Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Apple and the dog

I don't own any of her CDs and in fact couldn't tell you the name of even one of her songs. The only thing that immediately comes to mind when you mention her name is that her bus got stopped coming back into Texas a few months ago and she was locked up for possession of hashish.  She may have been good and baked when she wrote this letter, but it still hits home:

Bottom line is dogs don't care who you are as long as you're good to them.  You can be the biggest fuckup in the world and they'll think you're perfect.  And so we do things like forego six figure paydays, sleep on the floor with them, make certain their last breath is filled with bird scent, even tell them it's ok to leave us behind, all in the naive but well-intentioned notion that we can somehow pay them back.

Monday, November 19, 2012

And Now We Shall Do Manly Things

If there's one thing I enjoy in any memoir it's candor.  Speak to me honestly, don't put on makeup, give me the real you.  A writer who displays his own shortfalls unapologetically and without casting blame, placing all that he isn't out there for the world to see has my respect. As I read Craig Heimbuch's recent release, And Now We Shall Do Manly Things (not just a clever blog post title), I found all of the above woven into a tale about a man wrestling with the tribulations of manhood as he takes up bird hunting.

And Now We Shall Do Manly Things cover
Heimbuch's quest begins when his father gives him a 12 ga Winchester, more in a "Here's something pretty cool" way than an ill-disguised prod to go hunting. Curiosity gets the better of him and the result is a year-long chronicle of discovery, missteps, perseverance and self-realization.

A journalist married to a schoolteacher raising three young children, he is consumed daily by a job, paying rent, and the endless challenges of parenthood.  Here is a guy who doesn't have hobbies or passions as much as he has roles: employee, employer, provider, husband, father, fixer of all that breaks.  "Life is too much about compromise," he notes, a sentiment painfully familiar to many of us. For Heimbuch, hunting evolves into a departure from an existence devoted mainly to the well-being of others.

The story is funny, at times laugh-out-loud funny, without seeming silly or contrived.  The simple truth of lines such as "like our toys, pheasant were imported from China," kept a smile on my face while an extremely witty, albeit fictional, exchange between Ted Turner and Mark Zuckerberg had me spitting milk through my nose.
"Hello, Ted?  Hi, it's Mark Zuckerberg."
"Mark Zuckerberg.  I created Facebook."
 "Look, if this is one of them cults or Amway or some other foolish thing, I don't want any and Jane don't live here no more."
The relatively one-sided conversation continues with Zuckerberg intent on shooting one of Turner's bison and Turner, well, just being Ted.  Heimbuch possesses a well-grounded sense of humor and never falls into the trap of taking himself or the story too seriously.

The book offers a somewhat sobering glimpse into the declining number of hunters, one extending beyond the loss of habitat and the urbanization of America.  Heimbuch experiences the difficulties facing a guy who hasn't grown up in the sport but would dearly like to give it a try, the closed doors and skepticism encountered by a grown man who wants to hunt.  Were it not for several accommodating relatives this book might never have happened.  Our sport is one that's difficult to figure out on your own, at least before you grow tired of getting skunked and give it up for something less cryptic.

Oddly, the father who gave him the shotgun and who is an avid lifelong hunter only plays a peripheral role in his son's passage into the shooting sports.  We're left to wonder whether this was intentional or merely bad luck on the calendar, but Heimbuch leaves little doubt how much he wanted his father included.

I learned of this book through an email from TLC Book Tours who subsequently sent me a copy and included this review in a month-long virtual tour.  At 324 pages it's an easy read and one any bird hunter would enjoy.  George Bird Evans or Datus Proper it's not, nor is it meant to be.  It's a modern story that most guys can relate to, and fortunately it happens to be about wingshooting.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What does pheasant hunting have to do with deer?

Occasionally worlds collide.  This video was shot by pheasant hunters in SD who came upon two antler-locked deer.

I wonder how Darwin would weigh in on this.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Random SD

Made it back this year, minor obstacles notwithstanding.  Some bits and pieces:

Minerva's in Watertown
Hot spot in Watertown
Nice to know someone else is excited about this bird hunting thing, even if for purely capitalist reasons.

The weather wasn't exactly divine.  The fog never lifted on Saturday, which I didn't figure would be a big deal until I got drawn to walk through chest-high switchgrass.  Cordura-faced denim brush pants aren't so waterproof after about a half-mile.  Always be mindful, however, of how good your situation is...

South Dakota forecast

Might not seem like much to you northerners but us crackers aren't used to this.  Dress properly and keep moving and it's manageable.  Multiple gear reviews to follow.

Reports had the bird population up 18% over last year.  I don't know how a hunter would notice an 18% difference, but somebody's tax dollar paid for the statistic so it must be right, or at least notable.  To someone.  What we found was inconsistency.  Two days we hunted from 10am til almost sunset and failed to get a limit.  The foggy day we were done by 2pm. Some spots were good for exactly zero birds.  Others looked like the boom years.

Sioux Falls airport in the snow

On the way home TSA found the pocketknife that I couldn't find before I left.  It's comforting knowing it made it all the way to Sioux Falls without them finding it.  The plane with the pickups parked next to it is the one that was supposed to get me from Minneapolis to Charlotte.  After 45 mins of delay for "a minor maintenance issue" we got off the ground. Fifteen minutes later we were turning around and headed back to Minneapolis for "an indicator saying there may be something wrong with the landing system".  The pilot was quick to note that the landing gear was fine, just a possibility that a spoiler or thrust reverser or something else used to keep the plane from shooting off the end of the runway might not be working correctly.  He also told us not to be alarmed by the fire trucks, "All part of the safety protocol."  An hour later we were back on another horse that eventually got us home.  When life gives you lemons you at least have time to finish a pretty good book (review coming on 11/19).

All in all it was a fine trip.  Something about big open spaces and beautiful birds pulls me in and paints me with a smile.  There is at least one party, though, who wouldn't be disappointed to see me stay home next time...