Tuesday, February 19, 2013


For some reason I've been getting an absolute spam blizzard in the comments section lately, so in response I activated the word verification thingamabob for comments. Personally, I hate those pains-in-the-ass, but I also hate spam. If for any reason you can't leave comments, just shoot me an e-mail and I'll try to figure it out.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Time For a Makeover...

But not for me...

A limit of South Dakota pheasants taken earlier this season with my old, tired, in-desperate-need-of-a-freshening 1968-vintage Beretta BL-5 12-gauge.

Funny how certain guns grow on you. I've had this gun for over a decade now, and even with the tacky white-line spacer, the too-short 26-inch barrels, the too-heavy seven-pound weight and the rather plain wood, it's become my favorite gun.

It wasn't always so. When I first traded for it, I thought it was heavy, unbalanced, and handled like a pig. I much preferred my little BL-4 twenty. But then I started hunting with it, and discovered to my dismay that I shot it pretty well. And regardless of aesthetics, a gun you shoot well can't help but grow on you, and this one did.

It's been one of my main bird-hunting guns for the past nine years or so, and, well, it shows. It occasionally doubles with heavy loads (which is as good a reason as any to not shoot unnecessarily heavy loads...) and I suspect dirty innards are probably to blame. It's in serious need of a complete tear-down and cleaning, and it's in even more serious need of a new finish.

So it has become my 2013 project gun. In addition to a tear-down, adjustment, and cleaning, the old Beretta's getting a stock refinish and a new pad. A few years back I picked up an extra set of 28-inch in-the-white barrels for it, because they were uber-cheap, so my plan also includes getting that set of barrels tubed, blued, and fitted to the action. Hopefully I'll have it all finished by next season, so I can keep plugging along with the old girl.

New guns never did interest me much, and they interest me even less as I grow older. Old Berettas like this one aren't worth much, you can pick up BL and S-series Berettas all the time on the auction sites for considerably less than what you'd pay for a new base-model 686 Silver Pigeon, but I think the old guns just have a higher cool factor.

Interestingly enough, when I took the old pad off recently in preparation of stripping the stock, I discovered that someone had installed an Edwards recoil reducer (in September of 1968, according to the date) in the stock. Losing that, and the old solid rubber Pachmayr pad, shaved twelve ounces off the weight of the gun. No wonder it always felt a bit butt-heavy...

It'll be interesting to see how longer barrels and a lighter butt may affect how well I shoot it. Messing with a gun that works for you is not always a good idea, and I'm keeping the recoil reducer and that ugly old Pachmayr pad, just in case...

Friday, February 1, 2013


 Just a quick note to let all tens of you who faithfully read my blog know that I have an article in the current issue of Covey Rise magazine. It's an interview with Don McKenzie, the director of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative and I mention it not to bring attention to myself (small lie), but to bring attention to the NBCI and the work that organization is doing on behalf of my favorite, and the coolest, bird in the world.

Plus, Covey Rise is a very sweet publication dedicated to all things quail, and you should go out immediately and buy a newsstand copy. And then subscribe. And then write a letter to the editor demanding more stories from that Chad Love guy.

And I'd like to mention that I'm also still blogging for the fine folks at Quail Forever, an organization you should most definitely be a member of if you love birds, bird dogs and everything upland. Really, you need to join. Then read the blog and magazine. Then write letters to the editors, both print and online, demanding more stories from that Chad Love guy.

And oh, yeah, I'm still churning out the hook-and-bullet version of The Weekly World News for Field & Stream, as well as the F&S website's gundogs blog.  You should read it. Then send e-mails to the editors demanding more stories from that Chad Love guy.

And finally, I've been contributing to a curious and interesting new magazine called Living Ready, which is the kind of publication that might arise from a flophouse threesome between Mother Earth News, Gun Digest and The Backwoodsman. It's a pretty cool little magazine. You should subscribe. Then write letters to the editor demanding more stories from that Chad Love guy.

Thus endeth my self-promotion for the day...

Stanley Karnow and Slow Journalism

 Back when I was young(er) and a voracious reader of military history (What's the difference between youth and age? As as youngster I read military history as a grand adventure. Now older, and with sons of my own, I read it as a cautionary tale...) Stanley Karnow's "Vietnam: A History" was the first and remains the best journalistic history of that war I've ever read.

Last year, at a book sale, I found a copy of Karnow's "Paris in the Fifties" which chronicles his time as a correspondent for Time magazine in post-war Paris. Again, it quickly became my favorite book on that wonderful city, and I've read a few.

Karnow, of course, died last week at the age of 87, and I'd say it was a life well-spent. This morning on the New Yorker website I was reading this most excellent piece by Evan Osnos on the art of "slow journalism" in which Karnow was mentioned and praised.

From the New Yorker

I once asked my friend Paul Salopek for some thoughts on a writing project. He was a logical source of expertise, having won a couple of Pulitzers for his work around the world, though in this case my interest was more specific to his skills. I was going to spend a few weeks on foot, walking through rural Sichuan Province, and Paul was something of an expert on hoofing it, having walked two hundred and thirty days down the Sierra Madre, and having traipsed large swathes of Africa, Afghanistan, and the Amazon, among other places.

“So, any tips?” I asked. He took the question seriously, and said finally, “If you’re going to take a mule, give yourself enough time to learn how to handle it. It’s more difficult than flying a plane.”
Then he told the story of a humbling moment when just such a beast broke his nose on the first day of his long walk in Mexico (a journey chronicled in “The Mule Diaries,” coming out this year from Random House). A few years ago, he started talking to me about another project, and now it has begun: a seven-year walk around the world.

He set off a week or so ago from Herto Bouri, Ethiopia, bound, first, for the Red Sea. The Out of Eden Walk is being chronicled in real time—blogging, publishing, tweeting—and then, of course, there will be the longer pieces. But all the technical accommodations can make it easy to overlook that the essential project is something we don’t see much of anymore, a kind of reporting Paul calls “slow journalism”—the process of reporting at “a human pace of three miles an hour.”

The start of Paul’s journey just happened to overlap with a reason to nod to another great practitioner of snail-paced journalism: Stanley Karnow, the historian and journalist who wrote so meticulously about Vietnam and Philippines, died on Sunday at the age of eighty-seven. I never knew Karnow, but for a kid growing up in America, interested in writing about Asia, the world he evoked—in “Vietnam: A History,” and “In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines,” among other door-stop-sized volumes—was a good advertisement for the business. His friend Bernard Kalb, a former CBS reporter, once said that Karnow believed that “being a journalist is like being an adolescent all your life.” (Indeed, it wasn’t all heavy-lifting; Karnow’s book about his days of writing in Paris in the fifties made you resent your date of birth.)

There was another sentiment of Karnow’s that stayed with me: when covering Asia, he said, “you can be a specialist, but not an expert.” Humility, of one kind or another, is a quality we don’t universally celebrate in our business. For all of the effective skewering done by Stephen Colbert and The Onion, we still suffer from an industrial predisposition toward feigned, instant expertise. Something about Asia is especially attractive to charlatans. In Beijing, the joke among hacks is that, after the drive in from the airport, you are ready to write a column; after a month, you feel the stirrings of an idea-book; but after a year, you struggle to write anything at all, because you’ve finally discovered just how much you don’t know.

In a sea of ephemera, the sturdiest work is only more noticeable. My colleague Katherine Boo won the National Book Award last year for “Behind the Beautiful Forevers,” her chronicle of a Mumbai slum, which was based on three years of laborious interviews and documents. We binge on instant knowledge, but we are learning the hazards, and readers are warier than they used to be of nanosecond-interpretations of Supreme Court decisions. The economics of the business have not suddenly improved, but in the midst of all the opining with authority and speed, it’s nice to be reminded that the alternative doesn’t make you a luddite.

Journalism offers far fewer chances these days to roam the globe for a paycheck. But adventurers like Karnow and Salopek should give some solace to the aspiring vagabonds out there who wonder if foreign correspondence isn’t still one hell of a way of life. Somewhere in Ethiopia this week, Paul thumbed out a tweet: “No wells. Bummed murky water off nomads in this enormity. Electric blue moonlight the color of pure thought.”

Slow food. Slow living. Slow journalism. I'm starting to notice a pattern here...