Thursday, October 31, 2013

My Traditional Halloween Post...

The trick-or-treating is over, the kids have divided up the loot, and now it's time for me to relax, kick back with my traditional Halloween night scotch, enjoy my traditional Halloween night author, and recycle my traditional Halloween rant...

A few random observations - both impolite and wistful -  on Halloween and the month of October...
First, a bit of a post-Halloween screed...
Since when did trick-or-treating with your children become a strictly vehicle-based activity? One in which the parents - who apparently can’t be bothered with the tiresome act of removing their lardasses from their vehicles and physically walking down the street with their children and, you know, engaging with them – instead kick said children out of the vehicle and slowly cruise along the street ignoring their kids and other pedestrians, updating their Facebook status on their phone and creating huge traffic and safety hazards.
Thanks for that.

What the hell, people? Is this what we’ve come to? Can we not, for one night a year, just one friggin’ night out of 365, park our cars – just this once – and take a walk instead of willfully disassociating ourselves from the opportunity to have a real, tangible, organic experience with our children?
You horrible, self-indulgent, fat, lazy, no-good, stupid-ass mo-fos; you squawking, shit-for-brained, lemming-like creatures whose asses are apparently connected - Avatar-like - with the heated, air-conditioned Corinthian leather seats in your steel cocoons, here’s a hint: Not only do you ruin the experience for the rest of us who still use our lower extremities for something other than operating a gas pedal, you ruin it for your own children, too.

How? By teaching them to grow up to be just like you. And if there’s one thing the world doesn’t need right now, it’s another generation of self-absorbed dickheads.

And this is just my opinion, but I’m pretty sure that, deep down, most eight-year-old girls don’t really want to be tarted-up pixie streetwalkers for Halloween. That’s your fantasy, and if you've secretly always harbored some Penthouse Forum daydream about rockin’ the stripper pole, hey, that’s cool, but maybe you shouldn’t be living that dream vicariously through your child. Just sayin’…

Just had to vent a little. I'm good now...

Last night, after we got home from trick-or-treating and got the kids out of their costumes and into bed, I grabbed a wee nip and curled up in the reading chair with some Ray Bradbury.
October is a restless month. It has always made me - even as a child - wistful and pensive, with a touch of fear at the transition it represents, not just of season, but of mood, being and mind. It’s the one month in which even this hoary, jaded old adult still feels some residual tug of an ancient, pagan magic we all once believed in as children, but which gradually lost its grip as we grew into adulthood.

And I don’t think there’s ever been a writer that captures the essence of, and speaks so eloquently to, my (for lack of a better term) ‘Octoberism” than Ray Bradbury. Reading “Something Wicked This Way Comes” as an adult reminds me, just a bit, of what it was like to be a child who still possessed the capacity for wonder.

That and a stiff glass of scotch also makes a perfect balm for having to deal with assholes all evening...

Yeah, everything above still applies two years later. However,  I must say that Halloween, which has always been my favorite holiday, still holds a vestigial tug of wonder for this jaded old(er) man, even with all the assholes, which were back in force tonight. I'll leave you with a few of longtime Bradbury illustrator Joe Mugnaini's spookily awesome illustrations for Bradbury's classic "The October Country." Even though tonight it's "The Illustrated Man" for me.



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Bookful of Feathers and Awesomeness

Although this isn't strictly a bird-hunting blog, or even mostly a bird-hunting blog, I know quite a few of you few readers are, and that many of you also read the always ass-kicking Mouthful of Feathers blog. So without further ado...

From the blog...

"A project we’ve been kicking around for some time is finally happening, and frankly, we’re damn excited about it. In early December of 2013, Mouthful of Feathers: Upland Hunting in the West will be released, featuring a collection of original, full-length essays by:

Tosh Brown 
Reid Bryant 
Michael Gracie 
Chad Love 
Greg McReynolds 
Tom Reed 
Bruce Smithhammer 
Bob White 
Pat Wray

The book will be published by Pulp Fly, Ltd. and available on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble for Kindle, Nook and iPad platforms.
More to come soon – please stay tuned. And if you haven’t done so already, the best way to stay tuned is by signing up as a follower of this blog, which you can do on the menu on the right side of this page, and by “liking” our Facebook page. Thanks."

I'm pretty damn excited to be a part of this project. It's a perfect example of how small, independent publishers with vision and moxie are identifying and exploiting important niches that big, ponderous, arrogant, floundering, clueless corporate media companies are simply too slow, too myopic, too stupid, too timid, too conventional and above all too least-common-denominator to even understand or recognize, much less try to explore themselves.

I think MOF has always been a great example of a specific vision realized, the kind of vision that traditional corporate media types just don't get. When I first started writing the gundogs blog for Field & Stream, I tried, mightily, to convince my editors to just let me run with it, to reject the conventional and stupefyingly boring, the formulaic, the homogenous, the carefully branded and SEO-driven. I didn't want to write bland, predictable, unappealing pap, because I knew there was an entire subculture out there, an entire demographic, that F&S had lost, and I sure as hell wasn't going to get it back for them with caption contests, forgettable and mostly useless how-to posts, and risk-free writing assiduously scrubbed of voice, opinion and edge.

In short, I wanted something loosely based on MOF, a hybrid, freeform, freewheeling, unpredictable, opinionated, edgy, but always entertaining and well-written blog that didn't look, sound, read and feel like just another carbon-copy branded product. Round hole, meet square peg. To their credit, the editors took a chance and sometimes allowed me a little room to riff, but what I wanted to do just didn't jibe with what they wanted to do, and for the most part, even I admit it was an unmitigated failure that was rightly shot down.

The fact is, there just isn't any room in the conventional hook-and-boolit world for what MOF is, what it represents. Not everyone gets it. Not everyone is supposed to get it. And that's a damn good thing. Who wants to be all things to all people? That's just weak sauce designed to maximize profit and minimize originality. But damn it, you'd better get it. Yes, you. Both "it" as in the vibe, and "it" as in the book. I'm confident, however, that you'll get it. Both "its". Why else would you be reading this weird-ass blog if you weren't already a little different, right? 

Now I'm not saying this is going to be better than anything else out there (but it is...) but it's damn sure going to be different than anything else. And I for one think there are a lot of people out there who are craving something different. They're tired of Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes. Maybe they want to try an interesting new curry. And that's what the MOF book is; a good curry, a spicier, more exotic alternative to that comfortable, boring-ass Salisbury steak.

All I'm saying is, you should try this curry. It's tasty.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Despite All My Rage...

 * with apologies to Smashing Pumpkins...

I am still just a...shrew in a cage?

If you asked me to which animal freelance writers are most similar, my delusional side would respond with one of the noble, independent big cats, perhaps a proud and aloof bird of prey, or some other dignified, solitary, non-pack animal of quiet dignity and regal bearing.

In truth, however, we're rodents. Squeaking, expendable little rodents living in the shadows. Specifically, we're shrews. Yes, shrews. Shrews are small, powerless, largely invisible, and must forage for work food literally every waking moment or they will die, until utterly exhausted and used up from the effort of finding assignments sustenance, they die, anyway. And if that's not the description of a typical freelancer then I don't know what is.

Most freelancers, if they've been freelancing for long - and especially if they have families not associated with a trust fund  - eventually start casting long, covetous looks toward the safety and predictability of regular, gainful employment. Steady paychecks, regular hours, and perhaps even the possibility of a few meager benefits start overshadowing the once-shiny allure of unpredictability, creative independence and freedom from routine, which are - un-coincidentally - the exact same qualities used by the neighbors of virtually all freelance writers to convince the neighborhood watch association we're drug dealers...

The point is, even semi-successful freelancers (which by my definition is any freelancer making enough money to afford at least one good weekend drunk per quarter) always keeps his or her eyes on the journalism and publishing job boards, just in case. I am no different, and lately I've noticed a number of interesting-sounding editorial positions opening up, including a few in the sporting mag world. I've even contemplated applying for a few of them.

The thing is, though, if I could pick the one industry in which I'd be most terrified to make a career decision that entails uprooting my family, selling my house, and moving halfway across the country for a new job, it'd be publishing. The print industry is in a bad way, and turnover, both voluntary and forced, is staggering. I know a few writers and editors, both magazine and newspaper, who have lost jobs recently, and the future doesn't look any better, even for those positions that sound so compelling in the job description (What? An opportunity for personal growth? Self-actualization? The chance to be a team player, part of something bigger than myself? Quick, sign me up!).

I suppose many, if not all of those open positions are being filled by young, unattached, and geographically mobile candidates, while many of us older, rooted fogies read the ad, think "that sounds like a pretty cool job, wonder how I'd be at that?" and then, knowing there's no way in hell we'll ever find out, go back to foraging for crumbs.

When I quit newspapers and started freelancing full-time some 13 years ago, I reasoned that I had two fallback positions should freelancing not work out. One, newspapers would always be here, I was a good reporter, and I could always go back to a beat. Yes, yes, I know. Please, all you fired, downsized, laid-off, let-go and permanently furloughed daily reporters and editors stop laughing, and crying. Two, telecommuting was obviously the future, and if I couldn't find a reporting job I could always find some sort of regular, full-time editorial position I could perform from home. Sure, it may be with a publication like Linoleum Flooring Weekly, but it'd be a job.

Well, newspapers are in even worse shape than the magazine industry, and the promise of a bright, shining, pajama-clad telecommute-based economy has, for the most part, never materialized. Most editorial positions remain firmly in the "asses in seats and on location" category, which tends to keep most of us mid-career shrews foraging in place for crumbs.

At first glance, it seems depressing as hell. And if you're simply hoping for a continuation of the status quo, I guess it truly is. But I honestly think the publishing industry as we know it is doomed anyway, forced to die or adapt into something completely new. All those interesting jobs you can't apply for because you're old, fat, slow, and rooted in place? In all likelihood they'll cease to exist in a few years, anyway. The traditional paradigm is toast, and so are a lot of publications that continue clinging to it.

And that, I believe, is a good thing. Or at least it has the potential to be a good thing. Who knows what opportunities for both good writing and the potential to make actual money from that writing will spring forth from this paradigm shift? Lots of shrews, including myself, are still trying to figure that one out.

So I guess all us mid-career shrews should just bide our time, keep our tiny little snouts to the prevailing winds and keep gathering what crumbs we can as we figure out how to navigate this brave new publishing world. And if it turns out that I can't figure it all out, I'm still convinced that this can be my new calling in life.

Even in the face of a changing world, people still love real books, apparently, which I'm pretty sure is more than you can say about most magazines these days.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Blowin' In the Wind

I am, admittedly, not a huge fan of modern, Top 40 "both kinds of music, country AND western" (gratuitous Blues Brothers reference there...).

My tastes in the down-home, chicken-fried, beer-soaked, flag wavin', momma lovin', Jesus worshiping, hippie stompin', gay-bashing, wife leavin', husband cheatin' an' whiskey drinkin' wavelength of the musical spectrum tend to run toward classics like Merle Haggard, classic outlaws like Waylon Jennings, and a more recently developed appreciation for much of the current outlaw and alternative country acts (for example, the now sadly defunct on the web but still alive in person Eight More Miles turned me on to the Drive-By Truckers).

In fact, if I had to be honest, I'd say I'd rather give myself a Drano enema than be forced to listen to country music for more than, say, three uninterrupted minutes. Having said that, I must say that fellow Okie Blake Shelton, unlike that cretinous troglodyte Toby Keith, doesn't seem like too bad a fellow. I even kind of like him.

From this story in the Tulsa World

No one has ever called Oklahoma country music star Blake Shelton shy.
So it's no surprise that he spoke his mind when asked about the Westboro Baptist Church  urging people to boycott his upcoming concert in Kansas City.

The controversial organization has added Shelton to the list of people and things it protests, including dead soldiers, American high schools, the U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture, The Eagles and Carrie Underwood.

In an open letter to Shelton posted Sept. 30, the church condemned him for "marriage, divorce and remarriage." The letter also advised him that "you cannot buy, charm, fake or sing your way into heaven" and was signed “your friends, Westboro Baptist Church.”

He has also been targeted for his support of gay rights, according to
Stopped on his way out of Usher's birthday party at a Hollywood nightclub recently, Shelton's reaction was swift and decidedly candid.

"The Westboro Baptist Church can blow me," said Shelton, the winningest coach on NBC's reality singing competition "The Voice," in video from TMZ.

"Yeah, really they can. You can quote me on that," he said as he entered a black SUV and was driven away.
The church's response to Shelton was: "'Blow me' is not going to win the day for you when you stand at the judgment seat of the Lord Jesus Christ (I Cor. 5:10-11)."

Now granted, it's not much of a stretch to publicly insult the most vile, universally hated group of people this side of Washington, but still, "they can blow me" is what I consider refreshing candor, especially coming from a prominent figure in an industry largely driven on the enduringly cornball mythos of "traditional values."

Will it make me start listening to his music? Eh, probably not (I do, however, think his wife Miranda Lambert is wonderfully talented) but at least now I know who I'm pulling for to win "The Voice" this season. And I think "Blow Me, Westboro!" really deserves to become a protest meme...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Historical Ephemera

Earlier this year Oklahoma City's oldest (established 1930) and arguably its best used and antiquarian book store, Aladdin Books, closed up shop. Like all central Oklahoma bibliophiles, I both mourned its passing (a stop at Aladdin was a ritual of every visit to OKC) and picked over its carcass during the inevitable liquidation sale.

Although I brought home several grocery bags full of nice books, I didn't score anything particularly valuable or collectable, mainly because I'm not in the "valuable and collectable" tax bracket. But what I did find, in a dime-a-copy clearance box, was a treasure trove of historical ephemera dating back to the turn of the century and beyond. Things like 1920-30s-era playbills from Parisian and New York theaters, vintage American road maps, a program from the 1904 World's Fair for a historical libretto on the "Anglo-Boer" war (complete with some cool old gun ads), historical pamphlets (you may recall this blog post about early Oklahoma gamebirds. The pamphlet described in that blog post came from this same haul...) some really cool old photograph negatives that show early American sporting scenes, old Allied war progress maps from WWII, etc.

Just random, endlessly fascinating bits and pieces that, taken together (for I strongly suspect that all this material came from the same source, as I got it all from a single box that had apparently been picked up from an estate sale and never sorted) paint a picture of a life lived fully and well. In addition to all those Parisian and New York playbills from the teens, 20s and 30s, there was a copy of "Paris Weekly" from 1930, sort of a "what's happening about town" guide, published in English for American tourists and ex-pats, a schedule of the Paris Orleans Railway and guide to the castles of the Loire, a copy of the "New York Standard Guide" from 1917, European cruise ship literature from the 1930s, etc. With no killer apps to distract them, I guess people really knew how to engage the world around them back then...

But perhaps the two most interesting things in the lot were a French book and a pamphlet from the Santa Fe Railroad advertising land for sale in SW Kansas (I'm guessing around the 1910-15 timeframe). The Santa Fe Railroad brochure is particularly fascinating (and something of an anomaly to the other material), given my interest in plains and Dust Bowl history, and it will get its own blog post soon.

The book is pretty interesting, too. It's really more of thick, bound pamphlet than a book. I am, of course, fluent in Google Translate, and "Memories on the Sculptures of the Parthenon" is the name of the book, published in 1818. It's full of ancient, spidery, hand-written footnotes, and the inside front cover has a small stamp from a bookshop in Strasbourg.

I imagine, at least I like to imagine, that the same person who collected all those playbills and maps and railway schedules and cruise ship brochures and other tidbits from the Golden Age of travel and adventure, also picked up this book as a souvenir, perhaps in that Strasbourg bookshop, or more likely from one of the famous Parisian "Les Bouquinistes" while strolling along the Seine on a beautiful, sun-dappled spring day sometime during that fascinating and utterly doomed inter-war Jazz Age period. Lost Generation, indeed.

And now, decades later, all past associations, memories and meaning wiped clean by war, death, and the passage of time and distance, that souvenir of an unknown, probably long-dead person somehow finds its way to my bookshelf here on the plains of Oklahoma. Odd, isn't it, and a bit sad, how things like that work out?      

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Philistine's Weapon...

Like many archery enthusiasts, I have long been a disciple of both the traditional and the modern archery sects. I grew up shooting a compound, got interested in traditional archery in college, and have been shooting and hunting with both ever since. The way I categorized it was thus: when I wanted to engage myself fully with the romance and history, the "witchery of archery", and maybe, if I got lucky, kill a deer in the process, I used my recurve. When I wanted to just go kill a deer, I used my compound. Nothing wrong with that at all.  But a couple years ago ago, toward the end of bow season, I got disenchanted with my compound and, through no fault of her own, broke up with her

"...I'm sending you on down the road. It's not you, it's me. Well, OK, that's a lie. It is you. You're a killer, and a damn good one, and I'm sure you'll make some leftie out there very happy. But when I hold you in my arms, you just feel cold and artificial, without any feeling, warmth or soul. I dunno, maybe it's that aluminum riser...

I know, I know, it's a shock, but it's for the best, really. Don't cry, damn it. And stop yelling. What do you mean "Is there another bow?" Hey babe, you knew this was an open relationship from the beginning. I told you straight up I wasn't the kind of man to pull back just one string.

I didn't want it to come to this, wanted to spare your feelings, but the truth is yes, I'm leaving you for the stickbow and I'm leaving you for good this time. No more releases, no more sights, no more stabilizers, no more carbon arrows, no more cams or idler wheels or marketing babble about the wonders of parallel limbs, carbon matrix fibers and offsetting harmonic convergences.

I just felt all that extraneous stuff was coming between us, baby. Every time I brought you to draw it was like going through a pre-flight checklist or something. Don't get me wrong: there's a helluva lot about you I'll miss. The speed. Damn, the speed. And that eighty percent let-off? Yeah, I'll miss that, too.

But no matter how many times I shot you, no matter how many arrows you sent whizzing into those tight little groups, I never felt like you were a part of me, never felt like I was part of you. Let's face it: Once I got you dialed in and your pins set, I was pretty much just along for the ride. I could put you down, leave you for a month, two months, hell, a year even, then pick you up and start hitting the ten-ring.

Performance-wise, you ask for nothing and give everything where the stickbow demands everything and returns precious little compared to you. Sounds crazy and ass-backwards, I know, but then again who can predict love, emotion, the mysterious wanderings of  a soul's desires? I sure can't, so by way of example I'll just leave you with this story...

I was recently shooting you and the stickbow (Hey! She's not a bitch!) together on a sunny day, and as I held you at full draw I happened to look down at my shadow on the grass. What I saw was a machine. I then picked up the stickbow, drew it and what I saw projected on the grass was a cave painting from another time, something drawn on rock by the flickering light of a fire, a vestigal remnant of some primitive inner aesthetic reaching back into the dim lizard-brain recesses of my hunter-gatherer past. It was groovy, man.

What do you mean "what have you been smoking?" I'll tell you what I've been smoking: clarity. And let me tell you; pure, uncut clarity is a helluva nice high. The fact is I'm just not that into you. Never really was.

Auf wiedersehen, baby.

Banished, I put the cold bitch on a shelf in the garage, and then promptly forgot about her for the next two years. But recently, as I was rummaging around in the garage trying to get a few things organized, I stumbled upon my jilted lover, way up on the top shelf, forgotten, lonely, covered in dust and cobwebs. I wondered if I could still shoot her accurately after two years of disuse, so I pulled her down, dusted her off, and took her to the back yard.

It had been so long since I'd shot a bow with a release that I actually had trouble remembering how to put the damn thing on, but once I figured it out, I paced off distance, put the 25-yard pin on the bullseye, and let fly three arrows, literally the first three arrows I'd shot from this bow in two years.

An inch or so to the right, (from pulling my release, I think) but not too damn bad. She was as faithfully deadly and efficient as ever. Had I so chosen, I'm confident that I could have thrown on some camo, grabbed the bow, walked to the back of the lot, made a ground blind, and killed any deer that walked within thirty-five yards of me. That's how good and utterly repeatable dialed-in modern bows are, and how easy it is to shoot them. If I had tried three shots with my recurve after a two-year layoff, the arrows would be somewhere in the brush behind the target, or maybe stuck in the neighbor's roof.

Say what you will about the compound's lack of soul, they are undeniably and unbelievably good. But despite her stellar performance and her eagerness to please, in my eyes she was an automaton, and an automaton she would always remain. So she went back up on the top shelf, forsaken, her pleas silenced by an old gunny sack. And that is where she shall remain.

Until, of course, I really, really need to kill a deer. Because my recurve's a fickle beast under the best of circumstances, and romance only takes you so far, in life and bowhunting.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Gypsy Dreamin'...

Yeah, I want one...

Check out the rest of the pics of the build and the final product at, which is a fantastic and fascinating blog written by an archeologist with a penchant for pre-industrial tools and knowledge.  According to the blog, this is his modern take on the traditional "vardo" of European traveler culture, with a little influence from the sheepherder wagons that are still in use today in the American west.

Really, you need to view the build pictures. He built the whole thing from the trailer frame up, and it's awesome. This, I believe, is my ultimate bird-hunting and camping rig. I certainly don't have the carpentry skills necessary to do something like this, but a guy can dream, anyway. I've always wanted to try to design and build some sort of hybrid camper/dog trailer, just a small, simple, easily towable living space, and this comes about as close as I've seen to my ideal.

Oh, sure, I could just go out and buy a small camper (if I had the money, which I don't), but where's the fun in that? Where's the aesthetic? The sense of history? The pride of creation and ownership? I mean, this thing even has a damn bookcase!

This is the kind of rig I imagine Bradbury's Autumn People inhabiting as they traipse about the chill and pensive fall countryside; ancient, creaking caravans hidden in shadow and moonglow, riding the twilight winds of summer's death toward the dark magic and fear and unease of the October Country.

Sounds like a damn good time to me. I, too, would love to traipse about the October Country in a gypsy wagon, riding the twilight winds of summer's death (good freakin' riddance, summer, don't let the door hit your flaming ass on the way out) toward the promise of a fall on the plains chasing birds and dogs and dreams and memory.

And in this thing, I'd be doing it in style.

That just looks, I don't know...right, somehow. Like it belongs. Like the beginning of a good story. All that photograph needs to be perfect is me sitting in a chair holding a scotch in one hand, a good book in the other, and the dogs at my feet. That would be be my kind of  story. Minus, of course, the horrible gypsy curse that goes along with most good October stories...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Funny How Things Work...

A few years back I wrote a blog post that was ostensibly about Dr. Demento, but wherein I used the demise of the good Dr.'s program as a vehicle to opine, crankily and with more than a whiff of the geezer about me, that "today's kids" with all the world's knowledge (or at least that knowledge which can be digitized) at their fingertips, are, in some ways, being ill-served by that unbelievable convenience.

...It's always hard when the magic dust of cherished childhood icons finally bite the cold, hard dust of reality, even when you haven't thought about them in years. So when I saw this story (about the end, after 40 years on-air, of the Dr. Demento radio program...) on Salon yesterday, I mourned even as I realized that I hadn't heard nor even really thought of that distinctive voice in a long time. This despite the fact that from about 1988 when I was a junior in high school until well into my college years, many of my Sunday evenings involved sitting around a radio tuned to KRXO in Oklahoma City, drinking beer, shooting the shit and listening to Dr. Demento with friends.

Yes, I really was that much of a raging geek...  

Count me among those who were surprised to learn Dr. Demento was even still around. His show went off the air in the OKC market sometime around the mid-90s, and by that time I had pretty much stopped listening on a regular basis anyway. But even though my musical tastes (always weird and eclectic in the extreme) gradually changed, I credit that adolescent exposure to things like Dr. Demento for shaping my skewed sense of humor and my uhhh...unique worldview.

Where else - in that innocent time before the Internet and satellite radio and iPods and the perpetually plugged-in culture we now take for granted - could a kid from Oklahoma be exposed to the work of guys like Spike Jones, Frank Zappa and Tom Lehrer?

Much like print, Demento's influence waned with the rise of the Internet, and even though there's still a vibrant comedy song culture out there (Flight of the Conchords are particularly hilarious) I can't help but feel as if today's kids are somehow being cheated a bit by so much choice and so much convenience.

For better and worse, tasting the different in life is an important part of growing up, and having to work for and seek out subversiveness (even mild subversiveness like Demento) I believe fosters a sense of shared identity that kids who literally have the world at their keyboards, kids who are used to and indeed demand instant gratification, can't begin to understand, much less appreciate.

Of course, (to twist and butcher a little of the Bard) I come to mourn Dr. Demento, not bury him. The irony is Demento won't be going away. Indeed, he'll be producing a show for the very medium that killed his radio show. Not to mention the fact that there are legion websites and Youtube videos dedicated to the show.

And that's all well and good, of course, but I maintain the notion that there should be a magic to the process of seeking out and discovering something new and exciting that - in the end - is just as important as the information itself.

Or maybe I'm just showing my quaintness. Whatever the case, rock on Dr. Demento. I for one will keep on Star Trekkin' and looking out for those Klingons on the starboard bow... 

So I wrote that way back in 2010, and damn it, I do still feel that today's kids have it just a little too easy when it comes to discovery (Just call me Gramps. I will now go swill a glass of Metamucil, pull on a fresh pair of Depends and check out the new issue of Reader's Digest that just came in the mail).

However... last night I noticed a comment on the blog from a reader (I have readers?) named Paul, who wrote...

Chad, I love the blog, particularly the writing. I wish it was updated more often though. You should check out the song "At the Hundredth Meridian" by the Tragically Hip (Canadian band). Good song. A lot of road trip music by the Hip.

So what the hell does this have to do with today's spoiled kids, Dr. Demento or the joys of discovery? OK, here goes...when Paul mentioned the Tragically Hip, that band's name kept ringing a bell in my head. Rusty gears were turning. I knew I had heard them, or heard of them, but kept coming up a complete blank. So of course I Googled them, and within - literally - sixty seconds, had it all figured out.

Back in the 1989-1990 timeframe the Tragically Hip, which are apparently still a big thing in the frozen northlands, had a minor hit on American college radio (no "alternative" back then) with a song called "New Orleans is Sinking." It was a cool song, I liked it, and remember telling myself I needed to check out the local record store, because back in 1989, it goes without saying, researching and buying music involved a bit more than it does now. But for whatever reason, I never did go see if I could find the Tragically Hip at our local record shop, or perhaps I did try and they didn't have it, who knows? At any rate, the Tragically Hip faded into distant, one-hit wonder memory, and I literally hadn't thought of them in, hell, 24 years, until Paul's comment popped up on the blog last night (and Paul, I've been listening to them on Youtube all night. You're right, they're a damn good band. Don't know how I managed to go so long without hearing of them again)

But thanks to the evil, seductive convenience and all-knowing arc of the Internet, it took me less than a minute to find the band, find the song, and connect them to my memory, a task that, had I not had the horrible, soul-deadening Internet to help me, would have been impossible.

So I guess the point is, maybe I should just shut the hell up and stop whining about how great things used to be and how bad we have it nowadays, eh? I won't, of course, because I like to bitch and I'm a hypocrite. But I'm an honest hypocrite.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Importance of Rain...

I live along the 100th Meridian, that historical fence-straddle between the truly arid shortgrass prairie to the west and the generally lusher, wetter, mixed-grass prairie to the east. It's a semi-arid transition zone that, depending on the whims of the weather gods, vacillates between drought, drought, more drought, and sometimes rain. And for the past few years, it's been strongly trending drought. Prolonged, multi-year drought. Historical drought. Kick-the-region-in-the-nuts drought.

And the past two years have been especially brutal, on farmers, ranchers, and quail. "Plummet" doesn't adequately describe what's happened to our quail populations. Not enough - if any - spring rains, no rain at all during the summer months and extremely dry falls translated into poor nesting success, virtually no cover, and poor survival. And moonscape-like hunting conditions for those of us stupid or desperate enough to try.

Last year at this time I distinctly remember taking the dogs out to run on our local public hunting area and watching them quite literally kick up dust trails behind them as they ran over sand hills mostly denuded of live vegetation.

But what a difference is made by a year, milder temps and a little rain...

Actual live vegetation! Engaged in actual photosynthesis! Providing actual cover and food! Now, to those of you residing in garden states, this may still look pretty damn brown and desolate, but remember, this isn't westen Ohio, it's western Oklahoma. Trust me, this is fairly lush by our standards.

Here's a better example of what I'm talking about, complete with a somewhat lackluster point and back on a covey of... ornate box turtles.

OK, so my dogs obviously lack style on reptile points, but just look at that cover! It's so thick that in many areas I actually have trouble seeing the dogs run through it, and it's difficult to walk through. But hell, last year I often had trouble even finding any cover to hunt, so I 'll take it.

The good news is, it looks like this was - if not a good year - then at least a non-disastrous year for quail reproduction and survival. The bad news is, there were so few quail last year that even with a good hatch there simply aren't going to be many quail out there. Quail season is still going to be dismal this year, no matter how you slice it. But I'm highly optimistic that it's going to be less dismal than the past three years. And I'll gladly take that. And who knows, if we luck out and get another couple years like this one, there may be a reason to stay in this state, after all...