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17 Sep

Remember The Days of Cold and War

Gary

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

Ed

16 Sep

Book Review:Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin

 

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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.

Over.

16 Sep

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.

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11 Sep

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

09 Sep

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!”

05 Sep

Computer Crap

DAY 111, Thursday, September 4, DEER PARK — Lonnie whipped up cilantro lime chicken with mango-orange-avocado salsa and refried beans last night washed down with a 2007 St. Emillion. Lovely Laurie and God have contracted agate disease. Tomorrow we may hit the mouth of the Two Hearted for fresh cohos. Meanwhile, my computer has been visited by some damn program that tells me I have 17  infections, which of course can only be cleaned if I buy a POS program called Antivirus Security Pro. Talk about scumbags!  I was on FACEBOOK when this thing popped up and now I cannot use email, inet or even Word for my manuscript.  The scam price is $59.99 for 30 days, $79.99 for 90 days, and $99.99 for six months. May these people die of horrible diseases soon. Juswt another ereminder of the wonderful joys of computer lifew. Very tempted to deep six my website, FACEBOOK and all the other crap in favor of one computer with Word only and no electronic connection to the outer world. Yesterday we found three copperbelly snakes by the porch and I’ve gotten another 30 pages of ms in past two days — handwritten. Progress continues despite computerturds falling from the sky. Will post more and phots when we get this sob cleaned and cleared. Over

 

01 Sep

More of On The Ground in Alaska

Former DNR Law Enforcement Chief Alan Marble works as a chef at a hunting-fishing camp in the Alaskan bush and sends along reports on life up and out there. Here’s his latest contribution.

“To hear John tell it, that evening was one he will remember the rest of his life, in vivid detail…the tangled alders and the hemmed-in feel of the spruces looming overhead….the measured splash and crunch of gravel of big pronated pads moving down the braided river.  He thought he could smell the bear, and, very possibly, he could.  Doesn’t matter, if he thought he could he did, and it added that 4th sense to the formula with the pressure of his thumb on the rifle’s safety. 

Only a minute or so earlier Larry had whispered, “Quiet as you can….chamber a round.  But, be brisk.” 

The bolt on the rifle needs to move smoothly and without hesitation to positively engage and chamber the cartridge that is nearly as big around and longer than a man’s little finger. 

When you can hear and maybe smell the bear and you are closed in by the sky and dark sweeping spruces, your eyes widen and it as if your pupils expand an inch or so in diameter.  Involuntary muscles at work, you strain to pull the sensory overload under control.

Then, Larry.  “Whenever you are ready.” 

A big rifle at close range seems to make two distinct reports, especially when hemmed in by trees.  Not so much for the shooter….the trigger pull and subsequent shot often go unnoticed by the hunter.  For anyone else close by, it can best in my head be described as a sharp lingering “CRACK” and then “WHOP!”

The big bear faltered and went down in the creek and started to stand and Larry pitched in with his .375 and it all came to an end. 

I sometimes catch myself thinking of the glory and relative ease of the hunting guides and their leisurely days afield….glassing for hours….snoozing at times….waiting and eating sandwiches and gorp, waiting for the massive presence of a bear or bull moose to make itself known.  In some ways I think my estimate of their routine is correct.

However, as is true for any hunter, the real work begins when your animal is down.  For me, it usually entails about 3 pounds of cock pheasant or mallard drake….or 10 ounces of plump woodcock…..occasionally the relative heft of 10 pounds of Canada goose.  The “work” is the quick field dressing, guts out….then, much later, usually in the comfort of a sunshiny late fall day or in the confines of the kitchen, the final prep of a game bird….plucking, or breasting out and removing the legs.  For a cock bird, total “work” time is perhaps 20 minutes…..5 minutes to gut it, 3 minutes to string it up to hang and age…..another 15 to pluck it or otherwise render it table-ready.

It is a tough job, but someone has to do it.

When a ton of bull moose goes down, or 600 to 900 pounds of brown bear thumps to the ground, a process begins that will consume anywhere from 10 to 24 hours of time for two people,  with a commensurate reduction of time with extra skilled hands present.  It is close-up work….with the smell that accompanies the skinning and butchering of an animal.  It is for skilled hands and very, very sharp blades.  When done properly, it is work done with an artist’s care and a sportsperson’s respect…with a certain spiritual awe that attends the wilful killing of an animal in a hunt of fair chase.  You cannot glorify it, and shouldn’t overly dwell on it.  If you hunt, there will be that sudden death of the animal you have hunted, and that moment should be accompanied by a deeply reflective moment….I don’t care to hunt with, or spend a lot of time with, a person who does not feel that tug of spirituality that follows the shot. 

It was 11:00 pm by the time John and Larry had completed the preliminary work on the brown bear and loaded their packs and began their halting two-steps-forward/two –steps-back trek down the Grant River in the dark.  The river parallels the shore of Kulik for two miles before emptying into the lake, but that ¾ of a mile of muskeg and spruce trees was trackless and passed over floating bogs with potholes and black water beneath.  Half-time wading in the river, the other half walking a bear trail downstream, they headed for the open shore of Kulik Lake.  When they emerged at the lake the sky had gone totally black, and Larry used his flashlight to signal up the shore in the direction of the tent camp, a mile away.  Joe and his client Mark were tending the little fire and fixing something warm to eat, having heard the shots and figuring on success. 

Joe saw the flashlight beam and jumped into action, fired up the motor and sped down the lake to retrieve Larry, John and the bear.  It was 2:30 in the morning when they slumped at the campfire and proceeded to tell the story and eat whatever warm food was heaped on a paper plate before them.

John was the first member of the family to connect on this hunt of a lifetime.  The next day Joe brought John and the bear back down to Fishing Bear, to congratulations all around.  Joe took a quick shower, grabbed some more groceries and headed back up to join Larry and Mark to continue the hunt.

Here in camp a certain excitement rippled through both hunters and guides.  Terry, the father of this clan, was hunting with his guide Pat and with Caleb, the young packer who started in camp last season and already has become a fishing guide and would love to continue that growth process to become a licensed hunting guide in Alaska as well. 

Matt, the third brother, was teamed with Troy and had Conner as his packer.  Lars, the Tall and Redheaded from Germany, was guiding CB, the Montana judge.  When the resident moose season opened, Jon from Goldenhorn up river, shot a nice bull and told us of the carcass and its location.  Such a carcass provides a unique bear hunting experience, and Lars and CB had the nod to hunt nearby.

Each day at dark the boats would return to camp and I would kick into overdrive to put hot food on the table with as little delay as possible.  Eating at 11:30, with dishes to do and food to put away, pushes sleep farther back and makes 6 am for me seem even earlier than it really is.

CB connected with a nice bear at the carcass after a couple of days.  Matt and Mark killed nice bears on different days and were more than happy to join brother John at camp to do some fishing, some napping, some ready and some preparing to go home to tell their stories.  Dad, however, was still a holdout.  His easy-going manner and ready smile, however, showed that this hunt was far more about time in the wilderness with his boys than anything else.

Two days to go in the hunt, coming down river near dark, Terry, Pat and Caleb all saw a dandy bear at the river’s edge.  They killed the motor and drifted down river, closer.  Pat asked if Terry had a shot, and he said, “Yes.” 

“Take it,” Pat whispered. 

Terry fired a shot, chambered another round and fired again. Pat fired.  The bear turned and scrambled up the 10 foot back into the thickets and vanished.  Downstream, fishing in front of camp in the fading light, Joe heard the commotion.  He hustled up to the little lodge….”Just heard three shots.”

Back on the river, Pat beached the boat and all three gingerly stepped ashore.  “Pat asked, “How do you feel about your first shot?”

Terry answered, “I feel good, I had it right behind the shoulder.”  Terry, I had learned over the ten days as our guest, did not run to verbal extremes or over-the-top emotions.  “I think it was a good shot.”

Pat and Caleb cautiously climbed the near-vertical bank and stood and shined their lights over the low ground cover and scattered spruces.  They could not see anything, nor could they see any blood.  They could not hear anything either.

Pat called it, “let’s head to camp and we will either get help to come back or hit it in the morning.”

All 3 had an empty spot in their guts, a gnawing feeling at leaving a job unfinished, at possibly having a seriously wounded bear within a mile or so of camp.  They checked in with Justin when they slid the boat up on the gravel and Justin made the next call.  “We will put a party together in the morning.”

The following day, after a hasty breakfast, Justin, Pat, Troy and Terry returned to scene.  Troy was first up on the bank, found blood, and looked around.  He took a few steps into the bush and called out, “Got him.” It had turned to face the river, its attackers, and expired in that position.  Terry’s first shot proved to be a mortal one. 

Relief and hearty congratulations filled the woods as Terry put his tag on the largest bear of the first hunt period.  His boys stood around, grinning and flailing at white socks and mosquitoes and the barrage of photos began. 

Pat waited patiently with Caleb at his side, waiting for their real work to begin. Photos taken, they enlisted a team and rolled the bruin on its back and began to skin it.  A gray jay flew in and perched on a spruce stub and began its own patient wait.”

Terry's bear

31 Aug

Catching Up

DAY 106, Deer Park, August 31, 2013 – Consider this a catch-up report.

It took all day Friday to learn the score of the Newberry-Rudyard High School football game played Thursday night. 32-zipdog, Newberry Indians over the Bulldogs. Not a surprise, given Rudyard’s meltdown last season.  But nobody in Trout Lake knew or seemed to care, and nobody in Newberry knew, until, finally a  fellow in line behind me at the grocery store told me. High school football used to be a very big deal up here, but it seems in most places to have gone the way of MTV, Gameboys and whatever other kinds of malarkey and folderol  the young now piddle with.

In truth, there are fewer and fewer kids up here, and school censuses are shrinking. What you see mostly and almost always are legions of old grayheads shuffling through towns, some of them local, but many from downstate or out of state, and on vacation, or they are long-time summer people, and while they may grow roots to their camps and cottages and landscapes,  and so forth, they have no real sense of attachment to neighboring towns.

Because of the drops in school enrollments, a lot of Yoop schools are turning their football programs to the eight-man game, which is a lot of fun. I played eight-man and six-man in Michigan, and eleven-man in Oklahoma and Texas. Eight-man doesn’t require the team numbers the full game does, and it puts emphasis on all sorts of open field tackling and blocking skills, and speed over brawn, though muscle still opens the doors and avenues.  

We stopped to visit Bob Bernhardt at B.J’s Rocks in Trout Lake and afterwards had lunch and there was even an orange-and-black eighteen-wheeler parked across the street with the Bulldog emblem on it, but still, the score was a mystery (or perhaps a tightly held secret?)

            Backing out of B.J.’s I bumped a VW that had pulled up to me ,so close to my rear end I never saw it until I heard it. No harm, no damage done, we went to lunch.

            After lunch it was off too Fiborn Quarry to show God and Laurie the old town site on the karst and we pulled up to find two vehicles with 8 people. There are all sorts of bulletin boards that tell the history of the place, but the people looked at me and asked,  “Have you been here before?

“Many times,” I told them.

“What’s this place all about?” they asked.

            “Did you read the information on those boards?”

            “What boards?”

            “Over there.” I pointed.

            “Um, not everything.

            What this translates to is no we didn’t see the boards, no we didn’t reading anything, and we would prefer to have you tell us something right now so that you do the work, not us.  And don’t tell us too much because our real attention is on scatting around in our 4WD vehicles.

            It is, of course, raining. And just outside Rexton our wipers go kerflummoxooey and actually cross like swords, sending the wiper from the driver’s side into the ditch. The rest of the way to Newberry I have to force myself not to hit the wipers, but of course, my mind fails me and I do several times like the class dolt. As usual the folks at Rahilly Ford are helpful, prompt and friendly, tell me they can order the part and install it this morning, so back to Noobs I shall be going.

We had two more inches of rain here yesterday, which now brings us up to 14.9 accumulated inches since we arrived here May 23. Last year at this same time we had collected  a whopping 6.4 inches. A cool, wet summer this year and the only drawback a second wave of skeets that some are saying are a different breed or variety. They are smaller and browner than our spring-summer monsters.  But much more aggressive, so we are enjoying our second skeet season of summer.

For six weeks we had the smell of death hanging shroud-like on the camp, assuming some beast crawled underneath and expired. But two days ago we pulled up some deck boards and discovered a cache of stinkhorn mushrooms in various stages of life from alive-and well to dead and decaying.  Very strange, and very stinky. We hope to be shed of this now, but time will tell.

Godfrey and Laurie are next door or two weeks. She has agate-disease, and he is pounding the lake for fish. Got  10 pike (several around 25 in), 10 rockies and a 17-in smallie his first night, 10 rockies his second night, and ten more pike last night, some as small as 12 inches. The fish have been biting only in one small part of the lake, but he has only been fishing three evenings, so they may be elsewhere at other hours. He’s going trout fishing today, while I head to the Ford dealer for windshield wiper repairs.

We’re down to one vehicle right now, Lonnie’s having been totaled in a bad windstorm six weeks or so ago. We haven’t even looked at  replacing her wheels  yet. All of her focus is on the Muskallonge State Park “” Show Sept 14 and 15 where she will display and sell her agate, datolite and other Mich stone jewelry. Very beautiful things, most of them made from stones we found on the beaches on in mine dumps up here.

Couple of weeks ago we had the honor of visiting Camp Grayling to receive an award from the DNR Law Enforcement Division for contributions to their 125th Anniversary celebrations (which is this year). Very nice. And great to see all the COs together in one place, though there was little chance to vistit with all of them. By my calculations I’ve now done solo rides with approximately 50 officers around the state  (from downtown Detroit and Lansing) to Downtown Gaastra and Alpha. And I’ve worked with more than 150 officers over 12 years in various group patrols on rivers and in night efforts under airplanes. A nice surprise and a nice moment and even an overnight at one of our favorite places in the world, Gates Au Sable Lodge.  No time to fish with Lonnie’s deadline looming for the rock show.

Meanwhile, KILLING A COLD ONE, Grady’s Service’s 9th adventure is now showing up in stores, and Lute Bapat’s second installment, MOUNTAINS OF THE MISBEGOTTEN, is at 70,000 words, about three-quarters finite.

Newberry’s horseshoe league has ended its 2013 season and we will miss the weekly horseshoe reports which are charming and sometimes downright funny. All from here for now. I hear the sun rising as I type. Will add some photos and close up.

One final thought and quandary. Last summer, same time period as this we saw almost 500 bald eagles. So far this summer we are way under 200. Any notion why such a change? Others have similar experience?

Over.

God headed out to sea to give some aerobic exercise to the local pike.

God headed out to sea to give some aerobic exercise to the local pike.

Da dashboard of da Green Streamer.

Da dashboard of da Green Streamer.

More stenchmakers.

More stenchmakers.

Dictyophora duplicate, or Skirted Stinkhorn, from under the porch. It smell like Jimmy Hoffa was buried there.

Dictyophora duplicate, or Skirted Stinkhorn, from under the porch. It smell like Jimmy Hoffa was buried there.

Ramdu Clarke's carved Pat feathers. He uses tupelo wood because it hold detail better than basswood. Hard to distinguish real from not-so-much.

Ramdu Clarke’s carved Pat feathers. He uses tupelo wood because it hold detail better than basswood. Hard to distinguish real from not-so-much.

Randy Clarke and Jambe Longue at Cambp Grayling.

Randy Clarke and Jambe Longue at Cambp Grayling.

The other side of the aisle.

The other side of the aisle.

Fun seeing all the state's CO's together, men and women in gray and green.

Fun seeing all the state’s CO’s together, men and women in gray and green.

From left: Capt. DanHopkins, Asst Chief Dean Molnar, Ishkabibble, Randy Clarke, and Chief Gary Hagler. Fellow awardee Randy Clarke is historian, naturalist, world class decoy carver, and has been working with the DNR since 1970s teaching all recruits waterfowl ID.

From left: Capt. DanHopkins, Asst Chief Dean Molnar, Ishkabibble, Randy Clarke, and Chief Gary Hagler. Fellow awardee Randy Clarke is historian, naturalist, world class decoy carver, and has been working with the DNR since 1970s teaching all recruits waterfowl ID.

What we escape by Coming Over Da Britch for half the year.

What we escape by Coming Over Da Britch for half the year.

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Failed wipers, inspection by God.

26 Aug

Reading On A Rainy Day

August 25, 2013, DAY 100 in Deer Park — One of the stellar draws
of three seasons in a small cabin is the time and peace to read and think. Yes,
to write, of course, and draw, and all that, but first and foremost to read
what others have written and to let their writings stimulate new thoughts at
they percolate through your mind.  I am,
as is known by some, an incorrigible list keeper, and each year publish on my
blog all the titles I’ve plowed through over the year, but now and then I hit
one that really sticks in my mind and strikes my fancy and GODS OF TIN by James
Salter is one of them. A West Pointer, Salter resigned halfway through his Air
Force career to write. He is as fine a stylist as one can imagine, or is likely
to encounter, and he will put you right in the cockpit with pilots, and perhaps
you will come to understand the compulsion that drives some people to want to
cheat gravity beyond the speeds of sound and reason. Salter seems to find just
the right word for the right moment, as in describing his arrival at West Point
as a 17-year-old with older upper classmen going bonkers all around sweating
trembling neophyte plebes. Salter writes, “The air was rabid.” And when asked
why he abandoned his military career, he says only, “It was in me like a pathogen
– the idea of being a writer.” As an F-86 jock in Korea he had to be a very
smooth and direct customer, and his writing reflects this. Now I have turned to
Clive James and his CULTURAL AMNESIA, which came out in 2007. My friend Phil
Carra pointed me at James and his UNRELIABLE MEMORIES, which is on my shelf and
next in line, but I wanted to start with something larger, to get a better feel
for the writer’s breadth. Carra never points me at a disappointing read, and
long ago directed me to Louis de Berniere’s’s CORELLI’S MANDOLIN, which
astounded me. I gave it to Lonnie and told her the first 100 pages or so might
be a little  slow, but to stay the
course. She did and loved it. Now she is reading the author’s  BIRDS WITHOUT WINGS, and reading passages to
me and laughing out loud or frowning with some of the historic violence she is
encountering. If you’ve not read de Benieres, do treat yourself. Lonnie loved
the line, “…Leonidas did not know how to cook and was too miserly to pay anyone
else to do it, so he lived off bread an olives. They said he was such a miser
that he regretted having to shit.” Wow. As I write the thunderstorms have moved
in and are pounding the tin roof. (Quick check shows half-inch in 20 minutes;
turned out to be 2 ½ inches for the day and lots of lightning. Internet out all
day, and power this morning.)  The dog
mule-dogged (balked) Lonnie on his walk, refusing to advance, either fearing
the storms of catching the scent of an animal he preferred not to make
acquaintance with and brought his lady home most ricky-tick. God and His Lovely
Laurie arrived today for two weeks in which he will provide aerobic exercise to
trout and a dinner or two of brookies. 
But as the rain falls, there is no better use of time than to sit back
and read. Here’s a slice from early in CULTURAL AMNESIA. “The future of
science, Renan’s cherished avenir de la
science
, can be assessed from our past, in which it flattened cities and

gassed innocent children: whatever we don’t yet know about it, one thing he
already know is that it is not necessarily benevolent.  And, “For that, science is one of the
culprits: not the actual achievement of science, but the language of science,
which clumsily imitated by the proponents of Cultural Studies, has helped to
make real culture unapproachable for exactly those students who might otherwise
have been attracted to it, and has simultaneously furthered the emergence and
consolidation of an international cargo cult whose witch doctors have nothing
in mind beyond their own advancement.” James tells us he loved popular music,
“but one look at Johnny Rotten was enough to show you why even the SS
occasionally court-martialed a few of its personnel for nihilistic behavior
beyond the call of duty, and more recently there have been rap lyrics
distinguishable from the “Horst Wessel Song” only in being less well written.”
Six chapters written since Wednesday, I’ll tackle another later today after
gorging myself of fine writing. Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain. Over.

24 Aug

Friday Morning Thoughts: Removed.

The air here is clean (not counting pine pollens, or random bird feces floating earthward), few motor vehicles, no traffic lights or jams, (other than occasional houndsmen tracking their dogs running and singing a swamp bear), No sirens, no low-flying aircraft or mindless teenagers shaking the house with Rapscallion Thunder from their mobile sounds systems (heavy on the bass, not like heavy as in serious, but as in really , terribly loud and onerous), No Mormons or Jehovian Witnesses knuckling our doors, only the occasional temporarily disoriented traveler who has done no planning and driven Up North to the UP like it was an amusement park, think of it as Yooperland, acrosst Da Britch, probably not an angle Pure Michigan will play, but ought to consider. No news junkies either, except that a neighbor got a pinched nerve in his back yesterday, and then I hear Linda Ronstedt’s Parksinsons has taken her voice; and, two black kids beat a WW Deux hero to death, taking the 90 year-old’s voice too, though assailants being black is in the story lead and Hed has no news logic, only racist spume, and makes no sense by standards I was taught long ago, and now feel at such a long remove from. No TV, no radio, and we don’t check news on the internet, though Facebook friends sometimes touch on news pseudo and real. We read only the Newberry News, a weekly, almost exclusively local in content, this week a story of a plaque dedicated to Ernie Hem at the Fox River Campground  north of Seney though it’s not known where he fished; and a flashback to 1888, “A fight between the dogs of Robert Whistle, Newberry, and Alex Murphy, Dollarvlle, attracted a large crowd Monday. Whistle’s Dog got the best of the fight.” Whistle’s Dog, great title for a fiction piece, this is how I think In my state of removal,  (another great title for a  memoir, State of Removal) 300 yards from Lake Superior’s shore.  It’s not at all clear if the dog fight was serendipitous  or formal  blood sport, or why Whistle’s names listed first when alphabetically it’s second, perhaps the editor had a wager on the outcome? Or was partial to Noobysites over Dollarvillians? There was once a national policy called removal, which took Indians off their traditional lands and put them elsewhere, always a worse place on all counts, this the extension of Manifest Destiny, a policy whereby all white Americans were “destined” to have all land of people of other colors, or cultures; and two black kids kill an elderly war hero? Have we changed at all, since 1776? But then I think, white folks will soon not be in majority, and perforce reverse Manifest Destiny will arise like reverse mortgages have popped up? Ah Friday morning thoughts. Good to clear the mind for real work. One chapter done at 0500, time to tackle another one. Had great time with COs this week at Camp Grayling. Will post photos when I catch my breath and run out of new chapter flow.

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