A continuing source of annoyance to me, and one which I would think is shared by other trampers, is the way in which the non-tramping public often has stereotyped, erroneous and almost invariably patronising images of those who go to the hills to tramp or climb. These misconceptions can generally be divided into two main types; the tramper as the Merry Masochist, and the tramper as the Bush Boor.
The Merry Masochist (an image fortunately less popular now than it once was) is supposedly, the 'hail-fellow-well-met' sort of chap, hearty and easy-going, who lopes manfully over hills and vales at phenomenal speeds singing endless, raucous choruses of 'Hearts of Oak' and "The Yeomen of England', pausing only atop prominent peaks to boil up his battered but trusty billy.
The Bush Boor, on the other hand, is introverted, often surly, speaks in monosyllables, leaves the city in the weekends purely for the pleasure of wallowing in filth like the disgusting pig that he is, and occasionally manifests a peculiar kind of insanity which inspires him to rise up from his squalor and conquer overhanging mountain-faces.
Ever wondered, when hitching home along a busy Wairarapa highway on a Sunday evening after a hard weekend's pit-bashing, at the reluctance of many drivers to give lifts? The reason is simple. Bush Boors make extremely unpleasant company (dirty the imitation-leather upholstery etc.) and Merry Masochists aren't supposed to want to ride in cars anyway.
Both stereotypes are patently false. Such people may exist but they are rare, thank God. Instead, I think that the contributions to this magazine evidence the tramper as a completely different sort of person. As I read through them, and those of previous years, I was struck by the sensitivity, humour and genuineness which characterize these writings. I realize that this might sound a little precious or trite, but I think it nonetheless true that, rather than 20th Century Cavemen or 'Happy wanderers', trampers are people who respond to their natural world in a particularly intense and personal way.
Pedants might point to crudeness of style or liberties taken in language usage. Well, they know what they can do with their red felt pens ...but I digress. Anyway, these things are really irrelevant. If the articles, poems etc. in Heels raise memories of good times for some club members or just make for enjoyable reading for others, and at the same time convey in a general way something of the appeal of the tramping experience then this magazine has justified its existence.
Unfortunately, greatly increased production costs this year mean that the continuation of Heels, at least in this form, will have to be considered carefully. It would, however, be a painful loss if Heels were to be amputated, for it provides an ideal opportunity for club members to express their feelings for the outdoors, to recall and share trip experiences, and perhaps, along the way, dispel a few unkind myths.
(As a minor Scottish poet, unfortunately seldom quoted these days, was wont to say:
"Throw awa' your books laddies an' come wi' me, Leave the crumblin'walls o' th' dull varsity, In her cloyin' halls you'll end up losers, Sae hand me ma pack an' ma trampin' troosers")
Acknowledgements: My thanks to everyone who helped put 'Heels' '74 together, and especially to Marilyn, Bill T., Rod, Frank, and Trev.