Thursday, December 30, 2010

More Uncommon Commoners...

I've been simply inundated with common-ness lately: I shot a common goldeneye, got inspired by Steve Bodio to start a commonplace book and then today, this...

A pretty pair of common mergansers that came into the spread this morning, and the fifteenth species of duck the old lady has delivered to hand. My memory is failing so I'm not completely positive, but I believe they're the first common mergansers I've ever shot, and if they aren't they're certainly the first commom mergs I've shot over Tess.

I don't generally shoot mergansers, but certainly not for lack of opportunity. We have tons of hooded mergs on the lake I hunt, and I literally can't keep them out of the decoys. I'm pretty sure they'd decoy in to a bunch of two-liter pop bottles. Not terribly bright, but they're beautiful and fun to watch with their "grrrrt" calls to each other and I figure they add a little motion to the spread as well as give Tess something to stare at while we wait for other ducks to come in.

But common mergansers? For whatever reason I just don't see them whenever I hunt the main lake, which - because my puddles and ponds are mostly dry due to drought - is what I've done a lot of this season.

So when a small group came winging by the decoys not long after LST, I didn't hesitate to shoot a couple. Probably won't do it again, as mergansers don't have the best reputation as table fare, but they are undeniably beautiful birds and I'm toying with the idea of having the drake mounted.

And if you're wondering what's up with the blue speculum, there are also a couple greenheads under there somewhere. All in all not bad for a quickie one-hour hunt, and Tess got another species notch on her collar. Truth be told I've been feeling guilty about that, as I've spent a disproportionate share of time this past month either gone or running Jenny in my ongoing quest to get the pup as many days afield as possible.

But she was happy today, despite having to stand around in chest-deep water again. I haven't, however, informed her that tomorrow she sleeps in while Jenny and I go chase the mythical (at least this year) wild bobwhite quail. I fear she's going to get uncommonly pouty when she sees the truck leave without her...

Monday, December 27, 2010

Of blogging breaks and old profs who resemble Steve Earle ...

After the last post I decided to take a little break from blogging, do a little hunting and get through Christmas before starting up again. I was going to wait until after the first of the year before resuming, but I was perusing our state newspaper yesterday and came across an interesting story about one of my old college professors.

From this story in the Oklahoman

History Professor William Savage doesn't own a cell phone, a new computer provided him by the University of Oklahoma sits untouched in its box in his office, and his e-mail address is listed as “I$have$no$”

“I embrace the forms of technology I find useful,” Savage explains. That includes a few “gizmos,” as he calls most devices that are more contemporary than the pencil and legal pad he has used to compose 11 books and countless journal articles over his decades in academia. For instance, since he likes movies, Savage has a VCR and two DVD players he uses with his cathode ray tube TV sets, provided they have “enough holes” to accept the wires those devices require.

In today's light-speed wireless, electronic, digital technocracy, where most people are consumed by a 24-7 matrix of smart phones, social media and texting, Savage ambles along with “snail mail,” landline phones and books printed on that flat material that appears from laser printers. The “troglodyte.” That's what Savage, who won't reveal his age other than to say he is a “pre-Boomer,” has been called, he said. “Mostly it's ‘fossil,' ‘geezer,' ‘coot.' My colleagues frequently refer to me as a Luddite.”

Savage, who tries to have a cigar in his hand whenever he has a photo taken “because it's offensive,” doesn't care for e-books, cell phones jabber in the checkout line and people who e-mail co-workers at the next desk. And don't get him started on Boolean logic. To explain his opposition to what others might call progress, Savage turns to his expertise in Oklahoma history. When farmers needed fences on the Great Plains, he said, there wasn't enough timber to build them with split wooden rails as farmers in the forested East did. Barbed wire solved that problem. When farmers on the arid prairies needed water, the windmill pump was invented.

The point is that the Industrial Revolution solved existing problems, Savage said. These days, he said, countless electronic whatnots solve problems that don't exist and fill needs we don't have, at least until marketers convince us we do. “An awful lot of the stuff made available and marketed to people is nonessential.” The result, he said, is a din of self-expression a thousand miles wide and a quarter-inch deep. “Nobody thinks about much anymore,” he said. “They're too busy talking.”

I took (If I recall correctly) three of Savage's upper-division western history classes at a time when I was seriously flirting with changing my major from public administration to history. Why I didn't is one of those enduring mysteries we tend to look back on twenty or so years later and ask ourselves "Why didn't I? Just what the hell was I thinking?"

As a teacher Savage was exactly as he comes across in the article: a gruff, grouchy, abrupt, opinionated and generally misanthropic asshole who spoke his mind and didn't really give a shit who it might have offended. His classes were great fun, and to this day it's one of my great regrets that I didn't run screaming from the OU public administration program and into the history department.

But in reading the article it occurred to me that "Wild Bill" Savage (as he was known among students) is a dead ringer for Steve Earle. Not young, lean, hairy, dangerous-looking Guitar Town Steve Earle, but portly, post-addiction, male-pattern baldness The Wire Steve Earle. I didn't realize this at the time, of course, because back then Steve Earle looked like this...

While my professor looked (even back then) pretty much like this...

Not much resemblence, is there? But that was then and this is now...

So I guess the moral of the story is: if you're a lean, hairy, cool and dangerous looking outlaw country-rock/folk singer-songwriter, don't go on a decade-long booze, coke and heroin bender or you'll end up looking like a portly, balding history professor who hates technology.

Don't say you weren't warned...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Diver Down

Funny how adding a few diver decoys to your puddler spread in hopes of giving it a little more variety and color tends to bring in a few...divers. Common goldeneye. Not so common around here, at least in the areas I hunt. This is the first one I've shot in several years.

Because of where and how I hunt, most of the divers I shoot are incidental, just random drop-ins. But if I had a boat, oh, if I only had a boat, I could see myself really getting into those big, open water diver spreads...

She'd really appreciate it, too...

I'm not sure on the literal translation, but I think that look says "This standing in chest-deep water shit is starting to get a little old, bub. How 'bout you buy me a boat, loser?"

And Josh, if you're reading, I haven't forgotten your wood duck flank feathers. I'm just waiting until the end of the season in case I have anything else to send you...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Just Words...

There aren’t many things a person can hold on to over the course of a lifetime. We lose friends and family to death, distance and petty grievances. The passing of years turns youthful hopes and expectations into scraps of memory we lock away, wistful artifacts of the people we once were. And promises made in the exuberance of that youth, promises we once held to be inviolate and forever, are revealed as words, just words, as illusory and fleeting as the breath it took to utter them.

I’m no different. There’s not a helluva lot in this life I’ve managed to do right, and the man I am is a lifetime removed from the man I once thought I’d be. I’m difficult to live with. I’m moody. I’m often distant. I’ve never lived up to the potential, the expectations and the faith others have placed in me and I’m not at all sure - and never will be - that I am deserving of what I have.

And what I have, despite having screwed up virtually everything else that’s ever been handed me, is a wife; a remarkable, beautiful wife who fifteen years ago today made a promise. Words, just words, as illusory and fleeting as the breath it took to utter them. But she is still here. Through all the innumerable little disappointments, joys, defeats, triumphs, heartaches, discoveries, losses and every other daily struggle that taken as whole comprises life, she is still here. She’s the anchor that keeps me from drifting, the only one I’ve ever had, the only one I’ve ever needed. She’s the best friend I’ve ever had, and without her I’m not just lost, I cease being me.

I don’t tell her I love her nearly as much as I should, don’t show her those small, spontaneous acts of public affection as often as she deserves. I’ve never been much good at showing affection. But in quiet, unguarded moments I find myself looking at her with the same sense of wonder and amazement I felt when I saw her for the first time, when I first saw that smile that made me feel weak and funny inside and fell instantly, unequivocally, in love. And in those moments I marvel that after all these years I still have the only thing I ever really wanted.

Happy anniversary, honey. It’s not crystal, but then again I was never very good at presents, either. You are the best thing that ever happened to me, you're a better wife than I am a husband and I don't love you just as much as I did when we married, I love you much, much more.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'm back. Yet again. With news, even...

If I recall correctly, I ended my last blog post, oh so many days ago, with "I'm going to bed." And I suppose it would be reasonable to infer from said statement that at some point in the near future I'd wake up and actually write something rather than simply leave the blog cold for ten days or so.

I did, in point of fact, wake up, but only long enough to wash my clothes, re-pack them and then catch a plane to Utah, where I spent last week engaged in various and sundry activities involving shotguns and birds, activities that would normally - were it not for the kindly largess of others - be way, way above my tiny and impoverished rung on the socio-economic ladder.

More on that, and my trip to South Dakota, later. My schedule has been a bit hectic the past couple weeks, to say the least. It's something that I, as a crabby, short-tempered and generally reclusive (my wife would say hermit-like) misanthrope, am not used to. I've obviously got a lot of catching up to do, blog-wise, so I'll start with some work blog changes that may or may not affect the personal blog.

A few of you may have noticed (or not, if the chirping crickets and lack of comments are any indication) that last week I started co-writing Field & Stream's gundogs blog (Here's a link to my introductory blog. Please tell the world how great I am and much you love me). I'm also still co-writing the Field Notes blog, but David Maccar, who is the newest addition to the online editorial staff, is now doing much of the Field Notes material (and doing a helluva good job, I might add).

I am extremely honored and very excited to get the opportunity to write for the F&S gundogs blog, as the late Bill Tarrant, who was Field & Stream's gundogs editor from 1973 until he died in 1998, was one of my all-time favorite writers of any genre and a huge influence growing up. He was inarguably one of the best writers to ever grace that magazine's pages, and for a publication whose sporting literary tradition can't be touched, that's saying a lot. Now obviously Bill Tarrant never knew what the hell a blog was, and I have no idea what he might have thought of them if he had, but to be able to write about dogs and hunting with dogs in the same publication (even if it is now digital) is a professional and personal milestone for me. I just hope I don't screw it up...

It does, however, pose something of a quandary: I've grown quite fond of writing about my dogs on this obscure little personal blog, and I don't know how much - if any - of what I do here will, or even can, transfer to the F&S blog. I'm still taking baby steps over there, but I'm hoping to eventually be able to get a little more experimental and a little more literary with some of the material (Mouthful of Feathers, Wingshot and Eight More Miles dudes, I'm lookin' at you...).

If that happens, and at this point I honestly don't know if it will, then I might be cutting back some on the dog and upland/waterfowl-related items I write here. But not much, because I can't abandon writing for my own amusement altogether, and of course I've got everything and anything else to write about, too. It's a strange and inchoate beat I march to, and I don't see the blog deviating much from that course regardless of what I write for others.

And whatever I write, next time I'll try to keep from going almost two weeks between writing it...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Back from My Own Rooster Road Trip #1

My apologies for the week of non activity. Immediately following the last post, the Gods decided to throw me a bone and I put a nice fat doe in the freezer. And it's the damndest thing: I don't even miss the horns. Hopefully a few more will follow before the season(s) ends.

But no sooner had I finished that then I had to pack for a week of driving (endless driving) and pheasant hunting in Aberdeen, South Dakota with the folks at Pheasants Forever, thus the reason for my absence.

I had a wonderful time. I experienced some amazing hunting, managed to not embarrass myself shooting, watched a lot of good dog work, watched my dog chase after said dogs (maybe she learned something) met some new friends, learned a lot about the conservation work PF does, finally got to meet in person a number of guys I had only known through e-mail, generally had a blast and hope like hell they invite me back next year. Pics and more info to follow, of course.

But I'm home now, having just stumbled in after a fourteen-hour drive that started in a winter storm warning and ended in t-shirt weather. I'm bleary-eyed, dead-tired and haven't checked my e-mail since Monday. I'm going to bed...