Getting Back to the Basics


Thoughts of Long Ago

Text copyright Ken Ramos, 2004. All rights reserved.


The world was my laboratory and within it lay many mysteries to be solved and the dreams of exploring these new frontiers burned in a young boys mind. I wonder today what ever happened to those dreams. Maybe a return to the basics would be in order.

Before I had a microscope, a small hand lens brought the world ever closer to me and there was so much I wanted to learn and too see. I would examine each and every living and non-living thing that came across my path with that hand lens. On shelves made of cinder blocks and a couple of old boards, out behind the house that I lived in, I placed jars of hapless squirming and crawling creatures on them for scientific study. I would go on weekends to the library and bring home books that allowed me to identify those creatures and with that hand lens, I would examine each and every part of them. Unfortunately very few ever survived my inquiring mind and they were all tossed over the fence in the backyard to become food for what ever came along.

I kept a notebook however, of all my findings, and I had drawings of those things that I had discovered. My hand lens was the most valued thing, outside of a pocket knife, that I owned. As the years went by my interests were becoming more focused and intense towards an even smaller world that I had been reading and studying about in school and in the library. I wanted a microscope.

I began looking for an instrument that I thought would be powerful enough to show me the world that I was so intent on seeing. The science books and magazines that I read only intensified the task that was set before me but for a young boy in the early 1960's growing up in the hills of East Tennessee, money was in short supply and I had to rely on that hand lens as my sole instrument of scientific research.

Finally one day, in a magazine, I came across a microscope advertised for only one dollar. A dollar, back then, was a lot of money and it could almost by a tank of gas for my grandfathers car. However, this could have been the finest microscope on the market today as far as I was concerned and I was anxious to acquire this marvelous instrument. So, I worked and saved and finally acquired the money for the purchase and ordered this instrument. Each day seemed like an eternity as I waited for it to arrive in the mail. After two long weeks this microscope finally arrived. Made of black plastic with a small mirror and glass lenses, it towered a full six inches in height and boasted a powerful fixed magnification of 80X.

With this powerful scientific instrument I examined every piece of tissue that I could pry off a frog, every bit of blood that I could squeeze out of a living thing went on to one of the slides, which came with it, for examination. Notes and drawings piled up along with dried out specimens of all sorts. My whole world revolved around this tiny instrument and the whole world, when I think back about it, was in danger of my scrutiny.

As time passed that microscope began to wear out. The focusing knobs fell off and the mirror finally followed suit but my hand lens never left my side. Not being discouraged and somewhat older now, I was able to finally convince my grandparents to purchase me a new one for Christmas and they did. It was much larger and more powerful and much better constructed, it boasted magnifications from 100X to 300X with a revolving set of objectives and a large two sided mirror. Many science projects were completed and awards were won with the addition of this new instrument to my life and I have fond memories of it all.

Many years have passed since then and as I look back, the worries of growing up and being socially accepted among my peers began to dominate my time back then and of course there was the military and Viet Nam. However, my love of microscopy never faded away. Now I have the privilege of owning a very fine research instrument that, back then, would have had to have been mortgaged. Much older and much wiser, I would like to think, I reflect back on those times spent out behind the house in the summer or alone in my room on a winters day, reading, studying, and of course observing all those marvelous things that I had been reading so much about. The quest for knowledge is unending and technology today enables us to go much farther in that quest than ever before and now I sit here alone in my own home, in my room once more, looking out the window and I cannot help but wonder, what happened to all that enthusiasm that I once had as a boy, that passion for the knowledge of a world that no one seemed to care about but me.

Perhaps that passion is still there, I would like to think so. Maybe the world of nature is better off and a much safer place now that I have come to a point of frustration but I have always been advised that when you come to a point such as this, it is good to get back to the basics.

A Personal Note from the Author

I have always had a deep fondness for the study of the natural sciences and an even deeper one for the microscopic world. Perhaps you, the reader of this article, feel the same way and in looking back on life maybe you too can relate to some of this. I hope that you have enjoyed this article and that in someway it will remind you that when you get the feeling that you too are at a loss for that special subject of study or that passion you once had, maybe you too should get back to the basics of it all.

About the Author

Ken Ramos is a retired U.S. Navy, Petty Officer. He now calls Western North Carolina home, the city of Rutherfordton, after 21 yrs. of naval service. Although his new home has not a "flight deck" or aircraft landing overhead while he is trying to sleep, he is coping fine. His interests lie in the study of Nature and Microorganisms, chiefly Protozoa and as an amateur, is currently researching infectious diseases associated with Protozoa. Leisure activities include fly tying and fly fishing for trout in the mountain streams of Western North Carolina and wilderness hiking.

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