Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Same Song, Different Verse...


One of the many misconceptions about my area of the southern plains (basically the western halves of both Oklahoma and Kansas as well as the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles) is that it is uniformly and monotonously flat. It's not.

While it is true we lack the obvious and dramatic rises in elevation of more vertically-endowed areas, there are many areas of the southern plains that are quite rugged, indeed. And let me tell you, they can be a real bitch to hunt.

With the clock winding down on The Great Dismal Season, I decided to give one such area a try. It's a spot north of my house that consists of a series of deep, cedar-and-brush-choked canyons. I generally don't hunt it much in the early season. It's snakey as hell and I've never found many birds there, anyway, but since this year I'm not finding birds anywhere else, last weekend I thought "what the hell" and loaded up the dogs.


It's just like this, one deep cleft after another. I'm not in hard-core chukar hunter shape, but I'm not in "hop-my-fat-ass-on-the-quad-and-go" shape, either. I'm a pretty good walker (I have to be if I want to hunt) but after a few hours of side-hilling these canyons, I was about beat. So was Tess, whom I brought along not because she's a good upland dog (she's not) but because I felt guilty that duck season had ended the week before while I was in Vegas.

We were both doing a lot of this...



While Jenny was doing a lot of this...


Waiting for us. I still don't have a clue what kind of dog she's going to end up being, but I can't deny the little girl's got a motor on her...


After a few hours of that, I decided to go up top into the daylight and hunt a few old overgrown shelterbelts that, in the past, had given up a few birds for me. I needn't have bothered...


 Looks a little sparse, doesn't it? In a normal year there'd be all kinds of grasses and weedy forbs growing along these old horse apple trees. And maybe even a few quail. But not this year. Actually it looks downright lush in the picture compared to the in-person reality. And that's basically what the entire western half of the state looks like.

So we ended up back at the truck for the obligatory tailgate shot...


Sans birds, of course. I'm getting really good at taking that kind of picture this year...

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Modest Gun Review...

Of all the guns I saw and handled at SHOT, nothing - and I mean nothing - could top the new Mossberg 464 SPX for sheer, unvarnished aesthetic awfulness. The sight of it - quite literally - stopped me in my tracks (in the bad, very bad form of that cliche). I just stood there staring at what Mossberg had wrought as the flow of the crowd parted around me. I didn't dare take a picture of it for fear the image might corrupt my camera's CF card like some ugly virus.

Move over, Stoeger Double Defence, now there's something hideouser. And if you love classic leverguns, you may want to avert your eyes now...


Yes, that's the sound of your retinas burning. Have you ever seen anything so putrid? How far, I ask, can the gunmaker's once-proud art be debased with something so thoroughly contrived, so overwhelmingly stupid?

And the real pisser is, it sort of...intrigues me.

Kind of like that one time at a long-ago party, the one where I suddenly noticed that rather weird-looking girl staring at me from across the smoky room. I didn't think she was particularly attractive in the conventional sense. I knew she wasn't anything even remotely my type, and I obviously wasn't hers, but before either of us knew what had happened...Bam! There we were, eight sweaty hours later, locked together in tantric bliss on top of a tall mesa, not remembering why or how we had ended up there, completely spent physically and spiritually following a wild, reckless night of sloppy, wanton, utterly feral love-making. And as we watched the sun slowly rise over the flaming ochre cliffs far below and the peyote-specked drool dripped down our slack jaws to pool in the dust at our feet, we slowly, slowly, began to come back from our acid trip to somewhere beyond the Crab Nebula. But as the sun rose ever-higher and daylight revealed the harsh reality of what had been just a few hours before, in the soft, velvety cloak of night, so alluringly exotic and mysterious, we looked at each other in horror and suddenly realized the terrible mistake we'd made. I turned away, got sick all over myself and then ran screaming in the opposite direction, never to speak or even think about that awful, inexplicable, anomalous evening ever again.*

Yeah, the attraction's kinda like that. Weird, huh?

* No, this evening never actually occurred, damn it... 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

SHOT 2012: The Mayan Connection...


Apologies for the long delay in any sort of blog activity. For reasons that are still beyond my grasp, the editors at the F&S website decided that this would be the year I would finally be allowed to wander the halls - unsupervised, even -  at the SHOT show. So that's where I've been for the past week.

Considering my misanthropic personality, my near-clinical aversion to large groups of people, my uppity (and mostly hypocritical) disdain for consumerist lust, my past unkind remarks about the whole thing, and my long-held belief that if Las Vegas represents the American Dream, then it's a version of the American Dream that's been left in the fridge way too long, I was, admittedly, a bit trepidatious.

But you know what? Overall, I had a helluva good time. I got to re-connect with some friends I hadn't seen in a while, I got to finally put faces and voices to the e-mails of a number of the good folks I work with at the F&S website, and I finally got to see what the hoopla was all about.

OK, I admit, while I was there I did bitch and moan about it pretty much constantly. But that's just, as they say, how I roll. Truth is, it was kinda cool wandering the show floor checking out both the products and the wildly diverse group of people attending the show.

I never thought I'd admit this, but I actually enjoyed myself. And given the chance, I might even agree to go back next year if the opportunity came up.

Which it won't, of course, because we're all going to die in the coming Mayan inferno. How do I know this to be true? Because I attended this year and found that I enjoyed it and might want to go back next year. Yep, my bad luck and bad timing will precipitate the end of the world.

Sorry, folks, and remember, you heard it here first...  
     

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Rage Against the Polka Machine

The George Mason University Band rocks...





That's just pretty damn cool. A medley of two oldie-but-goodie RATM staples, "Bulls On Parade" and "Killing In The Name."

Maybe if my high school band director had been a little more Zach de la Roche and Tom Morello and a little less John Philip Sousa I wouldn't have quit band after my freshman year. Then maybe I could have gone on to college bandie nerd-dom like my wife. 'Cause I was a pretty damn good trumpet player, if I say so myself...

But wait! It gets better! How about a jazz version of "Killing In The Name" to really, uh... angrily chill you out?

Monday, January 9, 2012

O Bob, Where Art Thou?

Saturday. I wake up, and in what is becoming an increasingly pointless act of (waning) faith-based rote, load Jenny and go for yet another late-season death march on my favorite local public hunting area, which happens to abut a minimum-security state prison.

I park on the northern edge of the area along a lonely, seldom-used county line road, and as Jenny and I start hunting down toward the river bottom (and toward the direction of the prison, which sits across the river) I happen to look back at the parking area and notice one of those official-looking white vans that scream "government vehicle" parked directly behind my truck. I'm still close enough to notice that the driver is eyeballing me through a pair of binoculars.

"Who the hell are those guys and why are they watching me?" I ask myself as he puts down his binoculars and resumes driving, slowly, on down the road. I shrug my shoulders and promptly forget about it as the dog and I continue hunting  a brush-choked draw that leads down into the riverbottom.

Three hours, numerous miles and zero quail later, we work our way back up out of the bottom toward the road when I notice that same damn van parked behind my truck again. Once again, they eyeball me for a few minutes before slowly pulling out of the parking area and cruising on down the road.

Odd behavior, for sure, and I wonder if one of the inmates at the prison has decided incarceration is a bummer. It's actually a fairly routine occurrence, not like this prison is Alcatraz. Once or twice a year someone gets happy feet, and the fleeing inmates generally fall into one of two distinct categories: those smart enough to slip into the small town adjacent to the prison and quietly steal a car, or those who climb the fence and blindly run like hell to the north across the WMA.

The former generally at least make it back to a major metropolitan area before getting recaptured, while the latter spend a few very uncomfortable nights wandering aimlessly around the prairie before being spotted by a rancher and picked up.

So maybe it's not just the dog and me out here, after all, because there sure as hell aren't any other quail hunters.

Sure enough, when I get home and check the news, I discover that nope, we weren't alone...

From the Oklahoman

An Okmulgee County man who escaped from a prison in Fort Supply remained missing Saturday, Warden Marvin Vaughn said. Michael Weber, 50, was last seen at an inmate count about 9 p.m. He was still missing at the next count taken at 10 p.m. Weber is serving a five-year sentence for two counts of possession of a stolen vehicle in 2009 in Okmulgee County. He began his sentence in October 2009 and was to be released in August 2013.

Weber is 5-foot-9 and weighs about 170 pounds. He has numerous tattoos on his arms, legs and back.
The William Key Correctional Center in Fort Supply is a minimum-security prison housing about 1,100 inmates. Deputies from the Woodward County sheriff's office are assisting in the search.

As of Monday morning, Monsieur Weber, much like Monsieur Colinus virginianus, has evaded all attempts to locate him and is still hiding out somewhere in the wilds of far northwest Oklahoma. He sleeps with the quail. And where that may be I have no idea...

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Truest Expression of Young Love. Ever.


Found on the title page of an old paperback copy of the children's classic "My Side Of The Mountain" I recently bought for my son to read.

Isn't that great? Talk about unintentional poignancy in capturing the fervent angst of newly-sprouted love. The Bard himself couldn't have done it any better. And in terms of arc of story, I think this beats hell out of Hemingway's famous (and most likely apocryphal) "Baby Shoes" story, while coming in a word shorter.

Well done, Daniel. Trust me, I (and the rest of the world) have been there. We can commiserate. And wherever and whoever you are, I hope you and Raelyn eventually worked it out, because as you've no doubt discovered by now (some 23 years later, assuming the book was bought new), it doesn't get any easier or less confusing. Or more wonderful.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Interactive Multi-Player First-Person Shooter, Version 1.0


If there's a better, cheaper, more entertaining and just plain fun way to spend an unseasonably warm January afternoon with a young boy, I sure don't know what it is...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Signed, First Edition of "Grief & Stupidity" (with dustjacket)


Abebooks just published its list of the most expensive book sales of 2011 on the Abebooks website. It's an interesting read, especially the books by category. I generally pay a little more attention to the moderns than I do the truly antiquarian books, just because that's what I'm most likely to stumble across in used bookstores, rummage sales and thriftshops.

So what could I expect to get for that first-edition (with dustjacket) To Kill A Mockingbird I paid a quarter for at a garage sale?* Oh, about $25,000 or so...

*in my dreams...

From the Abebooks site...

It was a bumper year for rare bookselling. The combined total of AbeBooks’ top 10 most expensive sales during 2011 is $220,330. The November sale of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital for $51,739 was the year’s most significant transaction on AbeBooks and one that sparked many wry smiles.
The sale of a signed first edition of Harper Lee’s one hit wonder, To Kill a Mockingbird, for $25,000 illustrated that this novel remains one of the most desirable of modern firsts.

Our third largest sale was a complete set of all 10 issues of Aspen Magazine, a multimedia publication that ran from 1965 to 1971. Many leading figures in contemporary art, both British and North American, were contributors to Aspen including Andy Warhol, John Lennon, Timothy Leary and Susan Sontag.

Browse the acquisitions of big spending book collectors and you will encounter the Grinch, a Hobbit, the world’s most famous pilot, a spy licensed to kill, the Boy Wizard, a novel about the Spice, courageous senators, banned poetry and a book about teeth.

 As (my) luck would have it, I do have a heartbreaking (for me, anyway) story concerning one of the titles on the sci-fi and fantasy list, which is...

1. The Hobbit or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien - $20,447
First edition, first impression copy of Tolkien’s classic with a complete dust jacket.
2. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick - $12,500
First edition, first printing of the book that inspired the Blade Runner movie. Published in 1968 and signed by Dick.
3. Dune by Frank Herbert - $7,500
First edition, first printing with a laid-in signature by Herbert. Includes a dust jacket in fine condition. 

Back when I was younger and much, much stoopider, I worked at the Norman, Oklahoma Goodwill store during my hazy and mostly unproductive college years. As part of my job I sorted untold numbers of boxes of donated books. In a college town with a fairly literate demographic, this could have been a veritable gold mine of potential finds (I even got a discount!).

Unfortunately for me, back then I was a reader and a reader only, and I had absolutely no idea of the value of modern first editions. If I came across a nice, hardback copy of a title I already had in paperback, I'd pass on buying it. Even now, I want to cry in anguish at the books I let slip through my hands just because I already had a tattered, worthless paperback copy of the same title sitting on the milk crate bookshelf back at the apartment.

Anyways, I'm certain, absolutely certain, that I passed on a first-edition Dune (with dustjacket) because I already had a paperback. I recall this particular instance because I distinctly remember thinking at the time how damn ugly the dustjacket art was compared to my cool 1977 sixteenth printing Berkley Medallion paperback copy. I could have gotten it for...fifty cents.

Folly. Of. Youth.

At least I'm comfortable in the knowledge that I never made the same mistake with number two on the list. I don't recall ever seeing a hardbound copy of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and my paperback edition (the Blade Runner movie tie-in, even!) is the only one that's ever passed through my hands. I think. Or at least I hope.

I won't even mention some of the fiction moderns I passed on, because I'm trying to ease up a bit on the drinking.

I still have that worthless paperback copy of Dune sitting on my bookshelf, and I still wail and gnash my teeth every time I see it. Scares the hell out of my family, but they're getting used to it.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Goodbye '11, Hello '12...



“Much of the vitality in a friendship lies in the honouring of differences, not simply in the enjoyment of similarities."
                                                   Cyril Connolly

Happy New Year's Day, everyone! I've been on a little break for the past few days, but plan on dragging back sometime this week. In the meantime, I'd like to thank everyone and anyone who's read and commented on this weird little collection of observations, gripes, rants, screeds and reflections over the course of this past year. I don't always say it, but I enjoy and appreciate your thoughts and reactions immensely.

Here's hoping for a wonderful 2012, or at least as wonderful as we can make it before the world ends...now go grab yourself some black-eyed peas*. If the Mayans are indeed right, we're gonna need 'em...


* The real black-eyed peas, not these dorks...