Constable: Pandemic wilderness skills also valuable indoors
Before Christmas 1979, DuPage County lawyer Ron Nosek picked up the book his wife, Sue, bought as a present for another relative. "The Tracker," by Tom Brown Jr., tells how a boy growing up in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey learned to "live comfortably in the natural world" from an elderly man who went by the name Stalking Wolf, says Nosek, who couldn't put the book down.
As a kid growing up in Berwyn, Nosek had spent a lot of time outside and was intrigued by the ability to exist in the natural world and get by "only with what nature provided."
But with a law career and a family with two boys and two girls, Nosek couldn't find the time to take wilderness classes offered by Brown in New Jersey. Instead, he read everything he could on the subject and took family camping trips.
When Nosek learned that Tom and Ellen Hanratty had studied under Brown and were opening their own wilderness training sessions in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, he was hooked. "I spent five hours in the car driving to take three-hour courses," says Nosek, who completed months of Saturday training in 1992 and eventually became an instructor with a wilderness skills group, Nature Education Programs.
Since then Nosek, 75, who retired after a career as a DuPage County prosecutor and defense lawyer in criminal cases, has taught tracking and wilderness skills at the College of DuPage, the Morton Arboretum, and countless park districts and other programs.
He teaches people how to start fires, find water, stay warm, be safe, catch fish, identify animal tracks, know which berries are edible, build a small hut, and avoid getting lost.
He'll be teaching at the St. Charles Park District's What 2 Know B4 You Go workshop at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 10, at Hickory Knolls Discovery Center, 3795 Campton Hills Road. The fee is $30 for residents and $45 for nonresidents, and more information can be found at stcparks.org.
"These skills I've learned in the outdoors were helping me in the courtroom," says Nosek, who lives in Elmhurst.
He tells of being confident of winning one hearing because the opposing attorney sounded nervous, showed a lack of confidence and even gave off a faint whiff of vomit.
Being aware of your surroundings, picking up on clues and paying attention to body language can help you steer clear of an angry bear, or maybe an angry human, he says. All creatures, whether man or beast, tend to swagger when they are itching for a fight, moving their arm and leg on the same side of their body while walking.
He has taught some of those skills to corporate groups.
"There is no difference between being aware of your surroundings in the middle of a forest or the middle of a board meeting," says Nosek, chairman of the board for Keson Industries, his family's business in Aurora that makes measuring and marking products but also has a 4-acre wildflower prairie.
With indoor activities limited during the pandemic, Nosek says many people in the suburbs explored nature through hikes, bicycle trips, bird watching or just sitting in their backyards and paying attention. Even during his busy career, Nosek says he always made time for trips into the wild and away from cities to clear his head.
"I've trained myself to be aware of little, subtle things," Nosek says. "I'm not just looking, I'm actually seeing things, hearing things, smelling things."
Above all, he hopes to make people get out of their "city heads" and be aware that humans are equipped to live as part of nature.
"One thing I've learned is to trust your intuition," Nosek says. "It's in your DNA."