Monday, December 17, 2012

Splitting Wood...

...really makes me feel like a man. A fat, broken-down, infirm, middle-aged, out-of-shape, congenitally lazy, candy-assed man who dreams of someday owning a hydraulic log splitter so he can finally fulfill his lifelong goal of being able to split wood with one hand while eating a cheeseburger with the other. Because that's what I call progress...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Finally Some Green, and a Long-Tailed Surprise.

It's been an absolutely miserable fowling season thus far, but Tess and I finally got out for a little duck hunting yesterday on the shallow, half-empty sandbox that is our local reservoir. We were hoping to catch a few mallards riding the front south. We're still hoping, and waiting, because wherever they are, they sure as hell aren't here. At least not yet. This drake and the hen he accompanied were not only the only mallards to give the decoys a look, they were damn near the only mallards on the lake. She's still there, but he's in my freezer.

Hard to believe this is the first duck I've shot (or shot at) this season, but hopefully things will pick up some as we get into the late season. There's no real chance for significant rainfall in the short-to-medium term, so you either must recalibrate expectations to fit the climatological reality or give up. I can't say that I like the new normal, but as that annoying, over-used and utterly useless catchphrase goes, it is what it is. At least Tess, who has certainly gotten the short end of the field-time stick this year, got the chance to get out of the yard...

That lone mallard, however, was not the only duck I shot yesterday. Not long after I shot him, I got quite the surprise when a single hen long-tailed duck plopped itself into my diver spread and shortly thereafter was plopped into my waiting hands. We get very few sea ducks here on the plains of western Oklahoma, and this one was certainly a lifer for me, and more than made up for the dearth of dabblers.

This makes species number sixteen for Tess, and her first (and likely last) sea duck. Tragically, however, my camera battery died on me and I was unable to get any pictures of Tess either on the retrieve or with the duck in the field. I don't usually get birds mounted (too cheap, too poor, too hungry) but since I don't have an appropriately tasteful and artistic photographic record of the moment, the bird is in the freezer and will be going to a taxidermist when I get some money.

I did snap a few pics when I got home, but of course that's a poor substitute for a good field photo in natural light and surroundings. Plus it was almost dark, so I apologize in advance for the crappy photograph. I offer it not in pride, but only as photographic proof that I did, indeed, shoot a long-tailed duck. She's much prettier than that horrid photograph indicates, and I think it'll be a nice mount.

I have no idea what she was doing so outside her normal range, here in the arid sandhills of far northwest Oklahoma, and I can only guess as to where she was heading. But here in Oklahoma she shall reside from now on, or at least until I move somewhere else. I do confess, however, to a twinge of guilt for having shot her so far from home and others of her kind, and strictly as a bucket list trophy. I don't often do that, and I suppose that to question yourself - however mildly - over such things when you do, is a natural reaction to the never-insignificant act of killing.

Friday, December 7, 2012


Had a good haul at the local thrift store yesterday. I stopped by on my way out of town, and noticed two shopping carts full of books, a quarter apiece. How can you resist that? So I commenced to rummaging, and came up with some good finds, chief among them this stated first edition, first printing of Thomas McGuane's first novel, The Sporting Club.

In mint condition this one would be in the $800-950 range, but in book collecting,condition is everything, and while this copy is in good shape, the dust jacket has some issues and I doubt I could get $200 for it. Which is a moot point, of course. I collect books, I don't sell them, so for me this is a major find of a favored author for my meager first and rare-edition shelf.

I also found a number of really nice ex-library books, including what is stated as a first-edition Sterling North Rascal, although the dust jacket doesn't seem to match other first-editions, and an early Book Club edition of Jim Kjelgaard's classic Big Red.

In addition, I picked up an excellent condition first-edition Judy Blume Blubber, a very early Dr. Suess Bartholomew and the Oobleck, a first American edition Bedknob and Broomstick (yep, the book the later Disney classic movie was based on) and an early American edition of Felix Salten's classic (or infamous, depending on how you feel about deer hunting. For my views see two blogs below...) Bambi.

Believe it or not, there is a pretty thriving market in collectable children's and young adult books, and some of the classic titles can command big bucks. I found that out last year when I stumbled across (in the same thrift store) what I thought at the time was a first edition of Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach. I just bought it for the kids because it was beautifully illustrated, but, being a bibliophile, I got curious about what it might be worth. A shitload, as it turns out. Unfortunately, some further snooping revealed that my Dahl book wasn't in fact a true first-edition, but ever since then I have kept my eyes peeled for classic children's books.

I just wanted to point that out in case any of you were wondering "Why the hell did he buy a copy of Judy Blume's Blubber? Isn't he a little old for that? Isn't that a little creepy?" In fact, it's worth about $75 bucks...

Other pretty cool titles I found include early editions of The Great Buffalo Hunt by Wayne Gard, I Fought With Custer, by Frazier and Robert Hunt, and a regrettably dustjacket-less 1960 (but not first edition) To Kill A Mockingbird, which is one-third of my personal Holy Trinity of modern first-editions.

What I'd give to find a true first-edition, jacketed Mockingbird, along with, of course Catcher in the Rye and Vonnegut's Player Piano. Although I'd also throw in Abbey's Desert Solitaire as the fourth tine. Hell, in reality I'd kill for any of Vonnegut's or Abbey's first editions. I've got first editions of The Monkey Wrench Gang and Down the River, but Desert Solitaire is the Abbey Grail for me.

Which does bring up an interesting point: if I found a pristine copy of either Mockingbird or Rye, would I sell it? Tough one, there. As a rule I don't sell books, period. But with prices of either of those titles in the $20,000 to $30,000 range, I might be tempted. That would buy an awfully nice shotgun...

At any, rate, for a sum total of five bucks, I may not have hit the book-collecting lottery yesterday, but I damn sure didn't do too shabby, either. It was enough to make me go buy a real lottery ticket. I am, after all a big believer in signs...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Mallard's Infinite Playlist: Mayan 2012 Christmas Doom Edition.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas! Think I've posted this before, but it's worth repeating. In fact, move over, Rudolph, because this is the best Christmas song ever. Especially this year. And remember, open 'yer presents before the 21st...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Baby Bear Buck...

Not too big. Not too small. Just right for someone who these days isn't much interested in holding out for something larger. Life and bird seasons are far too short to freeze (or sweat) your ass off for some 16 days waiting and hoping for something that may or may not make an appearance*. Besides, a nice buck is a nice buck regardless of some arbitrary "score."* Sitting in the opening morning darkness I spied a shooting star and asked for nothing more than a decent buck honorably taken. And some damn rain. Wish partially granted.

Taken with my "lucky" CZ 550 in the venerable, classic, and oh-so-cool 6.5x55. A gun and caliber that, for whatever reason, just seems to produce for me. I'm superstitious about such things, and have been wise enough to not trade this one off like I foolishly have so many others. It also helps, I suppose, that it's also the most accurate gun I own. Next year it's getting a stock refinish to bring out the figure currently hidden by the gawdawful finish CZ puts on their stocks, as well as a new Leupold 6x42 fixed-power scope to replace that inelegant variable.

Incidentally, in the four mornings I spent hunting down on the wife's family's home place, I had to endure dozens and dozens of flights of ducks winging their way overhead, with none of them, not a one, pitching into what is normally my A#1 duck hunting spot. Because they would bounce off the hardpan that used to be a slough. Because I have No. Effing. Water. Biggest fall flight on record, and I have yet to shoot a duck, because I have no private water on which to shoot them, and what little public water I have is closed due to deer gun season (as is my quail hunting). The drought grinds on.

I did, however, hear the beautiful sound of quail calling every morning I hunted the old homestead. They're in a precarious state these days, but a few of the precious little buggers are still hanging on, god knows how. I hope to take one bird over each dog out of the home covey, and then leave them be.

**I have to admit that I did catch a glimpse of a truly big buck on the third day of the season, got a little excited, and hunted for him exclusively until Thanksgiving morning, when this buck walked by and I came to my senses. What can I say? Hypocrisy is a perfectly normal component of the human condition...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mallard's Infinite Playlist: Son of Election Day Version

The Sex Pistols, confirming what we already knew...

Mallard's Infinite Playlist: Election Day Version

An election day civics lesson from the only band that mattered...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Virtue is nothing more than insufficient temptation...

 I have a hard and fast rule that I don't hunt local deer. In the five years we've lived here I've had some pretty nice bucks skulking around the place about this time of year, and I haven't drawn a bow on any of them.

It's not that it's illegal or anything. I could set up a stand or a blind in my back yard and proceed to happily and completely legally arrow as many deer as the law will allow. I don't feed them, even though it's perfectly legal to hunt over a feeder. I don't try to tame them or make them pets. These deer are completely wild and free-ranging. The bucks are, anyway. They only show up in the fall, and are gone as soon as they spot you.  The does, however, are lazy-ass loafers whom I practically have to kick out of the yard. Bitches.

The point is, there's really nothing ethically or legally wrong with hunting close (OK, very close, like back yard close) to home. Lots of people do it. Hell, my dad once shot a buck while sitting in his dining room (so maybe that's a little extreme but there were extenuating circumstances: He had just had back surgery, couldn't walk, and he needed the meat. My father is nothing if not practical. Once he healed up, however, it was right back to the woods for him and he hasn't shot a home-based buck since.).

I'm the same way. I just feel like a deer should be earned with some effort and shoe leather, something a bit more involved, a bit more rigorous, than opening the patio door, walking a hundred or so yards and sitting down.

But holy shit, this guy is tempting me. He showed up a couple days ago, following a doe. He's nice. Very nice...

I've never seen him before, and so far, I've only seen him the one time during the last weekend of black powder season. He hasn't been back to tempt me since. For all I know he's hanging in someone's garage right now and the point is moot.

And even though I told myself I wasn't going to bow hunt this year, that I was going to concentrate on the dogs and spend every spare moment bird hunting, I've been flinging a few arrows at the target the past couple days, you know, just to keep in practice. No reason, no reason at all, just a Kyudo thing, really, a meditative device, like yoga or tai chi. Honest...

With apologies to the ghost of George Bernard Shaw for butchering his quote...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Behold Headstonehenge!

I meant to post this yesterday on Halloween because, well, it's a little creepy, but I got busy and never got around to it.

Yes, that is a firepit (still under construction) with old headstones as the benches. Am I the only person in the world with a backyard firepit comprised of cemetery totems? Perhaps. But don't worry, the owners don't mind. Ba dum ba!

Actually, no, I didn't steal them. These graveyard monoliths were acquired by completely honest means. For the story you'll have to read this 2008 F&S blog. Or I'll just cut-and-paste a graf or two...

From my ancient Field & Stream blog post...

I recently came into possession of a number of polished granite headstones. Now before you jump to any grave-robbing conclusions, I picked them up from an old building that used to be a monument company but is very soon going to be a pile of rubble. My plumber bought the property and told me I could scrounge anything I wanted. Imagine my surprise to find all these beautiful slabs of granite just lying around.

So I brought them home, much to my wife's chagrin. She flatly refused to allow me to scatter them through her flowerbeds. I thought it would be quirky and off-beat, but for some reason she considered it morbid and disturbing.

Since my reputation in the neighborhood is already a bit dodgy, I reluctantly agreed, but then hit on a great idea: I would find timeless quotes, inscribe them on the granite and place them strategically around our property! Even my wife agreed it was a pretty cool idea.

For example, this one is, which I found on Steve Bodio's excellent blog is going in front of my dog kennels: "Hee cannot be a gentleman whych loveth not a dogge" which comes from a 1555 book entitled "The Institucion of a Gentleman."

"Litera Scripta Manet" or "the written word endures" will be going on a slab placed outside my office window, while the Ben Johnson quote that hangs above the Shakespeare & Co. book store in Paris  "Thou art alive still while thy book doth live and we have wits to read and praise to give" will be going in my front yard.

So that's the background. In truth, I never got around to having inscriptions cut into the headstones because I changed my mind about the whole project. I scrapped the quotes idea and decided I would use the stones to build a miniature Stonehenge firepit in the back yard. That way, as I told the wife, on the summer and winter Solstices we could sacrifice a goat, then beat drums as we danced nekkid and fornicated around the fire. Or maybe beat drums, sacrifice the goat, then dance nekkid, then fornicate. Or maybe fornicate, then one of us dance nekkid while the other beat drums, and we just spare the goat.... hell, I don't know, we'd make it work somehow...

Anyway, the wife - needless to say - quickly informed me that, were I to actually build my miniature Stonehenge, I'd most certainly be dancing nekkid, beating drums and fornicating with myself. Or the goat.

Undaunted, I quickly got to work. Just as quickly, I realized that despite hauling three pick-up loads of headstones past our worried-looking neighbors, I wasn't going to have nearly enough stone to build even a half-ass Stonehenge replica. Dejected, I scaled back the project to a more attainable (and normal) goal. I chose a few stones, cut some firewood rounds for bases, and made headstone benches.

No Stonehenge replica, no nekkid fornicatin', no drum-beating and (in hindsight, probably a good thing) no freaked-out neighbors. Just an ordinary backyard firepit that just happens to have a tastefully understated touch of ghoulish weirdness to it.

It's not finished, of course. I still need to put down flagstone within the circle, and I still have a lot of unused headstones I haven't figured out how, exactly, to incorporate into the design. But it serves its purpose well enough. The dogs like it, anyway.

And even though it's not technically correct, I still like to call it Headstonehenge. It's a good conversation starter. Or ender, depending on how you're wired. I've used it as both...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Redux in the October Country

 Well, it's almost Halloween, and since I'm once again facing the terrifying prospect of taking my children trick-or-treating tomorrow night, I thought it appropriate (and appropriately lazy)  to re-post my Halloween Screed from last year. Because it still irritates me.

However, even though it was titled "Assholes and Autumn People" that post wasn't entirely about stupid people. It was also about October, which (along with November and May) is one of my favorite months, and Halloween, my favorite holiday, and Ray Bradbury, one of my favorite authors. Also, at the suggestion of Steve Bodio in last year's comment section, I'm adding the intro to Bradbury's classic short-story collection "The October Country" (photo above).

Anyway, enjoy. Or not. I don't really care.

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”   (or any Bradbury story) 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...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

"Huntsman, What Quarry?" A Literary Criticism...

 Last weekend I took the boys (and Ozzy the pup) to spend a few days in my hometown of Norman, Oklahoma, visiting family and doing a little yard work for my grandmother. While there I was delighted to discover that the Norman Public Library, one of my favorite places in the whole world and a building in which a very sizable chunk of my childhood was spent in escapist bliss, was having its annual book sale.

So of course I hustled on down to see what could be had. I found a few good titles. A leather-bound limited first-edition "Bishop's Wildfowl" was a cool score for me, as was a copy of "Duck Shooting Along the Atlantic Tidewater." I also found an excellent condition ex-library 1958 hardcover (w/excellent dustjacket) "Martian Chronicles" as well as an old paperback copy of Richard Brautigan's "Trout Fishing in America", a UT Press copy of J. Frank Dobie's "Rattlesnakes" and a few others here and there. Nothing really terribly valuable or collectable, but nice books that I'll enjoy having on my shelf.

One of the books I picked up was a regrettably dustjacketless first-edition (1939) copy of Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Huntsman, What Quarry?" with an inscription that read "For Lucille, Damn the Torpedoes! Doris, 1944."

I love finding old books with cryptic inscriptions like that. Stokes the imagination. Most of them seem to have something to do with love, either its confounding mystery and vexation or its abiding power .

I don't know what inside joke Doris and Lucille had in mind back in '44, but it was a nice gift, from a time when the act of giving a book perhaps meant a little more than it does now. At any rate, I've been reading through the collection a bit, specifically the title poem, "Huntsman, What Quarry?" which reads thusly, and I'd like to offer my thoughts below...

"Huntsman, what quarry
On the dry hill
Do your hounds harry?

When the red oak is bare
And the white oak still
Rattles its leaves
In the cold air:
What fox runs there?"

"Girl, gathering acorns
In the cold autumn,
I hunt the hot pads
That ever run before,
I hunt the pointed mask
That makes no reply,
I hunt the red brush
Of remembered joy."

"To tame or to destroy?"

"To destroy."

"Huntsman, hard by
In a wood of grey beeches
Whose leaves are on the ground,
Is a house with a fire;
You can see the smoke from here.
There's supper and soft bed
And not a soul around.
Come with me there;
Bide there with me;
And let the fox run free."

The horse that he rode on
Reached down its neck,
Blew upon the acorns,
nuzzled them aside;
The sun was near setting;
He thought, "Shall I heed her?"
He thought, "Shall I take her
For a one-night's bride?"

He smelled the sweet smoke,
He looked the lady over;
Her hand was on his knee;
But like a flame from cover
The red fox broke-
And "Hoick! Hoick!" cried he.

Dude, you're an idiot...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My First Taste of Hunishment and Some PF Goodness

                                                        Photo By Anthony Hauck

I totally ripped off this photograph from the Quail Forever Facebook page. It was taken during last month's Montana trip and depicts the moment I finally exacted my revenge on the LGB's (little gray bastards) that had up to that point frustrated Anthony and me to no end. Wild flush after wild flush after wild flush. No fault of the dogs, either, just tough conditions. I began to develop something of a grudge. And when I finally got the chance to take my first shot at a Hun, it ended up being a close walk-up single, just like a quail. You can read about it here, if you are so inclined (and I urge you to be so inclined...). Huns are neat birds, but a bit unpredictable, sort of a crazy Slavic cousin to our allegedly genteel bobs. I like them much.

                                                          Photo by Anthony Hauck

This second pic, also by Pheasants Forever's Anthony Hauck shows an absolutely beautiful chunk of Montana prairie that was purchased by PF, lovingly restored, and then enrolled in Montana's block management program for the perambulatory pleasure of upland hunters everywhere. Coffee Creek, it's called, and it's a gorgeous place that I hope to hunt again if I can sell enough plasma to make it back up to Montana next fall.

I'm proud to say that PF/QF is my favorite conservation group. They're doing inspired work on all fronts, from the sewage-and-rot-filled halls of Congress to pristine grassland temples like Coffee Creek, and they're doing it on not a lot of money or resources. If you're not a member, then damn it, you need to be. They're not just about the pheasants, at all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Even Superman Says "Screw It"...

When even Superman throws up his hands and says "to hell with journalism", you know we're in trouble...

From Salon

In issue No. 13 of the current Superman comic book series, out tomorrow, Clark Kent will dramatically quit his day job as a reporter at the Daily Planet in front of the entire staff. The change in Kent’s character reflects writer Scott Lobdell’s goal of making Superman more relevant in the 21st century (part of a grander push from DC’s “New 52″ relaunch of several comics). A DC representative said, “This is not the first time in DC Comics history that Clark Kent has left the Planet, and this time the resignation reflects present-day issues – the balance of journalism vs. entertainment, the role of new media, the rise of the citizen journalist, etc.”
Lobdell told USA Today, “Rather than Clark be this clownish suit that Superman puts on, we’re going to really see Clark come into his own in the next few years as far as being a guy who takes to the Internet and to the airwaves and starts speaking an unvarnished truth.”
So what will Clark, a frustrated 27-year-old guy who “is arguably the most powerful person on the planet” do? Lobdell said, “I don’t think he’s going to be filling out an application anywhere … He is more likely to start the next Huffington Post or the next Drudge Report than he is to go find someone else to get assignments or draw a paycheck from.”

Maybe he'll pen a blog, or write an e-book, or start a wildly popular Twitter feed that leads to a book deal (Shit Superman Says, maybe?). No more chasing a beat for the Man of Steel...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Yeah, I Could Live Here...

                                        Beautiful emptiness, just east of Lewistown, Montana
                                (Yeah, I'm shamelessly copying your header pic, Eight More Miles...)

The weather station just to our west hit a record high of 94 degrees yesterday, while just to our east dust storms are shutting down interstates and causing major wrecks. Deaths in Oklahoma from skeeter-borne West Nile virus just hit an all-time high. We're still stuck in that high-achieving "exceptional drought" category. The grass is crunchy. So are the ponds. Duck season won't start until this weekend, for all the good it'll do. Quail season doesn't start until November 10th, if there are any quail left.

Meanwhile, the lucky bastards in Montana have been bird hunting since the first of September. Yeah, I think I could live there, long winters be damned.  How hard could it be, right?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What Would You Do With A $3.7 Million Advance?

Book publishing isn't dead. As long as guys like Steve Bodio and Tom McIntyre (via Bodio) can continue to get their work published, there's hope.

Or maybe there's not, at least for some publishers.

From Salon

I like Lena Dunham. But her $3.7 million book deal with Random House, after a bidding war involving all of the major publishers, is emblematic of what is wrong with corporate publishing today. My first publishing job, in 1987, was at Random House. Bennett Cerf’s publishing company, the home of Faulkner, Capote and Dr. Seuss, is now only one of a handful of “major” publishers, by which I mean publishers who are corporate, bottom-line-driven, freighted with massive overhead and generally reactionary. The Dunham deal smacks of a search for the “Barton Fink” touch, as in get me the next “Bossypants” — stat. I realize that Dunham is an easy target — only 26, from an artsy New York family, the creator, star and director of her own HBO show. And there is an element of sexism in the backlash — a young, strong, independent female scores a big deal — but I have no problem with her agent, Kim Witherspoon, shaking down the dinosaurs on her client’s behalf. What the market will bear. I imagine Dunham’s book will kick ass, yet it will also get its critical ass handed to itself because of the advance. If Random House is already hucking it as the next Tina Fey meets Nora Ephron meets David Sedaris (no pressure, Lena), then the critics will be expecting Fey meets Ephron meets Sedaris.

Needless to say, I don't (or at least didn't, prior to reading about her book deal) know who the hell Lena Dunham is. I love both Tina Fey and David Sedaris, so I guess Lena Dunham is some new wunderkind in that mold, only younger?

I don't watch her HBO show (mainly because I don't have HBO). I'm assuming it's about a group of smart, funny, good-looking, fashionable, affluent, artsy, slightly cynical, slightly neurotic (but in an endearing Woody Allen kind of way) New York-based twentysomethings trying to figure out their crazy, complicated lives while having more fun and engaging in more great sex than you or I ever will.

Because, you know, we've just never had a show like that before. I'm sure this one's different. It's probably one of those "voice of a generation" shows that come along only about, say, a thousand or so times every generation...

At any rate, sour grapes aside, the rest of the Salon story is interesting, and goes on to postulate what some publishers could have done with that $3.7 million if they had had it to spread around and perhaps roll the literary dice with some unknown authors. Which I'm assuming is what publishers actually used to do.

The more I read about deals like this, the more I come to believe (and the article points this out) that small publishing companies and presses are the future, and that the Random Houses of the world are like huge, buoyant turds slowly circling the low-flow toilet. It's gonna take a few revolutions around the bowl, but they're assuredly headed for the septic tank.

But it's their money, and if they want to gamble it on such things, more power to 'em. As for me, I will buy Steve's new book and I will buy Tom McIntyre's new book. But I won't be buying Lena Dunham's new book. Mainly because it's going to be an advice book for young women, and I'm a fat, unhip, 41-year-old man. And, well, that would just be kinda creepy, don't you think?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

And Miles To Go Before I...Blog?

 It seems I've gone a few more miles off the publishing schedule than I had originally anticipated. Blame those damn lovely, dark and deep woods of the mind. That happens sometimes at the nexus of creativity (or lack thereof), motivation (or lack thereof), laziness (no lack thereof), despair (a bit of), and yes, discontent (again, no lack thereof).

 For whatever reason(s), I just have not been able to muster the interest to write for pleasure or whimsy these past few months. It's a cyclical thing that I suspect afflicts many writers who must juggle (and differentiate between) work writing and pleasure writing. Sometimes the former affects the latter to the latter's (and ultimately the former's) detriment. If that makes sense.

As a friend of mine recently put it, "For the past six months or so it feels like I've been at about 80 percent." When you're already working on the margins, creatively speaking, that missing 20 percent makes a difference. What's to blame? Who knows, so I'll blame sunspot activity and too much aspartame. From now on it's nothing but sunscreen and Throwback Pepsi for this kid.

Hopefully I'll start finding a muse, and if that bitch doesn't show maybe I can find some inspiration and creative solace in the fact that summer's gone, fall's here and I've already had some great hunts both close to home and far, far from it. And if I can't find something to mine from that, I might as well go work in public relations...(I kid, I kid, all my PR/marketing friends...)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I'm Still Here. Really...

Just taking a little time off trying to decide if I want to continue writing for a (tenuous) living, or double my income by embarking on an exciting new career in the quick service food industry. I hear there's a job opening making children all over the world fat and happy.

Or maybe I'll just wait and decide after the hunting seasons are over. September and all that it represents is almost here (thank you, planetary orbit!) and perhaps the world will look a bit brighter from behind a shotgun and a dog.  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Signs Of The Times...

Tough times for the written word these days, at least the printed written word. First comes news that the cherished elementary school institution Weekly Reader is no more...

 From the New York Times... 

The current-events magazine Weekly Reader, a classroom fixture since 1928, will not be returning from summer vacation, its new owner, Scholastic, confirmed this week.
Instead, Scholastic will fold the publication into its own weekly magazine, Scholastic News; the first issues will be co-branded with both names, Kyle Good, a spokeswoman for Scholastic, wrote in an e-mail...
...Weekly Reader for generations has been summarizing current events, tailored to the specific grade level of its student readers. Depending on how you view it, the effort could be seen as talking down to students, or as holding their hands as they are introduced to the complexities of the adult world they soon will be joining.
“It was Andy Griffith-ish — a safe thing, no advertising, no selling, just about teaching kids to read, teaching kids about the world,” said Mia Toschi, who was senior managing editor at Weekly Reader from 2003 to 2008. “A lot of teachers used it on Friday afternoon; just a wonderful end of the week.”
The magazine is perhaps best known for its presidential poll of students, which proved uncannily accurate — since it began with Dwight Eisenhower vs. Adlai Stevenson in 1956, it was wrong only once, in 1992, when it predicted that President George H.W. Bush would defeat Bill Clinton (the poll did not include Ross Perot). The 14th poll predicted a victory by Barack Obama.

I, like pretty much everyone else, grew up with Weekly Reader. My youngest son, apparently, will not. Interestingly enough, a few months ago, as I was rooting around in the depths of our piano, trying to find the source of an irritating vibration, I happened to discover two old Weekly Readers from the late 50s that had apparently slipped down there at some point in the distant past when my mother was taking childhood piano lessons.

Then, I saw today where another venerable literary institution - this one for grown-ups - is also going four legs to the sky.

From this story on

Milwaukee-based Kalmbach Publishing is looking for someone to buy The Writer magazine, which goes on hiatus after the October 2012 issue rolls off Kalmbach’s presses.
“Our hope is that The Writer will re-emerge under the careful stewardship of a new owner,” says a letter to contributors. 
The Writer was founded 125 years ago and, notes Media Industry Newsletter, has “hosted some of the most illustrious talents and bestselling authors in American letters: Somerset Maugham, Ray Bradbury, Sinclair Lewis, John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King, among them.”

I used to read The Writer religiously back when I was younger and, well, wanted to be a writer. Now that I am one, I blame The Writer for my more-or-less permanent state of poverty, angst, and career uncertainty. Still, I'm sad to see it go.

And finally, a prediction that yet another venerable (which these days is apparently code for "doomed") publication may cease print publication and go all digital...

From this story on

IAC/InterActiveCorp., which controls Newsweek, plans to announce a digital plan for the magazine this fall, though it’s unclear how that will affect the print publication.
Bloomberg reporter Edmund Lee, who listened to IAC/InterActiveCorp’s earning call, tweeted, “Barry Diller says there will be a plan in place later this year to take Newsweek digital only.” He tweeted later that he had confirmed this with a public relations representative.
All Things D’s Peter Kafka has a different take, saying his understanding is that Diller is “thinking about going Web-only with Newsweek, but hasn’t committed to it.” Kafka says he confirmed that understanding with a public relations rep.

Geez, Newsweek, too? I can't even begin to recall how many current-events assignments I plagiarized wrote back in junior high and high school from the pages of Newsweek. I guess today's kids can just cut-and-paste from their smartphones?

What's next? Going to the doctor's office and not finding a copy of Highlights For Children? Then I'll know the end is truly nigh...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cutthroat Slam Quest #2: Green With Envy

I have no idea why I want to catch all 14 subspecies of our native cutthroat trout. It's not like I'm a great flyfisherman. I'm not. I don't live in the heart of cutthroat country, I live in Oklahoma, where a cutthroat is what happens when you come between a redneck and his beer.

Hell, I don't even know my trout very well. Three years ago I (and I'm not making this up) probably couldn't have told you the difference between a cutthroat - any cutthroat -  and a brown. I knew what a rainbow looked like, and that was about it.  Again, please refer to my geographical location and distinctly warmwater redneck upbringing if you find that hard to believe.

But about three years ago, I started reading about our native cutthroat trout species, the tragic arc of their story, which is so goddamned familiar to anyone concerned with our fast-disappearing native species, and what can I say? The doomed little bastards drew me in. The cutthroat is, in so many ways, the lesser prairie chicken with gills, and with only slightly better long-term prospects.

So two years ago I decided that in order to raise public awareness of the cutthroat's plight I would buy myself a three-weight rod I couldn't cast for shit, a bunch of flies I couldn't identify, and boldly announce to the world that I was setting out on a quest to catch every subspecies of cutthroat trout in North America.

OK, so maybe it didn't go down quite like that. In truth, one day a couple years back, in response to a Field & Stream blog I had written, I got - out of the blue -  an invite to go fishing for Rio Grande cutthroats from a then-unknown-to-me Greg McReynolds, who worked (and still does) for Trout Unlimited.

So we met up in southern Colorado, spent a few days exploring and fishing, and Greg put me on my first-ever cutthroat. It was, I have to say, something of a Harry Middleton moment for me, holding that fish and everything it represents, in my hands.

That's when I decided that, as far as bucket lists go, that you could do a helluva lot worse than trying to catch all the various cutthroat subspecies before you die. At the very least it beats the living shit out of golf, baseball or any of those other stupid "Fifty Ego-Driven, Self-Indulgent Things For the One Percent To Wank Off To Before Passing Their Offshore Tax Shelters On To Their Children" books that are so depressingly prevalent these days.

So I decided that I would. Try, anyway. I have no specific timeline to this quest. I am, quite frankly, too poor to. I have neither the time nor the money to actively pursue each individual subspecies. Rather, I just have to sort of catch them as catch can, so to speak, which means I may very well kick off before actually holding this particular Grail in my hands. But that's OK. It's the journey, not the destination, right?

Which brings me to the fish in the picture. As luck would have it, my wife's family has a long-standing tradition of spending a week in Estes Park every summer. As luck would have it, I'm now a member of the family, which means that, for better or for worse, I spend a week in Estes Park each summer. As luck would have it, one of the rarest of the cutthroat subspecies, the greenback cutthroat, resides within the high-altitude confines of Rocky Mountain National Park, which, as luck would have it, sits right smack next to Estes Park.

But as my luck would have it, I have whiffed in spectacular fashion the past two years trying to catch one of the elusive little bastards. This is quite an accomplishment, because cutthroats are not (or at least so I've read) a particularly sophisticated fish to catch. Which makes sense, because I'm not a particularly sophisticated angler. Nevertheless, the last time we were up there I caught browns. I caught brook trout. I caught rainbows. Lots of them. But I caught no greenbacks.

So this summer I revamped my strategy, and decided that if I wanted a greenback I was going to have to earn it by leaving the easy fish far below and hiking up to where the greenbacks - and greenbacks only - reside.

And whaddya know, all it took was six miles of hiking in, a couple thousand feet of elevation, a dozen lost flies, an entire dictionary of new curse words and the humiliation of having an oxygen-bottle toting grandmother, a group of schoolchildren and some dude in jorts, high tops and an Iron Maiden concert t-shirt with the sleeves cut off pass my wheezing, flatland ass on the trail up the mountain.

But when it finally happened, when I finally slid that first jewel-like trout into the shallow water at my feet to take a quick photograph before release, it was all worth it. That wasn't just a fish lying there glinting in the sun, it was a little bit of American history, and a living, breathing cautionary tale about why we should never stop giving a shit about such fragile treasures. What a beautiful thing, huh? (The second pic is actually a different fish...)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Been A Little Slow Around Here...

                                       With apologies to Thomas McGuane. I suck at Photoshop...

Yeah, I took a month or so off from writing the blog. Just felt like I needed a little break. I chalk it up to not being much of a summer person. In fact, I think summer pretty much sucks, at least in Oklahoma, and I spend most every summer doing pretty much nothing while waiting around for fall to get here. That includes writing for pleasure. If you don't have anything to say, there's not much point in pressing the issue, right? Not like I have much to say in the first place, but the point holds...

At any rate, despite my dislike of summer, I have been busy with a number of activities during my literary absence, including a much-needed getaway to New Orleans with the wife, a much-needed week-long respite from the heat in Estes Park, Colorado, and some much-needed time sitting around drinking lots of much-needed beer.

I stripped and refinished our kitchen table, which looks pretty damn good, stripped and refinished a gunstock, which doesn't, and built a semi-permanent pigeon coop, which despite looking like it was constructed by a blind man, does manage to hold pigeons. That's all someone with my skills can ask for.

Thanks to the intense heat and drought we've been enduring, I have done very little in the way of dog training, which is good, because the dogs seem to want to do very little in the way of anything but lie listlessly in the shade and pant. Can't say as I blame them.

But September is creeping up on us, and though it can be (and most always is) every bit as brutal as August, that's when I finally shake off the summer blahs. September, despite what the thermometer often says, is fall. And I've got a surprisingly busy September planned. There is, of course, the Sept. 1 dove opener. I  recently learned that I got drawn out on an Oklahoma panhandle antelope hunt, so I'll be cluelessly traipsing about Cimarron County, Oklahoma the week of the 10th trying to shoot my first pronghornless pronghorn (doe permit). Then I'll be in Montana the last two weeks of the month on the one big bird-hunting trip I have planned this year. After that it's back to a more normal schedule for me, which is code for I can't afford to do anything else.

Until then, however, I've got another month (I'm hoping that's all) of heat-induced hopelessness to endure. And I'm not the only one. Seems to be a slow time for a lot of bloggers wilting under the heat. I have a feeling that catastrophic worldwide climate change is going to be a real bitch not just for birds, trout, global food supplies and the future of the human race, but self-indulgent creativity, too...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Further Justification For A Wall Tent...

I like wall tents. Always have. The one in the picture is, alas, not mine. It's Greg McReynolds' wall tent, looking right at home on the Cimarron National Grasslands in southwest Kansas a couple years ago. It slept three hunters and their dogs very comfortably, and we had the added bonus of being able to sit around a fire, eat dinner and drink beer under the stars, whereas the night before, exhausted after our first day of hunting and with the sun going down and camp not set up, we just said screw it and tumbled into a cheap, sketchy, astoundingly nasty hotel room in nearby Elkhart. Big mistake.

I cannot imagine, nay, I shudder to think what the researchers in this study would have found in our room that night...

From this story on

Picking up the remote control in a hotel room may also mean picking up fecal matter, a new study found. Researchers from the University of Houston swabbed 19 hotel room hideouts, from door handles to headboards, and found the fecal bacterium E. coli hiding on 81 percent of the surfaces, including the remote control, the telephone and the bedside lamp.

“Currently, housekeeping practices vary across brands and properties with little or no standardization industry wide,” Katie Kirsch, an undergraduate student at the University of Houston and author of the study presented at the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, said in a statement. 

This study “could aid hotels in adopting a proactive approach for reducing potential hazards … and provide a basis for the development of more effective and efficient housekeeping practices.”

Or, it could aid me in finally getting off my ass and buying a wall tent of my own so I don't have to spend any more terrified, disgusting nights paying for the privilege of sleeping in a petri dish...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Of Summer Sloth, the Fourth Estate and Viral(ity).

First off, apologies for the slow posting schedule the past month. School's out, the family's home and I've been busy with various and sundry "stuff" around the house. The pace will pick up a bit as I get into a summer routine. I've got dogs to train, gunstocks to refinish, fish to catch and vegetables to grow.

And if past summers are any indication, I will more than likely fail miserably at all tasks, instead choosing to sit on the back porch all summer drinking beer and cursing (depending on conditions) either the heat, the wind, or the heat and the wind while drunkenly swearing that next year the family will "by gawd be in Montana and out of this miserable frikkin' hellhole!" Or something to that effect.

Second, there was an interesting article on Salon recently that explores something I and every other reporter who's ever schlepped a beat at a small to mid-market daily have realized for years (and I'll bastardize a famous Tip O'Neill quote to give you the nut of it), and that is: all democracy is local.

What does that mean? I'll use a tired old cliche to illustrate the point...If a tree falls in the forest and there's no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? Who gives a shit, right? Well, if a civil liberty or Constitutional right is trampled upon, if a public or elected official violates the public trust for personal gain or for special interests and there's no one around to report it, is it really a violation?

Increasingly, (for a variety of reasons related to the general and terribly depressing state of awareness in this nation) it seems the answer would be no, and apparently no one really gives a shit. Otherwise they'd be paying a helluva lot more attention to the sorry (and getting sorrier by the minute) state of local and state journalism, because that, my friends, is where we get down to the true down-and-dirty nut-cuttin' of democracy.

Every time a minimum-wage beat reporter files a local or state-level open records request, every time they attend a county commission meeting, every time they question an elected official and every story they publish as a result of those questions, they're lubricating the engine of democracy at its most fundamental and important level, and the level that most acutely affects all of us. And it's all going away, very fucking quickly.

And when all the local small-circulation newspapers have folded or turned into weekly shoppers, when all the state newspapers have been downsized into toothless irrelevance? Well hell, at least we'll still have Facebook, right?

And on a completely, utterly, sadly related note, here's a fascinating story on 
about what makes things go viral on the Internet.

From the story:

In March, I wrote about Gawker’s new quantity-over-quality experiment. Each day, one Gawker staffer was tasked with pageview-chasing duty, a quest to post enough cat videos, Miley Cyrus pics, and local news ephemera to keep the clicks coming en masse. That staffer’s work would free up others to work on longer, more involved pieces. Pageview duty rotated, because — who could stare too long into the Internet’s bright raw id and not go blind?
Neetzan Zimmerman, apparently. Editor A.J. Daulerio hired him two months ago to focus exclusively on viral content. Zimmerman’s title at Gawker is Editor, The Internet. He is assigned to cover the Internet.
This machine-like person has generated more than 300 bylines for Gawker since he started on April 9. These are not lengthy tomes, usually; nearly every post is just a funny photo or video, with body text barely longer than a caption. The average word count of a sampling of his recent stories is about 200.
Zimmerman sits comfortably atop Gawker’s leaderboard, garnering two to five times more pageviews than his highest-performing colleagues. Zimmerman is so prolific, his posts so magnetic, that Daulerio has now relieved all 10 full-time Gawker staffers of their pageview chores.

I just pasted the first few grafs, but really, the whole story is well worth a read. It is truly fascinating, and as someone who, for the past four years has derived a portion of my income from doing for F&S pretty much exactly what Zimmerman does for Gawker (and at about the same level of substance and gravitas, I might add...) it gives some insight into the mechanics of online information dissemination, as well as confirming my basic suspicion that most of us are happily, blissfully pissing our lives away watching other people being stupid.  Myself included, of course...

Well, I guess it's a helluva lot easier than reading a newspaper, right?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Another Great One Gone...

I've been reading the news this morning of Ray Bradbury's passing. Longtime readers of the blog (all three of you) know that Bradbury has long been one of my favorite authors, and although death is an inevitability for all of us (and even more so when you're 91) it still comes as a surprise when the moment arrives for such a longtime literary icon.

It's hard to peg any one of Bradbury's works as a definitive favorite. Obviously he's best-known for Fahrenheit 451, but Bradbury's total body of work is huge. Few could write a short story like Bradbury, so for me, his collections of short stories are certainly up there, as is The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Here's a link to the New York Times obit and here are a few links to my Bradbury-themed blog posts. The first one is comedian Rachel Bloom's screamingly funny but oh-so-not-safe-for-work tribute ,next is a blog I did on Fahrenheit 451 and e-books and the last is a rather dyspeptic rant I banged out in the wake of a particularly irritating Halloween experience last year (I still rather like that one, and still stand by everything I wrote...)

Bradbury was one of the last of the great fiction/fantasy writers to emerge from the mid-20th Century Golden Age of magazine writing. Hell, he may have been the very last. Off the top of my head I can't think of any others that are still alive, and with the state of publishing, reading, and the general level of intelligence and attention span these days, I rather think we'll not see his kind again, so read 'em if you got 'em. And if you don't got 'em, go find 'em, somewhere in the musty, dusty, forgotten corners of those fast-disappearing used bookshops. Preferably a tattered old sixties-vintage pulp paperback with yellowed pages and early space-age era conceptual cover art. That's the only way to read a Bradbury story.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mallards's Infinite Playlist: Persistence of Memory Edition

Somehow, inexplicably, I turned a year older yesterday. I woke up, saw the wife and kids off to school, sat down at the computer, said to hell with it, packed up a few rods, a few beers and headed for the lake.

I tried, unsuccessfully, to catch some white bass on a fly rod, and then tried, sort of successfully, to catch a few channel cats on some cut bait. I sat on a rock, watched my rods, drank my beer, and tried, as we all do, to reconcile what I once thought I'd be with what I am. But I think I'm better at fishing than I am at reconciling.

I reeled in my rods, went home, played with the dogs, and took a walk with the family. After they went to bed I made myself a drink or two, listened to some music, and fell asleep. I can't complain.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bass Fishing History Geekage.

This will probably be a little wonky for a lot of you, but for us bass-addicted souls who grew up in the 70s and 80s, I recently stumbled across the relatively new Bass Fishing Archives blog, and it has some pretty cool stuff from the bass fishing wayback machine, like this awesome Fliptail ad...

Or perhaps this story on the introduction of the most revolutionary baitcaster of all time, the legendary (and highly collectable these days) Lew's Speed Spool

This bass geek still has a few fliptail lizards and worms lying around somewhere, but like an idiot he long ago let his Lew's reels (and Speed Stick rods) slip away.

Anyway, it's admittedly obscure and all, but if you're at all interested in what bass fishing used to be like in the olden times, you might get a skirt blow-up or two out of it...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Jim Fergus Interview

Upland bird hunting, like flyfishing, is a pursuit to which reflection (self and otherwise) and other literary musings come naturally. This assertion is, I believe, borne out in the unusually large number of fine writers (both hook-and-bullet and "other") who are drawn to the cloister.

Jim Fergus is one of those writers. He was a pretty active freelancer back in the nineties, and I always enjoyed reading his stories in the various sporting mags. He also branched out into online writing some, with the long-defunct AllOutdoors website, among others. But it was his first book, "A Hunter's Road" for which most upland guys remember Fergus. It's become a sort of bird-hunting literary standard since it was first published back in '92, and for good reason: it's a damn good book.

His follow-up, "The Sporting Road" is a fine book in its own right, but the stories in it have a slight whiff of "on assignment" (naturally, since some of them are adapted from magazine assignments) that seems absent in "A Hunter's Road." There's a sense of discovery and wide-eyed wonder to the whole book. It remains my favorite of his, and one I will always wish I could have written.

Plus, I have a tenuous ancillary connection to the book in that I know and used to occasionally hunt and train dogs with one of the people Fergus wrote about in "A Hunter's Road." I know, it's not much, but I'll take it...

Anyway, Fergus, like many other genuinely talented writers of that era, gradually disappeared from the hook-and-bullet scene, either forced out by a seismic shift toward flackness and dumbshittery, or to focus on real writing.

Fergus published two novels, "One Thousand White Women" and "The Wild Girl" but as far as I know he never did write another hook-and-bullet story with the exception of a feature in the May, 2011 issue of F&S about an annual gathering of old fart trout bums. I thought he may publish more, but I haven't seen his byline since, and I wondered what had become of him.

I know that Steve Bodio wrote a dustjacket blurb for "A Hunter's Road" so maybe he can offer some insight...

But then a few days ago, a fellow freelancer/hunting buddy/literary bum sent me, out of the blue, a link to an interview with Jim Fergus, apparently the first American interview he's ever given (but he's still pretty big in France, apparently).

It's pretty entertaining and offers some good insight into the writing life. It's nice to see Fergus still kicking. And check out that sweet Airstream (wonder if it's the same one from "A Hunter's Road" or a new one?). That's how I want to live when I grow up...

(Embedding is apparently verboten, but here's the link...)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Two Peasants Waiting For Roast Duck...

"A peasant must stand a long time on a hillside with his mouth open before a roast duck flies in."

The quote is a Chinese proverb I lifted from the beginning of Paul Theroux's "Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train Through China." An excellent book, so far.

The photograph was from two seasons ago, when we actually had a little water. But, as I recall, no roast duck flew into our mouths that morning. Bluebird day, you know... And of course virtually no roast duck flew into our mouths this past fall. Hell-scorched drought, you know... 

Hopefully things will change this fall, as I owe several people the gift of some fresh duck, promised to them prior to the disastrous (for me, anyway) 2011-12 waterfowl season.  We're off to a good start, but we'll see what tune I'm singing come November, and if I'll need waders where I'm standing...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Deadly Southern Plains Cobra

Fearsome-looking beast, isn't he? Actually, it's a young eastern hognose snake trying desperately to intimidate the camera. He wandered up to the house in search of toads and got caught. Bad for him, as I like my toads, but lucky for him I like hognose snakes as well, so I played with him for a little while and sent him on his way.

The flattening out is a defensive posture. Hognoses are also known for "playing dead" by rolling over and not moving. Pretty little fart, isn't he? We usually see only the western hognoses around here, although we live in an area in which the two overlap. This is the first eastern I've stumbled across.

I am, I have to admit, something of a herpy. Not Herpes, (at least not that I know of...) but herpy, as in herpetology. I've been fascinated with lizards, snakes, turtles, frogs, toads, salamanders and other assorted reptiles and amphibians for as long as I can remember.

That fascination stems, I believe, from the fact that I belonged to perhaps the last generation of children (I was a Seventies kid) that spent the vast majority of its time outside, either playing with other kids or roaming the fields and woods. I never was much for sports and groups, so naturally I was a roamer. And boy, did I roam...

I roamed so much that, in addition to my budding hunting and fishing obsession, I had a veritable zoo in my backyard and bedroom. Tank after tank filled with fence lizards, collared lizards (or "Mountain Boomers" as we used to call them), racerunners, skinks, horned lizards (the ubiquitous "horny toad" of course, back before those little guys fell on hard times), tiger salamanders, leopard frogs, tree frogs, green frogs, bullfrogs, numerous species of toads, as well as turtles of all persuasions: three-toed and ornate box turtles, common snappers, softshells, red-ears, mud turtles, map turtles, I caught 'em all. And the snakes, man did I have the snakes. Speckled and prairie king snakes, bull snakes, black and great plains rat snakes, glossy snakes, scarlet snakes, several species of water snakes, rough green snakes, ribbon snakes, various flavors of garter snake, and - although my parents never knew of it because I knew better than to bring them home - the venomous snakes to be found around central Oklahoma, which consisted mainly of copperheads (an extremely beautiful and surprisingly easy snake to catch) and the ill-tempered little western pygmy rattlesnake.

Oh, I caught other stuff, too; baby cottontails, a menagerie of rodents from deer and white-footed mice (Hantavirus? What Hantavirus? Ignorance is bliss...) to moles and gophers, and I once brought home a great-horned owl that I kept in my bedroom for a week or so (but that's another story...) but it was the reptiles and amphibians that I really liked.

I never kept any of them for long, aside from one favorite bull snake that a fellow herpy caught on a collecting expedition to south Texas and brought back to me because his markings were a little different from the bullsnakes around here. I got that snake in high school, kept him all through college and my post-college years and he finally died soon after our first son was born.

But other than that, I was never into the keeping. I'd catch them, admire them for a few days and then let them go on their way. Fair's fair, right? It's a habit I've never fully grown out of, and even now I can't pass by a old log, a flat rock or a piece of old barn tin without stopping to see what's under it. I like to think it helps me stay young in spirit, if not flesh, and as a result I'm always bringing critters home for the boys to see.

Sometimes, however, the critters decide to come to you...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Random Flotsam and Jetsam...

 Holly, my first chessie. She was a rough, tough, mean old bitch, but I've never had a dog with more drive. 

Been too lazy to write lately, so random bits of neither here nor there will have to suffice until the time comes when lukewarm inspiration returns. So...

Retaining rights to our work is always important to freelancers, but we're increasingly being forced to either give those rights up through bullshit work-for-hire or all rights contracts or not work at all.
It's a cognitive struggle as well as a pain in the ass to try to decipher and decode the deliberately vague, obtuse, lawyer-written, multi-page documents that seem to be the rule these days. But I was perusing the submission guidelines on the Gray's website the other day and was pleasantly surprised to find it spelled out thusly...

We buy modified North American serial rights. These are, specifically:

The right to publish your article in one issue of Gray’s Sporting Journal.
The right to publish your article, if chosen, on our Web site for the duration of that issue’s stay on the newsstand.
The right to use brief quotes and/or images from the magazine in promotional programs related to Gray’s Sporting Journal.
All other rights for material printed in Gray’s remain with the author/creator.

No "in perpetuity" crap, no "work for hire", no "copyright remains with XXX", just a clear, straighforward explanation of what Gray's is buying from you. Of course, it might be a different story if Gray's had a more extensive online presence, but of course it doesn't, thankfully.

In contrast, I also recently looked up the submission guidelines for one of those new online-only wingshooting journals, and predictably, in addition to the payment being absolute shite, these chuckleheads were demanding all rights for the privilege of being screwed. Right... To paraphrase the priceless words of Tom Reed of Mouthful of Feathers, these guys can go take a flying leap off Giffy Butte.


If you haven't yet seen the four-part Frontline special Money, Power and Wall Street, then do yourself a favor and go watch it online. It will bake your noodle. Torches and pitchforks optional, but recommended...

Always wanted to write a bestseller but didn't know how? Well, then, here's your bluprint. Pretty good review of the new James Hall book "Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the 20th Century's Biggest Bestsellers." My favorite quote from the review?

For some reason, it is often the very people who say they want to write novels who seem to have the least understanding of what other people want to read. So Hall has no doubt seen countless examples of would-be authors — including people determined to work in commercial genres — who simply don’t grasp the most elementary principles of storytelling. While “Hit Lit” may seem, to many readers, like the literary equivalent of instructions on how to boil water, the sad truth is that plenty of those who speak contemptuously of Dan Brown’s prose are writers who could not get a child interested in a fairy tale.

For the record, I freakin' hate Dan Brown. Absolutely talentless hack. So what does that say about me?

And on that note...

I'm not ashamed to say that I am a Stephen King fan. Call me a rube or a mass-market consumer if you must, but I've always thought King's earlier novels, novellas and short stories were good, entertaining reads, and I'm not sufficiently edjoocated enough to put on any literary airs to the contrary. Judge me harshly if you must... At any rate, Mr. King, who is filthy rich, recently published a fine populist rant over on the Daily Beast website.

As noted in several previous blogs here as well as here I'm a big fan of the early Shimano Bantam baitcasters. I can't claim that a Bantam was my first grown-up reel (that honor goes to - what else? - an Ambassadeur) but those old vintage Bantams always will be my favorites. I snap them up whenever I find them in pawn shops and junk stores. If you have one and want to know a little more about it, here's an excellent resource on the various first-generation Bantams on the website.

I love Moras, and I recently received and have been playing around with one of the new Swedish Fireknives which is a joint venture between Mora and LightMyFire. It's basically a plastic-handled Mora with a LightMyFire rod built into the handle. Really like it so far. Sharp, handy, light and cheap. I'll write more about it later...

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?