Saturday, April 28, 2012

How Do You Gift-Wrap A Bullfrog?

Growing up, bullfrogs were an integral part of my life. When I was young, I happily caught their tadpoles in the creeks and ponds around my house. When I was a bit older I discovered that when the bass weren’t cooperating, not only would a bullfrog willingly, even greedily stuff a Texas-rigged six-inch plastic worm into its gaping maw every single time, but that if I caught enough of them, a fried frog leg dinner was gustatory heaven.

In fact, bullfrogs may have helped me get married. One of the first dates I went on in college with my future wife was a failed bass fishing trip saved by a pond full of ravenous bullfrogs. I figured any sorority girl who thought catching bullfrogs fun was a girl worth keeping, and I guess she thought I was just enough of a weirdo to be mildly interesting.

But eventually, we moved away from my central Oklahoma hometown, with its abundant rainfall, great fishing and numerous lakes and ponds, to the high, arid plains of far northwest Oklahoma, where water, bass and bullfrogs were in much less abundance. I still fished as much as I could, and still do, but eventually bobwhite quail and bird dogs replaced largemouth bass and bullfrogs in the forefront of my consciousness.

That is, until yesterday, when my youngest son informed me that what he wanted for his birthday was… a bullfrog. I have no idea why, but it beats the hell out of a iPod in my book. And cheaper, too. The only problem was finding one.  
Now, bullfrogs aren’t rare around here by any stretch of the imagination, but public water where they can be caught is. The only real option open to me was a small state park pond where I take the kids perch fishing. I didn’t even know if the pond had any bullfrogs in it. I had never seen nor heard one there, but being the good father I am, I got the kids off the school early this morning, rigged up a weightless, six-inch Texas-rigged worm and headed for the park, a somewhat fetid, trash-strewn stretch of water inhabited primarily by potato chip bags, beer cans, discarded fishing line, and stunted perch.

A quick walk around the pond elicited no jumping bullfrogs, and a scan of the slimy vegetation ring revealed no tell-tale bullfrog head poking above the surface. I was about give up and go home when I heard that old familiar “jug-a-rum” sound from the shoreline. Apparently I had walked right by a particularly ballsy bullfrog who had refused to be flushed the first time around.

I quickly spotted the frog, snuck a little closer and made a cast…

I’d like to say that the frog was an educated frog, a wiley old veteran of countless capture attempts who had probably seen it all in his long life, and that it was gonna take a helluva lot more than a six-inch plastic worm dangled in front of his snout to fool him, and that I stood there for a couple hours throwing everything in the tackle box before finally enticing him on the very last cast before giving up.

Uh, no. He did exactly what his simple, predatory amphibian brain told him to do, and what every other bullfrog I’ve ever caught did: he turned, opened his mouth and stuffed that worm into it as quickly as he could.

So now I have fulfilled my youngest son’s birthday wish. Since this frog's a birthday present, and since there obviously aren’t enough of his friends to make me a meal (Besides, the question of “Daddy, where did Hoppy go?” would be a little awkward…) this particular frog will be looked at for a few days and then released back to the cesspool from whence he came, none the worse for wear.

But my question is: how do you gift-wrap a bullfrog?  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Ozzy Update and Big Basket 'O Perch

I just realized I never announced what we'd named the new little Love bugger. The family, after much debate, decided on "Ozzy." Not that the name Ozzy has any special meaning or significance, we just all agreed that he sort of looked like an Ozzy. So he became Ozzy. Such is life when you're a pup or a newborn child.

Ozzy's doing just fine. He's a very laid-back little dude in the house (aside from a little cat-chasing), but quite active and bold when running around outside. I liked his disposition from the beginning, and I'm liking it more and more as I get to know him better. I'm hoping that fondness will transfer smoothly to how he works out in the field. Hard to tell about such things at 12 weeks of age, but I think it will. So far we've gone on walks around the neighborhood and into the woods at the back of the property. I'll probably start introducing him to a few birds in the next couple weeks.

I haven't been out turkey hunting yet, to my everlasting shame. Just too much stuff getting in the way. Perhaps this weekend, but I have managed to sneak out for a couple quick trips to local waters for some fishing, and I have to say, flyrodding for panfish is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do. I grew up a hard-core, metal-chunking, baitcaster-throwing bass fanatic, and I probably always will be, but there's a lot to be said for a warm spring day, a three-weight and a pond full of willing, feisty and delicious sunfish.

It's not technically demanding in terms of equipment or skill, it's great practice for those of us who are not particularly talented flycasters, it can be an absolutely deadly way to sack up a bunch of perch fillets, and it's a helluva lot of fun.

I may (or to be more truthful, probably) never get the chance to cast a fly to a bonefish, a permit, a tarpon, or any other flyfishing glamour species, because that takes a minimum level of real skill, of which I have none, and also because I will probably never be able to afford the opportunity.

But you take your Zen where and when you can find it, and this 'aint bad, you know?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

On Being Flippant: A Cautionary Tale...

Maybe I should have just kept my mouth shut with that last blog post...

Gov. Mary Fallin requested a federal disaster declaration Wednesday for Woodward County for damage caused in a tornado that killed at least six people and damaged or destroyed dozens of homes and businesses early Sunday. The designation would free up low-interest loans and grants for uninsured damage caused by the tornado.

“Last weekend's deadly tornadoes led to the tragic loss of six lives and destroyed or severely damaged many homes and businesses,” Fallin said. “Having spoken with many of the residents in Woodward who lost everything, I know how important it is to do everything in our power to quickly rebuild this community. This disaster declaration would be an important first step in helping residents and businesses get back on their feet.”

It hit late Saturday night after many people thought the main tornado danger was over. Six dead, at least 89 homes and 13 businesses completely destroyed and many others damaged. We rode it out in the saferoom, but it ended up passing north and west of us.

If you've never experienced a tornado, it's hard to adequately describe the sense of absolute powerlessness you have in the face of it. Witnessing a tornado from the chaser's position of observational detachment, that feeling of powerlessness manifests itself as an exhilarating sense of sheer awe and wonder at the sight of something so incredibly powerful and violent.

But witnessing a tornado from a position of acutely vested interest (in your home, your family, your life...), that sense of powerlessness isn't quite so exhilarating. Watching as a tornado comes your way and knowing there's not a damn thing you can do about it is about as perfect a metaphor for helplessness as my feeble mind can muster. And when it comes in the dead of night, it's that much worse.

For a good idea of how terrifying nighttime tornadoes are, watch this short video of stormchaser Marty Logan tracking the tornado as it comes into Woodward. Marty is a chaser for the CBS affiliate in Oklahoma City and a guy I've chased with a number of times. He's the one I was with the night of the infamous Greensburg, Kansas tornado.

But Marty is also a retired Woodward firefighter, and it was obviously hard trying to stay focused on his job as a twister was destroying a big chunk of his hometown. He did a helluva job that night, and is directly credited with saving lives with his on-air reporting, as lightning had knocked out many of the city's sirens. I know we were certainly hanging on his reports as we hovered near the saferoom door (You'll have to ignore the douchebag hawking cars at the beginning...)

Friday, April 13, 2012

High Risk...

Apparently, many of us here in Oklahoma (and farther north into Nebraska) will be swept off the face of the planet tomorrow, but some of us may get lucky enough to be swept off the face of the planet a little sooner if storms fire up this evening.

Here's the Day Two Outlook from the Storm Prediction Center in Ye Olde Home Town of Norman, Oklahoma...

And this little blurb from the AP...

The Storm Prediction Center says fierce storms are likely Saturday in a band running through the middle of the nation from Texas north to Minnesota. Forecasters at the center in Norman, Okla., said Friday the worst weather is expected between Oklahoma City and Salina, Kan., but other areas also could see severe storms with baseball-sized hail and winds of up to 70 mph.

The severe storms are expected to strike Saturday afternoon and evening, and the Storm Prediction Center says the outbreak could be a "high-end, life-threatening event."

The SPC doesn't issue high risk designations very often, and back when I was a fairly active chaser, this would be one of those days for which I'd clear the calendar. Now that I rarely chase storms, I'll probably still clear the calendar, but for matters relating to rod and/or gun rather than twisting funnels of death. Age and its resulting mellowness will do that to you, but I'll keep one eye on the sky and I'll have a camera in the truck. Just in case. Because springtime on the southern plains is an interesting time, indeed...

From a little essay I penned for the February 2007 issue of Oklahoma Today

If there's anything finer or more spirit renewing than a warm sun-drenched spring afternoon in Oklahoma, this admittedly parochial native hasn't yet experienced it. Winter's gray and dreary yoke has finally been thrown off, replaced with a dazzling palette of fresh color and light borne to us on a whispering southern breeze.

On such a day, it seems, the possibilities are limitless. On such a day, under a brilliantly clear azure sky, trouble seems a million miles away.

As most Oklahomans know, however, trouble may be forming, unseen, right over our heads.

When we see the tiny little multi-colored state map in the corner of the television screen or hear that disembodied computer voice on the radio we know the day, however beautiful, just got tarnished with the slightest tinge of anxiety.

There is perhaps no more apt metaphor for the wildly bipolar nature of our state's weather than the tornado watch. In essence, it tells us that on some of the most achingly beautiful, carefree days of the year, we are routinely expected to be on the lookout for weather that can and will rip and tear asunder virtually everything we hold dear, up to and including our very lives.

No wonder some people think living in Oklahoma should come with a warning label.

The official definition goes something along the lines of  "a tornado watch means that conditions are favorable in the next few hours for the development of tornadoes within the watch area."

But anyone who has spent more than a season in Oklahoma knows what that really means is "Don't worry; chances are absolutely nothing is going to happen today, unless, of course, it does."

Zen Buddhism as weather forecast.

Truth is, most Oklahomans are nonchalant about the issuance of a tornado watch because, statistically speaking, they can be. There's a world of difference between possible and probable, and  as we know through experience the majority of tornado watches don't produce tornadoes.

In reality, however, there's an element of whistling past the graveyard in such nonchalance, and only the truly moronic among us completely disregard the tornado watch., even when most of them fizzle into nothing. At the picnic, on the lake, at the game, wherever we are and whatever we're doing, there's always that little kernel of information that colors every decision on those certain days the air just feels different somehow, an oppressively palpable texture of frightening possibility.

This peculiar precognizance we experience does of course beg the question of whether Oklahomans, by reason of geography and experience, can just tell when bad weather is imminent.

Scientists will, of course, say no. If the collective brilliance of thousands of our brightest minds and most powerful supercomputers still can't fully explain and predict the incredibly complex and mysterious dynamics of tornado development, then there's no compelling reason to believe that John or Jane Doe Sooner can step outside, peer into the sky and say with any degree of authority that today's tornado watch is different, more menacing, somehow more real.

And in truth, they'd be right. I for one would rather put my faith in trained meteorologists, Doppler radar and sophisticated computer models than in Uncle Leroy's weather-predicting rheumatic joints.

But still, if there's one thing Oklahomans should be intrinsically tuned in to, it's the weather. Perhaps over the course of the last century we've developed some deeper, subconscious connection to the subtle atmospheric markers that initiate tornado development and the tornado watch is merely the empiric confirmation of that sixth sense. Or not. Who knows? Just remember to act calm and relaxed when the New Jersey relatives are here next spring and the season's first tornado watch is issued. We've got a reputation to maintain, you know. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Because Everything Else Is Just Ice...

Why yes, in point of fact I do only chill my bourbon with hailstones formed at 65,000 feet deep within the swirling updraft of a tornadic, violently raging southern plains thunderstorm.

Doesn't everyone of appropriately good taste and sophistication?

In fact, I think that's my new career. I'm going to buy a refrigerated truck and follow the plains storm season from south to north collecting hail, which I will then clean, package and sell to the One Percent as an exclusive, high-end premium drink ice.

Beats the hell outta writing for a living. Literally and figuratively...

*And in case you're wondering, hailstone-chilled bourbon isn't bad. Not bad at all. I might be on to something here...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Morel Of This Story Is...

...when you're on the cusp of your 41st year on this doomed rock, and you realize that you're no longer the young man you once were, and you decide you really need to get in shape before next fall because you're going to be chasing after not one, but two young dogs (thankfully the third is old, fat and slow these days...), and you hop on your bike for a long, wheezing ride that only reinforces the depressing reality of your age and sloth, and when you're a few too many miles from the house and are about to collapse and call 911 to give your fat ass a ride home, and you're discouraged that you've let yourself get into this sorry state after years of swearing that you wouldn't...

Make sure you keep your eyes peeled, as you're falling to the ground, for ephemeral spring treasures on the side of the trail.

And oh, yes. If you're really lucky, make sure you bring a bag...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Refried Mallard: The Ghosts of Hunting's Past.

An old post from a few years back, when I first started the blog and (I'm pretty sure )  Suburban Bushwacker and my wife were the only readers. The wife has since left me*, but I think SBW is still around...

*Ok, so that's not quite true. Sorry, honey. It was purely for comedic effect...

There are reminders all around us, if we care to look for them, of what the area now known as Oklahoma was like in the not-too-distant past: A small patch of native prairie stubbornly hanging on in an undeveloped lot, an isolated prairie dog town or maybe a few sage-covered sandhills that, when viewed just right, give the brief illusion of a vast geographical continuity free of powerlines, cell towers or pumpjacks.

Although now largely gone in any kind of ecologically viable sense, we still venerate their memory as talismanic symbols of the plains’ rich natural heritage, and in the context of that history there is no figure as potent as the bison.

Everyone, of course, knows the story: the unimaginably vast herds of bison, the equally unimaginable slaughter that followed, the slow climb back from the brink of extinction. Environmental historians continue to debate just how many bison there actually were immediately prior to white expansion into the plains, but what’s not in dispute is that bison were the linchpin of the entire plains ecosystem as well as the cultural and sustenance base for virtually all the plains tribes.

And when the bison disappeared, the very essence of pre-settlement Oklahoma disappeared with them. It was of course inevitable, given the pressures coming to bear from the inexorable westward march of expansion. Bison and the plains tribes that depended on them, as well as wolves, bears, elk and other historical plains species simply did not, could not fit into the post-settlement nexus, so they were methodically eliminated from it.

So the plains are a place populated by ghosts as much as they are by people. If you are lucky enough to find a remaining sliver of native grassland, walk it and remind yourself that wherever you step you are walking on ground already trodden by countless generations of bison and the people who hunted them.

Which brings us to this spearpoint.

There is a place near my home, a public hunting area perched on the high rolling plains of northwestern Oklahoma that has yielded archeological treasures which are priceless in their importance to our cultural heritage.

This particular Clovis point - which was fashioned from alabates flint quarried some 200 miles west of where it was discovered – was almost certainly thrust through a bison’s ribcage some 10,700 years ago and subsequently lost in the chaos of the hunt. And there it stayed through millenia, buried at the base of a bluff overlooking the river until a few years ago when an archeologist plucked it from its bed of fossilized bones.

But not before I snapped a picture of it.

Not far away from this site, on the same public hunting area, is another ancient hunt site where we know for certain that some 10,000 years ago an artistically inclined Paleoindian hunter of the Folsom culture felt compelled to draw a red lightning bolt on the skull of one of the bison his or her group had been hunting along the bluffs of the North Canadian river. No one knows exactly why. It is the oldest design-painted object yet found in North America.*

I think an older object has been found (back east, maybe?) since I first wrote this blog, but I may be wrong.

As a hunter, I like to think it was out of simple respect and admiration for such a noble animal. The last bison disappeared from the bluffs and grasslands along this river well over a century ago and all I am able to hunt are deer. But I will sometimes sit on this same bluff during bow season and marvel at the fact that on this spot I have a direct connection with 10,000 years of hunting history, from those ancient Clovis and Folsom cultures on through the numerous plains tribes who hunted this area until Europeans arrived.

And sometimes when I get depressed and discouraged over what hunting in America seems to have degenerated  into, I recall that Clovis point nestled among the bones, and it lifts me just a bit.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Inescapable Blogging Truism #1*

"No matter what you write about, how you write it, or how obviously tongue-in-cheek you think it reads, there's always going to be A. at least one (and generally more) insufferably pedantic weenie out there to tell you how wrong you are, and why, or B. at least one (and almost always more) cluelessly outraged fucktard who is genetically incapable of grasping the nuances of humor, or C. some horrible combination of both A and B."

*Truism is not directed at any weenie and/or fucktard in particular, and absolutely no weenies and/or fucktards who read the MOD, but merely a pattern I've noticed on virtually all blogs...

Monday, April 2, 2012

Yet Another Memo From The Gods...

In case you missed my first one...

To: Chad Love

From: The Gods

Subject: Your alleged originality re: this blog post  and continued cosmic screwing.

Date: The Day After April Fool's Day

Dear Mr Love,

It has come to our attention that you recently indicated in your blog post of 3-12-12 that you had finally, perhaps, after years of fruitless trying, expressed a quasi-original idea that would serve to release you from the contractual obligation you agreed to as a condition of birth.

We regret to inform you that, in point of fact, your quasi-original idea, wasn't. At least not for you...

From Field & Stream's Flytalk blog...

There are a number of good fly fishing books scheduled for release this spring, but my favorite of the bunch really isn't a book at all. Well, at least not in the printed, traditional sense.
"Pulp Fly" is an e-book featuring stories from a collection of bloggers. The title plays off the "pulp fiction" publishing revolution of the early 20th Century, where cheap printing materials opened mass market opportunities, and boosted the careers of writers now considered literary greats, like Jack London and Zane Grey.
I was honored to write the foreword for Pulp Fly, because I think the stories are gritty, honest, and interesting. You probably know many of the contributors, like Bob White, who is known as one of the best fly fishing artists today (; White produced the cover art for this book and also contributed a wonderful essay. Bruce Smithhammer of and The Drake fame offers a really solid piece that connects hunting with fishing.

"...What makes this book special is that all the contributors are good writers who have contributed to "mainstream" publications, but the blog format and this e-book allows them to dabble in the realm of "tell us what you really think." And I think delving into the "people aspect" of fly fishing (a place where some traditional print publishers are less able and willing to go these days) is liberating, not only for the writer, but also for the reader.   

In light of this, Mr. Love, and pursuant to the stipulations of said original contract, the gods have decided that your cosmic screwing will continue. Terribly sorry, Pacta sunt servanda, you know. Crying won't help, either. It's not like one of your handful of readers didn't try to warn you beforehand with a helpful link to the publication, you pathetic loser.

...Well, shit. So much for my original ideas. I think the last thing the world needs (no offense) is another literary flyfishing venue, but I have to hand it to the creators of Pulp Fly; its format is exactly what I was envisioning.

Will I buy it? Probably. I don't really know any of the other writers because (again, no offense) I'm not really into most flyfishing writing or blogs, but Smithhammer's a fellow bird hunter and a damn good writer, and I'm a big fan of Bob White's artwork, so yeah, it'd probably be worth the five buck investment for that alone, especially when compared to what five bucks gets you on the newsstand nowadays.