By: Barry Perryman, SRM Director 2018-2020
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, …like tears in rain…time to die.”
I have always liked this quote from Roy Batty in the 1982 film Blade Runner. It has all kinds of implications and significance. It also applies to SRM, especially the idea of moments being lost in time. SRM was founded during the organizational meeting January 29-31, 1948 in Salt Lake City, UT., with Joe Pechanec as President, W.T. White as Vice-President, Harold Heady as Secretary-Treasurer, and B.W. Allred, David Costello, Frederic Renner, George Stewart, Laurence Stoddart, and Vernon Young as Council members. According to our records, there were 487 charter members that included two women; Susan Abe (Washington State Libraries) and Dr. Ada Hayden (botanist, Iowa State College). You see even in 1948, the era of “exclusive boys clubs”, SRM was a pioneer in diversity and inclusion! I encourage you to look at the list of names on the 1948 SRM membership roll: talk about a who’s who list of ecologists and managers (Appendix 7 https://rangelands.org/pdf/SRM%20History%201948-1985.pdf)! In addition to those mentioned above, it includes names like: A.W. Sampson, Lincoln Ellison, E.J. Dyksterhuis M.E. Ensminger, Gus Hormay, and two that I spent time with personally, Drs. Harold Heady and Alan Beetle.
I was introduced to Harold Heady while I was at the University of Wyoming. When Harold would come to Laramie to hunt antelope with Dr. Mike Smith, I sat and listened to Harold talk for hours about developing the first management guidelines for the annual grasslands of California as well as his ideas on the original vegetation composition. I first became aware of Doc Beetle as an undergraduate at Abilene Christian University. Dr. F.M. Churchill was Doc’s first graduate student in Laramie, and my undergraduate advisor. I later ended up in Laramie, and became personally acquainted with Doc. Bill Laycock was my graduate advisor and also a former student of Doc’s. I milked Doc and everybody else that would humor me about the stories of the old days. Stories like Doc’s experiences on the second Goodspeed Plant Expedition to South America in 1935-36. He gave me his diary of that trip. There were also stories about his discussions with Fredrick Clements while they were both working in California. Doc had some opinions about Clements that he was more than willing to assert! When Doc said that Clements ‘said something’, he didn’t read it in a book. Past President Marlow and I spent time at our recent Denver meeting swapping stories about Ol’ Doc.
I guess we have what one might call educational pedigrees in our profession. All of us have stories that were breathed to us by our teachers and mentors. I hope this little opus initiates some recall for our older members, and I hope it causes our young members to see the value of conversations with our more experienced cohorts. I cherish almost everything I heard Harold and Doc say (Doc could be a bit testy at times!). I have always tried to go over those things with my students, so they will be passed on to the next generation. These things are important. Oral tradition is a strong influence in my Tsalagi heritage, and I think it should be a strong influence in SRM as well. These things need to be passed on, whether we write them down or just keep them in words. I challenge our older cohorts to make sure this gets done, in either spoken or written form, because our young members are the future; our only hope of continuing the science and traditions of SRM. I challenge our younger cohorts to make their own stories too, so that your stories can one day be a part of our history. If we fail to do this, Roy Batty’s prediction will come true, all those moments will be lost in time…like tears in rain. I wish you success in all your rangeland ecology and management endeavors…Barry