White Mountains, AZ - Part 1 (or ode to Stephen Edward Dolansky)
MWalker at gensym.com
Mon Aug 26 02:01:37 EDT 2002
Good news - this will not be an 8-part saga.
In fact, it would only be a 1-part saga, if not for some incredibly
well-timed good fortune. You see, I was trying to sneak in a last minute
trip to the White Mountains area of Arizona at the tail end of a business
trip that involved driving from Oceanside to Phoenix, then to Tucson, then
back to Phoenix, then flying to Dallas, then back to Phoenix, and then
driving back to Oceanside by way of the White Mountains (the logistics of
that last leg may not make much sense to anyone other than an entomologist).
Short on time, I knew that I was totally dependant on atmospheric conditions
corresponding to a very short time window. My last visit to this area was
accompanied by much rain, so I couldn't be sure of what I might see.
On my way in to the area on Thursday, August 22, I stopped to check things
out west of Heber, Arizona (in Navajo County). It was getting late, but I
saw plenty of Hesperia colorado (Branded Skipper), a single Papilio rutulus
(Tiger Swallowtail) and a few stunning Phyciodes pratensis (Field
Crescentspot). This was a good sign, even if much of the surrounding
countryside had burned up during the recent wildfires. In fact, the area
just west of Show Low is horrific to see. In what was once a very dense
pine forest, there now stands miles and miles of burned and blackened sticks
- as far as the eye can see. Much of the burned forest still stands as
dense as before, so dense in fact that it would be impossible to traverse.
Only now there are no signs of life - just charred, blackened sticks where
trees used to be. The trees were no more than a few feet apart. It makes
you wonder why any sensible nature-loving person would consider protesting
the strategy of planned forest thinning - especially when you witness the
effects promoted by doing nothing.
Anyway, this isn't what I wanted to share with you today. I wanted to share
something completely different and completely unexpected. I ended up
staying at the Best Western in Eager, Arizona - on the northern doorsteps of
the White Mountain region. In the morning, while throwing down a
complimentary breakfast in order to get an early start, I noticed an
interesting regional map mounted on the wall. I asked the manager where I
might obtain such a map, and she kindly referred me to the area Chamber of
Commerce in nearby Springerville. I thanked her, and then had to make the
tough decision while leaving the motel parking lot. "Do I take the time to
drive the opposite direction in order to get a copy of this map?", I asked
myself. It was just after 8:00 a.m., but I knew the drive wasn't far (I had
eaten dinner in Springerville the night before) - so I decided to seek out
the Springerville Chamber of Commerce. Who knows - I might find something
Actually, I was a little surprised to find the place open - but open it was.
I entered and asked the helpful employee about the map. While she was
preparing a copy, I looked around the quaint little place and admired an
amazing number of displayed items of natural and cultural history.
Suddenly, from across the room, my eyes made contact with something
unmistakable: mounted butterflies and moths.
Wow! What was this! Four very large homemade cases with hundreds and
hundreds of species from all over the world. Incredible. Where did it come
from? What was it doing here?
Nearby was an accompanying wall mounted plaque with the name "Stephen Edward
Dolansky - March 1955 to January 1997". Apparently, all of the leps I was
admiring were collected or acquired by a single lepidopterist that made his
home in Colorado Springs, CO. Perhaps some of you on this list knew the
late Stephen Dolansky - his life cut short at the very young age of 42 (I am
now 43). The plaque was prepared by Stephen's wife Kathy, who prepared it
when she donated the collection for display. I was so touched by the
epitaph she wrote on his behalf, that I felt I had to share it with you
here. Though I never met this man, I feel I know him as I know myself.
I dedicate this post to Stephen Dolansky, and to his wife Kathy - who loved
him and understood him well enough to write the following. She obviously
wanted to share a bit of Steve and his passion with unknown visitors - folk
who, though uneducated in the science of Lepidoptera, might nevertheless be
blessed by his legacy. I share it here without her permission, and hope you
enjoy it as much as I have.
Stephen Edward Dolansky
March 1955 to January 1997
Born to collect one of God's most beautiful and diverse Lepidopteran
In other words butterflies and moths. He had a gift to be able to
understand their habits, their habitat, their flight patterns, and their
beauty due to thousands of overlapping colorful scales.
A self taught lepidopterist, he knew all the common and scientific names of
all these and more!
Steve was born in Schenectody, N.Y., and moved to New Hartford, CT as a boy.
Always in the woods, fields, and wildlife areas, he was able to observe and
quietly gather his collection.
As a young man he moved to Colorado Springs, CO, and lived there the rest of
his life. It was home base.
This particular collection was caught in many trips to various places. All
outings were planned around collecting. So he would research areas of
interest and then travel to them.
The tropical case was acquired thru companies such as "The Butterfly
Company" out of N.Y., Dianni, and The Lepidopterist Society.
States Steve traveled to and collected in were: Colorado, Texas, Arizona,
New Mexico, California, Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida,
Hawaii, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, and
He collected his moths with great vigor and enthusiasm. It's a nighttime
process for the most part. You draw them into an open field with a sheet
illuminated by a black light. They land on the sheet and are mesmerized.
Needless to say countless hours of sleeplessness and generator noise produce
Most of us never see what Steve saw, but it's out there. It's amazing after
seeing Steve's collection that you go outside and actually start noticing
the butterflies that have always been there.
By trade Steve was a housepainter.
This collection was his hobby - his passion.
He went to live with the Lord in January, 1997.
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