Some of us live our lives bathed in noise, against a soundtrack of frenzied, dissonant pandemonium—and not just the kind measured in decibels. The noise ranges from sub-audible frequencies that we can feel, like jet engines, helicopters and car stereos thumping below 20Hz, all the way to ultra-high radio frequencies we need to “connect” with each other.
The young are naturally attracted to noise. It’s exciting — the opposite of boring — it’s where things are happening. As a young person, I was lured toward the wall of sound pumping out of the PA at rock concerts, guitars and bass cranked to 11. The young are enticed by loud cars, the rolling thunder of motorcycles, and the roar of the crowd. I was addicted to the crash of football helmets against plastic armor.
The military can take noise to another level. When the doors of a C-130 opened in flight and the cabin filled with the fearsome howling of massive engines, it was impossible not to hop about yelling like an animal about to be released from a cage. Even an ordinary day of training could involve a wild hallucinogenic trip of running, jumping and crawling amidst gunfire, explosions, helicopters, disembodied voices screaming over radios and low-flying jets.
Then one day, it’s too much.
I returned to the quiet life on the golf ranch, but The Noise had gotten there ahead of me. Somebody — probably that noisy box full of flashing lights in the living room — had raised the bar while I was gone. Instead of simple external noise, like mowers and chainsaws, now I had internal noise, too. (Shrill voices in my head, urging me to do more and more.) The Noise didn’t just rent space inside my head, it evicted the other tenants.
I sought relief in exercise endorphins and the drug-free release they provided, but I couldn’t just go for a pleasant run or ride my bike around the neighborhood, nooooo... I had to race. I had to “go for it” and “just do it”, as commanded by the aforementioned box in the living room. I took something as fun and relaxing as riding a bike and turned it into an expensive, time-eating obsession. The Noise just got louder.
I couldn’t just go for a pleasant run or ride my bike around the neighborhood, nooooo... I had to race. I had to “go for it” and “just do it”...
By the late 80s, bentgrass and no rain in the Deep South heat required long hours with no time off, just to stay employed. Guilt from minimal family time added to the static interference in my head. I wasn’t training hard enough to win bike races and I was lazy in the gym, so I bought a Sony Walkman and attached even more noise to my head. You know, for motivation?
I pushed to rebuild bad holes and bad golf courses and eventually pushed to build an entire golf course, all while working at another one. I pushed the crews. I pushed the family. I pushed myself... and The Noise got ever louder. It was like the Twilight Zone episode where the cranky old boss keeps screaming, “Push, Push, Push!” No matter how much course conditions improved, the golfers grew more demanding; they even suggested I had lost “the fire” and — perhaps a younger superintendent was required.
The “Cure” first showed itself in my work habits, but I couldn’t hear it.
At the Skeletal Golf level, the GCS minimizes the admin work and pitches in with the crew to operate equipment. But I gave the sit-down, riding jobs to the crew and assigned myself tasks like digging up irrigation leaks. The crew was puzzled. One afternoon, while I was wrestling a shovel in a blowout, the fairway guy parked beside me and said, “Boss, how about you mow fairways, let me do that. Manual labor is the crew’s job. Why are you doing it?”
“Because,” I answered, “it’s quiet. I don’t want to hear machines anymore.”
I made changes, telling Buddy that talk radio was banned from the shop, he could only play classical music. I spent my lunch period walking in the forest beside the course. Instead of riding the crew about working every minute of the day, I instituted “Frisbee Time” for the last 15 minutes of the day. Just as The Noise was abating, upper management summoned me to an Inquisition, whereupon a poor unfortunate golfer spewed forth his lamentations, describing the agony of being deprived of deep rough. (Not a good idea on a swamp golf course.)
They sided with him. I was ordered to provide deep rough. My eyes bugged out, my skin turned a glowing magenta and the veins in my temples pounded like conga drums at a Ricky Ricardo concert. I wanted to turn over some tables, maybe fling a golfer out a window, but a long dormant synapse in my brain fired, and suddenly, I was watching short clips of films from my childhood in my brain theater.
Boots & Ruck can take you places no four wheel drive can go and solve some problems along the way.”
I saw myself hiking in the Alps, in a forest of Christmas trees, wandering along with a rucksack stuffed with C-Rations and a sterno stove. A sense of peace flowed over me as I recalled long hikes in the Sierras or the mountains of Tennessee. Even the long ruck marches in the Army seemed more peaceful than my current situation. I remembered how lacing up boots, shouldering a ruck and hitting a trail was always my best escape.
I left the building, calm and relaxed, and headed back toward the course. I was thinking about going for a hike instead of devising a new mowing pattern, when I remembered the words of Sergeant O’Neal, a Special Ops legend: “Boots & Ruck can take you places no four wheel drive can go and solve some problems along the way.”
From that day on, golf stress had little effect on me. When The Noise showed up, I simply went into Boots & Ruck therapy and wandered off into the forest. (Sometimes, I even took my radio with me, in case Buddy lost his mind.) The quiet of the forest suppressed The Noise.
I eventually moved into the mountains where the forest is close, the quiet is strong and The Noise is weak.If you’ve had enough of The Noise, instead of worshipping that box in the living room or that computer in your hand, try Boots & Ruck. It doesn't take much.