Friday, September 19, 2014

Bully For You...

If you've been watching the Ken Burns PBS special on the Roosevelts. If you haven't, then you need to. It's a must-see. Fascinating, especially the first few episodes focusing primarily on Theodore. If he's not your favorite president of all time, then he should be. Anyone take a guess as to what gun he's carrying in the pic above? Doubt it's one of his beloved Winchesters, since he died in 1919, a few years before Winchester came out with the Model 54. Some iteration of Mauser would be my guess. I bet Steve Bodio would know. 

Watching his life makes me want to grab my Winchester 1895 in .405 Winchester and head to Africa. Except, of course, that I don't have a Winchester 1895 in .405 Winchester, and I can't afford to go to Africa even if I did. But if you've got $4,629, you could buy this one at the Sydney Cabela's gun room and just pretend while you used it on whitetails.

Lion medicine, indeed...

If you wanted to be a bit more frugal, or didn't have almost five grand for an original, you could buy one of the Miroku-built reproductions for a bit less, around $2,000 or so. At least then you'd have some extra money to buy ammo. A five-round box of genuine Kynoch 300-grain, Woodleigh-tipped ammo will set you back close to fifty bucks. Hornady makes a load for the .405 that's cheaper, but it's apparently a seasonal run and is unavailable most of the time. Reloading is cheaper, of course, but bullets and brass are still spendy. Looks like nostalgia's gonna cost you...

Friday Flotsam: Redneck Bike Computers, Chi-Chi Chainsaws, Scottish Brogues, and Armpit Fires

Yes, that really is a Garmin Alpha parachute cord-lashed to the handlebars of my bike, all ready to record the particulars of today's "Get My Ass in Shape For Hunting Season" bike ride. Don't laugh, I don't have a real bike computer, so I gotta make do with what I've got. Sure it's a bit clunky, but I've been doing it for years now, and the good thing about using the Alpha instead of the Astro (which is what I used to use) is that with the Alpha I can wear the collar, too, so when I'm feeling tired and want to cheat a little by coasting, I just give myself a momentary nick and then my legs start working again right quick...

According to this breathless Outside Magazine article, the chainsaw above, the "Ego Power+, is a serious wood-cutting machine. The author was able to get "forty minutes of hard cutting" (Forty minutes! Wow!) with its 56-volt battery. He had no problems cutting through four (four!) sixteen-inch cedars. No report on how it does on a two or three-foot-diameter hunk of oak, elm, hickory, or deadstanding maple, so color me skeptical. I admit, this thing does sound like the bee's knees...for your backyard Chiminea. But for cutting actual, you know, firewood, I think I'll stick to Mr. Stihl and/or Mr. Husky...

This is apropos of nothing in particular, but it's late September, the dove are mostly gone, November seems far away, so right now I want to be here...

Somewhere near Lewistown, Montana. I'm getting back up there next fall, even if I have to go down to Beelzebub's Pawn, Gun & Gold and sell off a few pieces of my soul collection that I haven't used in a while... 

On to international matters...Although I am an unabashed Anglophile, I am, obviously, not a citizen of the UK. As such I have no informed opinion on whether Scottish independence would have been a good thing or bad. Moot point now, of course. But I thought it was hilarious watching news coverage of American reporters interviewing Scottish voters, in English, and then seeing said Scottish interviewee's responses - ostensibly in English, or something vaguely approximating it -  appear in subtitles at the bottom of the screen. I've actually read Irvine Welsh's "Trainspotting" in its entirety, which I think qualifies me as being fluent in Scottish guttural, but even I had a hard time understanding just what the hell some of them were saying.

And finally, here's a story that speaks for itself...

 BOISE -- A teenager crashed his SUV Sunday morning after a passenger used a lighter to set his armpit hair on fire, according to the Ada County Sheriff's Office. The crash happened at 5:30 a.m. on Columbia Road between Meridian and Linder roads. Eighteen-year-old Tristan Myers was driving when his front-seat passenger, a 16-year-old boy, set Myers' armpit hair on fire. The driver lost control of the Ford Bronco, rolling the vehicle. Two girls in the backseat, ages 15 and 16, were thrown from the vehicle. Myers, his front-seat passenger, and a 17-year-old boy remained in the vehicle. None of the teens were wearing seatbelts, deputies say.

Just remember, folks, these are our nation's future voters. On that thought, sleep well tonight...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Random Quotes

 It's always interesting to unearth forgotten artifacts, which is what happened recently as I was digging through some of my old notebooks while cleaning my office. I came across a few random pages of notes I had scribbled years ago one fine day while sitting in the University of Oklahoma library stacks researching a feature story on the natural and cultural history of wind and drought on the southern plains. Some of the quotes made it into the story, others did not, but they were apparently interesting enough for me to jot down at the time...

"Does the wind blow this way all the time?"
"Hell, no! It blows the other way about half the time."

                                                Edward Everett Dale*, Cow Country

"To the Oklahoman who loves his state, the salient agricultural fact is that much of it has already gone down to the Mississippi Delta."

                                                Angie Debo*, Oklahoma: Foot-Loose and Fancy Free

 And curiously, a random quote having nothing to with wind or drought that had been scrawled in the margins of my notebook, a quote from one of my favorite historians, the hell-raising Bernard DeVoto...

       "A decisive point has been reached when a culture begins to believe its own advertising copy."

I have no idea where that one came from, because it had nothing to do with the story I was working on...

And then a bit farther down, a bit of my own writing, specifically, a few of my thoughts on the impact of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! (you know, where the wind comes sweeping down the plains...)

"The fact that a cornpone musical written by a pair of New York composers who had never set foot in the state so quickly became our preferred self-identifying iconography is an indication of just how hard Oklahoma had been buffeted, both physically and culturally, by the winds of the 1930s. The hokey, gingham-wrapped twaddle of "Corn as high as an elephant's eye"  easily beat out the grim, quiet dignity of the Joads as our favorite cultural avatar, to this state's everlasting loss."

Yeah, that passage never made it into the story. You just don't criticize an entire state's sappy, beloved pap... although technically the musical Oklahoma! was based on an earlier play "Green Grow the Lilacs", which was written by an actual Oklahoman, Lynn Riggs. I've never seen it. I much prefer that other famous work written by that other out-of-state dandy who also didn't know beans about Oklahoma, or what parts of Oklahoma the Dust Bowl actually withered, but whose work was at least firmly based in the reality of the times and the reality of the human condition, a reality that thankfully didn't include any goddamned dancing cowboys or warbling maidens...  

* Both Edward Everett Dale and Angie Debo are the two acknowledged giants of Oklahoma historical scholarship. I took many of my classes at the University of Oklahoma in buildings named after Dale, none named after Debo, but of the two I much prefer Debo, who was a student of Dale's and the better writer and historian. Dale was a Frederick Jackson Turnerite. Debo was not. Her "And Still the Waters Run: The Betrayal of the Five Civilized Tribes" was a landmark book that pissed off a lot of powerful people, sidetracked her career for a long time, and is required reading for anyone interested in the history of white/native relations. Next time the traveling production of Oklahoma! comes to your town, take the money you were going to spend on a ticket and go buy an Angie Debo book instead.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fly Rod ID?

Lately I have developed a serious infatuation with fiberglass fly rods, so much so that I'm in the process of selling off a couple of my graphite rods to help fund, eventually, hopefully, the purchase of some decent glass.

I have no idea why I have become so enamored of fiberglass fly rods, because I absolutely loathe (with a few exceptions) most fiberglass casting rods, and haven't actually bass fished with one since my pre-adolescent, late-seventies, early-eighties Lew's Speed Stick and Fenwick Lunkerstik days.

But bass casting is not fly casting, and the fiberglass rods (and slower-action graphite) just seem to suit my flailing, untutored stroke. And I must admit there is an aesthetic component as well: holy smokes some of those custom and semi-custom glass rods are beautiful things to behold. For months I've been lurking on websites like The Fiberglass Manifesto and the various Facebook fiberglass fly rod groups, staring at those lovely, translucent creations, and dreaming...

This, however, is not one of those...

It is in fact, butt-ugly, some nameless and unknown fiberglass rod that my son - ever the hawk-eyed picker - paid (IIRC) a dollar for at a garage sale while visiting his grandparents last year. All identifying markings have long-since worn away, so I was hoping someone could maybe ID it from general appearance. It's an eight-foot, two-piece, maybe a 6 or 7wt, and it's rough, really rough. All the eyes are loose and/or bent, the finish is peeling, and the EVA foam handle had sort of melted all over the end of the rod, so I took it off. I'm assuming it's an inexpensive, department-store rod, so I was considering using it as practice blank for a crude first attempt at building a fly rod.

Anyone have any idea what, exactly, it is?

I Got Nothin' Today...

So here's one for all the Trekkies out there...

Friday, September 5, 2014

Farewell, My Okra...

Phillip over at the Hog Blog posted a nice rumination yesterday on fall's impending arrival. Fall is indeed coming. I can see it in the birds; in the gathering of the Mississippi kites as they drift in lazy circles on the air currents, in the disappearance of most of our summer songbirds back to their neotropical winter haunts, in the group of blue-winged teal I noticed on a roadside pond yesterday, and in the solitary, ever-angry rufous hummers who have begun to show up at our feeder to rest, drink, and beat up on our resident ruby-throats for a day or two before moving on toward the Gulf of Mexico and that unbelievable flight across the water.

Soon enough, I will begin spotting our fall and winter birds, both in the field and the back yard, and when I see my first northern harrier gliding low over the sagebrush, I'll know fall is truly here. But in the meantime, I know that fall is coming, as Phillip says, because my okra tells me so...

It still blooms, for now, but it's beginning to get spindly and rather leaf-bare, just like it always does about this time of year as the ever-shortening daylight cycle kickstarts the fall photoperiodism that signals inevitable okra doom. But not before a few more pods can be harvested. My okra is like the local mourning dove: it thrives in the oppressive heat of summer, but once that first early September cold front comes barreling through, it starts checking out. Not all at once, but in waves. You'll still get a bit, for a while, but you'll have to work at it.

So yesterday evening, with the knowledge that a strong front was coming through, the kind of front that makes both okra and dove disappear, we went back out and worked at it again...

A howling south wind and a week of pressure lit the afterburners on the dove. There were no dumb, lazy floaters this evening, but after a little while we settled down and managed another pair of well-earned limits. With the promise of rain and a high of 69 tomorrow, this may be the last sure-thing hunt of the season. From here on out it's hit-or-miss, for dove and okra both...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Charles Bowden on Writing

For Steve Bodio. Ever since reading your blog on his death I've been on something of a Charles Bowden bender. I've read a number of his magazine pieces over the years, but for whatever reason have never picked up any of his books. That gross oversight will be rectified. I came across this on Mother Jones.

"It's easy to make a living telling the people in control they're're supposed to defend the weak and attack the powerful. Nobody needs court jesters, except I guess the people in the court. Look, you have a gift, life is precious, eventually you die and all you're gonna have to show for it is your work." 

Writers like me look at writers like him through longing, Walter Mitty eyes. I've gone back and read a lot of his older pieces. Every one of them sears, just absolutely sears. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Day After Opening Day...

Becomes my opening day when opening day falls on Labor Day weekend. Because I'm a public-land hunter and I don't like crowds or yobs, and the combination of Labor Day weekend and opening day of dove season seems to produce copious amounts of both.

So I sat home, crocheting, until yesterday afternoon, when I loaded up Rocinante, picked up the eldest from school and headed out for one of my secret spots, this secret spot, in fact. It didn't disappoint...

That's a two-man limit reached with plenty of time left over for us to sit back against the cool metal of the stock tank, drink some cold, gushing windmill water, and take in the gorgeous sight of the undulating waves of the evening flight silhouetted against the setting sun. Most long walks are worth it. Most roads aren't.

A damn fine day, and I have to brag just a little:  He shot that limit (including three doubles!) in two boxes of shells, with a few left over. Of course, dumb, young-of-the-year birds, calm winds, and an open choke helped, but hell, I know a lot of grown men who can't get a limit of mourning dove in two boxes of heat-seeking missiles, much less two boxes of shotgun shells.

He's become quite fond of - and getting quite deadly with - that old 1100, the same gun with which I shot my first dove, and quail, and duck, and squirrel. Yes, I'm almost exclusively a two-barrel man now, but I cannot deny my heathen, gas-operated, three-shot past. At least it doesn't have a plastic stock and some moron "celebrity" hunter's endorsement, right?  

Friday, August 29, 2014

More First Laws

A while back, I put forth Chad's First Law of American Wilderness. It went something like this:

No matter how far off the beaten path you think you've trod, no matter how deep into the wilderness you think you've ventured, no matter how bold or adventurous you think you are, no matter how isolated, lonely or rugged the country, and no matter how arduous or lengthy the journey may have been, there will always, always be someone who has been there before you. With a beer in their hand. Because that's the American Way.

Here are a few more Chad's First Laws. I call them Chad's First Laws of Unknown Creatures*...

Snakes seen around water are always "water moccasins."

Snakes seen anywhere else are always copperheads or rattlesnakes.

Snakes seen anywhere at any time are always poisonous, and should be killed.

Turtles seen around water are always "snapping turtles." (corollary to this law is that all snapping turtles are also "alligator snapping turtles.")

Turtles seen on land are always "snapping turtles." Or maybe terrapins.

All spiders everywhere, are "fiddlebacks." All of them.

All birds of prey everywhere are "chickenhawks." All of them.

All gar everywhere are "alligator" gar. All of them.

All songbirds, regardless of species, are always just, you know, "birds." All of them.

All ducks, regardless of species, are see above.

Any pronghorn seen in a national park is always "a deer."

Any deer seen in a national park is always "an elk."

Any elk seen in a national park is always "a moose."

Any moose seen in a national park is always "a moose."

Any buck seen off the side of the road as you rush by at 70mph, or caught in the headlights crossing the road in front of you in the dead of night, is, regardless of actual size, always a trophy, "easily a 150-class deer, man. Sumbitch was huge!"

Any unidentified mammal seen off the side of the road as you rush by at 70mph, or caught in the headlights crossing the road in front of you in the dead of night, or seen at the edge of the your backyard while you're sitting on your back porch drinking beer, is always "a goddamned mountain lion, man. I swear, that was a by-gawd mountion lion! Saw it clear as day!"

Any unidentified mammal seen off the side of the road as you rush by at 70mph, or caught in the headlights crossing the road in front of you in the dead of night, or seen at the edge of your back yard while you're sitting on your back porch drinking beer that is not positively identified as "a goddamned mountain lion!" is, of course, a black panther.

All other unidentified mammals are Bigfoot.

All unknown animal sounds heard in the dead of night are mountain lions, black panthers, or Bigfoot. All of them.

* I should be clear that these are not laws I follow, but laws generally followed by morons. 


Monday, August 25, 2014

Lonely Planets, Big Fish, and the Death of PBR

I've always enjoyed reading the Lonely Planet guidebooks, despite not having much cause (i.e. cash) to be able to use one as an actual, you know, guidebook. But in typical escapist fantasy fashion, I'd often check them out at the public library just to read about regions that interested me. They always seemed to be well-written, informative, and geared a bit more toward the cash-challenged adventure travelers rather than the more typical tourist, sort of a pre-Internet book version of the excellent GlobeTrekker show on PBS.

Like all print media it seems the Lonely Planet empire, battered by the Great Recession and the advent of all things digital, has seen better days. I was perusing the Outside website not long ago and came across this story about how the Kentucky billionaire who now owns the franchise is betting on the future.

From the story

Last year, a media-shy billionaire bought the flailing Lonely Planet travel-guide empire, then shocked observers by hiring an unknown 24-year-old former wedding photographer to save it. Charles Bethea straps in for a bizarre ride as a kid mogul tries to remake a legendary brand for the digital age.

It's a really interesting read, and gives hope to young, poverty-stricken visionaries everywhere that their grand dreams, visions. and ideas are just a single odd and reclusive billionaire away from being realized. I always thought there was a market for a Lonely Planets-type guidebook series for itinerant, cash-strapped anglers who wanted to experience the world's angling opportunities from somewhere other than a lodge they could never hope to afford, but I think the Internet has probably rendered that opportunity moot. Apps are where it's at now, I suppose.

But speaking of planetary fishing and exploration, here's a video I saw on Facebook and had to steal and share. If this doesn't make you want to quit your job, sell all the useless trappings of modern life that are currently enslaving you, hop a tramp freighter, and just travel the world catching the amazing variety of gamefish out there just waiting to be caught, then you're an automaton...

Pretty cool stuff. I'm now ready to leave it all behind and go explore the world, rod in hand. Of course, most of the fishing scenes depicted in the video require a high degree of affluence and/or lack of familial responsibility  to experience, so I guess I'll stick to YouTube videos and daydreams. Besides, if I sold everything I owned and set out into the world, rod in hand, I'd get about as far as, I dunno, Denver, before going completely broke, but not before spending my last six bucks or so for a six-pack of PBR with which to drown my sorrows. At least I'd look cool and destitute rather than simply drunk and destitute. Or maybe not...

Again, from Outside Online... Have we reached Peak PBR?

Last month, a curious thing happened: After a long day of work, my husband showed up on our doorstep with a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

“It was on sale,” he said, offering up the iconic red, white, and blue cans. “If the hipsters like it, how bad can it be?” (Spoiler alert: pretty bad.)

What you need to know about my husband is that, while I think he’s cool, he’s not, you know, hipster cool. Earlier this year, he asked me what Coachella was. And he’s been to Brooklyn exactly zero times.
As such, his buying PBR is the perfect example of what hipsters have been dreading—PBR has entered the mainstream, and it may be the beginning of the end for the brand.

Good god, let's hope so. What atrocious horse piss that stuff is. Everything has its moment, then that moment fades as the herd thunders on to the next great truth. I live in a part of the world where folks mainly drink beer to screw, fight, pass out, or some combination thereof, so like most trends I largely failed to notice the PBR craze. I guess there are some benefits to living in an unfashionable rural backwater. One wonders, however, if the decline of PBR among the PPRI (Perpetual Personal Re-Invention) crowd might signal a portend of things to come for other hot trends, like Adult-Onset hunting and gathering? Personally, I hope not. PBR is a bad thing, and should be given back to its rightful demographic: tastebud-less alcoholics, but hunting needs all the friends it can get, demographic-wise. But who knows, they're a fickle crowd, these hipsters.