The Official Site of Author Joseph Heywood The Official Blog of Author Joe Heywood
09 Feb

Mattson and Moose

I got a funny email from one of my CO pals yesterday, and will protect his identity. He and I have done a heap of patrols over more than 10 years and he likes the woods cop books. Here’s the gist of the note, of a kind to make an author chuckle: “I met one of your fans(Don Mattson) who said he located (stalked) you at your house which is in the same neighborhood as his daughter lives. He stopped as I was checking my sled and tightening the cover at a park-and-ride near Koski’s Corner. He said, “Do you put as many miles on that truck as Grady Service does?” I answered, “No and I dont sleep with as many women as Grady does either.” I guess that you paint such a picture that these people think that Grady is a real person and then like an idiot I answer him like Grady is my buddy. I enjoyed the last book but I have to tell you that you shocked me with 2 characters. David Letterman and Joe Heywood. I laughed my butt off Heywood!”

I’m a lucky man to have made the friends I have out there in the CO world. For sure.

Turns out I also got some photos from an Iron County Moose-Vehicle collision last August, I think. The bull weighed something in the neighborhood of 1,200 pounds and was thumped by an 18-wheeler.  Note that the animals huge antlers are still in velvet and there’s only one antler on the head, he other antler apparently ganked by a passerby before emergency troops arrived on the scene.  Thanks to CO Dave Painter from Iron Co for sharing the pix. Glad it wasn’t me who hit the beast. Sheesh. That could really ruin one’s day, eh. When you’re a CO anywhere in our great state, you never know what you’ll have to contend with next.


These fellas did the actual heavy lifting.


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07 Feb

Pete Gent, R.I.P.

Pete and his Big Book. We all had sport coats like that in the day!

I only recently discovered that Pete Gent had passed away this past fall at a very young 69. I wrote a little about this on Facebook, but want to share a story. We were linked by high school basketball, our teams rated 1 and 2 in Class C in Michigan for the 1959-60 season. (We were rated number one) But Pete’s Bangor Vikings won the state championship and he moved on to play basketball at Michigan State. I graduated the next year and went south to get a degree in journalism, and also, I hoped, to play basketball. I went to see Forddy Anderson (varsity) and Bruce Fossum(freshman) coaches. In those days you got only three years of elligibility and had to play freshman ball. Very different than now. Coach Anderson knew about our team, but not so much me. (Why would he?) But he invited me to work out with his players over the summer. The main player was Dave Fahs, who would captain the team in upcoming season.  Dave was from Indiana. I played every day, upstairs in the heat of Jenison Fieldhouse. I more than held my own. Come fall I continued to work out with Dave and others, and a week or so before tryouts (I want to say it was September) for the frosh squad I blew out my ankle. Bad blowout. I couldn’t use it again with any strength until winter term, when I took track for one of my HPR classes. Jim Gibbard, the assistant track coach taught the track and field class and one day in the high jump I jumped  6-3 or something in that range. Coach  and he pulled me aside and asked me where I’d come from and what experience I had, and told him I’d graduated from Rudyard and we’d had track only one year and I had  won the district and UP championships and jumped 5-11 3/4. in the district finals in Newberry (which was above the Class C record at the time). By the time class ended I had jumped 6-5 1/2, the highest I would ever soar. Coach Gibbard introduced me to head coach Fran Deitrich and toward end of winter term they offered me a books and tuition scholarship for spring term.  Spring came and I took part in one meet in Ann Arbor and soon thereafter came down with mononucleosis, which put me time in hospital for several days, and washed me out for anything physical for the remainder of the school year. I saw Coach Anderson that  spring, and he urged me to come back in the summer to play basketball and I told him I would if I could. But then I got a job with the USFS in Idaho and went west to spray actidione on white pine trees, and fight fires. I never really thought about basketball again. That fall as a sophomore I began getting into my actual beginning journalism and related Communciations classes and there I met Pete, who was majoring in Communications – Advertising (as I remember it). We hit it off. He was smart, a good student, funny, cynical, and quick thinking. We became  if not close friends, pals and whenever we saw each other on campus we’d go get a pop or something and shoot the breeze. We both laughed about never getting the chance to meet in high school.  Pete graduated  from MSU in 1964, got a tryout with the Dallas Cowboys, and then a contract.  He played five years. Football wasn’t so surprising: he’d been an all-state quarterback in high school. 

Push ahead: It is now 1967 or so, I’m a navigator on a KC-135 in SAC, and the NFL pre-season is under way and my crew and I are told to take a KC-135 down to Carswell AFB in Ft. Worth Texas for some sort of manufacturer alteration. I suggested to the boys that we go to the Dallas Green Bay pre-season game, and told them I’d call my old pal and see if we could get tickets. I managed to get Pete’s home and talked to his wife, who told me Coach Landry made the team stay in a hotel the night before home games. Undeterred, I suggested we go down to the Cotton Bowl, where the game would be played and I would try to make contact with Pete. As fate would have it, the player locker rooms were on either side of the tunnel leading out to the field, and very close to the player gate. I looked over and Pete was hanging over a Dutch door bullshitting with various people and I got his attention, and next thing I knew we were in the lockerroom, where he gave me a player pass. He was grinning like a Cheshire cat and wanted to know all about my job.  He tried to find more passes, but couldn’t,and  told me to go across to the Green Bay lockerroom and see Herb Adderly, another MSU man to see what Herbie might scare up. Well, I got almost to Herb’s locker, wearing my Dallasplayer pass, but a stentorian voice yelled something along the lines of, “Get that asshole out of my lockerroom,” and I quickly found myself unceremoniously back in the tunnel. I went and told the boys no luck, then went to Pete’s door and waited for the team to come out and after they ran onto the field, I walked out to the Dallas sideline, where I spent the entire game. My squadron mates back at K.I.Sawyer AFB saw me on the sidelines during the TV broadcast and started cracking up. “How did Hump get onto the field?” (The Hump was my nickname in the squadron.) By the time I finished my tour in the USAF in 1970, Pete had finished five years with the Cowboys and was out of football. I ended up with The Upjohn Company in Kalamazoo. Later Pete returned to his hometown of Bangor, MI, 25 miles west of me. He wrote the hugely successful North Dallas Forty and a string of other good stories, but we never met again, and I always regretted not driving over there and popping in on him. Two small high school guys, one a great jock, the other a mediocre one, but both of us became novelists. What are the chances? 

I know football beat hell out of his body and that he was in pain for years, but I never expected him to go at 69. Rest in peace, pal.  Of all the sports memories I might have had, the one that stands out is Pete, stealing a ball in a game and charging down the middle of the court. He was six-four, 200 pounds, but he could JUMP, and he took his last step on the free throw line, elevated and literally soared, descending to pound the ball through for a stuff that brought the crowd to it’s feet. You see, we Michigan Staters like winning, but we even more like players who give an honest, maximum, no-holds-barred, nothing-held-back performance every time they go on the court or field.  Pete Gent was the prototype. And a smart guy to boot. He graduated with honors. Me? A solid C. Sad to lose him and ironic because Bubba Smith, another campus pal passed away a few years back and I didn’t know about that until later either. It’s getting to be that time of life when death has to be factored in.


01 Feb

Winter of Our Polickytickygel (Thank You Mr. Allerdyce) Torment

Romnoid 46-32% over Gingrich in the Florida primary. What’s it mean? Romney and friendly super pacs ran 13,000 ads to Gingrich’s 200. For all that money, what did the “lifelong outdoorsman” [his description of himself in 2007] get? Perhaps, Dare pondus ideonea fumo, or “fit only to give weight to smoke.”

Yes, of course he got committed heads for the first round of the GOP convention, but that aside, more voters in Florida didn’t prefer Romney, than did. Gingrich and Santorum together got 45 % of the vote (32+13). Is the lesson in Florida that money “sort of” trumps all? Projections say Obama is on fund-raising target for $1 billion for the November election. Him with the biggest war chest will win?Like all reality shows, there’s more baloney and trumped-up drama in the election run-up, than reality.

Okay, how about this for a new approach. No more elections. Let candidates declare during a certain set time: Once the field is set, let them
buy ads (bloggers, etc)  and let candidates put forth their views as ably as they can; as ads run, let the media shit-fight begin and require all candidates to participate in televised national debates to be held in football stadiums so as to assure gladiatorial audience ululating responses. Seats to stadium events must be limited to people who live within 10-15 miles of the stadium, with tickets mailed only to legal residents.  I suspect one or both parties will come up with a plan to counterfeit tickets, or have like a polling place challenge teams  to block people trying to get into stadia. Finally,after all the sturm and drang, we’ll let pollsters decide who would be elected if we wanted to be bothered by  all that trouble of  physically  voting.  Herman Cane said at a Gingrich event this week that, “This country is being ruined by stupid people.” Ya think?

But which stupid people is the grandiloquent Hermunster referring to? Seems to me Pogo, old chum, tis we the gobschmucked masses in need of scrubbing with unholystic political soap, and mass water boarding with specially made party hard cider. We always expect the creme de la creme to emerge to lead us, but it always turns out to be the grim de la grim, running scams de la scam, or rich guys born on third base, and certain in their proclaimed god-fearing hearts that they  hit a triple? 

Will be interesting to see what happens here in the Wolverine State (where many naturalists believe there was never an indigenous wolverine population). Last polls here said Obama would trump Romney in that matchup. Our Governor OTN (One Tough Nerd) himself  a republican, has wisely refrained from endorsing anyone in his party. Meanwhile, if you get out in the countryside hereabouts, you’ll see all sorts of Ron Paul yard signs. Just like last time when Ron Paul carried no states, and got 6.3 percent of the primary vote, while Romnoid beat Johnny the Jet 39-30 (three field goals) , but lost the Big Show  nomination and the election.

Mario Cuomo is sometimes quoted as saying Presidents campaign in poetry and govern in prose. Don’t hear much poetry these days. Does this mean the prose will be even worse. Or is it that those with too much poetry are incapable in the stark world of prose?

Like my old pal The Snooker, used to say in his East Texican drawl: “Is this keen, or what? Are we having fun yet? Anybody out there? Over. 

29 Jan

Sunday Stuff

Im attaching a photo of workers building the Mackinac Bridge, to remind of us a time when our country actually built stuff.  This morning I heard the chairman of the GOP compared the President to the captain of the Italian cruise ship who abandoned his post, and his ship, and his passengers.  Seriously? And the Donald the Trumpet may jump into the GOP race if the nominee doesn’t look like a winner? Maybe he can bring Palin with him, who reportedly  once described wolf shooting  as an All American sport. Really folks. Seriously. Everybody, all of us,let us take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and then re-engage our brains, assuming you know what.

Oh, here’s what I read this month: 

1. Melvin R Starr. The Unquiet Bones

2. Melvin R. Starr A Trail of Ink

3. Melvin R. Starr. Unshallowed Ground.

4. Joseph Heywood. RED JACKET. [MS]

5. Joseph Heywood. HORSE BLANKETS. [MS-SS]

6. Joseph Heywood. KILLING A COLD ONE. [MS]






12. Joseph Heywood. BLUE WOLF IN GREEN FIRE.

13. Douglas Brinkley. THE QUIET WORLD: SAVING ALASKA’S WILDERNESS, 1879-1960. [NF]


15. Jim Harrison. THE GREAT LEADER.

16. Adam Johnson. THE ORPHAN MASTER’S SON.


What it looks like to actually build something important.

25 Jan

One Small View of One Scrivener’s Life

Another “typical” writing day lies ahead. (Typical for me only, though I am sure other writers would report similar agendas). To bed at midnight last night, up at 0700 this morning. KILLING A COLD ONE (Woods Cop #9) has grown to 86,000 words and as i look at the +/- goal of 100K words, i realize i have 13 pages midway in the book, that i’ll have to excise because the two chapters don’t advance the main story. A bunch of new typing sits by the computer upstairs. I write first draft in longhand (readable only to me) and edit the handwritten draft and then transfer to the word processor to edit again.  Meanwhile, i await receipt of final manuscript (OFF WING) of a pal, a book more than 12 years in the making. And i have comments on a short story (“Bend in Water”)to return to another friend who asked me to take a look-see. Another old friend, an editor in NYC, sent email yesterday asking me to “blurb” a novel her outfit will publish later this year. A bound galley will arrive in today’s overnight mail. Blurb means a sort of review, the sort of things you see excerpted on book jackets and featured  in book ads. I hope to blurb another for another pal, for his first novel later this spring.

And I started reading Douglas Brinkley’s THE QUIET WORLD: SAVING ALASKA’S WILDERNESS KINGDOM, 1879-1960. Brinkley is a terrific writer.  I will be taking part in a Michigan State (MSU) series in late march. The series focuses on how fiction can bring focus to cultural, national, and world issues. My session will focus on wolves as the feature example for endangered species, and BLUE WOLF IN GREEN FIRE, will be the book of choice. Ergo, I will spend a couple of months reading and making notes in preparation for my presentation in East Lansing, and to prepare me for discussions featuring actual experts from the field. All such reading goes into the hopper for material for future books and ideas. Last night I got an meal from a pal basically calling President a Commie and I sent a reply calling my pal a Fascist. My old coach Ed Jarvie also phoned to tell me he and wife Yvonne are having dinner with my old teammate Dan Riordan (and wife Sue).Did I have any wisdom for Ed to pass on to Dan? No, I passed that along decades ago and he ignored most of it, so no need to beat the dead horse. Felt bad about snarking at my extremely right wing pal, but so it goes. All these calls for political unity are being sucked into the national political tar baby we call the presidential election run-up. Thank god this summer we’ll be in the U.P. without TV and beyond the reach of massive bullshit political ads and walkup ice worms looking to glad hand and give us bullpolitlit. Other business, Admiral Al the Pal is trying to set a date for Fishing Camp YR #36 in Lake County, and thus the usual exchange of sophomoric and insulting emails as  we react with the 14-yr-old shit-for-wit we apparently never outgrew. On balance, this is prolly more good than bad. And my pal Mel Visser let me know “the EPA is hanging on to local instead of Asian sources for PCBs and toxaphene. Even magically figured out that Lake Superior can maintain its horrendous toxaphene levels without a source and that suddenly toxphene levels are dropping in all the lakes. Amazing how politics trumps science.”

 Next on my reading list is THE COMPLETE McAUSIAN, which is written, I believe by the creator (George McDonald Frasier?)of the immensely amusing  FLASHMAN series I read and enjoyed years ago.  Jambe Longue is finishing Michael Korda’s IKE and will start  Ike’s autobiography, AT EASE, next. And once a night we take a break to watch a movie on disk: In order, from last night backwards: 50 DEAD MEN WALKING; ATTACK ON LENINGRAD; OPEN RANGE; CRAZY OUTSIDE; INGLORIOUS BASTERDS; SPOILS OF WAR; THE UNFORGIVEN;THE PROPOSAL; BENEATH HILL SIXTY;  SOCIAL NETWORK; LARRY CROWNE; AND MONEYBALL. I know, we have very pedestrian movie tastes, but I grew up a military brat and we got a pair of double-features a week at the base theater where it cost a couple of dimes to get in and i watched them ALL. The coda was, ANY move beats NO movie…. My kids still rag on me for being able yo identify  movies after seeing just a few frames play. Truth is that very few movies made such an impression that i have a list of faves in mind because i don’t.  But i  LIKE movies that tell good and compelling stories,  and I try especially to pay attention to how the story (narrative) gets spun or told. A writer can learn a lot about action construction, personna, setting and visual settings by watching a wide range of movies. And dialogue, which is critical both to novels and films. 

Finally, I post tidbits and stuff on Facebook, or write and post a blog a couple of times a week. And, we might run over to Sam’s for pop this morning, and we need to pick up some paint for a  small-wall repair. Ordinary ife always goes on either parallel to or entertained with the so called creative life.  Dinner last night was Chinese takeout, fetched home by Jambe Longue after teaching her drawing class at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Tonight will be  Mexican green chile chicken and rice from a crockpot. Giants vs Patrots in Super Bowl coming up.  We won’t bother watching. 

 Typing calleth mein vornamen.Over. 

23 Jan

Monday’s Child

Awoke at ohdarkthirty to thunder and lightning, 40 degrees, barometer at 960. Holy wah, where dat liddle winter she go, eh?

Naturally my creative juices were stinkulated. And I awso  t’row you pitchers fum vahairious pipples.

Winter’s Fool

Thunder roils peeled

away night sleep, leaving

me thinking brook trout

rising to my fry pan

my feet hit the wood floor

where’s my five-foot rod,

snelled hooks, my Yooper

gear, desperate to

got downstairs, get out back

to pick up night worms,

I take the dog downstairs

plump with optimism let

Shanahan out to pee

on scabby snow,

all this a goddamn

dream wrought by Aquilo

or Heikki Luunta,

nevertheless I check

the pantry and fridge for

corn meal, brown sugar

lemons, shallots, capers

all bundled in the go-kit

for trout fishing I crawl

back into bed

Lonnie mumbling, “Whaaa?

False alarm, teased by gods

ninety eight days

ere the last Saturday in April.

[Portage, 1-23-12]

When one wishes to use and elkhair caddis, it is best to take the hair from the elk before casting,s not to try to cast the entire animal. But that's just an opinion.

Big Mack Bridge, web cam photo, few days back. Interesting driving, lads and lassies.

Sergeant Mike's Mountain Pose Hairyzoner.

No idea where Lenny the Dep gets his photos, but they sure catch the eye!

21 Jan

Satiddy Moaning: A-Sneakin’ up on Work and Musing on Polyticks

Voting in South Carolina’s Palmetto primary began this morning. By the way, back in the distant past when Sandy and I were in the
Carolinas one fall we discovered huge cockroaches all over the room and when I asked the hotel management about them they informed me politely that, “Them’s what we call palmetto bugs, y’all.” Right. 

Definition in order: Polyticks: Many parasitic arachnids which live by sucking blood of warm-blooded creatures.

Iowa still hasn’t figured out results of theirs. With all the vaunted computer power and committed people we have, shouldn’t election results now be your basic dog shot? I am blogging to avoid typing. Have a heap to put into the word processing draft of Killing A Cold One. But I need to sneak up on the chore.  

Also been thinking about all the accusations of Mitt Romney being a vulture capitalist. I would remind us all that vultures almost always eat carrion (dead stuff) and only huge vultures occasionally attack small animals. Thus, a true vulture capitalist wouldn’t make a whole lot of money investing only in dead-meat companies. Hyena capitalist might be better, but that’s only a guess. Hyenas eat the dying and the dead.

Also, why is so much being made of Mitt-the-Flip’s business experience? There is virtually no talk at all about his time in an elected office actually governing Massachusetts? Why is that? And what is his hangup with disclosing finances. What sort of dullards are advising him? This is like a 2+2 problem facing the candidate and his advisors. In my limited experienced, successful businessmen tend to be hard-working, smart, etc.  They become successful by moving up an organizational ladder (inside a closed world), with increasing power and control coming with increasing rank through promotion. Such businessmen are of course individuals, but in my corporate experience I noticed one constant among some top execs: They could not deal easily with the media, because the media, unlike internal questioners, ask the questions they want to ask, not the questions the exec wants to answer. [Stark violation of Emperor’s-New-Clothes no-nos] This brazen openness  always rankled hell out of some execs who had reached august heights by being highly controlling. See, inside audiences and personnel always had to be cognizant of dealing with the boss. Business, like any institution, is a closed loop that abhors any outside contact or interference with that the closed loop can’t control. The closed loop loathes the media, and government at all levels, and even customers.  Private companies who rarely interact with the media tend to be even more abhorrent of the media than publicly held outfits who have no choice (at least by SEC regs)  but interact with the mass media in all of its forms.  The media have no such constraints in the questions they ask, nor should they.  It is this factor that often make politicians declare reporters the enemy.This almost always happens when the person making the declaration feels trapped by a question, or wants to try to throw the focus on to the questioner (like the old saw of “shooting the messenger). The ability to effectively meet reporters is of course a key skill in being president. If candidates get flustered and discombobulated during a campaign, how the hell will they act under the real and crushing pressures of a national crisis? As for Governor Romney’s reluctance re: financial disclosure, every truly professional PR consultant and practitioner knows if you’ve got nothing to hide, get it out quick. And if you have bad news or what may be initially be taken for bad , get that bit out even quicker and move on. Mark Twain once  advised, “If you  have to eat two frogs, eat the biggest one first. And if you have to eat any frog, eat it first thing in the morning.” In other words, take your lumps, and move on. Still have no idea who I will vote for come the election, but lots of time ahead to contemplate and read garbage forwarded by friends about how Obama will exempt Muslims from so-called Obamacare (which was modeled on Mittcare), and work sharia law into our land. Yeah, right. God god, boys. Think! (Even if it hurts).

Back in the days when God and I taught at Western Michigan’s professional masters writing program we had some outstanding students. Here I provide a photograph of one of our best. I think we worked him so hard we caused his head to reform into a pencil so he’d always be reading to scriven. Aaron Klammer. Good guy (Unt  maybe a tad eccentric?)
Over. Ave-a-noyce-dye-mites. 

Aaron, Ready to Write

17 Jan

Banning Books in Plymouth, Michigan

Word today that there is a hooha about Toni Morrison’s Beloved in the Plymouth Canton MI  high school, some parents pushing for a ban from an AP English course. Never read the book myself, never had an interest, but if they ban it, I guarantee they will multiply the local readership and push up sales. From an author’s perspective: Go ahead and Ban It! Works about as well as Prohibition. You think the war on drugs is a failure? Try a war on books.  Do people never learn? Ever? According to Jack Lessenberry on NPR,  “At a two-hour public review last week two parents complained that the novels contain passages that discuss sex, ghosts and the killing of an infant. Mr. Dame also said that characters in the books take God’s name in vain. Well, I’ll be goddamned. Excuse me, but have you  people never seen television, a movie, a magazine, the internet,  newspapers, or listened to your teenage kids talk? The father in this case already got one book pulled from the program. He ran for office last year as a Tea Party rep and lost. Draw your own conclusions. What bothers me is that the schools bowed to this at all. How long before these same folks start trying to tell teachers how to teach. Oh wait, they’re already trying that. Bah humbug. Over: I just want this sort of crap from people who are certain they know best for all of us to be over. Over. On the other hand these folks have the right to believe what they want and say what they want. That said, I’m not aware of any law, moral or ethical code that necessitates we take such things or people  seriously or even with respect. All ideas are not equal. Seriously.

15 Jan

Story from the Fate Pile

My pal Bob Linsenman took Jambe Longue and me on a honeymoon float awhile back. This story was supposed to appear in Midwest Flyfishing, but the editor there, a friend of both Bob and me, died and the story fell into the bottomless fate pile. The editor’s name was Tom Helgeson, a truly good guy. I offer the story here, courtesy of,  und mitt der permission of Mr. Linsenman und  his house full of Lab pupskers, including my favorite girl Kukl, the Butterfly Dancer. [By the way, the first novel of Robert L will be forthcoming. I’ll post updates as the dates are firmed up. You won’t want to miss that read.]

The Honeymoon Float by Bob Linsenman

An earlier era hockey goalie mask is prominently displayed in the Au Sable Angler fly shop.  Its blood red base color is overlaid with key words from a minor angling tragedy – “sorry Bob”…“no rattlers.”  This is just enough to beg the question and answer sequence that generates honest moans and shudders. 

The short version is “…then Joe (Heywood) turned and cast and buried the Rattlesnake’s tandem hooks in the inside of my upper lip.  Both hooks, past the barbs.

 “Is he the guy that wrote the Snowfly and those books about the conservation officer?”

“Yup, the very same.  Joe painted the mask and brought it to the shop for a memento.” 

Joe has a keen wit, a somewhat devilish sense of humor, and a passel of classy friends.  The classiest of which is Ms. Lonnie.  Lonnie became Lonnie Heywood in a quiet ceremony earlier this year and immediately elevated the stature of Joe’s entire operation.  The wedding was performed by Godfrey Grant (as God is my nickname), one of Joe’s close friends and frequent angling companion.  Godfrey discovered that the great State of Michigan recognizes any ordination – even one that involves only the exchange of credit card information for a spiffy certificate via the internet.  So, Godfrey became the right reverend God of the First Church of the Gooey Backcast and Joe and Lonnie were joined in matrimony by God, himself on the first day of spring, 2010.  It snowed.

Godfrey thought a serene float trip on the Au Sable would be a suitable wedding gift and commissioned me to man the oars.  Hired by God.  I remarked that I would have to remember to duck if Joe tied on a Rattlesnake.  God said, “You will” in a commandment-like voice and went on to say that he and two of Joe’s other close pals, Lou Carlson and Bill Stout, would follow along in a second drift boat to join us for a streamside lunch and generally keep an eye on things.  The pressure was on.

I made arrangements for our flotilla to stop for lunch at Steve and Lisa Scott’s cottage on Fudgie’s Riffle, a bit downstream from the mid-point of the Au Sable’s Trophy Water stretch.  Steve promised to have the charcoal grill fired up and his pup, Sophie, on watch for our arrival.  My thought was that Joe and Lonnie would fish the productive water in front of the Scott cottage while the rest of us scurried about cooking, tending to potato salad and fresh fruit and trying to keep Sophie, the super Airedale, occupied.

All of that worked as planned but there was no proviso or escape clause for lousy fishing weather.  The barometer was jumping up and down within a tight, low range.  We had alternating periods of clouds, heavy rain with thunder, then bright sky with full sun.  Correspondingly, the temperature fluctuated up and down several degrees with each shift.

To say that fishing was poor would be a considerable understatement.  But, we had some blue-winged olives and a few Isoynichias emerging.  Although larger trout generally feigned indifference throughout the day, Joe managed to land a “slam” including a lovely, wild brook trout of about seven inches.

The honeymoon float lunch was a lot better than the fish catching.  Godfrey grilled filet mignon for all and we added homemade pasta salad, fresh strawberries, cheese, and a lavish serving of bold-hearted fishing lies to complete the menu.

Now, I want to make and stress a point here relative to brazen fishing lies just referenced and to angling conversation in general.  Joe, Lonnie, Godfrey, Steve, Lou and Bill are all adults, at least by chronological measure, and are beyond the point where they feel the need or desire to strut and posture the use of in language or cool slang for recognition or acclaim by others.  Not once during this day did I hear the words dude, or toad, or the expression totally  awesome.  I have pretty much stopped watching TV fly fishing shows and industry sponsored videos because I am tired of hearing everyone hailed as dude, every fish- even a small, skinny one categorized as a toad, and nearly every distinct, recordable event blessed with totally awesome.  I just can’t stand it anymore.  My position is this – when someone calls someone #2 “dude” I assume they are too lazy to remember #2’s name, or just don’t care; when someone calls a trout that is clearly in the 15-16 inch class, “A 20 incher, a real toad,” I know they have not caught many trout of size and/or they are working at that darned posturing lingo crap for the camera; when someone releases that same trout, or points out a cow on the bank, and says “totally awesome,” it’s a safe bet that they are 14 years old or an idiot.

The float downstream from Fudgie’s Riffle to our takeout at McKinley (home territory of the McKinley cannibals, but that is another story) was relaxed, content, almost lazy.  There was no unrealistic pressure to overcome the days volatile weather with guide magic, and Joe and Lonnie were generally philosophical about an individual rising trout’s acceptance or rejection of their offered fly.

At one point God’s boat sidled up alongside and we sat awhile watching a fine pool in the vain hope of seeing a large trout whack a hapless bug.  It was pretty quiet for a short while until Godfrey had a memory blast.  He had purchased a very spendy bottle of French champagne to share in salute and remembered it with a loud “whoop,” and “Oh, boy!”

There soon followed some difficulty in transferring directions for the deployment of an exotic cork-pulling thing because God turns off his hearing aid while fishing. There was some wild gesturing and yelling while a bemused Godfrey thumped and poked at the bottle’s cork.  It all worked out.  I had given alcohol a bad name in several foreign countries and two US embassies and no longer drink, so there was enough of the good bubbly for the wedding party to enjoy. 

The boats were nestled up to the bank on the inside sweep of a beautiful curving pool on one of our nation’s most lovely trout streams.  It was late afternoon and the sun’s rays angled through the tops of bank-side cedars and touched the water softly. Two small trout started rising near the far shore, eating bugs probably too tiny to copy with artificials. But, Godfrey did not think it a waste of time.  He sloshed out into the pool a bit and cast to the determined but spooky little predators.  We watched without comment.  I think each of us silently urged Godfrey on to a rise and hook-set but it was not to be.  He turned after a bit, shrugged, and reeled in his line.

As we neared the end of our float a mature eagle cruised overhead and banked left against a backdrop of dark cedars and spruce.  It was a gift, a majestic vision.  It was close, but not totally awesome.  Remember kids, “dude,” “toad,” and “awesome” are four letter words.

13 Jan

Just Doing What Needed Doing

If we’re lucky, we meet people in our lives we don’t forget. One such in my life is Barry Hanchett, a year behind me at Michigan State, graduate of Wayne Memorial High School in Detroit. In college he was  a pencil-necked jock, wiry, hard-nosed straight talker, who always pulled more than his own weight and believed in  team.  Barry graduated from MSU in 1966, volunteered for the USMC, and became an officer and Marine aviator, a career fighter pilot. Good man by all standards. The other day we got an email from another pal of ours and Barry mentioned in passing something about one day in his flying career. Pretty ho hum narrative of what he called one of his most urgent emergencies. Here it is in his own words:

“On takeoff on one hot summer day from Cubi Pt in the Philippines with a max load F4 (54,000 lbs gross weight), I suddenly lost my right engine and in my mirrors saw fire spitting out my ass end. We were at 400 feet and quickly descending SL with the USS Enterprise in sight. At this point I said to my RIO (Radar Intercept Officer: in the AF F4s we called them the GIB, Guy in Back), “Popcorn, I think I have it. Declare an emergency, have the wingman join and check for fire. If I yell ‘eject’ once, do it!” Due to some quick actions to get “rid” of some of our weight, and holding the aircraft at L/D max angle of attack, we were able to avoid the carrier by some 50 feet, climbed to altitude and returned to base for an arrested landing. Shortly after that it was time for a couple of beers! it is moments like that when training pays off and you realize we are members of the best fighting force in the world.” Indeed.

Hanch doesn’t consider himself a hero, just a guy who did a job.  And there are lots of vets like him.We don’t agree on most things-politic, but I’d fly with him any day, anyplace.  

He retired as Colonel Hanchett after a long, illustrious career. I’ve stuck a photo of an F4 below so you can sort of see what kind of aircraft he’s talking about. The one in the photo is, I think, a USAF F4E and Hanch’s bird was a later model adapted for carrier use, but it will give you a sense of what a Phantom looks like.

I’ll close by citing guys from Rudyard High School and MSU who served in the military.( * = Deceased)

RUDYARD HIGH SCHOOL:  Richard Beaudoin (USN); *Richard English, (USMC); Jim Heywood (USAF);Donald Prince (USAF); Charles “Bucky” Roebuck (USN); Robert Soucy (USAF); Bill Spitler (USMC). There may have been others, but these are the ones I knew about.

MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY (F=Fraternity Brother; LAX = Lacrosse teammate): *Steven Canavara (USAF); * Dave Grimm (USAF); *Thomas”Leadfoot” Tubbs (USAF)Ted Tower (USAF);Randy Hotten (USN); William “Wolfman”Haeger(LAX) (USA); Michael “The Giant” Jolly (LAX) (USA); Joe Sutschek (LAX) (USA);Dick “Lurch”Aubrey (LAX) (F) (USA); Frederick “Fritz” Barratt (F) (USAF); Barry “Hanch” Hanchett (F) (USMC); Carl J. “Songbird” Pfaffenberg (USN); Gary “Pretty Boy” Smalt (F);(USAF)Joseph M. “Goose”  Vairo (F) (USAF); John “Coathanger”Turbeville (USN); and Jon “Aardvark” Vilhauer (F) (USAF)

The vast majority of college boys in those days ducked military service for various reasons, some legit, some not so much. Many simply didn’t  want their careers interrupted before they began. Diff between now and then is there was a draft in place. 


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