Wet and Dry Biology was the best of times and it was the worst of times. Wet Biology was a perfect mix of college, games, and humor for me. In the class, we studied the ecosystems in ponds, streams, and rivers. We caught critters and learned to identify them. We conducted mini-studies and learned how to use the library at William and Mary. In Dry-Biology we studied plants and their winter buds. We went to Jamestown and York River State park to count deer scat. It wasn’t my thing.

One project for Dry-Biology involved studying animal tracks. Since my father was a police officer I figured he would have the stuff to make a mold of any tracks that we could find around my house. Finding the tracks would be easy because I lived on Carter’s Grove Plantation and there was nothing but woods around our house. The problem was waiting for a time when my father and I could coordinate our schedules. He worked rotating shifts and I was always at basketball practice or games. Finally, we found a night that both of us would be home. We headed out into the dark in search of any kind of tracks.

There was a service road in front of our house that led down a hill towards the James River. Before heading into the woods, the road wrapped around a corn field. There were no lights to help guide us and we walked along the road with a flashlight like climbers trying to summit Everest. A cold wind blew off the river and the tall pines creaked and leaned against each setting a very Vincent Price mood.

Sometimes I got scared living so far off the main road. In a field across from our house, stakes marked the location of settlers that were killed during an attempt by local Native Americans to reclaim their land. When I was home alone at night I often wondered if the spirits ever rose from their shallow graves to visit their old lands. At the time of our walk, I was also reading Truman Capote’s, “In Cold Blood.” The combination of the cold, the wind, the stakes, and the images of someone driving to our far removed house started to scare me. All I wanted was to find some tracks, pour the mold, and get back home.

We found some raccoon tracks and did just that. I wasn’t interested in waiting for the stuff to dry, but my father made sure we waited long enough for the mold to set. I scooped up the mold and headed back up the hill with a determined sense of purpose. I wanted no part of wandering spirits or vagabond murderers. Fortunately, neither appeared.

Unfortunately, deer flies were waiting out on Jamestown Island for our spring deer population scat study.

From the journal of Carter Hamorton…

I have the benefit of age and the enlightenment of a doctorate. All that means is I’m old and went to school for a long time. In some respects I think that the wisdom from maturity and education are important if we look to them for inspired thought and an openness of heart. Certainly, the election of 2016 is testing the notion that are greatest gift is the ability to think as we are seeing so many Americans drawn to deceit with minds clogged by hubris and negativity.

That is not why I write, though. I’ve been thinking about my brother, Red, who used to drive a truck named, Snowball and once got me so angry that I threw his glasses out of a locker in an adolescent tantrum that was not funny then, but has an embarrassing humor to it now. I was thinking about the election today and an argument he and I had back in the late 80s about whether or not psychology as a science. I sad “yes” because there was research to support its existence. He said “no” because there was nothing that could be proved. Our argument went on in a sophomoric way right there in the State Farm house parking lot. I thought I knew everything since I was only three credits away from a psychology minor and Red was living the dream of a concrete pouring professional who saw the world through the eyes of experience instead of theory.

Today, I’m not sure how I would argue my position on the science of psychology. Since my research was essentially to measure something that is not seen, a construct, I’m betting my man would tell me I measured nothing. He would ask me for something more than statistics to prove that my little study had actually done something. I’d probably add fuel to his fire by saying nothing is proved and that relationships and the probability of their existence is what happens in research. One of us would get tired of the discussion, go Wayne Gretzky on a bottle cap, and change the subject to something more solid, like pouring footers, potato skins, or the proper usage of the phrase “phat.”

What I do know is that certain aspects of psychology have been at play this summer. The conditioning that goes on with animals works on people too. The cages and chains that are being used to incite whatever cause is making the American public look like idiots. The idea of education is to make sure we have the ability to think and make the most informed decisions, preferably in a rationalized way. We should be able to see the tricks being put upon us by the political mockery that is coming from the feathered one and not fall for his professional wrestling antics. Then again, the ambitious one with pneumonia has her moments of psychological trickery.

Education, though, is not enough. I learned from, Red, that life experiences are an important part of our education, too. I agree. We have plenty of experiences from history to see how psychology can be used to the detriment of man. Hitler used language that seems all to familiar today. Stalin, Khmer Rouge, and race haters on all sides, try to shut down thought by being loud, outrageous, and unconcerned with accountability for their actions. In this sense, I can’t see the psychological constructs, but I know he is using them to make a case for his power grab. As for her, she takes the high road which is not much of a step from the gutter the two of them waddle in. Her high road though is about as crass and transparent as his inane views of the state of America. She just happens to be a little more nuanced at the political ways than he is.

I hope middle America will wake up. I hope the edge states will wake up. It’s time to demand better choices from the two parties. But how do you get a country conditioned that they only have two choices to stand up in the cage of political-psychological manipulation and push a different lever.

The choices for our country in this election cycle have not been great. In fact, I, Carter Hamorton have no love for either candidate. However, if most skills in our lives are a melding of art and skill or the balancing of faith and science, this vote is most crucial. Better to believe in the lesser of two evils approach rather than there being any art in his deal. So I’m leaning towards that third party guy who knows nothing about world events. At least he isn’t being a donkey’s butt…or is he…I know less about him than he knows about Aleppo.

Red and I have never agreed on whether psychology is a science or not. Sometimes I think it is a parlor trick. Other times, I relate to it with the inquisitiveness of a researcher on a quest to understand why we do what we do. I accept the limits of psychology and its role in human behavior. But it’s there in some form, Red, and I think we are watching it play out every time that guy with the tan speaks from the Yellow Brick campaign trail. Of course, the other candidate is nothing to get too wrapped up in either. What’s that third guy’s name again?…