Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Good Words, Good Weapons...

Those of you who know me, know that I've long had the dream to find some nice, mid-sized university town in a western state with lots of nearby public land for hunting, fishing, and roaming, and open up a used book and gun shop. I've even laid out my vision here

What I envision is a bookshop where you can browse the stacks for books, then walk over to the gun rack to check out the used shotguns or maybe take a look at the vintage Ambassadeurs in the reel case.
Yep, a combination used book, gun and tackle shop. The kind of place where you can walk out the door with an obscure first-printing, a box of AAs and a classic pre-owned baitcasting reel, all in the same bag. In essence a literary and sporting junk shop. I think it sounds cool, and it's the kind of quirky, off-beat place I've always been drawn to. Not too stuffy, tradition-bound or pretentious, but not too weird. Just a mellow, funky spot for freethinkers, hippies, gun nuts, literate rednecks, bookworms, fishing bums or anyone else who possesses an artistic bent and an appreciation for firepower and spinnerbaits.

Well, it looks like someone else is living my dream. or was, at one time. The date on the ad for the coin guidebook says 1969, so perhaps rather than being forward-thinking, I'm actually way behind the times. Either way, it's cool...

A picture that FB friend and blog reader Todd Shaffer posted on FB. Now this is my kind of book store...

The Moronification Marches Ever Onward...

There are a number of reasons why I have (mostly) gotten out of the hook-and-bullet writing world/industry.
Some of those reasons are pragmatic (I wasn't making enough money for the time I was sinking into it and ultimately I believed I could make more money writing in other areas), some of them socio-cultural and/or political (I was never really comfortable in that world. For the most part it is an extremely homogeneous and doctrinaire bunch of folks and even the ones who try to pass themselves off as rebellious outliers really aren't), some of them are ethical and philosophical (I was developing issues with where the industry and culture are going, plus I was always very skeptical of many of the writers working for pay in this industry who call themselves journalists or reporters. They weren't, excluding guys like Bob Marshall, Hal Herring and Ted Williams. They were, and are, industry hacks, not journalists, and to pass themselves off as anything but is patently ludicrous. And for the record I include myself in that category as well. Honestly, for five years I was an industry hack posing as a journalist. Nothing wrong with that. That's just the way the game's played if you want the free hunts and the free gear. Just don't call it journalism.).

But what I detested most of all about the entire hook-and-bullet industry, what got deep down in my craw every day I woke up and had to be a part of it, was the overwhelming stupidity of it all, the seeming joy this industry takes in reveling in tackiness and willful, even gleeful, ignorance.

And it just keeps getting worse. To wit...this 

Outdoor TV reality host on Sportsman Channel, Benny Spies, joins former U.S. vice presidential candidate, governor, best-selling author and original "Mama Grizzly" Sarah Palin as a field host for her new show, Amazing America with Sarah Palin exclusively on Sportsman Channel. Spies is a field host for the weekly, original series that will highlight some of the most uncommon, interesting - and sometimes inspiring - people, places and pastimes connected to America's outdoors lifestyle. Amazing America with Sarah Palin premieres on Thursday, April 3 at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT.

I didn't think it was physically or intellectually possible to make something, anything, involving Sarah Palin any more stupid than it already is, because, you know, it involves Sarah Palin. But I was wrong.Tragically wrong.

The hunting and fishing industry and corresponding media wasn't always this imbecilic, base, and vapid, was it? It hasn't always been this woeful and execrable, has it? Or has it always been - when you get right down to it - a basically dumbshit industry and I'm simply remembering "how it used to be" through the nostalgia-tinted glasses of youth and selective generational amnesia? Or perhaps I'm guilty (as I so often am) of stupidly trying to apply my admittedly narrow tastes and values upon an industry built to serve the interests of a completely different demographic, one that - judging by the shite the industry keeps pumping out - really seems to like garbage like this. And what the hell's wrong with that, right?    

Nothing, I guess. Who the hell knows? I just like to ramble. All I know is it's nice to be able to say whatever the hell I feel like saying about anything hunting or fishing-related without some editor telling me I that hell no I can't say that (something that occurred on a near-daily basis when I was working in the industry...).

And today I feel like airing my thoughts on "Amazin' 'Murca" with Sarah Palin and Benny Spies as a proxy for the decline of intellectual discourse in the American outdoor sporting scene, which means I'm sure it's gonna be a huge hit...    

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Movie About Wannabe Writers? Why Not?

I've never - aside from the thousands of fairly typical, late-night, beer-and/or coffee-fueled conversations with the like-minded friends of my high school, college and near post college years - been a part of a "writer's group" or anything similarly high-minded. Not that I'm opposed to the concept, but I started writing decidedly non-creative, non-artistic, workaday yeoman's copy for money while still in college and have been doing it pretty much non-stop since. As a result, the creative, nurturing, let's-talk-about-our feelings-and-such group setting of the typical writer's group is totally foreign to me.

Which is why I want to see this movie.

I know nothing of the movie itself, but anything starring Jonathan Banks (Mike from Breaking Bad) or Dennis Farina can't be all bad, right? What I'd really like to see is Christopher Guest do a movie about aspiring writers, but until that happens this is what we've got.

 Anyone ever been part of a writer's group? We've got a local writer's group in my town comprised almost wholly of sweet, blue-haired Republican grandmothers writing Christian romance, heartwarming Billie Letts-esque light fiction and books about quilting. I thought I might join and see if I could get some feedback on my Chuck Palahniuk-inspired experimental fiction...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Water, Water No Where...

Nor any drop to drink...

A few weeks back I wrote a little blog post about the ongoing drought on the southern plains. Well, it's still here, and yesterday when the winds in this part of the world were gusting to almost sixty, the dust got so bad that out in Cimarron County, Oklahoma, they had to lower the snow gates on the main highway north into Colorado.

From this story in The Oklahoman

— Spring break travelers driving through the Oklahoma Panhandle on Tuesday might want to choose a new route.
Northbound U.S. 287 in Boise City is closed and the snowgates placed down because of blowing dirt that resulted in zero visibility, said C.F. David, managing editor of the Boise City News.

Zero visibility on a sunny afternoon. Think about what it means to achieve something like that. And the beat goes on, here and elsewhere. Read Slate's Eric Holthaus' excellent (so far) series on drought in the west for a glimpse into the future of just one area.

But back to mine...

Several years back, while coming home from an assignment at Black Mesa (Oklahoma's highest point, which is in the NW corner of Cimarron County) I decided, on a lark, to drive the lone public road that traverses the northern half of Cimarron County.

Contrary to the popular image of flatness, this is pure mesa country, a geographic anomaly that extends in a finger pointing east from the canyonlands of northeast New Mexico across the northern border of the Oklahoma panhandle until elevation and contour are finally vanquished by the inexorable flatitude of the plains a few miles east of US 287. That highway, the same one closed yesterday by dust, is where this lone county road finally terminates some miles north of Boise City, Oklahoma. It is a staggeringly beautiful, incredibly remote and almost completely unpeopled region. Some of the darkest skies in North America are found here, which is why one of the nation's largest stargazing parties calls Black Mesa country home.  There are no towns, no other roads, no houses. Just heat, stone, sky and solitude. My kind of place.

The road quickly degenerated into a rutted, washed-out, low-gear two-track that wound through low-water crossings and deep, winding pinyon canyons begging to be explored. I spent the entire afternoon lost (metaphysically if not completely physically) in that enchanting world and never saw another soul, never passed another truck, never heard anything relating to Man or the outside world. A few hours later, I finally made the highway, pulled south onto US 287 and left it behind. I've been back to Black Mesa country a number of times since then, but haven't driven that county road again. I've made tentative plans to return to Black Mesa later this spring on a promised camping trip with my oldest son, and I may have to drive that road one more time before the land, ruthlessly transformed over the years into something it was never meant to be, completely blows away.

Water will be the defining issue of the future. Everywhere, for everyone. For many of us, it is quickly becoming the defining issue of the present. We are living in interesting times, indeed, and they're getting interestinger by the day...     

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I'm Not Dead!

To quote the poor, soon-to-be-dead serf in Monty Python's The Holy Grail. But I have been busy on a couple long-form writing projects the past month or so, and as a result have been somewhat neglectful of the blog. Unfortunately, that's a trend that will probably continue for at least the next few weeks. But I'll be back.
Eh, not like there's a helluva lot going on, anyway...

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Great Last Graph Thursday...*

"Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins whimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery."

                                                                             Cormac McCarthy

* with apologies for the recycled brook trout pic. I've got others. Just damn laziness today.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Firewood Gettin'

Back in late October, I was having a spirited debate with a large tree concerning our differing views on the law of the conservation of energy and how it should apply to said tree. I was of the opinion that now was a good time for the tree's stored energy to be converted into a new state, while the tree remained rather steadfast in its belief that its energy should remain conserved in its current state.

I eventually won that debate (and if you're wondering, the orange stuff on the stump is smashed-up Halloween jack 'o lantern left out for the deer...).

 But not before the tree, perhaps given to the same sort of rage that could turn any literary, scientic, or philosophical debate deadly, tried to kill me. As a result, I wasn't really physically able to get back down to the farm to cut more wood for a couple weeks, and by then bird season had started, so I put it off, hoping that what I had already cut, split, and stacked would suffice until bird season was over. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy cutting firewood, it's a very contemplative and self-satisfying endeavor. Just not as much as bird hunting.

Real woodcutters living in northern climes who cut all their wood pre-season will scoff, but living in Oklahoma, where the winters are generally mild and dry pleasantness interspersed with temporary bouts of brutal, windswept misery, I can get away with being lazy. Plus, I have a large amount of dead-standing hardwood to use, so I generally don't have to cut wood and then let it season before using it.

Unfortunately, this winter has been a whole lot colder for everyone, including us. I've burned a lot of wood. So with my firewood dwindling and a winter storm coming in this weekend, yesterday I loaded up the truck and went wood-cutting. Now I've previously written about what a pain in the ass cedar trees are when cutting firewood. And yesterday I went back and revisited the spot I wrote about in that blog post.

All the blood, sweat and tears I expended back in August clearing out this area paid off, as it actually didn't take too long to cut a pick-up load of firewood. Unfortunately, I had to carry each round, piece by piece, up out of the canyon to the truck above me...

Trust me, it's farther and higher than it looks. Or maybe I'm getting old. One or the other. I did, however, have some help from a re-purposed pair of antique ice tongs that I use to carry the larger rounds cut from the base of the tree...

They belonged to my wife's grandfather, and work as well for toting wood up hills as I'm sure they did toting those big blocks of ice. In another bit of re-purposing, I also use a pair of old railroad tie tongs that belonged to my grandfather to skid around the larger sections of wood and position them for bucking...

All in all it was a warm and agreeable wood-cutting session. I filled the back of the truck with enough stored sunshine to hopefully see us through the next few weeks, no trees attempted to murder me, the chainsaws played nice, and I even had enough time and energy left over to grab the 10/22 (stainless, walnut-stocked Mannlicher version, my favorite) and take a walk down the canyon on a quick porcupine/squirrel patrol. Nothing doing there, so I shot a few tin cans instead, walked around a bit, looked for interesting rocks, scoped out a few new spots to build stands for next year, and then went home. I've spent worse days.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Little Thursday Morning Bats**t Crazy...

You've got to laugh at the crazy, or it'll just make you cry...

Here's an e-mail that I - and I'm sure a lot of other people - received this morning. I've got firewood to cut today so I'm not going to spend a lot (actually, any) of my time and energy railing against these fucking morons, or refuting the excrement they're spewing, or pondering what their true motives are, except to say that rarely have I ever received anything in my inbox so fundamentally dumb or so fantastically false on so many levels. I've been solicited with Nigerian 419 scams and penile pump advertisements more believable than "The Center For Consumer Freedom", which by the way, neither I nor I'm sure any of you had never heard of before this morning.

Short version? This is a blatantly transparent and cynical stunt from a shadowy, obscure group of far, far fringe-right tinfoil hat wingnuts who, like virtually all of these alleged foundations, are bankrolled by the industries, corporations and entities who have a vested monetary and political interest in furthering the agendas these bought-and-paid-for, dog-and-pony dipshits are peddling; agendas that are almost always completely at odds with the interests of the rest of us. It's that goddamned simple, folks. Groups like this are nothing more than bullshit fronts for those who are threatened by accountability, truth, and due democratic process.

But don't take my word for it. Read for yourselves...

New Website Exposes ‘Green Decoys’ Environmental Activists

Good morning,

Today, the Center for Consumer Freedom launched a new website aimed at exposing self-anointed sportsmen’s advocacy groups for what they really are: Radical environmentalists with a hidden far-left agenda. Specifically, the website focuses on five such “sportsmen’s” groups that purport to speak on behalf of America’s hunters and anglers, revealing an interconnected web of personnel and funding sources notorious for their support of radical environmentalism.

The website (available here) includes a detailed report on the following organizations:

  • Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
  • Trout Unlimited
  • Izaak Walton League of America
  • Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance
  • Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

Please let me know if you are a member of the media and would like to further discuss this issue. I will be happy to connect you with our senior research analyst, Will Coggin, who authored the report.

Kind regards,

Banks Woodruff
Center for Consumer Freedom
(202) 463-7112

Uh, ummm....yeah.....so, uh, tell me again, just who the fuck are you guys?

 From their website... (bold mine)

Who funds you guys? How about some “full disclosure”?
The Center for Consumer Freedom is supported by restaurants, food companies and thousands of individual consumers. From farm to fork, from urban to rural, our friends and supporters include businesses, their employees, and their customers.The Center is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. We file regular statements with the Internal Revenue Service, which are open to public inspection.Many of the companies and individuals who support the Center financially have indicated that they want anonymity as contributors. They are reasonably apprehensive about privacy and safety in light of the violence and other forms of aggression some activists have adopted as a “game plan” to impose their views, so we respect their wishes.

That may be the most interesting interpretation of "full disclosure" I've ever seen. And it pretty much tells you all you need to know right there, doesn't it? Hmmm, who do you think would be threatened by the "far left agendas" of such obviously radical groups as...Trout Unlimited or Backcountry Hunters and Anglers?  Certainly not those who would stand to profit from the exact opposite of what all those groups are trying to achieve?

Or maybe it's all true: Maybe the Center For Consumer Freedom has bravely blown the lid on these groups and their insidious plot for, uh....whatever the fuck evil plans they're trying to achieve? That "far left agenda" isn't too clearly spelled out now, is it? Is it clean water? Clean air? Huntable wildlife, fishable fish, habitable habitat? Wilderness areas? A precious few unspoiled public places for us to enjoy? Must be! Tree-hugging, anti-free market, patchouli-reeking creeping Socialism, all of it!

Holy shit! I just remembered that I was talking on the phone just yesterday to a friend of mine who works for TU. I had no idea that sneaky sumbitch was a leftist commie! Well, there's one pinko who just got deleted off'n my speed dial...

Thank you, Center for Consumer Freedom, for providing me with my "Ignorant Dumbass Joke of the Day" because that is, undeniably, your target demographic. You know the garbage you spew isn't true. I know the garbage you spew isn't true. It's just a dog whistle for the uninformed masses, an opportunistic troll meant to reel in a few suckers. Hopefully, most people will see right through it. Despite my natural pessimism, I still hold out out hope that the majority of us can still recognize horseshit when we smell it. So in conclusion, Mr. Banks Woodruff, Mr. Will Coggin, and the rest of the propoganda machine at the "Center for Comsumer Freedom", I give you and your ilk a hale and hearty "Fuck Off" as I leave to go cut firewood on this fine Thursday morning.  

Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Morning Inspiration...

"If a person with a demonstrably ordinary mind, like mine, will devote himself to giving birth to a work of the imagination, that work will in turn tempt and tease that ordinary mind into cleverness."

                                                                                               Kurt Vonnegut

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Letter to a Lout...*

To the alleged duck hunter(s) who visited the east side of my local duck-hunting spot this past weekend: I'm sure you don't give a shit, but I picked up all the empty shell boxes, used wet wipes, plastic bags, candy wrappers, pop cans and other assorted garbage you left strewn across the parking area. You're welcome, shitheads. That was right classy of you.

I kind of expect that kind of behavior from the methheads who sometimes use these isolated areas of the lake to toss out the toxic leavings of their mobile meth labs. I expect it from the littering, drunken slobs who throw their beer cans and fast-food containers out the window as they drive around the lake looking for road signs and assorted wildlife to shoot up. I even expect it from the don't-know-any-better high school kids who sometimes throw parties out here, far away from the prying eyes of their elders.

But what I don't expect is this kind of behavior from my people, fellow hunters, people who ostensibly should have the greatest respect for the land from which we derive our greatest pleasure, our sustenance, and indeed, our very meaning. Most of us have been taught to venerate our public lands, treat them like they're our own, because, well hell, they are. Maybe you're one of the "new breed" I've been running into more and more lately, and who knows, maybe you and your "crew" didn't have time to pick up after yourselves following that epic skybusting clinic you were putting on this morning (yeah, I was watching from across the lake...) 

This little piece of public ground (one I'm very fond of, by the way) offered up its treasures to you, and you responded by treating it like a dump. I don't know how you were raised, don't know what kind of role models you may or may not have had, don't know if you're congenital jackasses or if your behavior is a product of your upbringing or environment, but since it's a new year and therefore the perfect time to turn over a new leaf, here's a suggestion for a belated resolution: Try really, really hard to stop being dicks. Instead, make a concerted effort to cultivate a minimum level of class, dignity and ethics. Try mightily to refrain from being an obvious disgrace to your sport and your culture.

And if that's just too much effort for you, too much work, sacrifice or consideration, then please, just go the hell away and be an embarrassment to some other demographic. Take up some other sport, parachute-less skydiving, maybe, or perhaps nude shark-chumming. I hear golf's a fun game, and I know it's popular with many, many assclowns like yourselves. Anything, really, but hunting or any other activities requiring a small modicum of respect for wild places. Because you obviously have none to give.

* Believe it or not, I actually wrote (angrily and quickly) this blog post during last year's waterfowl season, saved it as a draft, and then promptly forgot it for over a year. So it's not actually current anger, it's past anger. I only noticed it today while I was trying to clean out some old stuff from the folder, but decided "what the hell, I dealt with the same shit this year, maybe even worse, so why not?"