Monday, July 21, 2014

Thermometer games

Every few years or so we get lucky and catch a spell of cooler days right in the middle of summer.  Cool as in low 60s when you wake up and maybe mid-70s when the sun's up top. May not sound like much but it's sure welcome when 95 is the norm.

Watching fireworks on the 4th I told my wife that I couldn't remember doing that without fighting the urge to stare at them through the windshield, A/C on full. And there was a breeze to boot. The next morning we had coffee in the backyard, a ritual normally reserved for April or, if we're lucky, early May.

Saturday the temps were cool again and it even rained all day, just like it does in some other seasons I know of. Mother Nature is such a tease.

And then last week the bird hunting issue of Gray's hit the shelves. New names mostly, which is nice every so often. I couldn't help noticing that there wasn't a bobwhite story anywhere in in. Great. Now they've disappeared from Gray's, too.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Hurricanes and duck stamps

The plan was to spend some time in Charleston, daylight hours on the beach and evenings sampling a few of the many dining establishments, in celebration of my bride's 40th. The dining establishment part was appealing. Sitting on the beach for two days, tempting the skin cancer gods, well.....

Mother Nature to the rescue. Thursday morning broke to showers and a 25 knot wind courtesy of Arthur, the first named storm of the season, and just enough to make the beach unappealing. The birthday girl decided to meet a friend at a Pilates class instead. Yeah I know, but it's her birthday and it would likely keep me out of any number of antique stores. So there I was in the Holy City with several hours on my hands and not one thing to do but wander around.

Downtown Charleston is a swarm of retail stores of all flavors, historic buildings dating back to the early days of our country, restaurants at every turn, and art galleries. Dozens and dozens of art galleries.

Art has always been a bit of an enigma to me, especially when it comes to placing a value on it. What makes one example of paint on canvas worth millions while another struggles to find demand at any price? Simple economics play a role, certainly, but perception seems to drive demand at least as much as supply. If it tickles someone's fancy enough to make him pay a high price, it has instant value to the rest of the art world and instantly lands out of my modest reach. As such, I tend to stay out of art galleries.

Unless, being captive in a city with more art galleries than fire hydrants, I wander by a window with 'Dog and Horse' on it.

Just inside the entrance hung 9 framed pieces of original duck stamp art. Done by several different artists, they dated from the '40s, '50s and '60s and, at least in the in opinion of the owner, are worth about as much as a brand new pickup with all the fixins.

Original duck stamp art collection for sale in Charleston gallery

The asking price on the collection is $50,000 and the owner prefers that it be sold as a set and not broken into individual works. Having spent my last $50,000 at Dunkin Donuts a few hours earlier, I was not a player as I gazed at this cut of waterfowling history. They were nice drawings, some intricately detailed and others more intent on action, but I have to say that none moved me, and I for art to have any value beyond mere investment it really should spark some feeling inside. Anger, longing, amazement, exuberance, even shock, anything that grabs your emotions by the collar and shakes them a few times when you look at it.

Someone will buy this collection eventually, though, and it will end up in a study or an office or a hunting retreat and people will ooh and ahh over these old, old duck stamp originals. And the next time they are sold, the price will be higher still.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lessons in crisis management

It didn't take long for word to get out that the pheasant capital of the world was having an off year. It didn't take much longer to do something about it. The season wasn't even over before Governor Daugaard convened a habitat summit to explore the options. Not to stereotype, but it usually takes years for governments to even acknowledge a problem, then a few more to figure out who stands to gain the most politically by heading the committee, and then a while longer for the committee to talk it to death until nobody cares about it any more and by then there's a new cause du jour. Lather, rinse, repeat until the well runs dry.

And now Pheasants Forever is opening a regional HQ in Brookings. Forgive what may sound like a twinge of envy at all the attention given this bird and its plight, but how do I get some of that down here? I'm not so naive that I believe this is entirely altruistic without a hint of politically-motivated PR, but I'm not so pessimistic that I think no good will come of it either.

More so I'm impressed with the speed of the response.  There are plenty of PR opportunities, most of which will build political capital faster, yet this issue is being given time and money while the rubble is still smoking. Actions like those taken by the Governor and PF put the issue squarely on the table and give it a dose of priority along with raising the awareness of the general public, all before the situation goes from bad to worse.

Sage grouse, prairie chickens and bobwhites have suffered steeper declines, albeit over longer periods of time, yet the rapid response at the first sign of trouble was missing and along with it the chance to stop the bleeding before the patient turned pale.

So how do I get some of that down here? Simple. I make quail a $300 million industry.