Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mallards's Infinite Playlist: Persistence of Memory Edition

Somehow, inexplicably, I turned a year older yesterday. I woke up, saw the wife and kids off to school, sat down at the computer, said to hell with it, packed up a few rods, a few beers and headed for the lake.

I tried, unsuccessfully, to catch some white bass on a fly rod, and then tried, sort of successfully, to catch a few channel cats on some cut bait. I sat on a rock, watched my rods, drank my beer, and tried, as we all do, to reconcile what I once thought I'd be with what I am. But I think I'm better at fishing than I am at reconciling.

I reeled in my rods, went home, played with the dogs, and took a walk with the family. After they went to bed I made myself a drink or two, listened to some music, and fell asleep. I can't complain.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bass Fishing History Geekage.

This will probably be a little wonky for a lot of you, but for us bass-addicted souls who grew up in the 70s and 80s, I recently stumbled across the relatively new Bass Fishing Archives blog, and it has some pretty cool stuff from the bass fishing wayback machine, like this awesome Fliptail ad...

Or perhaps this story on the introduction of the most revolutionary baitcaster of all time, the legendary (and highly collectable these days) Lew's Speed Spool

This bass geek still has a few fliptail lizards and worms lying around somewhere, but like an idiot he long ago let his Lew's reels (and Speed Stick rods) slip away.

Anyway, it's admittedly obscure and all, but if you're at all interested in what bass fishing used to be like in the olden times, you might get a skirt blow-up or two out of it...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Jim Fergus Interview

Upland bird hunting, like flyfishing, is a pursuit to which reflection (self and otherwise) and other literary musings come naturally. This assertion is, I believe, borne out in the unusually large number of fine writers (both hook-and-bullet and "other") who are drawn to the cloister.

Jim Fergus is one of those writers. He was a pretty active freelancer back in the nineties, and I always enjoyed reading his stories in the various sporting mags. He also branched out into online writing some, with the long-defunct AllOutdoors website, among others. But it was his first book, "A Hunter's Road" for which most upland guys remember Fergus. It's become a sort of bird-hunting literary standard since it was first published back in '92, and for good reason: it's a damn good book.

His follow-up, "The Sporting Road" is a fine book in its own right, but the stories in it have a slight whiff of "on assignment" (naturally, since some of them are adapted from magazine assignments) that seems absent in "A Hunter's Road." There's a sense of discovery and wide-eyed wonder to the whole book. It remains my favorite of his, and one I will always wish I could have written.

Plus, I have a tenuous ancillary connection to the book in that I know and used to occasionally hunt and train dogs with one of the people Fergus wrote about in "A Hunter's Road." I know, it's not much, but I'll take it...

Anyway, Fergus, like many other genuinely talented writers of that era, gradually disappeared from the hook-and-bullet scene, either forced out by a seismic shift toward flackness and dumbshittery, or to focus on real writing.

Fergus published two novels, "One Thousand White Women" and "The Wild Girl" but as far as I know he never did write another hook-and-bullet story with the exception of a feature in the May, 2011 issue of F&S about an annual gathering of old fart trout bums. I thought he may publish more, but I haven't seen his byline since, and I wondered what had become of him.

I know that Steve Bodio wrote a dustjacket blurb for "A Hunter's Road" so maybe he can offer some insight...

But then a few days ago, a fellow freelancer/hunting buddy/literary bum sent me, out of the blue, a link to an interview with Jim Fergus, apparently the first American interview he's ever given (but he's still pretty big in France, apparently).

It's pretty entertaining and offers some good insight into the writing life. It's nice to see Fergus still kicking. And check out that sweet Airstream (wonder if it's the same one from "A Hunter's Road" or a new one?). That's how I want to live when I grow up...

(Embedding is apparently verboten, but here's the link...)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Two Peasants Waiting For Roast Duck...

"A peasant must stand a long time on a hillside with his mouth open before a roast duck flies in."

The quote is a Chinese proverb I lifted from the beginning of Paul Theroux's "Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train Through China." An excellent book, so far.

The photograph was from two seasons ago, when we actually had a little water. But, as I recall, no roast duck flew into our mouths that morning. Bluebird day, you know... And of course virtually no roast duck flew into our mouths this past fall. Hell-scorched drought, you know... 

Hopefully things will change this fall, as I owe several people the gift of some fresh duck, promised to them prior to the disastrous (for me, anyway) 2011-12 waterfowl season.  We're off to a good start, but we'll see what tune I'm singing come November, and if I'll need waders where I'm standing...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Deadly Southern Plains Cobra

Fearsome-looking beast, isn't he? Actually, it's a young eastern hognose snake trying desperately to intimidate the camera. He wandered up to the house in search of toads and got caught. Bad for him, as I like my toads, but lucky for him I like hognose snakes as well, so I played with him for a little while and sent him on his way.

The flattening out is a defensive posture. Hognoses are also known for "playing dead" by rolling over and not moving. Pretty little fart, isn't he? We usually see only the western hognoses around here, although we live in an area in which the two overlap. This is the first eastern I've stumbled across.

I am, I have to admit, something of a herpy. Not Herpes, (at least not that I know of...) but herpy, as in herpetology. I've been fascinated with lizards, snakes, turtles, frogs, toads, salamanders and other assorted reptiles and amphibians for as long as I can remember.

That fascination stems, I believe, from the fact that I belonged to perhaps the last generation of children (I was a Seventies kid) that spent the vast majority of its time outside, either playing with other kids or roaming the fields and woods. I never was much for sports and groups, so naturally I was a roamer. And boy, did I roam...

I roamed so much that, in addition to my budding hunting and fishing obsession, I had a veritable zoo in my backyard and bedroom. Tank after tank filled with fence lizards, collared lizards (or "Mountain Boomers" as we used to call them), racerunners, skinks, horned lizards (the ubiquitous "horny toad" of course, back before those little guys fell on hard times), tiger salamanders, leopard frogs, tree frogs, green frogs, bullfrogs, numerous species of toads, as well as turtles of all persuasions: three-toed and ornate box turtles, common snappers, softshells, red-ears, mud turtles, map turtles, I caught 'em all. And the snakes, man did I have the snakes. Speckled and prairie king snakes, bull snakes, black and great plains rat snakes, glossy snakes, scarlet snakes, several species of water snakes, rough green snakes, ribbon snakes, various flavors of garter snake, and - although my parents never knew of it because I knew better than to bring them home - the venomous snakes to be found around central Oklahoma, which consisted mainly of copperheads (an extremely beautiful and surprisingly easy snake to catch) and the ill-tempered little western pygmy rattlesnake.

Oh, I caught other stuff, too; baby cottontails, a menagerie of rodents from deer and white-footed mice (Hantavirus? What Hantavirus? Ignorance is bliss...) to moles and gophers, and I once brought home a great-horned owl that I kept in my bedroom for a week or so (but that's another story...) but it was the reptiles and amphibians that I really liked.

I never kept any of them for long, aside from one favorite bull snake that a fellow herpy caught on a collecting expedition to south Texas and brought back to me because his markings were a little different from the bullsnakes around here. I got that snake in high school, kept him all through college and my post-college years and he finally died soon after our first son was born.

But other than that, I was never into the keeping. I'd catch them, admire them for a few days and then let them go on their way. Fair's fair, right? It's a habit I've never fully grown out of, and even now I can't pass by a old log, a flat rock or a piece of old barn tin without stopping to see what's under it. I like to think it helps me stay young in spirit, if not flesh, and as a result I'm always bringing critters home for the boys to see.

Sometimes, however, the critters decide to come to you...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Random Flotsam and Jetsam...

 Holly, my first chessie. She was a rough, tough, mean old bitch, but I've never had a dog with more drive. 

Been too lazy to write lately, so random bits of neither here nor there will have to suffice until the time comes when lukewarm inspiration returns. So...

Retaining rights to our work is always important to freelancers, but we're increasingly being forced to either give those rights up through bullshit work-for-hire or all rights contracts or not work at all.
It's a cognitive struggle as well as a pain in the ass to try to decipher and decode the deliberately vague, obtuse, lawyer-written, multi-page documents that seem to be the rule these days. But I was perusing the submission guidelines on the Gray's website the other day and was pleasantly surprised to find it spelled out thusly...

We buy modified North American serial rights. These are, specifically:

The right to publish your article in one issue of Gray’s Sporting Journal.
The right to publish your article, if chosen, on our Web site for the duration of that issue’s stay on the newsstand.
The right to use brief quotes and/or images from the magazine in promotional programs related to Gray’s Sporting Journal.
All other rights for material printed in Gray’s remain with the author/creator.

No "in perpetuity" crap, no "work for hire", no "copyright remains with XXX", just a clear, straighforward explanation of what Gray's is buying from you. Of course, it might be a different story if Gray's had a more extensive online presence, but of course it doesn't, thankfully.

In contrast, I also recently looked up the submission guidelines for one of those new online-only wingshooting journals, and predictably, in addition to the payment being absolute shite, these chuckleheads were demanding all rights for the privilege of being screwed. Right... To paraphrase the priceless words of Tom Reed of Mouthful of Feathers, these guys can go take a flying leap off Giffy Butte.


If you haven't yet seen the four-part Frontline special Money, Power and Wall Street, then do yourself a favor and go watch it online. It will bake your noodle. Torches and pitchforks optional, but recommended...

Always wanted to write a bestseller but didn't know how? Well, then, here's your bluprint. Pretty good review of the new James Hall book "Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the 20th Century's Biggest Bestsellers." My favorite quote from the review?

For some reason, it is often the very people who say they want to write novels who seem to have the least understanding of what other people want to read. So Hall has no doubt seen countless examples of would-be authors — including people determined to work in commercial genres — who simply don’t grasp the most elementary principles of storytelling. While “Hit Lit” may seem, to many readers, like the literary equivalent of instructions on how to boil water, the sad truth is that plenty of those who speak contemptuously of Dan Brown’s prose are writers who could not get a child interested in a fairy tale.

For the record, I freakin' hate Dan Brown. Absolutely talentless hack. So what does that say about me?

And on that note...

I'm not ashamed to say that I am a Stephen King fan. Call me a rube or a mass-market consumer if you must, but I've always thought King's earlier novels, novellas and short stories were good, entertaining reads, and I'm not sufficiently edjoocated enough to put on any literary airs to the contrary. Judge me harshly if you must... At any rate, Mr. King, who is filthy rich, recently published a fine populist rant over on the Daily Beast website.

As noted in several previous blogs here as well as here I'm a big fan of the early Shimano Bantam baitcasters. I can't claim that a Bantam was my first grown-up reel (that honor goes to - what else? - an Ambassadeur) but those old vintage Bantams always will be my favorites. I snap them up whenever I find them in pawn shops and junk stores. If you have one and want to know a little more about it, here's an excellent resource on the various first-generation Bantams on the oldreels.com website.

I love Moras, and I recently received and have been playing around with one of the new Swedish Fireknives which is a joint venture between Mora and LightMyFire. It's basically a plastic-handled Mora with a LightMyFire rod built into the handle. Really like it so far. Sharp, handy, light and cheap. I'll write more about it later...