest and the idea of conservation. Kirby Lumber Company owned vast tracks of timber where they would harvest pine trees and replant large groves after harvest. The art of growing a pine tree from seedling to harvest was around 20 years. It was on Kirby property that I first learned to hunt with my father. Primarily ducks in flooded timber and white tailed deer.
Just before I started high school, my parents moved to Kingwood, Texas, as my father changed career paths for final time. Ironically, Kingwood is known as “The Livable Forest”. Although I don’t attribute my love of the outdoors to my time in Kingwood, it was a great place to live as a teenager.
Although my younger years provided fertile ground on which to develop a love for the outdoors, it was not until my days in college at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos that I truly found my current profession and strong outdoor ethics. I had some strong mentors during my college days who taught me a vast amount of knowledge about leading groups of people into the wilderness, how to teach minimum impact outdoor skills, and how to pass along Leave No Trace ethics. I took a course through the National Outdoor Leadership School that firmly planted these educational theories in my mind and through experiential learning, allowed the roots of education to grow deep.
When I look back at the many influences in my life that led to a love of nature, wilderness and the outdoors, I’ve been blessed to have many caring individuals on my path. These days, the role of passing on love and knowledge of nature is perhaps more crucial than ever, and more challenging. That’s because the obstacles to sustaining and rejuvenating our collective commitment to conservation, such as increased urbanization, electronic overload and more, are abundant and thoroughly documented. Even with the challenges we face today, I have come to know many families at Cordillera Ranch who demonstrate that the conservation torch is still being passed from one generation to another. And it’s happening in some wonderful and sometimes surprising ways.
I have my own children now, and as they grow and learn the ways of the woods from my wife and I, they have come to enjoy being outside much more than in our home. They’ve learned to appreciate the song of a bird, the wonder of the moon and stars we watch each night, the amazing sound of rain falling on a parched hill country yard and the art of sneaking up on deer. There is nothing I look forward to more than instilling a strong love of nature to my two kids, who may one day be inspired to teach their children the same. Onward!
Shane Reynolds Outdoor Recreation Director, Cordillera Ranch