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home : columns : columns May 29, 2016


4/9/2013 1:49:00 PM
One of the good ones
Suzi Lewis with Jim Anderson and a great horned owl. photo provided
+ click to enlarge
Suzi Lewis with Jim Anderson and a great horned owl. photo provided

By Suzi Lewis


Have you ever met a person who instantly changed your life forever?

When I first met Jim Anderson in 1984, my love and enthusiasm for the natural world tripled. I had just begun my 15-year career with the U.S. Forest Service in Bend, and my assignment was to capture live mice, which would be carried (in a coffee can with holes in the lid) out to one of five SOMA (Spotted Owl Management Areas) to entice the (always-hungry) owls.

"You need to contact Jim Anderson, he will help you," I was told.

So after an introductory phone call, I drove out to the Bend Airport to meet Jim. One of Jim's numerous talents was that of an airplane mechanic. Walking into the large, dark building, I hollered out, "Excuse me, this is Suzi Lewis; is Jim Anderson here?"

"Just a minute Suzi, I'll be right there," came the reply from a set a legs sticking out from beneath an airplane. That is my first memory of Jim, and he has been teaching, inspiring, motivating, and nurturing me about the magical world of nature ever since.

Just last week, I phoned Jim to ask him for the specs on hanging kestrel and bluebird boxes. And I learned that: kestrels desire to have theirs on the edge of forest and grassland and at least 10 feet up; bluebirds like theirs out in the open grasslands, at least five feet high; both need to have the openings facing north to "keep the kids from getting too hot."

"Thanks Jim, here's to a great day today. Are you going eagling?"

"Why yes we are; we're just heading out the door."

And so goes the daily life of Jim Anderson. On his 85th birthday recently, he and his lovely wife, Sue, were observing and documenting our Central Oregon wildlife. Presently, Jim and Sue are in their third year of a five-year golden eagle study. What a special life!

If you know Jim Anderson, I don't have to tell you how very special he is, because you already know. He always has time to look directly into your eyes while sincerely listening to your stories and your questions, and responding with enthusiasm, interest, and imparting a bit of knowledge. I have witnessed Jim in many settings with people of all ages, imparting nature knowledge and igniting a fire of curiosity to learn more, to go outside and see, smell, feel, and taste it.

Usually packing a live great horned owl on his arm, he hooks his audience with real-life story after story. And magically, we all learn a bit more. Which naturally leads to caring a bit more. Which ultimately leads to taking positive actions toward stewardship of this wonderful planet and her creatures.

Jim Anderson is "one of the good ones" and the natural world of Central Oregon is better because of his diligent work.

The first time I heard Jim use that term was when I took my handsome date with me to check on my dear friend at St. Charles. Jim had suffered a mild heart attack the night before and I was worried. When we walked in the room, we did not find a bed-ridden, ill man. Jim was bouncing around his tiny space, working on his laptop, writing in his notebook, checking on the news. He greeted us with his usual bear hug and twinkle in his eye and ask us how we were faring! He complemented the lovely doctors and nurses that saved his life and thanked me for bringing him my tape player and CDs. As we departed he said to my friend, "take good care of her, she's one of the good ones." My heart swelled with gratitude and pride at that compliment. Jim had made me feel special. Jim makes a lot of people feel special with his generous compliments and smile.

"Jim Anderson is one of the best storytellers and naturalists I have ever met," stated Robert Michael Pyle last week, when he gave a book reading at Paulina Springs Books. How many of you Sisters folks have heard a tale or two from Jim? And what did you learn? And better yet, what were you inspired to DO? Jim leads by example. He walks his talk, every day, everywhere. I've been on walks with him at Camp Polk Meadow, driven "the circle" on the annual Bald Eagle Winter Count, learned about our life-giving bees and how their honey can chase those nasty spring allergies away. A whole bunch of us, with necks cranked back, observed and learned really cool stuff about bats on a dark summer evening in Drake Park.

I will never forget the powerful grip of a great horned owl as Jim passed him to my gloved forearm. And I have the delightful memory of watching this Pied Piper magnetize people. Jim loaded up an owl, Sue, Miriam, Caleb in the old green Suburban, and drove up to the Columbia River Gorge to help me out by giving a talk at my guest speaker series at the lovely Skamania Lodge. Jim and owl entered through the foyer, and by the time he walked through the great room and out onto the back patio, he had collected more than 200 curious folks!

Happy Birthday Jim - revered scientist, storyteller, husband, father, grandfather, and life-long learner. May the next chapters, my dear friend, be just as exciting and rewarding. We all admire, respect, and love you very much. Because you're "one of the good ones!"









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