I’m always scouting. I have a propensity to watch the horizon.

What is it you do when you “scout?” It’s hard to shake grade-B cowboy movies out of my imagination. Scouts rode ahead, over horizons, then back to the wagon train—usually with bad news unless San Francisco was just over the mountain.

White Cavalry Scout
Apache Cavalry Scout

Sometimes you looked at scouts; sometimes they looked at you. If they looked at you first, that was bad news. You wanted to see them first.

Scouting is related to what Susan, my wife, calls “the 1-3-2” syndrome. When I write, I often jump to conclusions, from one to three, without passing through two. Then I have to go back and work out the relations between one and two, as well as two and three. That takes a lot of slow work.

To scout is to get there first, ahead of the johnny-come-latelys. That’s virtuous, I suppose, but it also makes you the first to be shot.

As a kid growing up on a farm, I was taught to look ahead. Rattlesnakes infested the trail between the barn and a low spot in the pasture, where the cows hung out gossiping and chewing the cud.

The trail led from up here to down there, and it grew deeper by the year. It should have been mine since I walked it daily. But I suppose the cows cut the trail and I followed it. The snakes knew it belonged to them. They would curl up in the shade behind a yucca waiting for kid- or cow-meat.

Smoky, our black and white cow dog, once saved me from a rattlesnake. I scout and so does my  dog, because we don’t want rattlers to kill us.

I study for exams a week ahead of time for the same reason—get there first, know what’s to be known ahead of time.

I arrive at train and bus stations a bit earlier to get the best seat.

  • I prefer a planned, orderly way of life, like to have things settled and organized, feel more comfortable when decisions are made, and like to bring life under control as much as possible.
  • I like to have things decided, not left open.
  • I am task oriented.
  • I make bulleted lists of things to do.
  • I like to get my work done before playing.
  • I plan work to avoid rushing just before a deadline.
  • Sometimes I focus so much on the goal that I miss new information.

These qualities make me a Myers and Briggs J-type personality.

I want to know what’s ahead. Don’t you? Doesn’t everyone? No, not everyone. Probably only a few, late at night after their mates have trundled off to bed. I watch post-holocaust movies. I want to know what’s on the horizon, even beyond the horizon. For a while a scout is a lone wolf in the world. Just me and the few who remain. Would I be brave? Cowardly? Kind? Would I share or be suspicious? Would I raid local grocery stores? Care for the sick? Care for jerks? Roam or sit still? Hunt or garden?

If I were the only one left (except for zombies) who would do the scouting?

I’m now re-watching The Walking Dead, double-checking to be sure I know what’s coming over the horizon.