Monthly Archives: November 2010

NEW GROWTH

In case you hadn’t seen the new addition to the blog, there’s another section now alive-and-kicking in the navigation above:

T-SHIRTS & SHOUT-OUTS – support local grassroots conservation efforts with your purchase of fishingpoet t-shirts and decals. Giving back looks good on you.

As a matter of fact, I just posted a review of Jeff Vande Zande’s new book, Threatened Species – a really solid collection of five stories and a novella, that take an unflinching look at the pain of loss (family, self, nature, faith) with the rugged landscape of Northern Michigan as its backdrop. And yes, there’s plenty of fishing.

I’ll be sure to let you know when new reviews and features go up, but you might want to check back every now and again… just for good measure.

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Filed under Reviews

SATURDAY MORNING GOOSE BLINDS

We settle in the furrows. Busted cornstalk & camo. Coffee, pipe and tobacco for me, graham crackers, juice and a goose call for Cam. My pipesmoke drifts from the embers, disappears weakly east. The waiting is easy, we have our distractions.

Sunrise discovers our black-gray-white decoys in their plastic readiness. Birds wind up their volleys on the water—hollow and haunting echoes in their distance—a quarter-mile as the crow flies. Without weather to push, they’re up late.

They materialize from below the treeline, wings and necks, full white breasts, the whistle and buzz of pinion feathers. My son calls to the sky, to birds in their stealthy ascent. Three sets look, circle, continue east. Strings on the horizon. Silent as dawn.

Cornstalks & camo

 

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Filed under Fatherhood and venison jerkey, In the woods

BASIC

5:30 a.m.
Rain, low/mid 40’s
August 28, 1990, my 18th birthday
Ft. Leonard Wood, MO

Up at that hour, I wished I was getting my gear loaded in the truck to fish or hunt.

No dice.

I was doing push-ups. In a parking lot. With a rifle across the back of my hands. Our entire platoon was. Ponchos, kevlar helmets, BDU’s, boots and full canteens. Rain in puddles around our hands and boot-toes, reflecting street-lights and the steam from our breath. I don’t remember why we were doing them, other than someone did something wrong. I quietly hummed happy-birthday-to-me between push-up counts. It was going to be another kick-ass day.

I’m not being sarcastic either. I loved basic training. I still hold to this day that it was one of the best experiences of my life. Our wedding reception/pig-roast a decade later and the birth of my kids shortly after that soundly rounding out the list.

I had to get my mom’s permission when I enlisted at 17. Had to admit in front of her that I smoked pot before too. Hey, its a federal offense if I said never! and then came up hot on my first piss-test…at least that’s what the recruiter said. Mom signed and left the room. I was due to report for duty in Missouri on August 3rd, 1990. The first day of Desert Shield.

Becoming a Combat Engineer was a 13-week come-to-Jesus meeting between my small-town, undisciplined self and a half-dozen Drill Instructors hell bent on forging steel from my small-town, undisciplined self. Tank-trail road marches. Push-ups. Mud and barbed-wire low-crawls. Explosive-device identification classes. Push-ups. Field-triage first aid classes. Road marches. Rifle and grenade ranges. Push-ups. Muscle failure PT at dawn. Foxholes and midnight perimeter guard. Push-ups. Mine field-sweeping exercizes. Nuclear, Biological and Chemical training (aka the gas chamber). Road marches in gas masks. Push-ups.

The impending war in Saudi was held over our heads from day one.

You’re all going to the desert, the Drill Sergeants would bark. Every last swingin’ dick.
If you don’t pay attention, you’re gonna die.

The harder I worked, the better I performed. The better I performed the less the Drill Instructors kicked my ass, which in an odd twist of psychology, drove me to work harder.

I wasn’t the scrawny, insecure, undisciplined kid that was late to the puberty party anymore. Not another kid lost in the wild, confusing, irrelevant shuffle of freshman year at a State school back home. For the first time in my life, I was on my own path. A leader and part of something much bigger than myself. It scared the shit out of me. But it was something I could own and be proud of.

I didn’t wind up going to the desert, assigned instead to an Ordnance Unit in Germany, then returning to serve stateside. Many of my friends did though…and many more served in Panama, Rwanda, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan…are still serving.

I’ve moved on in another direction with my career and life path. But my time in the military and my cohort are never far from my thoughts. They never will be. Their sacrifice makes the freedoms I enjoy possible…freedoms I know I take for granted at times. Like the ability to write this blog. Or even something as simple and pure as spending time in the woods or on the water with my dad or my kids… for that alone I can’t express enough gratitude.

In the end, I wouldn’t have the perspective I do today without the…ahem…gift of those push-ups on my 18th birthday. I’m thankful, and proud, that I do.

Charlie - 35th, 3rd Platoon, Ft. Leonard Wood, 1990

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Filed under The road, Time in service

FREE T’s & MANY THANKS

Before I announce the winners of the first-ever fishingpoet T-shirt giveaway, I’d like to again say thank you to everyone that has stopped by regularly, or even once in a while over the last (now) 14 months, to catch up on the stories, poetry and such that I put up here. It’s a very cool thing to know that folks are reading.

Enough of the sentimental baloney…here are your 5 winners!

Josh Bergan
Rob DeVore
Kyle Johnson
Robert Wilding
Jean-Paul Lipton

If you didn’t win, don’t fret. I’ll have the T-shirts for sale – $15 each/2 for $25. Decals will be $4 each/2 for $6.

For the guys

For the ladies

I’ll be making donations from the proceeds to support local grassroots wood, water and wildlife conservation programs around the country. I’ll be featuring a new group every other month, sharing  their story and mission, and making a donation to help their cause. That’s the hope anyhow…guess we’ll see how it goes.

Check out the first featured org here, and thanks again for your support.

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Filed under In the woods, On the water

HEADLAMPS & HOMEMADE BOWS

The leaves aren’t the only things that turn in this neck of the woods once Fall arrives. In our barn, upstairs in the hunt/fish lodge, the fishing gear that has been sitting in various states of take-out and put-back for the past four-or-so months has do-si-do’d with my hunting gear. Chest-packs and tackle boxes, rods and kayak paddles have changed places with tree stands and goose blinds, compound bows and camo clothes. A bittersweet swap, this season, leaving one girl at her front door while another waits in the truck honking the horn. Fortunately, my wife is remarkably understanding.

While my annual shift in pastimes is essentially no different than it ever has been, there is one welcome addition to the mix: the boys. Their enthusiasm for all things wild and fishy is not new. I’ve told many a story about their outdoor revelry in previous posts. But this past weekend brought about an outdoor first for them. And a bit of perspective for me.

Saturday morning was windy and cold. Not creep-into-your-backbone-make-you-have-to-pee cold, but cold enough. Like a headlamp with fading batteries, the exactly-half moon cast the woods in a soft light under a cloudless pre-dawn sky. The deer would be moving and, in the dark of ten minutes to six, my gut was telling me that they’d be moving in my direction. At ten to nine a big doe made good on my gut’s intuition.

Broadside at 35 yards, but walking. I drew, put my 30 yard pin juuuust a touch high on her shoulder and let loose an arrow which found the heart of a very big shag-bark hickory behind her. That tree didn’t stand a chance. I lost sight of her at about 80 yards as she headed into a thicket. Figuring my arrow found a twig or branch somewhere between my bow and where she had stood, I counted it a clean miss and hunted for another hour or so. At 11:30 I started my walk out, heading to my trophy hardwood to retrieve my arrow.

When I got there however, the arrow told another story. It had found it’s mark prior to finding the tree. Considering the doe’s unhurried retreat, I figured the shot was probably good but not stellar. I decided I’d better let her be for a little while longer, left the woods and went home to get my blond bloodhounds. No sooner had I told them I had a deer down and needed their help tracking her, every piece of camouflaged clothing they owned was on and they were yahoo-ing their way to the truck. They’ve only ever seen the deer in the back of the truck when we brought them home. This was their first time to actually be a part of the hunt.

Holding his homemade stick-and-string bow, Jonah, told me, Dad, I’m gonna bring my bow in case there’s another one around. Followed by, can I use one of your arrows? I don’t have any.

Cam demonstrated a make-shift karate kick-chop that he would employ if the wild-animal need should arise.

We were off.

My dad met us for the search. I gave the boys the lay of the land.

You’ve got to be quiet and whisper when you talk. If she’s still alive we don’t want to spook her. Make sure you stay behind Papa and me. And if you see something, I added, give me a psssst!

They started right off into the brush ahead of us, jabbering away. In a short while they got the hang of the search. Pointing things out to each other, giving me a pssssst! every now and again to point out a red leaf or show me a cool new stick that was perfect for another bow. We followed the trail for a half-hour before I spotted the doe.

I see her! said Cam, following the direction of my point.
So do I! said Jonah, not really seeing her yet.

After a holy cow and she’s-a-big-one and the obligatory can I touch her eye? I got to work. The next half-hour was full of more anatomy and physiology questions than timeouts in the last 2-minutes of a college basketball game. My guess is that when they get into dissecting frogs or pigs in Biology class, the girls will be scrambling to have them as partners. We got the doe in the truck and took her to get set for the freezer. On the ride home, the boys were both off out the window with their thoughts.

That was cool.
Yea, Dad, that was cool.


The next day was Halloween. After trick-or-treating, I got a text from my dad that he needed my help. He had been out in his stand that afternoon and had shot a big buck around dusk. Dad saw him go down. Thinking the jig was up, he made his way over toward the deer only to have it jump up and bound off in the direction of a 40 acre swale field and thick stand of pines. Night settling in, along with snow-showers, he decided to head home and get a hold of his own bloodhound. Cam wanted to go with me, but bedtime won out.

As I hope they boys and I will, Dad and I have tracked many, many deer together. Our purposeful zig-zags covering acres and acres of fields and woods, day or night, regardless of weather. We strategize and hypothesize about likely directions and how far they might have run before lying down again. We joke and talk about life. We learn more about each other with every deer we find. It’s a big part of why I enjoy hunting as much as I do.

Snow-showers turned into good old fat, wet flakes. I could see from his headlamp, Dad was slogging his way through a stand of cattails. I was working my way back down through the swale field toward him, shining my flashlight back and forth from over my head, when I caught sight of the buck’s antlers.

Got him! I hollered. Right up here, pop!

ALL RIGHT! was the response, followed by, OK. I’ll be there in a second, bud… I’ve gotta say a little prayer.

He was a beautiful deer. A big 9. Needless to say, we took a few breaks on the drag back out to the truck. On the ride home, we were both off out the window with our thoughts.

Glad I was able to help you find him, pop.
Wouldn’t want to be out there with anyone else, bud.

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Filed under In the woods