Field Notes: Dawn of a new millennium

For 30 years, my New Year’s resolution has been the same thing every year — to be in the woods on each New Year’s Day, the last day of deer season. So, in the predawn hours of New Year’s Day in the year 2000, I left out from our house at the foot of Pinnacle Mountain and headed up to a place near the peak of the mountain that I call the “Pretty Place.” 

It takes about an hour and 20 minutes to make the uphill trek, so I stopped for a breather about halfway up. I turned around and looked back toward Greenville and the sun was just cresting the horizon, a truly stunning site. It was, after all, the literal “dawn of a new millennium,” which only happens once every 1,000 years. Realizing that I probably would not be around to witness the monumental event next time around, I reached around to my fanny pack, pulled out my camera and snapped off a few photos, and then headed on toward my destination.


I spent a pleasant morning watching the daily dramas of wildlife (mostly squirrels) play out in front of me. A red fox came trotting through about mid-morning. Then several mature gobblers entered my little world for a few minutes, scratched around in the dry leaves and then drifted away out of my view. All in all, it was a perfect morning in the woods and a propitious beginning to the new year.

Dennis Chastain head shotI headed back down the mountain and recalled that this New Year’s Day was special for another reason. It was something called Y2K, shorthand for the Year Two Thousand.  The whole world was dialed in on Y2K back then. Some conjectured that it was going to be the end of the world as we knew it. Because computers had, up to this point, been programmed using only the last two digits of the year, they would not know how to deal with the four-digit numeral 2,000. The doomsayers predicted that planes would fall from the sky and the power grid would fail, plunging the world into anarchy and chaos. Preppers and conspiracy theorists were having a field day. 

Since affordable cell phones were not widely available at that point, I had to wait until I got home to find out that the whole thing was a big fat nothingburger. It was not that the problem was not real. It was that…