A guidebook we might use


We've got a tight U.S. Senate race in Colorado. The incumbent Republican, Wayne Allard, is stepping out after two terms. Competing to replace him are Democrat Mark Udall and Republican Bob Schaffer.

Udall's environmental credentials seem pretty solid, given his voting record in the House, where he has represented Colorado's second congressional district for the past decade. Schaffer represented Colorado's fourth district for three terms from 1997 to 2003, and he supported the Spanish Peaks Wilderness bill.

Go to Schaffer's campaign and you see a picture of the family standing in an aspen grove. We are told there that "the family enjoys skiing, snowboarding, backpacking, and biking in the Colorado Rockies." His campaign commercials have shown wind turbines generating clean electricity.

But then again, the League of Conservation Voters recently named Schaffer to its "Dirty Dozen" list, and after he left Congress, he went to work for an energy company. At his campaign appearances, you sometimes hear chants of "Drill here. Drill now. Pay less."

And that may not be a contradiction. Just think of the abundance of outdoor guidebooks -- to flowers, trees, animal tracks and scat, rocks, etc. -- you find on bookstore shelves, and imagine a new one, something like "Bob Schaffer's Guide to the Colorado Outdoors."

Then envision a couple -- let's call them Bill and Betty -- out for a walk.

"Betty, what's making that noise over there?"

"I don't know. I can't see it because it's behind the mancamp."

"A mancamp? I thought it was just some big trailer houses."

"So did I, until I looked it up in our Schaffer Guidebook. It's really informative." She pauses. "Sounds like THUMP-a-THUMP THUMP" to me.

He listens carefully. "I think you're right. At first it sounded like THUMP-THUMP-a-THUMP, but the longer I listen, the more I agree with you."

"Let me look it up, then, under the 'Machinery Calls.'" She thumbs quickly. "I found it. It's a Knox-Western reciprocating field compressor."

"Drat. I keep hoping we'll find a rotary screw compressor's nest one of these days."

"So do I, Bill." She starts to put the book back in her day pack, then looks at the ground to their right. "Some new tracks. I wonder what made them."

Bill kneels for a closer look. "A bulldozer of some kind with tank treads. Does our guidebook cover those?"

"Of course," Betty replies. "Two chapters. Did you bring the tape measure?"

It's clipped to his belt. He pulls it out and gets her to stand on the start of the tape as he takes a few lateral steps. "Tread width is 90 inches," he says.

She looks down the page. "It's a Caterpillar D-9T. Distinctive yellow markings but has the same call as the Deere and the Komatsu. They have been seen digging and nesting together, but they don't mate with each other, it says."

They walk up the trail, then hear something growling in the distance. It's a semi truck with an empty flat-bed trailer. But it's just a little too far away to determine its species. "Has a hood ornament," Bill says, "but I can't make out what it is for sure."

Betty pulls the binoculars out of his pack. "It's a bulldog. That means it's a Mack, right?"

Bill nods. "Let me check to be sure, but I think so. Right. If it had a swan on the hood, it would be a Peterbilt."

Betty replaces the binoculars. "You know, I was really worried that our nature walks wouldn't be much fun any more."

"I know what you mean, Betty, but that was before we got the Schaffer Guide to the Colorado Outdoors. Now we learn about something new on every walk."