Wednesday, May 30, 2012

It ain't exactly the Waldorf

Several nights a month the day job keeps me on the road.  It's not my favorite event but I've gotten used to it and have the routine down pretty well.  The town (Santee, SC) has a population of 724 according the census bureau.  There are a handful of golf courses which do me absolutely no good since I don't play.  There's a big ass lake which does me absolutely no good since I don't own a boat.  Among the things notably lacking are a pro baseball team, an opera house, an IMAX theater and an Apple Store.  I'm truly afraid of what I might see if I ventured into the local gentleman's club.

The hotel is a national chain (raking in the reward points) and the five star restaurant downstairs is, well, there isn't one.  There's a Shoney's across the street.  Still, the place is nice enough and recently remodeled, and they usually comp me a suite - which is basically the room next to the stairwell and the space behind the stairwell with the wall between them knocked out - for the regular room rate seeing as I'm somewhere in the Top 3 on their best customer list for the last seven years.  They treat me like family, which is about as good as you can get when you're away from your family.  You look for those little things when you're away.

Unloading my truck tonight I thought I heard something behind me.  I stopped, turned around, and heard it again, for sure this time.  Not 300 yards from I-95 the unmistakable two-tone call familiar to every bobwhite hunter brought a smile to my face.  I just stood and listened for a few minutes.  I'm sure the folks with the Massachusetts plates made a mental note to avoid eye contact should they run into me in the hall.  You know, the guy with the backpack and the laptop standing in the middle of the parking lot staring at the field?  Yeah, maybe he's been away from home too long.

It's home for somebody

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day: Thanksgiving and then some

To most of the country today is just another day they don't have to go to work and don't get any mail.  No fireworks, no family feast, no gifts.  To me it's the most underrated, unappreciated pause for celebration and remembrance on the calendar.  We tell our children about sacrifice, about how nothing worth having comes without paying a price, about hard work and perseverance and setbacks.  It's part of their education and of our efforts to make them into good citizens, contributing members of our society.  And these virtues are the bedrock of this holiday.

There are pages and pages of things that I enjoy and that give me pleasure and maybe an index card full of things that I truly love.  Most would not be possible in any other country on Earth.  In a bit of grand irony, one of those on the index card has me carrying a gun intent on using it, not for my country or my job or anything except my own enjoyment.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans before me have carried guns under much less enjoyable circumstances.

Winston Churchill once said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."  We're not without our problems. What family isn't?  Yet as long as this is true there will be other governments and individuals preoccupied with knocking us from the podium. Maintaining our spot at the top will always come with a price.

I go to work every day knowing that there is no one intent on killing me for what I do, at least not anyone who's going to act on it.  How different my world would be if that were not the case.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Amber waves

Remember that winter wheat that was just sticking its nose up during dove season? Took a while but it sure looks good about now...

Winter wheat

Winter wheat

Saturday, May 5, 2012

What am I doing here?

Early May isn't that far removed from the end of bird season unless you take into account the leaves on the trees, the pollen, and the forty-plus degree difference in the temperature outside.  Right now it's as hot as the parking lot in Hell.  Aside from the blooming honeysuckle I'd need a calendar to tell me it isn't July.

But - surprise to me - there are still some guys chasing birds in the US.  Reading a random article earlier this week I saw mention that the season in Alaska didn't end until June.  At the time I felt sure this referred to some type of dog training season, a no-guns except blank pistols window before the birds started nesting.   Curiosity got the better of me and I drifted to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website get to the skinny.

PtarmiganLo and behold in the land of the tundra you can hunt grouse as late as April 30th and ptarmigan as late as June 15.  Wait a minute, if I lived in Alaska I could still be hunting birds?  With a gun?  I could go tomorrow?  

All these years I've been supremely jealous of the anglers around here, what with no closed season and all. Change apparel, change gear, change your underwear once in a while and never stop fishing.  But birds you can only shoot half of the year.  Never mind that the other half of the year you'd kill the dog running him for more than fifteen minutes, it still seemed more than a little unfair.

In Alaska, though, you can hunt TEN months a year. Yes, I understand there are probably a few days in the middle of the season where it might be too chilly to hunt.  Or open the front door.  Still, it gives the idea of pitching life as I know it in favor of the Alaskan adventure some serious consideration.  Maybe I'll stick it in that drawer to be opened near retirement.

I'm not sure if the rest of us should look at this as a consolation for living in such a remote and unforgiving place or one of the rewards for doing something the masses don't have the cojones for.  Or further proof that life in general is one big game of Let's Make a Deal.