Monday, December 17, 2012

Splitting Wood...

...really makes me feel like a man. A fat, broken-down, infirm, middle-aged, out-of-shape, congenitally lazy, candy-assed man who dreams of someday owning a hydraulic log splitter so he can finally fulfill his lifelong goal of being able to split wood with one hand while eating a cheeseburger with the other. Because that's what I call progress...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Finally Some Green, and a Long-Tailed Surprise.

It's been an absolutely miserable fowling season thus far, but Tess and I finally got out for a little duck hunting yesterday on the shallow, half-empty sandbox that is our local reservoir. We were hoping to catch a few mallards riding the front south. We're still hoping, and waiting, because wherever they are, they sure as hell aren't here. At least not yet. This drake and the hen he accompanied were not only the only mallards to give the decoys a look, they were damn near the only mallards on the lake. She's still there, but he's in my freezer.

Hard to believe this is the first duck I've shot (or shot at) this season, but hopefully things will pick up some as we get into the late season. There's no real chance for significant rainfall in the short-to-medium term, so you either must recalibrate expectations to fit the climatological reality or give up. I can't say that I like the new normal, but as that annoying, over-used and utterly useless catchphrase goes, it is what it is. At least Tess, who has certainly gotten the short end of the field-time stick this year, got the chance to get out of the yard...

That lone mallard, however, was not the only duck I shot yesterday. Not long after I shot him, I got quite the surprise when a single hen long-tailed duck plopped itself into my diver spread and shortly thereafter was plopped into my waiting hands. We get very few sea ducks here on the plains of western Oklahoma, and this one was certainly a lifer for me, and more than made up for the dearth of dabblers.

This makes species number sixteen for Tess, and her first (and likely last) sea duck. Tragically, however, my camera battery died on me and I was unable to get any pictures of Tess either on the retrieve or with the duck in the field. I don't usually get birds mounted (too cheap, too poor, too hungry) but since I don't have an appropriately tasteful and artistic photographic record of the moment, the bird is in the freezer and will be going to a taxidermist when I get some money.

I did snap a few pics when I got home, but of course that's a poor substitute for a good field photo in natural light and surroundings. Plus it was almost dark, so I apologize in advance for the crappy photograph. I offer it not in pride, but only as photographic proof that I did, indeed, shoot a long-tailed duck. She's much prettier than that horrid photograph indicates, and I think it'll be a nice mount.

I have no idea what she was doing so outside her normal range, here in the arid sandhills of far northwest Oklahoma, and I can only guess as to where she was heading. But here in Oklahoma she shall reside from now on, or at least until I move somewhere else. I do confess, however, to a twinge of guilt for having shot her so far from home and others of her kind, and strictly as a bucket list trophy. I don't often do that, and I suppose that to question yourself - however mildly - over such things when you do, is a natural reaction to the never-insignificant act of killing.

Friday, December 7, 2012


Had a good haul at the local thrift store yesterday. I stopped by on my way out of town, and noticed two shopping carts full of books, a quarter apiece. How can you resist that? So I commenced to rummaging, and came up with some good finds, chief among them this stated first edition, first printing of Thomas McGuane's first novel, The Sporting Club.

In mint condition this one would be in the $800-950 range, but in book collecting,condition is everything, and while this copy is in good shape, the dust jacket has some issues and I doubt I could get $200 for it. Which is a moot point, of course. I collect books, I don't sell them, so for me this is a major find of a favored author for my meager first and rare-edition shelf.

I also found a number of really nice ex-library books, including what is stated as a first-edition Sterling North Rascal, although the dust jacket doesn't seem to match other first-editions, and an early Book Club edition of Jim Kjelgaard's classic Big Red.

In addition, I picked up an excellent condition first-edition Judy Blume Blubber, a very early Dr. Suess Bartholomew and the Oobleck, a first American edition Bedknob and Broomstick (yep, the book the later Disney classic movie was based on) and an early American edition of Felix Salten's classic (or infamous, depending on how you feel about deer hunting. For my views see two blogs below...) Bambi.

Believe it or not, there is a pretty thriving market in collectable children's and young adult books, and some of the classic titles can command big bucks. I found that out last year when I stumbled across (in the same thrift store) what I thought at the time was a first edition of Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach. I just bought it for the kids because it was beautifully illustrated, but, being a bibliophile, I got curious about what it might be worth. A shitload, as it turns out. Unfortunately, some further snooping revealed that my Dahl book wasn't in fact a true first-edition, but ever since then I have kept my eyes peeled for classic children's books.

I just wanted to point that out in case any of you were wondering "Why the hell did he buy a copy of Judy Blume's Blubber? Isn't he a little old for that? Isn't that a little creepy?" In fact, it's worth about $75 bucks...

Other pretty cool titles I found include early editions of The Great Buffalo Hunt by Wayne Gard, I Fought With Custer, by Frazier and Robert Hunt, and a regrettably dustjacket-less 1960 (but not first edition) To Kill A Mockingbird, which is one-third of my personal Holy Trinity of modern first-editions.

What I'd give to find a true first-edition, jacketed Mockingbird, along with, of course Catcher in the Rye and Vonnegut's Player Piano. Although I'd also throw in Abbey's Desert Solitaire as the fourth tine. Hell, in reality I'd kill for any of Vonnegut's or Abbey's first editions. I've got first editions of The Monkey Wrench Gang and Down the River, but Desert Solitaire is the Abbey Grail for me.

Which does bring up an interesting point: if I found a pristine copy of either Mockingbird or Rye, would I sell it? Tough one, there. As a rule I don't sell books, period. But with prices of either of those titles in the $20,000 to $30,000 range, I might be tempted. That would buy an awfully nice shotgun...

At any, rate, for a sum total of five bucks, I may not have hit the book-collecting lottery yesterday, but I damn sure didn't do too shabby, either. It was enough to make me go buy a real lottery ticket. I am, after all a big believer in signs...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Mallard's Infinite Playlist: Mayan 2012 Christmas Doom Edition.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas! Think I've posted this before, but it's worth repeating. In fact, move over, Rudolph, because this is the best Christmas song ever. Especially this year. And remember, open 'yer presents before the 21st...