The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

January 26, 2014

Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Missing an opportunity is like missing life

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Every so often, I’m reminded that the only way to be rewarded with beautiful sights is to get up, get out and go in search of them.

Carl Junction, Mo., friend Tara Harris, a fellow Pittsburg High graduate, illustrated this beautifully recently with a photo she shared of an incredible sunset she had ventured out in single-digit temperatures to capture.

I also learned it firsthand after receiving an early morning message from Bob Mangile, a fellow Southeast Kansas birder and member of the Sperry-Galligar Audubon Society. He’d heard that trumpeter swans had been sighted in a field not more than 10 minutes from my driveway.

The magnificent white birds breed and nest in the north, but in recent years they have been spotted wintering here.

With a little coaxing and a promise that we could stay in our pajamas, I piled Hubby, the sons, the binoculars and my camera into the car to go find the swans. We returned home 45 minutes later empty-handed, so to speak.

But, I noted for the record, the swans just as easily could have been there, and we would have missed them had we not ventured out.

A few days later, Hubby and the sons requested a family hunting trip to our duck blind on the wetland we built last year.

I had a million good reasons not to go: I had worked a long week. There was laundry to be done. The bathrooms could use a good scrubbing. I had a good novel I wanted to finish. It was really windy. Blah blah blah.

“You never know what you might miss,” my older son reminded me.

When I realized it likely would be the last hunt of the season — in Kansas, the season ended Sunday — I agreed and pulled on my camo and boots.

Fifteen minutes later, our car was parked by the side of a Southeast Kansas highway, and my camera was focused on five beautiful trumpeter swans resting in an agricultural field.

It was a thrill to be able to add them to our life list.

Thirty minutes after that, I was holding hands with an 8-year-old and a 13-year-old as we waded knee-deep across eight acres of water to our blind.

And an hour after that, we had settled in with our duck calls and our snacks and were watching a live duck show the likes of which we’d never seen: flocks of hundreds of mallards at a time coming in to land on the water, wings set against the wind.

I also got to see my older son harvest his first duck, which we later proudly enjoyed at our supper table.

That afternoon, I snapped plenty of photos to help us preserve our memories, including the last one of the day: a golden-orange sunset peeking between silhouetted trees.

The one photo I wasn’t able to take was one that will just have to remain in my mind’s eye: As I strained against the water and the high winds to haul our gear back to the truck, I turned and looked at our sons holding hands for support as they followed in my wake.

As I did so, I knew that I would blink and look back again and they’d be men, wearing much larger waders and likely not holding hands, but walking into the sunset together after a day in the blind.

My bathroom still could use a scrubbing, but I wouldn’t trade getting up and out and seeing the sights for myself for anything.

FOLLOW ANDRA BRYAN STEFANONI on Facebook at facebook.com/andrajournalist and on Twitter @AndraStefanoni.

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