Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Leopold Bench

The last of summer’s dragonflies were patrolling the edge of the pond seeking a meal from among the scattering of other insects flying on this rather warm autumn day. As for me, I was in shorts and T-shirt sitting on a bench at the pond’s edge basking in the sunlight like an old turtle on a log and contemplating several chores that awaited, including mowing the lawn.
Suddenly, one of the dragonflies that was passing by turned and landed on my leg – it was a male ruby meadowhawk, the most abundant of the dragonflies around the pond that day.

The ruby meadowhawk was but a bonus to the joy of relaxing on the bench on a beautiful day.

The bench is one of several of this design that I’ve built in the last several years. Aldo Leopold – forester, ecologist, conservationist, hunter, professor and author of the first textbook on wildlife management, originated the design. Leopold had a varied career: from his early years with the U.S. Forest Service where he proposed the world's first wilderness area (in New Mexico); to a stint as the director of the Forest Products Laboratory; later, a free-lance wildlife management consultant; and finally a professor of wildlife management at the University of Wisconsin before he died in 1948 while fighting a wildfire near his cabin, called “The Shack”, in Wisconsin.

He was also an author of over 300 articles, newsletters, reports and essays and several of the best books I’ve ever read: Round River, Game Management and the classic A Sand County Almanac—which should be read and re-read by everyone interested in wildlife, wildflowers, trees, the environment and how the natural world works. 
The Shack has had Leopold Benches in residence since Leopold’s time:
From the Aldo Leopold Foundation
There are a number of designs for these benches, Aldo Leopold apparently never drew one out, but this is the basic one that I’ve always used, with some occasional modifications:
From ESF
Most of mine have been made with pressure treated lumber so they’ll last for a good while -- using hot-dipped galvanized bolts since pressure treated lumber is quite corrosive. Others were made of leftovers from earlier projects
Every time I sit on one of these benches I say a silent “Thank you Aldo” for the design and for the insights and inspiration your writing has provided.

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