First Draft Finished

DAY 136 –Monday, September 30, 2013, DEER PARK — I finished the first draft of MOUNTAINS OF THE MISBEGOTTEN last night around 2300 hours. 96,000 words, a hair shorter (and tighter, I hope) than normal . As I’ve said, this is a long game and not for people who need immediate gratification, or even any. There is self satisfaction in creating an idea and building a story around it, and for most writers that’s far more important than any sort of external blessings. When I call this a long game here’s what I mean. Countless years in research, some of which continues today even after the first draft is done. I am expecting a document that I hope will give me good insight into the Nonesuch mine and town in the 1910s, and the good folks at the Tahquamenon Area District Library ordered the book from Michigan Tech,  through interlibrary loan, which is one of our culture’s greatest and most taken-for-granted thing for readers and lifelong learners. So research goes on for a year or two while I am writing other things, and then comes a day when I sit down and start the actual draft of Misbegotten, that day being May 1, 2012, when I wrote the first 1,223 words — some 16 months ago. The manuscript grew slowly from there: 5,598 words  by October 23; 7,980 words by October 28; 11,784 words by December 20, 2012, and back down to 10,967 words on January 2. And then the push to 96,100 over the past eight months. This is typical of how every book progresses and while I was working on this I was also finishing the first draft of a story I call BROWN BALL, which I finished last March, at which time I went back to Mountains with a vengeance. And during this time, I roughly mapped out in my mind the tenth Grady Service story, which I will start writing in December, hoping for publication around fall 2015. So there tiz, friends, the glory and drudge of creative writing. To quote a line from the great film, Rudy, writing (or football)  is about one thing:  Do the Work!. Over.


Maps and Stuff


I’m in the process of closing a book, which is a chore in a lot of ways and in some ways it will be good to be done with this and move onto the next manuscript, a new Grady Service story. All my books are closely related to geography, mostly in Michigan, but in some other states as well. I work from a DeLorme Map book, 7.5-min USGS topographical quadrangles, and county plat books, not to mention a compass. No GPS. Don’t need or want it yet. It’s a lazy person’s way of navigating, and based on the number of lost folks I ‘ve helped the DNR “rescue,” not all that reliable. A nice toy, no more. If we have massive solar flares or disruptions on earth, satellites will soon be off the air, so you need to find your way from A to B on your own two feet (and four wheels for as long as gas holds out).  I try to personally visit every site I write about, though  often change names to keep others away.

Geography has always interested me, being an AF brat moving around the country and world,  an Air Force navigator, an international businessman, and somewhat of a woodsman naturalist.  You could say geography has in some ways helped define me. 

Am reading Robert D. Kaplan’s THE REVENGE OF GEOGRAPHY right now, subtitled: WHAT THE MAP TELLS US ABOUT COMING CONFLICTS AND THE BATTLE AGAINST FATE. Great reading by a great reporter., who tells us, “Geography is the backdrop to human history itself. In spite of cartographic distortions, it can be as revealing about a government’s  long-range intentions as its secret councils. A state’s position on the map is the first thing that defines it, more than its governing philosophy even. A map, explains Halford Mackinder, conveys ‘at one glance a whole series of generalizations.’  Geography, he goes on, bridges the gap between arts and sciences, connecting the study of history and culture with environmental factors, which specialists in the humanities sometimes neglect. While studying the map, any map, can be endlessly absorbing and fascinating in its own right, geography, like realism itself, is hard to accept. For maps are a rebuke to the very notions of equality and the unity of humankind, since they remind us of all the different environments of the earth that make men profoundly unequal and disunited ins o many ways, leading to conflict, on which realism almost exclusively deals.

“Realists,  writes Kaplan, value order above freedom: for them the latter becomes important only after the former has been established.  In Iraq, order, even of totalitarian dimensions, turned out to be more humane than the lack of order which followed. And because world government will forever remain elusive, since there will never be fundamental agreement on the ways of social betterment, the world is fated to be ruled by different kinds of regimes and in some places by tribal and ethnic orders.”

Thus a map is a spatial representation of humanity’s divisions — the subject of realist writings in the first place.  Maps don’t always tell the truth.

Interesting reading on a subject of some importance to all of us, ways to perhaps take a cut on looking at the future.  Meanwhile I will work to get Lute Bapcat out of the geography of the Porcupine Mountains, which his skin and mind in tact. Why write about the Porkies? Yale anthropologist James C. Scott believes “hill people are best understood as runaway, fugitive, maroon communities who have over the course of time been fleeing the oppressions of state-making projects in the valley.” True in history, it is almost always the outcasts and na’er-do-wells who push themselves into remote corners and true as well with the Upper Peninsula in general and Ontonagon County specifically. It is a place that acts like a magnet for the misbegotten, which depending on time and place, can be a pretty frightening and ugly thing to confront.




Passing the chow at Bullshido Fish Camp, Bob Peterson and Lars Hjalmquist, akq Da Sweditch Brudders.
Passing the chow at Bullshido Fish Camp, Bob Peterson and Lars Hjalmquist, aka Da Sweditch Brudders.

DAY 129 – Monday, September 23, DEER PARK – Saturday we signed books in Marquette at Snowbound books with Dana Schultz and walked away with an armful more to read. She is a wonderful source or recommendations for good writers.  Also got to see Jo Vairo, Mike’s sis, and pal Don Matson, who is always filled with local tales and lore. Don’s son is the varsity women’s basketball coach at NMU and according to Don, just landed a great player from Minnesota.

Recruiting to northern schools has got to be a problem. Takes a special kid, sports talent, plus interests that will keep them happy in 250-300 inch snow winters. I don’t envy recruiters for sports, academics or anything else.  Also heard author John Smolens is teaching four classes this fall at Northern. How does HE get any writing done? I am so thankful I don’t have other things to pursue that might push writing aside. And I admire those who can do it, despite obstacles. Teaching writing, it would seem to me, would eat huge amounts of time and energy to give the kids what they deserve and need.

Spent the night with brother in law Mike Phillips in Mqte, watched MSU football, had Mike’s special chili and a fine time all around. Learned Mike scored three holes in one this summer, all in a short periode, bringing him to a life-count of five which now makes him An Ace Ace (my term). Wife Claudia has three, so she’s got to bag a couple more to catch up. Good to see Mike back on the golf course after some back problems the past few years.

On the way home we bought fresh bread at Huron Mountain Bakery, picked up a pie plate for Brenda Stinson at the Christmas Antique Mall, grock-shopped at Glen’s in  Munising, and drove on to Grand Marais to have coffee with Ellen Airgood at her wonderful West Bay Diner. She had her late lunch of hubby Rick’s fine chili while I had a slab of apple pie. As said many times, I don’t know how Ellen can write AND run such a fine establishment. But she does, and always with a positive, can-do attitude. Impressive and fun.

Ended the day with a beach pick so piehead could run and that was good, even with a surging north wind, but we found agates. Last week or so has been insane collecting.

Dawned on us last night that we’re down to five weeks and that we have to start organizing for our return to BTB. Got a room reserved for Halloween, and on into Portage on Nov 1. It will be a difficult reentry, as always. We have days up here where one vehicle may go by all day long. To go back to constant traffic is a pain. Even Marquette has far too much for comfort.

The manuscript for Mountains of the Misbegotten has hit 83,000 words and I am cruising toward the finish line. This will be Lute Bapcat 2, probably next fall.

And no, Grady Service is not retiring yet. Will start working on his 10thwhen we get back to Portage. Already have most of the story set pretty firmly in my often soft mush.

Getting pumped up for more DNR patrols. This is the best time of year to go with officers, so much going on, and almost everything you run into, unexpected.  Wicklund and Painter helped Wildlife trap and move 6 bears last week in Iron River, including a sow and her three cubs who were becoming major town nuisances.  Bears are, for some reason, a continuing problem all around the UP this year. What follows are bunches of photos from recent past. Enjoy. Thanks for everyone’s support! Over.

Sow and kids asleep en route to new home from Iron River.
Sow and kids asleep en route to new home from Iron River.
Hat Country
Hat Country
West Bay Diner in Grand MaRAIN. No rain today, first time in eons when we went through or visited.
West Bay Diner in Grand MaRAIN. No rain today, first time in eons when we went through or visited.
This morning's sunrise.
This morning’s sunrise.


Christmas Picking
Christmas Picking
MSU v Golden Domettes, Spartans playing so poorly and officiating so bad we watched the game from the front porch to avoid da stench emanating from Da Tube.
MSU v Golden Domettes, Spartans playing so poorly and officiating so bad we watched the game from the front porch to avoid da stench emanating from Da Tube.
Reward for one hour of picking.
Reward for one hour of picking.
Signing stock for Snowbound Books Owner Dana Schultz.
Signing stock for Snowbound Books Owner Dana Schultz.

Book Signing Sept 21


Electronic Before-Breakfast Baloney

Found this email in my “in-basked” this morning. This Mr. Nikolas Barn wants to help with proofreading my blogs. I’m responding only though the blog, but here’s the deal, Nick. I don’t worry about proofing when I do the blog. It’s all about getting thoughts down fast, sharing some photos with friends, and moving on. Besides, if you really want my business you might want to fill out the form  correctly. Above your message you indicate California, California, which is of course nonsense, and later you indicate you live in SF, which is a fine city, and that PS we should have coffee and chat. Tell you what. Haul your cheers-butt to the UP and we’ll get you some real coffee in a real place in the world, not some tinsel town on a hill.  A $10 gift card? Talk about chintzy.  “Foggy” San Francisco? Usually that fog comes in winter. And obviously his service does not eliminate clichés.  Mr. Baron’s message follows.

name = Nikolas Baron

address = 548 Market St. #35410

city = California

state = California

zip = 94104

phone = 2342006432

email =

comments = Hi Joseph, 

You know better than most that putting your writing “out there” takes a tremendous amount of courage; readers will find and comment on even the simplest mistakes. At Grammarly we know the feeling — and we’ve made it our mission to improve writers’ confidence. Putting our money where our mouth is, we’d be honored to sponsor your next blog post with a $10 Amazon gift card. 

In case you haven’t heard of us, Grammarly is an automated online proofreader that finds and explains those pesky grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes that are bound to find their way into your first draft. Think of us as a second pair of digital eyes that can spare you the cost of hiring a proofreader. If you’d like to join our 3 million users and try the premium version of our proofreader for free, let me know and I’ll make it happen!

Please send me the expected publishing date and topic of your next appropriate blog post (ideally something about writing) so I can give you all the details you need in time.



 P.S. Let me know if you ever find yourself in foggy San Francisco; I’d love to grab some coffee. :)

Kill the smiley face, dude. Over.


How It Was Fifty Years Ago

Gary Barnhill writes, “My good friend, the inimitable and late Col. John Morrissey, Shit-Hot fighter pilot, decorated war hero, war historian, US National Aerobatic Champion, certified stud, lover of wine, women, song, and old trains has found the words to brilliantly describe our youth in a way we can all proudly share with friends, family and loved ones. They are John’s words but it is the youth we all lived and loved. A little piece of history not taught in schools at it was all Top Secret at the time. Heady stuff for 22-23 year olds. Four years in Germany and never visited Berlin. They feared we would be kidnapped and tortured for our war plans knowledge. “

Morrissey wrote: “

The War in Vietnam was not nearly as tough as it was long.  Very long.  Many died – around 58,000 I am told.

But there was another war that was going on before, superimposed upon, and continued after the shooting war in Indo China.  It was seldom mentioned and less frequently reported.  Make no mistake about it – the real heavy lifting was done in that one.  It lasted even longer than Vietnam’s eleven years. 

No bombs were dropped in this one, and no shots fired.

A good thing too, because it was a Table Stakes war.  You didn’t hear about it because neither player called each other’s hand.

The bet was too high.  So high that the winner would also lose.

And we/you are alive today because that hand was not called.  And so no one really mentions that war.  Since it did not bleed, it did not lead.

We won that war in 1989. The other side just quit – went silently in the night.  And no one noticed.

And very few appreciated that  the thread holding the sword of Damocles had not broken.

The attached picture is just one very small piece of that war.   It is one of about one hundred such aircraft in Europe, Italy, Turkey, Germany, England, Okinawa, South Korea, and Taiwan that sat nuclear alert every day, all day, all night, and all the days of the year, and all the years of that 55-year war.

From the clanging of the alarm to burner light – 5 minutes – guaranteed!

Each fighter with a nuclear weapon of ~ 1.1 megatons.

Each with one motivated, highly trained, frequently evaluated, dedicated Bomb Commander – the term given to fighter pilots authorized to deliver nuclear weapons.  Think of ‘Bomb Commander’ as the ultimate James Bond license to kill.

Day, night, regardless of weather, we were going.  Target and enroute winds updated at very frequent intervals.  All routes, times, and altitudes committed to memory.

There on the hard stands the fighter awaits the fighter pilot, the deadly catalyst required to produce the ultimate Armageddon.

The attached picture captures all.  The F-105 with the end of civilization in her belly, the pilot’s helmet and parachute neatly placed in the empty cockpit,  the desolate hardstand whose only companion is the Air Policeman with orders to shoot to kill if any unauthorized intrusion is detected.  And the words inside the sealed plastic envelop on the top of the instrument panel.


The claxon sounds.  Fighter pilot and crew chief (always dressed and ready) race to their plane.  The chief pulls the gear safety pins and completes a dozen critical checks as the pilot races up the ladder you see laying on the ground.  The canopy is already unlocked. I slip into the cockpit, my hands automatically turning on the battery while I click on the cockpit lights, slip into the chute, fasten my helmet strap.  With a glance at my chief’s nodding approval, I depress the start button.  The engine climbs through her octaves to idle. I close the canopy and check in with the command post.  I receive the words.  I open the envelop knowing that in two more minutes I will either be on my takeoff roll with afterburner’s flame accelerating us towards a Soviet missile site in Siberia ensuring the end of the known world, or in the alert shack trying to get back to sleep.

And I live in this alert pad ten days each and every month.  Ready.  Prepared. No doubts.

I am 23 years old.  Married. One child. For this I receive $525 each month.

That, and the trust and confidence of my country and the life long companionship of true warriors.

I was never young again.


Remember The Days of Cold and War


John’s narrative sure hit the nail directly on the head. I remember looking at the bird on alert and wondering if that thing in the belly would really work like we were told. Also thought it was kind of interesting that, although the weapon could be set for several different yields, it was always on “high blow”, for my targets anyway.

It was an incredible time. The ADC pilots had tactics to actually ram a Soviet bomber if they were out of armament, the tanker pilots all were fragged to fly one way missions, with their being required to give all of their fuel to the bomber they were refueling if the bomber requested it, etc. In fact, tanker tactics evolved to the point that when the B-1’s came on line, one refueling was not enough to get them to their targets, and the second refueling was by necessity, well inside Siberia. In my later ANG days, just before retirement,  I was CO of a tanker unit, and sat alert at O’Hare on those missions. In fact, at a conference at SAC Hq, I suggested (jokingly) to the SAC DO that they might as well hang a couple of cruise missiles under our wings as long as we were penetrating so deeply, just to add to the firepower.

As John said, the other side just “went away”. We were briefed on the position of the Soviet ballistic missile subs every morning, and if they were inside a certain distance, our crews had to sit alert in the aircraft, because of reduced missile flight time. All of a sudden, in 1988, they just moved further and further out each day, and eventually were all in dock.

We won a great battle, and a lot of it was only possible because of the sacrifice our families made supporting us throughout those times. The worst part of the European nuclear alert mission, for me, was knowing that your base and everything and everybody on it was going to be a big smoking hole a few minutes after you launched.

And, as John said, nobody will ever really know about it.

Best Regards


Book Review:Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin



From time to time I like to pass on tips on good reads. In his book to be released next month, Theodore Roosevelt And The Assassin: Madness, Vengeance and the Campaign of  1912, Author Gerard Helferich gives us a thriller, no easy feat this, in which the outcomes are already known.  The reader finds himself on a parallel journey with the former president, and nutcase John Flammang Shrank, and it occurred to me that the journalistic use of the so-called three-name handle for assassins and wannabes began with Lincoln and continued until I remembered William MckInley was shot dead by a mere two-namer, Leon Czolgosz, an event that put VP Teddy Roosevelt into the White House in the first place.

Shrank, whose bubble was tilted more than a tad off center, saw it as his mission to kill Teddy Roosevelt, who, after serving two terms in the White House, had launched a third party effort for a then-unprecedented third term and Mr. Shrank, believed that the ghost of the late William McKinley has pointed at TR for revenge, appointing Shrank as the angel of death for The Bull Moose.  Why Shank? Even crazy people have reasons, even if the reasons are uncompelling to any but themselves.

If we of /in these 24-hour news cycle times think Presidential and party politics are now dirty, venomous, demeaning, vituperative, nasty, childish,  and unfair, and that these aspects mark our times as unique, the fabric of Mr. Helferich’s tale  ay help abuse us of our present-centric ways. The issues then: immigration, corporate trusts and profits, campaign reform, unions, protective tariffs, sound familiar?

Mr. Helferich writes cleanly, clearly, economically and compellingly. He reports the facts and lets the reader mull them. I found the book unputdownable. I know that word choice falls somewhere between illiterate and odd, but it says what I experienced.

Through serendipity, TR came to me as a character and launching point for a novel I called Red Jacket. (Sept 2012)  My interest in the man continues in the series, though he is now a minor influence in one character’s past memories.

What is it about assassins or would-be’s that attracts us? In reality Mr. Shrank is no different than any one of thousands of various bozoids using firearms to pop people for specious reasons, often ending in death, and more often resulting in nonlethal wounds. The only difference? The target here is famous and historically important. Yet we are interested and in my mind watching the journeys of the two men on a collision course is like watching a train wreck unfolding in Matrix-like megaslowmo. Very compelling. This story moves fast.

I have only one small bone to pick and that is with the title: an assassin, I have come to understand, is one who murders someone in a surprise attack. Can one be called an assassin if one fails to un-life his target?

Mr. Helferich is the author of Stone of Kings, Humboldt’s Comos, and High Cotton. The author. and his wife split their time between Yazoo City, Mississippi, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

In the interests of full public disclosure to the nth degree, Helferich and I share Globe Pequot-Lyons Press as our publisher, and the indomitable and esteemed Mr. Keith Wallman as our editor.

I also carry Mize Mississippi blood in me and one of my next novels will have a great deal to do with Mexico. With all such trivia duly disclosed, let me say finally that the book Theodore Roosevelt And The Assassin: Madness, Vengeance and the Campaign of  1912 is a terrific read and worth both your dime and your time.

Why is it that almost all creators of reviews never bother to address the obvious question: Should you or should you not buy this book?  

Yes, you should.


Weekend Done and Gone

DAY 122, Monday, September 16, DEER PARK – The 6th Annual Rock On Agate Show is over and done with. Strange weekend. Lonnie worked her butt off to get set for rock show at the state park, made 150 astounding pieces of jewelry, which was a  lot of work and joy, including two set-ups and take-downs, and she sold only one copper bracelet. Sunny first day, but 20=25 mph winds, G 30 and 39 degrees in the morning, leaving the chill factor around freezing for the first couple of hours. Yesterday it rained off and on most of the day, under an overcast sky, and occasional northwest wind blasts. Not much of a crowd on Saturday and no crowd at all yesterday. All the vendors were complaining. I think there would be a good book opportunity in a story of people who live seminomadic lives, traveling from show to show. Some folks make their entire living this way, and it’s not easy. Yet they profess to love it.

But we had fun and learned and watched and even picked up some more stones for future jewelry for Jambe Longue. The dog was great and sat out with us for quite some time. We had a booth next to Max and Brenda Stinson and Brenda’s 92 year-old-mom Audrey. Pal Judy Bernhardt  was just around the oval from us, and Sandy and Jeff King were further around the oval on the far end, and we far end of the oval and we got to talk some to them. Sandy is just starting her nursing PhD and he is a walking encyclopedia of Yooperlore. Jeff’s mom was with them and she has a cabin on Little L Lake in Lake County, where the Bullshido fish camp occurs. Small world all over again.

Next couple of days we will “recover,” and I’ll write some and next weekend it’s off to Marquette to sign books at Snowbound Books on Saturday, September 21, from 1-3 p.m. We’ll spend the night with brother-in-law Mike Phillips and Claudia and catch-up on summer events. Haven’t seen them since they passed through from Florida, heading north to the Yoop.

Our summer reading continues unabated and this has been a great year for catching stuff I should have read many years ago.  And this weekend will have a chance to visit with Ray and Dana at Snowbound and we’ll talk books almost exclusively!

Animal counts are falling off drastically. We are seeing some migrations and the eagles, just like last year have disappeared again. Some pix of our setup etc follow. Over.





The One-Notion Man and Other Random Thoughts

New author photo?
New author photo?

DAY 117, Wednesday, September 11, DEER PARK, Agate Coast – My morning routine, up early, think and write before commencing regular life. It is certain in my mind that writing is not regular, except for those so addicted. We lost a state trooper this week in a traffic stop  up near Ludington and this brings a time for la grimas negras, black tears. Traffic stops and domestic disputes take place every day for cops in all venues and while they happen often, they are never routine. Every encounter is potentially deadly. Each loss diminishes all of us and gives us a sense that even with all of our government in place we remain in some places at pure ochlocracy, where the masses and mobs rule outside government rules and law.

I read once where Francis Crick, who played a key role in the unmasking the double helix of DNA said, “The dangerous man is the one who has only one idea, because then he’ll fight  and die for it. The way real science goes is that you come up with a lot of ideas, and most of them will be wrong.” I’m thinking this observation applies to a whole lot beyond science.

MOUNTAINS OF THE MISBEGOTTEN, Lute Bapcat’s second installment passed 75,000 words yesterday, which signals the home stretch for telling the story. That reminds me, I got an email from a woman wanting to know if certain events in RED JACKET were true because she had never encountered them before. I answered her but did not. The real question as it relates to fiction in an historical context is not is it historically factual, but does it read true and keep the reader interested. Some facts might be made up, but that does not render a story untrue.  In fact it can make the reality of what happened more true and compelling because it comes at the story and events from a new angle. Oh well, I learn more about this job every day and I’ve been published for 28 years (since 1985).

Jambe Longue has her first art show since the 1970s this coming Saturday.  She will show her Wearable original Art at the “Rock On” Agate show at Muskallonge State Park in northern Luce County, two miles from our cabin. Amazing stuff, but I’m predjudiced. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill costume and mass produced crap. Agate necklaces and pendants, pins made of driftwood and beach glass, and all sorts of stones from Thomsonite to lightning stones, most of the stones which we have found in our searching. She had eight of her pieces in a local emporium this summer and some low-life stole half of them, which suggests her beauties have appeal to crows and gank-queens. Ah well. We shall see.

Sweltering in the 80s yesterday, with awful humidity, but make no mistake, Aestate estrelinquens nobis, summer is leaving us. Geese flocks are heading south, the Caspian terns have been gone for weeks, there is a flurry of activity among hummingbird moths, which are showing up at all times of day, and we see groups of greater yellow legs trickling through from Canada. Not long now until the houndsmen will loose their curs on the local bear population. Lots of acorns in evidence, which should be good for deer and bear, and Lonnie found fresh raspberries yesterday and even a few wild strawberries! Lots of blobs in the woods this year, whereas last year we were largely without, and the animals suffered more than we humans . Friday the thirteenth in two days so offer your orisons if you fear such.

Lots of disturbing stuff and merda menti on FACEBOOK lately and it brings to memory John Steinbeck, who once told his editor that the US was suffering “a sickness, a kind of wasting disease. Americans, overly invested in material toys and saddled with debt were bored, anguished, discontented, and no longer capable of the heroism which rescued them from the terrifying poverty of the Great Depression.” I think a similar mindset applies now as I watch people arriving with trailers with four $25,000 four-wheelers and dirt bikes and in winter its multiple snowmobiles, and behind the four wheelers, kayaks, and motor boats and canoes and custom bicycles on racks. It as if Americans are incapable of just putting one foot in front of another to go see what might be interesting. But I think Steinbeck is wrong about the Great Depression. I think, from my reading, that FDR’s stuff and his leadership helped Americans keep a so-called stiff upper lip, but it was World War II that snuffed the depression. Without that, who knows what might have transpired. It was a time of the Gentlemen of the Four Outs: Without wit, without money, without credit, without means. Not much different for millions of people today. My daughter reports classroom temps approaching 100 and she said there is nothing like have 30+ middle-schoolers bunched around, almost all of whom have yet to discover bathing, never mind deodorants .  It’s enough to make one bromidposiphobic.

This stage of a novel reminds me of T.S. Eliot’s words, “that the creative process consists enormously of criticism. You don’t invent all the time. When you get an idea, you try it out, then you critique it. You work much of the time as critic of your own ideas.” Eliot was largely a poet, but his observations applies to prose-pounders too. The knife is a lot more useful than clay. Yet even in the editing, hacking process of writing one constantly calls forward Mnemosyne for help.

From the past, a British account of 1772 calls the Kalamazoo River, Pusawspaca Sippy, or Iron Mine River. Apparently there was an iron foundry at Riverview and Mt. Olivet.

Stephen Hawking once said, “We have only to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.” [Scientific American, June 2011]

Remember, quis, quid,quomodo, qubi, quando et cur.  Keep your floaties close: the world runneth  over with codswallop. Over

The Latest From Alaska: Moose Season

September 8, 2013

It’s the 4th day of the 11 day moose hunting season for nonresident hunters and, so far, there are no 200 pound hindquarters hanging in the boat shed down the by the lake. 

The guides all agree, as they do each year after the first few days of the season, that this is just practice time this early, that the real hunting and shooting opportunities come during the last few days of the season.  The weather has been mild, and, with one exception, fairly dry. 

Moose rut during September, when the bulls start to court the cows, even assembling a loosely-tended harem…yesterday between Dillingham and camp Justin spotted a bull with three cows in attendance.  Just as it is at home with our white-tailed deer, the breeding season is largely brought to life by the length and angle of the daylight, called photoperiodicity.  The same is true in the spring for other species like wild turkeys.  Here in western Alaska, with our days still quite long (but thankfully getting lopped down by about 5 minutes each day), the rut will begin in earnest towards the middle of the month, and is generally enhanced by cold weather and sharp frosts. 

Not sure about you, but my breeding generally is severely inhibited by frost.  Go figure-

So moose hunting here, for nonresidents anyway, just gets better with each passing day.  There are a lot of moose about these days, Justin sees a handful each time he flies back and forth to Dilly for fuel, propane and food.  He also spends a fair amount of his time resupplying the spike camps and hauling gear for hunters who are either arriving or departing camps. 

Opening day Larry, Marcus and his client eyeballed a bull for a long time, scratching their heads over the width of its rack.  Alaska wildlife regulations require a ts rack.  Alaska wildlife regulations ed a bull for a long time, agonizing over spends a fair amount of his time resupbull moose to have a minimum spread of 50 inches of antlers (or a brow paddle that has 4 defined points or tines on it) before it is legal game for a nonresident in this part of the state.  I asked Phil once about this….sort of tricky, asking 1,900 pounds of sexually aroused moose to hold still while you run a tape measure across his eyes…he said the rule of thumb is an adult bull moose is about 10 inches between its eyes…so, using a head-on look at a bull, usually with binoculars or a spotting scope, you use that 10” measure and then extend it outwards towards the tips of its antlers….2 eyeball–to eyeball spans outside the eyes puts it in the ballpark.

Think about it, more than 4 feet of antler growing in about 5 months out of the skull of a bull moose.  The head and antlers of a big bull probably weigh in the neighborhood of 125 pounds.  

A really big bruiser can exceed 70 inches in spread.  In the moose hunting lexicon, a big bull is a corker, a small bull or one with small antlers is a doinker. 

Problem on opening day was the bull was down in blueberry thickets below them, working slowly through the thick stuff that shrouded most of the bull up to its neck, and it never gave them a head-on look.  This is not one of the times where you say to the client, “heck, close enough.  Take your shot.”  That is when you walk up on the beast on the forest floor and, with each approaching step, the antlers shrink an inch, rather than increase.  If it comes in under 50”, Ricky certainly has some “splainin” to do.”

Not sure how the wildlife trooper calls it here, we have not had such an instance during my tenure here in the kitchen…I suspect there may be a tiny bit of leeway, but probably not much.  That is why the guide’s instructions are clear…if there is any doubt, pass it up.  The legal implications for an error here trickle up and involve everyone….the hunter, the guide, the outfitter.  I think the cook may be in the clear, but I do not want to find out.

Our hunters comprise an interesting mix.  All told there are 8 combo hunters in or around camp this season.  Two friends from Iowa are here together, young men in their 30s, one of whom is a distant cousin of Justin’s.  They spent their first 5 days in the Togiak in a spike camp, where each shot a nice brown bear.  They were moving today to a new spike camp up to the north east of our lodge to hunt for moose, and their guide, Ken from the UP, was moving with them.

Bob and Tom (yup, those are their names) came from the south…Bob is from Tennessee and Tom, from Georgia.  They met somewhere years ago and have remained good friends and hunting buddies, and an unlikelier twosome of bosom buddies I have not seen.  Bob is short in stature, perhaps 5’6”-  wiry, in his late 60s or early 70s.  He has a sincere grin on his face all day long.  Tom is tall, probably 6’3”, in his late 30s, with a long frizzy red beard, and looks like a red-headed cousin from “Duck Dynasty.”  He is also a friendly sort with a smile you think is there more than you can actually see.  The one thing they share, other than their friendship, is the twang in their voices. 

When Justin broached the possibility of sending hunters out to spike camps, Bob and Tom jumped at the chance.  They evidently had done their homework and knew that their odds for really big bears went up a notch in a spike camp.  The next day I loaded up Joe with food and he and Bob headed up to Kulik Lake to set up camp.  Tom was destined to a spike camp where Lars was already holding down the fort. 

Rain, fog and wind had backed up flights out of (and into) Dillingham early in September, so Tom had to cool his heels here at the lodge for a couple of days until Rick could take him out to join Lars. 

On the second evening in camp, Bob and Joe watched a dandy brown bear working its way towards them on the gravel.  At first sight it was about a ¼ mile away….an hour or so later Bob killed it at 25 yards with a perfect shot.  The two worked from 10 pm until 3 am, skinning and packing it out back to camp.  The next morning I heard a boat coming down river at 10, which told me that someone had been successful up stream.  Joe had a wide grin, exceeded only by the one on Bob’s face.

With little sleep, a lot of work and almost nothing to eat, I handed Bob a towel, gave him the quick instructions on how to use the shower, and cooked up a breakfast for both of them.  Joe finished the real work on the bear before carefully bundling the skull and hide in different bags and putting them in the freezer.  They were head back up river by 3 pm to resume their hunt for a moose. 

Our four other hunters are a family from Mexico City.  A father and three sons, they bring a very different feel to camp.  Fernando, or “Papa”, speaks very little English, so almost all of the conversation that involves the boys is in Spanish.  The oldest boy, also Fernando, is in his late 40s.  Next is Enrique followed by Alex. 

They expressed no interest in migrating out to spike camps, choosing to remain in the relative comfort of the lodge.  I could not get a read on how they regarded camp and its accommodations but I strongly suspect they have not enjoyed anything as rustic as Fishing Bear Lodge. 

There was a little juggling at first with the guides to get the best fit for both hunter and guide and now the teams are established.  Troy is guiding Papa, and is slowly getting to know him in spite of the language barrier.  Papa likes to return to camp each day to warm up, rest, read and eat…as does Alex, who is the least interested in the moose hunting end of things, preferring to try his hand at fishing and attempting to bag a spruce grouse with a bow.  The guides, who dislike running the extra gas and leaving new scent trails of human and fuel, are used to the routine now.  Alex is paired with Ben from Montana.

Everyone has seen some moose, but they have been either cows or small bulls.  Back to Larry and Marcus and Fernando, above Kulik, watching this bull work sideways below them through the thickets….trying to get a really good look to make the call on its antlers.  Before they grasped the opportunity, though, the bull had plowed its way out of sight. 

Enrique is hunting with Pat and Caleb, and they are babysitting a couple of bulls that remain call shy and bashful and are staying hidden.  The guides know that this is a waiting game, especially this early in the season, but the clients do not have that experience to draw upon and are getting itchy. 

The days for me are a combination of sleeplessness, intense activity and hours that stretch out between breakfast at 5:30 and dinner at 10:30.  This morning was the first time I was actually awakened by the alarm, and I batted at it in the dark and knocked it off the table next to my cot.  I struggled out of the sleeping bag and went to hunt it down to silence it so as to not wake up the rest of camp. 

Each morning I stumble down the gravel, fire up the little generator and start my coffee routine.  My moments to savor a cup are now postponed until breakfast is done, sandwiches are made and lunches are packed and gone with hunters in the pre-dawn darkness.  I like to sit on the little deck in front of camp and watch the shadowy figures crunch to and from along the gravel, their headlamps bobbing and weaving through the dark, voices hushed and headlamps discreetly shrouded with a gloved hand when two forms meet to confab.  We were treated to a cold, clear morning yesterday, stars out by the million,  close to a frost.

I pull my wool Filson coat up under my chin, feel the canvas on the chair to make sure it is dry, and sit to watch the day unfold.  I silently wish them all well as they clamber aboard the flatbottomed boats, clutching rifles and packs, puffed out in their lifejackets.  I bark at Larry as he strides past.

“Good luck!  Shoot straight, and often!”