Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
- Community Blog
- Tales of Adventure
We're Losing The Wrong Ones...
With nothing but respect and perhaps a twinge of sadness, I noted the passing of Jerry Schad earlier this week. Every once in a great while, I'll encounter someone like Schad and think to myself: "Ya know, everything this guy has done is cool..." There are people like that out there, the kind who exert a heller positive influence and create a legacy for future generations. Best known for his brilliant field guides, Jerry Schad was also a well-respected teacher who offered students a better perspective of the world around them... teaching in itself requires commitment, a sense of mission which many people lack. That doesn't mean they're bad people, it simply means they would not make good instructors. During my "school daze" I was never in any of Jerry Schad's classes, but I never heard any bad word spoken regarding his courses. Hell, anyone who can put up with dumbass students year after year the way Jerry did has nothing but my deepest respect.
As an old school local and experienced outdoorsman, I've always prided myself on my knowledge of the backcountry here in Dago County... for many years, I derided the use of anything but topo maps, feeling as I did that there was no substitute for direct field exploration. Then one day, many years ago, I happened to see Schad's first local guide on a shelf in the library, so I pulled it down and began leafing through it... it didn't take long for me to appreciate the concise manner in which it was written, and the excellent system of mapping employed to pinpoint locations countywide. Naturally, I went ahead and bought my own copy from a nearby bookstore. As a technical rock climber, I even devised a method for use, copying relevant pages and wrapping them in ZipLoc bags for lightweight waterproof field transport and reference, while stashing the book itself in my car in case I opted for another location at the last minute.
Over the years, I purchased revised editions of Schad's book, and I often made presents of them to friends and acquaintances, figuring that those people might benefit from such guides. Whenever I received a gift certificate for a bookstore, I automatically purchased another copy of Schad's book to replace the one I had just given away. The very last guide given went to a beautiful young woman up in Ocean Beach... a recent transplant and self-avowed "trail runner" out of "The Volunteer" (TN). I hadn't really intended to give it away, I just meant to lend it to her, but as weeks passed and the book never returned like a boomerang, I understood that my spontaneous loan had become permanent... and it didn't bother me in the least. In fact, I smiled to myself, thinking that I had done my part to welcome this active young woman to our beautiful county. The gift of knowledge is the greatest gift, and it should be shared.
When I read the recent article about Jerry Schad in the San Diego Union-Tribune, I thought to myself: "We're losing the wrong ones..." So many others could die and never be missed, especially in this "Brave New World", that the passing of such a man gives one pause for reflection. Here was a man who created brilliant cutting-edge field guides which opened doors for many to venture into the wilderness... his positive legacy will live on to inspire future generations, and no greater tribute can be made to the author himself. While reading the U-T article that morning, I also noted that Steve Breen, editorial or political cartoonist for the U-T, drew a cool tribute cartoon for Jerry Schad... I thought this was highly considerate of Breen and the editors, since that space is usually reserved for a political cartoon. Enough politics for now, let readers stop to reflect upon the passage of a selfless and inspirational role model... there's a reason why you won't find people like Schad in public office.
Here's hoping that Jerry Schad is now on the trail to a better place... a place with oak trees and boulders, perhaps a tumbling waterfall nearby and plenty of wildlife to observe. Maybe a high desert location, with a hundred-plus-mile view stretching into tomorrow... raptors wheeling overhead and hummingbirds magically appearing before one's eyes, the scent of desert blossoms and sage rounding out one's sensory experience. Though I never met Jerry Schad, I feel as if I know him well... he and Helen Ellsberg are two of a kind, selfless literary pioneers who created a legacy for future generations of wilderness explorers. Wherever you are, Jerry, I salute you, and I thank you for all the wilderness beta, even if I have spent my entire life in the field. R.I.P., man, and "Happy Trails To You..." Know that your legacy will live on to inspire countless others. Take a moment now and then to stop and enjoy a break in the field... after so many years of helping your fellow man, you've earned it.
With deepest respect and sincerity, "THE F#$%G RAILSPLITTER"