Mondays With Murray
Murray Scholar Special Edition
This year, we are welcoming five talented college journalists into the family of Murray Scholars. Today, we introduce Daniel Mediate of the University of Montana.
He was born and raised in Wyoming. Now a senior at the University of Montana, he is studying journalism and political science, and is the sports editor for the daily campus newspaper, the Montana Kaimin.
Mediate has had a passion for sports and writing that sparked early in his upbringing. He sees the playing fields offering a rare place where people of differing creeds can come together. As a journalist, he hopes to make a career writing about such a beautiful juncture.
In addition to reporting, Daniel's interests include golf, skiing and playing with his black Labs, Maggie and Speed Bump.
Academically, Mediate has maintained his status on the Dean's List at UM and is a part of the Golden Key International Honor Society.
You may find him on Linkedin, at his personal website, danielmediate.com,
or on Twitter @danielmediate.
Mediate wrote his essay on disabled hunter Jonathon Atkinson.
Here it is:
For 26-year-old Jonathon Atkinson, hunting isn't about conventions, like using eyesight and hearing to track an animal. He has neither.
Last November, Jonathon sat hidden in a brush blind on a ranch not far from Sheridan, Wyo. Draped in camouflage, Jonathon's dad, Tom, and two cousins, Joe and Gary Mentock, took turns aligning the scope on Jonathon's Remington rifle as a trophy whitetail buck emerged into the grazing pasture in front of them.
At 6:42 a.m., as the crisp fall air filled their lungs, Tom tapped Jonathon firmly just below the right shoulder blade, signifying the perfect alignment of the scope's crosshairs. The bang of gunfire abruptly punctuated the moment of calm as Jonathon squeezed the trigger. He felt the recoil of the gun but, without eyesight, he didn't know where the bullet flew.
One hundred fifty yards away, a trophy deer dropped in his tracks. Unable to hear or see, Jonathon realized his success from a warm embrace of his hunting comrades.
Tom and the cousins helped Jonathon to his prize, guiding him with their hands wrapped around his arms. He ran his hands gently over the deer's horns, counting each point, trying to visualize the grandeur of his trophy.
Jonathon had the smile of a Little Leaguer rounding the bases after his first home run.
"In every sense, he is a sportsman," says Jonathon's mother, Pam.
Jonathon was born and raised in the small western town of Sheridan, nestled at the base of the Big Horn Mountains. He grew up loving life, seemingly half-child, half-caffeine buzz, until he complained of a leg ache in the fourth grade.
It wasn't until then that Pam noticed his left leg was visibly smaller than his right.
Three days after Christmas in 1994, two weeks after his first complaint, at age 10, Jonathon was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis Type II, the only reported case in Montana and Wyoming in the last 20 years. There isn’t a cure for the disease. The news was beyond grim, enough to shake a tight-knit family.
Jonathon had embraced life, and life, in turn, had spurned him.
NF2 affects roughly one in 50,000 and is a hereditary disease that causes benign brain tumors to grow spontaneously along nerves responsible for maintaining hearing and a sense of balance.
But Jonathon's case is different.
First, he lost his hearing at age 21, so Jonathon learned sign language. Then the tumors suddenly attacked his eyesight.
No doctor guessed he would lose his hearing so early, or his vision at all, or that the left side of his's body would quit growing in junior high school. He walks with a cane and a specialized shoe for his left foot, a size smaller than his right, with a three-inch platform to make up for the shortness of his leg.
With his primal senses gone, Jonathon works to communicate as Pam traces letters with her index finger in the palm of his left hand as he tries to formulate the word out loud. The tumors have also attacked his vocal cords, preventing him from controlling the volume and tenor of his voice.
His childhood dream of becoming a game warden, the pinnacle of the sport that has defined his existence since grade school, slowly slipped through his hands as his disease progressed rapidly in his fifth semester of college. Jonathon worked through two years at Sheridan College and then went to the University of Wyoming in Laramie until his disease wouldn't let him live on his own anymore and forced him to move back home.
A jumbled mass of tumors stole his fundamental senses. He's forced to crawl around the house to negate the anxiety of falling. At times it seems as if no sun could ever warm his world.
But Jonathon embodies the courage, will, and determination movie scriptwriters drool over, making able-bodied people feel unworthy of the abilities they are blessed with. Despite the disease, he refuses to watch the rising tides of life from shore.
Before the illness stole so much from him he was an ardent hunter. His childhood was spent in the Big Horn Mountains, tended by his father, who passed on a passion for wildlife to his son. Jonathon tracked everything from mule deer to black bears and when he could no longer do it on his own his father found a way for them to do it together.
"He doesn't have any quit in him," Tom says. "We're going to keep hunting like crazy."
Though the disease's grip has seemed endless, Jonathon's own perseverance has proved its equal. He's hunted three seasons without his hearing and eyesight, and doesn't plan to stop soon.
Jonathon's pursuit of adventure despite his disability garnered the attention of Kim Peek, portrayed as the savant in the movie Rain Man. Peek traveled to Wyoming just months before he died in 2009 to present Jonathon with his Inspiration Inaugural Award in front of hundreds of people at the WYO Theater in downtown Sheridan. Peek, who traveled the world to tell his story, wanted only that day to tell Jonathon's. Then, he handed him the award, noting that it was offered "for leading by a positive example and living life to the fullest regardless of difficult circumstances."
Amid a crescendo of cheers, Jonathon accepted the honor, but eagerly deflected the attention.
"I want to thank the real heroes," he said. "The United States soldiers."
It seemed as if all of Sheridan rose to its feet that day. For once there were no thinly disguised looks of sympathy and grief. Only smiles and tears amid the thunderous roar.
Now please enjoy Jim Murray's column from Jan. 28, 1966 . . .
January 28, 1966, SPORTS
Copyright 1966/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY
Killed Him A B'ar
There is this much to be said for bears: None of them has ever killed a man on 42nd and Broadway. Not recently, anyway.
They believe in capital punishment. They also believe in justifiable homicide. They are popularly supposed to sleep all winter long. But this is because anybody who runs into them when snow is on the ground and there isn't anything else to eat seldom lives to tell about it.
They have the cutest kids in the world. They can be trained to ride bides, roll hoops. They are almost the only animals apart from man or monkey who are quadrupeds or bipeds, as the situation demands.
They are the world's greatest fishermen. They limit out every day without hook or sinker or snorkel or speargun. They just dip into a fresh stream. They like their fish rare. They have a sweet tooth, but cavities are unknown. Like almost all animals, their teeth are large and white. They have terrible tempers. But they don't hold grudges. If they get mad at you, they get over it right away. YOU don't. Just them.
If they could learn to shoot baskets, catch passes, or block, or learn audibles, they would be the richest creatures on earth. Because they grow nine feet tall and weigh up to 1,000 pounds. They are very clannish. They are not good mixers. They have a terrible reputation as beggars. But that's because they're always ambling up to cars in national parks looking for handouts. IF you're dumb enough to leave your hand out, that is. But, as a ranger who knows them, once observed, "YOU only THINK they're begging. Try turning them down."
Bears Don't Read Stop SignsGuides put up "Please Don't Feed the Bears" signs because bears are illiterate. What the signs really mean is, "Please Don't Eat the People." The encyclopedia lists the bears' feeding habits as "honey, fish, berries, and tourists."
Still, it's a simple fact that this was a better country when there were more bears than people in it. They could beat the Chicago Bears if they didn't eat the football. Or the Bears. They can run faster than horses. Your only chance to win a foot race with them is to run straight up. Heights make them dizzy. They climb in trees, not up them.
My position on hunting is that it should be considered a sport only if the game is armed, too, or the hunter is limited to teeth, claws, and a fur coat, like the game. Too often, it's about as "sporting" as the gas chamber. And, as man increases his weaponry, he robs the planet of some of its greatest beauty. For sheer grace and breath-taking beauty, Atlantic City's Pageant holds nothing to compare with a tiger. A leopard skin coat looks much more beautiful on a leopard than on a chorus girl.
Hunted by Airplanes in ArcticThey even hunt bears in the Arctic by airplane. At least, they don't bomb them. But I suppose that will be next. Man traps, poisons, nets, shoots and spears animals, sometimes for no other purpose than wall decor.
But I think if I ever understood the motivation for a hunt it was the one you can see on Channel 7 Sunday on ABC-TV's "The American Sportsman." Fess Parker is 20th Century-Fox's TV "Dan'l Boone." Equally important, he was Walt Disney's "Davy Crockett." You will remember Davy Crockett as the "King of the wild countree" who "killed him a b'ar when he was only three." Dan'l Boone killed so many bears, he could have carpeted Kentucky.
Fess Parker didn't really want to kill a bear. He just wanted to see one. If you can photograph a bear, you can kill one. But what do you do when generations of moppets climb on your knee at rodeos and ask, "Did you REALLY kill a bear?"
Fess had to go clear up in the wilds of British Columbia for his bear. The next nearest one was the Bronx Zoo. He toted a camera and a Weatherby .300 magnum. He finally found his grizzly near a creek.
Thought Fess Was Another BearThe bear's hair was a mess — so he probably didn't feel up to having his picture taken. He tried to let Fess know the best way he could — by trying to muss Fess' hair.
There is also the possibility that the bear thought Fess was another bear. At 6-6 in a coonskin hat, the only clue that he isn't, is the manicure. Fess fired. If the gun jammed, the "Dan'l Boone" residuals would be posthumous. The TV Dan'l Boone would be as late as the real one.
They didn't measure the bear, but he would have had no trouble making the Lakers. Also he didn't need any dental work, had no hangnails, and his dispostion left something to be desired.
Fess is going hunting next time with a camera and a bow and arrow. This makes the bear no more than 7-5 if Vegas posts a line. If he wins again, I'm going to recommend Fess go in with a knife and fork. If so, the bear should wear a napkin.
Reprinted with permission from the Los Angeles Times
Jim Murray Memorial Foundation | P.O. Box 995 | La Quinta | CA | 92247