Friday, January 31, 2014

Firewood Gettin'

Back in late October, I was having a spirited debate with a large tree concerning our differing views on the law of the conservation of energy and how it should apply to said tree. I was of the opinion that now was a good time for the tree's stored energy to be converted into a new state, while the tree remained rather steadfast in its belief that its energy should remain conserved in its current state.

I eventually won that debate (and if you're wondering, the orange stuff on the stump is smashed-up Halloween jack 'o lantern left out for the deer...).

 But not before the tree, perhaps given to the same sort of rage that could turn any literary, scientic, or philosophical debate deadly, tried to kill me. As a result, I wasn't really physically able to get back down to the farm to cut more wood for a couple weeks, and by then bird season had started, so I put it off, hoping that what I had already cut, split, and stacked would suffice until bird season was over. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy cutting firewood, it's a very contemplative and self-satisfying endeavor. Just not as much as bird hunting.

Real woodcutters living in northern climes who cut all their wood pre-season will scoff, but living in Oklahoma, where the winters are generally mild and dry pleasantness interspersed with temporary bouts of brutal, windswept misery, I can get away with being lazy. Plus, I have a large amount of dead-standing hardwood to use, so I generally don't have to cut wood and then let it season before using it.

Unfortunately, this winter has been a whole lot colder for everyone, including us. I've burned a lot of wood. So with my firewood dwindling and a winter storm coming in this weekend, yesterday I loaded up the truck and went wood-cutting. Now I've previously written about what a pain in the ass cedar trees are when cutting firewood. And yesterday I went back and revisited the spot I wrote about in that blog post.

All the blood, sweat and tears I expended back in August clearing out this area paid off, as it actually didn't take too long to cut a pick-up load of firewood. Unfortunately, I had to carry each round, piece by piece, up out of the canyon to the truck above me...

Trust me, it's farther and higher than it looks. Or maybe I'm getting old. One or the other. I did, however, have some help from a re-purposed pair of antique ice tongs that I use to carry the larger rounds cut from the base of the tree...

They belonged to my wife's grandfather, and work as well for toting wood up hills as I'm sure they did toting those big blocks of ice. In another bit of re-purposing, I also use a pair of old railroad tie tongs that belonged to my grandfather to skid around the larger sections of wood and position them for bucking...

All in all it was a warm and agreeable wood-cutting session. I filled the back of the truck with enough stored sunshine to hopefully see us through the next few weeks, no trees attempted to murder me, the chainsaws played nice, and I even had enough time and energy left over to grab the 10/22 (stainless, walnut-stocked Mannlicher version, my favorite) and take a walk down the canyon on a quick porcupine/squirrel patrol. Nothing doing there, so I shot a few tin cans instead, walked around a bit, looked for interesting rocks, scoped out a few new spots to build stands for next year, and then went home. I've spent worse days.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Morning Inspiration...

"If a person with a demonstrably ordinary mind, like mine, will devote himself to giving birth to a work of the imagination, that work will in turn tempt and tease that ordinary mind into cleverness."

                                                                                               Kurt Vonnegut

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Letter to a Lout...*

To the alleged duck hunter(s) who visited the east side of my local duck-hunting spot this past weekend: I'm sure you don't care, but I picked up all the empty shell boxes, used wet wipes, plastic bags, candy wrappers, pop cans and other assorted garbage you left strewn across the parking area. You're welcome, jerks. That was right classy of you.

I kind of expect that kind of behavior from the methheads who sometimes use these isolated areas of the lake to toss out the toxic leavings of their mobile meth labs. I expect it from the littering, drunken slobs who throw their beer cans and fast-food containers out the window as they drive around the lake looking for road signs and assorted wildlife to shoot up. I even expect it from the don't-know-any-better high school kids who sometimes throw parties out here, far away from the prying eyes of their elders.

But what I don't expect is this kind of behavior from my people, fellow hunters, people who ostensibly should have the greatest respect for the land from which we derive our greatest pleasure, our sustenance, and indeed, our very meaning. Most of us have been taught to venerate our public lands, treat them like they're our own, because, well hell, they are. Maybe you're one of the "new breed" I've been running into more and more lately, and who knows, maybe you and your "crew" didn't have time to pick up after yourselves following that epic skybusting clinic you were putting on this morning (yeah, I was watching from across the lake...) 

This little piece of public ground (one I'm very fond of, by the way) offered up its treasures to you, and you responded by treating it like a dump. I don't know how you were raised, don't know what kind of role models you may or may not have had, don't know if you're congenital jackasses or if your behavior is a product of your upbringing or environment, but since it's a new year and therefore the perfect time to turn over a new leaf, here's a suggestion for a belated resolution: Try really, really hard to stop being dicks. Instead, make a concerted effort to cultivate a minimum level of class, dignity and ethics. Try mightily to refrain from being an obvious disgrace to your sport and your culture.

And if that's just too much effort for you, too much work, sacrifice or consideration, then please, just go the hell away and be an embarrassment to some other demographic. Take up some other sport, parachute-less skydiving, maybe, or perhaps nude shark-chumming. I hear golf's a fun game, and I know it's popular with many, many assclowns like yourselves. Anything, really, but hunting or any other activities requiring a small modicum of respect for wild places. Because you obviously have none to give.

* Believe it or not, I actually wrote (angrily and quickly) this blog post during last year's waterfowl season, saved it as a draft, and then promptly forgot it for over a year. So it's not actually current anger, it's past anger. I only noticed it today while I was trying to clean out some old stuff from the folder, but decided "what the hell, I dealt with the same shit this year, maybe even worse, so why not?" 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Return of the Onyx?

I am an admitted Beretta O/U fanboy, and although I have a particularly soft spot (if not a particularly loaded wallet) for pre-680 series Beretta O/U's like my beloved BL-series, their S-series Euro counterparts, the various snipes and of course the outta-my-league high-end SOs, ASELs, etc, I believe the best (and not to mention certainly best for the money) modern mass-market O/U out there (Beretta or otherwise) remains the relatively venerable Beretta 686. 

And of all the various incarnations of the 686 guns throughout the years, my hands-down favorite has always been the long-discontinued onyx with the plain (save for the P. Beretta signature) blued receivers and subdued semi-matte finish on the wood. It was just a very classy, understated, aesthetically pleasing gun, unlike some of the other variants that Beretta has brought out over the years.

See? That's just nice. There seemed to be several different finishes on these older guns. I've seen some with a standard blue metal finish, while others had a more semi-matte blueing job. Regardless, all those old blued onyx models were just...elegant, especially when you found one with nice wood. My teeth still gnash at the memory of letting a gorgeously-stocked, stupid-cheap 20-gauge onyx sitting in the use rack at an OKC shop slip away from me about 12 years ago. Pain, thy name is poverty and indecision.

And I'm not the only one who likes the looks of the old oynx. Although used 686s are legion, the blued onyx guns tend to get bought fairly quickly by those with discerning taste. Many of them end up getting sent to places like Cole's for a restock because the finished product looks so nice. I'm not actively, money-in-hand (because I have none) searching for a used onyx, but I have been passively keeping my eyes peeled for a nice local specimen to show up, with the thought of doing some horse-trading toward an acquisition.

That hasn't happened yet, regrettably. However, in all the SHOT show coverage I've been perusing the past week or so in the hopes of finding some interesting - or even any - shotgun or wingshooting-related news, I did stumble upon the reason why I've been seeing so many new and unknown-to-me oynx models (oynx pro? WTF is that?) being advertised by Cabela's on the Guns International website the past month or so...

From Phil Bourjaily's Gun Nuts Blog

Beretta hasn't offered the Onyx model in years, but, now, Cabela's has resurrected it. The shotgun is offered in a sporting version, trap gun, and field gun. It has the standard features of any other Beretta over/under with a low profile and strong action. It's a handsome gun with a black anodized receiver and an upper mid-grade walnut stock. The gun sells for about $2,500.

All I will say is thank goodness for Phil Bourjaily...

As for the gun itself, it looks pretty much (the field model, anyway) like the onyx of old, and if I had the $2,500 asking price and were in the market for a new O/U, I'd be scuttling myself down to the nearest Cabela's and taking a long, hard look at it.

Alas, I don't and I'm not, so no new Cabela's-branded Onyx for me. To be honest if I actually had $2,500 cash to spend on a gun right now I'd be picking Steve Bodio's brain on what manner of vintage SxS I should be looking for. I do, however, commend Cabela's for bringing back such a nice and under-appreciated variant of the 686. With the upgraded wood and the proven action, I might even take this over a Caesar Guerini Woodlander.

Have no idea why Cabela's decided, in the curent tactical-crazed market, to offer a nice, classy gun like the onyx. The upland market these days certainly isn't what it used to be, and if I'm being honest here, much of the Cabela's-branded bird-hunting stuff I've tried has been a bit underwhelming (as opposed to their waterfowl gear, which isn't), but they always seem to do a really nice job with the special-run guns they bring out. And maybe, if I'm lucky, the introduction of this new/old model will help cool demand and asking prices for the old original onyx guns and I'll end up with one yet...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Then and Now...

Here's the then...

Mid-1930's, obviously. Beaver County, Oklahoma.

And here's the now. Cimarron County, Oklahoma, Jan.12, 2013*...

Edit: It's 2014 now, moron, not 2013...

Interesting, no? I decided to play around with this image in PS a little to see if I could make it as Apocalyptic as the old B&W images from the 30s...

And, well, I couldn't. Because like the North Koreans, I suck at Photoshop. I'm sure someone with better PS skills could make it look more vintage, and some of the other photographs below would make better candidates, but I was struck by the similarity in composition between the first two. I think it makes the point quite nicely: Round and round and round we go. Everything old is new again. The La Junta, CO to Boise City, OK area, BTW, was the very area that historian Donald Worster pegged as the geographical and socio-cultural center of the Dust Bowl. To this day it remains a haunted, lonely, mostly unpeopled, abused, horribly scarred, but still harshly gorgeous region. And quite possibly doomed in this quickly approaching and fast darkling brave new world of the Anthropocene...

Here's an account of how it happened (more good drought and meteorological info, plus pics, in the link) from the Oklahoma Mesonet ticker news feed. Short story, though? Extreme drought+Virtually no native prairie left to hold the soil(because it's all been ripped up, plowed and planted)+High winds=One hell of an Environmental Throwback Thursday, come a few days early...

From the Oklahoma Mesonet site...
Tales of woe from drought-plagued western Oklahoma, but where to start? Might as
go with the more scenic story. As the cold front swept our 70s out from under 
our feet on Sunday, the northerly winds that came with it swept something else
along with it our in the High Plains ... a good old fashioned 1930s style dust
storm. The folks at the Cimarron County Conservation District were kind enough
to send us some pics of the towering wall of dirt as it bore down on Cimarron 
County from SE Colorado. Check out the pictures here and tell me those don't 
belong in a Ken Burns documentary!
From what I can tell searching around various websites, the picture from near
La Junta, Colorado, (#6) appears to show the genesis of the event. The Cimarron
County folks tell me that the storm swept into the Boise City area around 4
p.m. That fits pretty well from what we can see from the meteogram at Boise City
on the 12th. Temperatures drop from the 60s into the 50s in about an hour as
winds switch from the west-southwest to northerly and gust to over 50 mph ... 
right around 4 p.m.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Environmental State Change

Just how dry has it been on the southern plains the past few years? When I first moved to my current location seventeen years ago, I shot ducks off this pond. And it was full (you can see where the drainpipe is). It's also an interesting photograph in that it shows three of the main (but by no means only) environmental change agents currently at work on the southern plains: Drought, invasive species (eastern redcedars) and energy development (wind turbines).

And oh, yes, when I took this picture this morning, it was a balmy 67 degrees. On January 11. The high tomorrow? Almost 70.

The times they are 'a changin'...

*This pic is also about as close as this guy's ever gonna get to a "selfie." And even this one was accidental. Because, goddamnit, real men don't do "selfies." They don't even utter the word "selfie" unless it's in protective quotation marks...