Welcome to Subtropical Adventures! Feel free to peruse my posts, pics, and didactic musings about the drivel I've taken to dabbling in since I've become a semi-official southerner. Mostly it's composed of southern-fried forays and frolics, but I've been known to still occasionally stray north of the Mason-Dixon line so don't hold me too hard to "subtropical". Thanks for drifting through!
Kent S. Koptiuch
February 23, 2014
Thunder tolls across the waterfront. Wind strews seedpods from the tupelos like salt from a shaker. The rain pounds out a symphony on the tin roof. The creek rises insiduously, first lapping at the cypress' knees, gradually swallowing them whole and then taking aim at the back steps. Spring in the panhandle knocks insistently.
February 24, 2014
Rat-tat-tat, rat-tat-tat. No need for an electronic alarm. My resident pileated woodpecker announces the day with alacrity on the dying live oak in the yard.
February 25, 2014
When paths diverge, they can both be the right turn. Either could just as easily be the wrong turn. Choosing one or the other isn't the whole answer. Understanding the meaning behind the choice should be the focus.
February 26, 2014
Our general population has become so inured to being governed by crisis as opposed to logic. Complacency was the root cause of failure in all great, historical societies; will we choose to follow a different path?
February 27, 2014
My oak hammock shrinks to a three acre island. My neighbor down the road purchased the eighty acres behind me and is clearing it to bring in cattle. Goats and hogs to the north across the lane, cattle to the south beyond the fence - a buccolic menagerie. I suspect they'll be better neighbors than most!
March 1, 2014
Sometimes it's the place that brings the thought. Sometimes no place will yield the peace to frame the thought. Sometimes, framing the thought just doesn't work. Sometimes isn't really a valid answer.
February 16, 2014
Cold hollow, deep in the Gore.
Steep-walled, stunted firs.
Snow smothering rocky slopes.
Only the brook gurgles
Beneath its cloak of ice.
Daylight is late for breakfast.
February 17, 2014
If you don't know where you're going, any trail will do.
The walking's easy when the trail's flat.
You can't get there from here –
Just ask anyone who hasn't been there and they'll tell you.
February 19, 2014
Sinus infection dragging me down,
Tough to function without a frown.
Looking forward to better days,
When I'm not moving through a haze.
February 20, 2014
It creeps in through the cypress hammock
Like a forgotten ghost filling every void,
Smothering the dark in a cloak of silent, cold perspiration.
Barred owl spreads his wings and glides into the black
With a haunting "Who cooks for you!"
The fog assumes its muted reign.
February 21, 2014
A morning sky full of lead-gray clouds.
Heavy storm front rolling in from the west to smother the flatwoods.
The wind crawls against my skin like a warm, wet, wool blanket.
Drops of rain splatter in the dry dust
Leaving impact craters measured in millimeters.
From under the hill so far from the Shire,
Out of the Panhandle and into the wildfire.
In yellow and green of Indura fine,
Stay in the black as you work the line.
With Pickaroon, Pulaski, and Fire Rake,
Grub down to mineral for safety's sake.
Calloused hands and soot-blacked face,
Your shelter’s in your pack just in case.
No feathered pillow to lay your head,
The blackened ground will be your bed.
When wind is right, set your back-fire,
Then watch it as the flames climb higher.
Containment is the goal you seek,
Sometimes in days, sometimes in weeks.
Not for money, nor for fame,
Fighting this beast is no idle game.
When last smoke’s gone and ember’s out,
You pull your map and study your route.
Then pack your duffel and hump your gear,
To where wildfire next its head does rear.
February 10, 2014
The axe bites deep into the trunk,
Cleaving years with a single swing.
The chips fall where they may,
Strewn upon the snow with abandon.
February 11, 2014
Waiting until you’ve been dealt a poor hand is too late to learn how to bluff well.
February 12, 2014
When Old Mr. Wind blows cold and fierce,
And driving rain does strive to pierce
Through every fabric of your frame,
With malicious intent as if to maim,
Then take comfort from the warmth inside,
While working out your exercise.
February 13, 2014
Mist settles across the cypress hammock.
The air, laden with cold, condensed moisture
Almost thick enough to cleave with a machete.
A chill breeze skims across the surface of the spring pool
Sending a chevron of oscillating ripples
To silently kiss the lime-rock rim.
February 14, 2014
Armadillo trundles under the live oaks through last Fall’s midden
Beneath the golden glow of a waxing half moon.
Nine bands flexing like an accordion
Across his back as he searches the night air;
The scent of fire ants wafts to his long snout.
Supper smells good!
February 15, 2014
Stillness broken, the leaves rustle gently.
Breeze bending the air
To stir mischief across the morning.Calm once more.
February 3, 2014
Sun peeks over Nebraska notch, catching those under hill
Still napping beneath a crisp blanket of fresh snow.
Seed-heads of staghorn sumac stand starkly crimson
Against a backdrop of gray trunks and white powder.
A red squirrel scratches furtively for seeds along the stonefence.
February 4, 2014
February's icy freeze
May cause one's pipes to up and seize.
But March is just around the corner,
When life will get a little warmer.
February 5, 2014
Snow settles gently upon the land,
Sifting through birch boughs like grains of sand.
A mantle of white so stark and cold,
It blankets the Earth as dreams unfold.
February 6, 2014
If 4 degrees gives you a chill,
And lends a weakness to your will,
Then grind some beans up for the pot,
And brew yourself some coffee hot.
February 7, 2014
Scheme and figure, plan your way.
The path you pick to reach that peak
Is all for naught at end of day.
The journey itself is what you seek.
February 8, 2014
If cold and snow is what you seek,
Vermont’s the place to be this week.
If rather you’d soak up some heat,
Then Florida’s the place to meet.
January 27, 2014
Those who are fearless die young and without purpose.
Those who are fearful die old and without consequence.
Those who walk with fear accomplish great deeds.
January 28, 2014
Body aching and feeling old,
Dragged down by the common cold.
So lots of meds and chicken soup,
To heal me while I'm in the coop.
To exercise, I said no way,
Tomorrow is another day.
January 29, 2014
With tentative stealth the gray, misty light of an overcast day
Creeps quietly out of the east to contrast bleakly
Against the stark silhouettes of the live oak trunks in the hammock.
Smoke curls lazily upwards from the chimney of the cottage.
Morning announces herself humbly.
January 30, 2014
The Polar Vortex lashed deep into the old south sending Global Warming running for refuge in the tropics. Snow & ice in the Florida Panhandle, I-10 closed for over 180 miles, frost in Frostproof, snook turning belly up in Tampa Bay. Climate's always changing, no thanks to man.
January 31, 2014
Exercise can be accomplished through many guises. The challenge is to weave those forms into one's routine without luffing in the doldrums. Each day brings us another opportunity.
February 1, 2014
From conception, we enter a one-way lane on the track to death. It's a journey we all take.
For some the way is longer than others. Distance is not the factor; how well we negotiate the hazards, detours, and speed bumps provides the testimony of our existence.
February 2, 2014
At times people refer to reaching a "plateau" and they look for an answer as to how to begin to climb again. But plateaus are typically the highest elevation. A better concept then is that you've hit a terrace; after a rest, you can climb to the next terrace up.
January 20, 2014
River rising in the run,
Reflects the glare of rising Sun.
Gar are schooling at the vent,
Asking where warm waters went.
Turtle drifting on the current,
Ignores the tease of leaping mullet.
Time will pass with rhyme and reason,
As surely as the changing season.
January 21, 2014
It matters not just how you measure,
Every day is a gift to treasure.
So spend it well at work or at pleasure.
January 22, 2014
Under the bridge and over the dam,
It wends away as if on the lam.
Drawn ever down by gravity,
Until it settles in the sea.
Then heat of Sun sends vapors to rise,
And lift it high into the skies.
Altitude will chill its fame,
To send it down as snow or rain.
January 23, 2014
From the north the Polar Vortex
Sends snow and cold to cast its hex
On Chicken Littles who lay man to blame
For Global Warming that never came.
January 24, 2014
Rows of strato-cumulus wind-stacked against the eastern horizon,
Painted pink by the salmon Sun as it rises to peep over the frozen marsh.
A red-winged black bird cries out and wings off to join the others
In their morning flight to shake off the cold and fill their craw.
January 25, 2014
When restful sleep is what you lack,
Grab seven hours in the sack.
Don’t toss or turn or fret of work,
No ogres in the shadows lurk.
Just set your thought to focus clearly,
On those in life you hold most dearly.
And when to mind your loved ones come,
You’ll rest with peace till rise of Sun.
January 14, 2013
A flock of blue wing teal rockets past the blind on a high speed mission –
The wind buffets their course in unified disarray.
Waist-deep in cattails amid the January waters of the Everglades,
A chill permeates the rubber waders and I suppress a shiver.
A gator grunts 10' behind me.
January 15, 2013
Yellow and blue tongues of flame leap upward from the logs on the hearth.
Their energy - heat - radiates out, chasing the morning chill
Into the corners of the room as it flows around me.
My coffee warms me from the inside. Another good day begins.
January 16, 2013
When quenching thirst puts out its call,
Pull out a glass and fill it tall
With liquid gold so pure and cold.
No other drink, or so I'm told,
Can give the body what it lacks –
Water's the key and that's the facts.
January 17, 2013
Frost on the woodpile,
Rust on the rat-tailed file.
Laying too long about
Will give you the gout.
So go run that mile,
And the rust will rout.
January 18, 2013
Another fine day to live-
Every day's a good day!
January 19, 2013
Mist swirls off the surface of the spring pool
Eluding the grasping fingers of a feeble breeze.
Yet the water remains untouched and glass calm,
Reflecting the cypress as it bows to drink.
The cold is easing up a bit; it was 11 below zero yesterday evening after supper, but it's warmed up to a balmy 8 below at the moment and with the wind chill factor, it only feels like 29 below out there! There's a new moon riding the heavens, but you wouldn't know it since it's been snowing for the past 24 hours. Not much accumulation - just the fine, crystalline flakes that filter down from the cloud ceiling in a constant mist when a deep freeze sets in.
Filling the wood bin last night was an exercise in maximizing exertion while limiting exposure. But the fire crackling now on the hearth, radiating waves of warmth throughout the house is the payoff.
In the woods beyond the stone fence a foot of snow lies beneath a heavy crust of ice, topped off with 2" of powdered frosting from this nor'easter. The spring has frozen solid in a cascade of pillowed ice; the stream is silent.
In the dooryard, the crust is windswept with drifting piles of sugar snow in the lee of shrub and fencepost. Our resident cottontail has hunkered down in his form beneath a globe arborvitae in the corner formed by the back porch and the main house. He's contemplating writing a letter to Al Gore just to say how much he misses real winters!
Cup of java – one, two, three.
It takes them all before I’m free
to shake the weight of last night’s slumber
and feel less like a stick of lumber.
The coals glow brightly in the pit,
as dinner’s roast turns on the spit.
The aroma permeates the air,
and draws me from within my lair,
to pull a chair and have a sit,
relaxing after getting fit.
If a stitch in time saves nine,
and no wine is served before its time,
when the dish runs away with the spoon,
who will be howling at the moon?
Morning’s golden glow works its way through the oak hammock
and sneaks through the open window
to chase shadows across the wall of my study.
I greet the new day with a salute to its perfection.
In Roman times, the legionnaires (generally contract-mercenaries because most Romans felt themselves above soldiering) were paid primarily in rations of salt. Salt's an essential mineral for our survival; it's been traded as currency for centuries. A poor fighting man wasn't worth his salt, but he was generally considered passable lion food. Cunning traders caravanning the Salt Trail across central Asia would use water to dissolve the salt out of the pack bags for evaporation later. On delivery, the customers would find the residual bitter mineral salts (potassium chloride typically) was not up to their expectations; their salt had lost its savor.
The Noatuk headwaters on Mount Igikpak in the Schwatka Mountains of the Brooks Range and flows 425 miles southwest to Kotzebou Sound in the Chukchi Sea at the mouth of Hotham Inlet. A general translation from the Inuit meaning is "Inland River". Alyeska (the Aleut root-word now Americanized to "Alaska" meaning "Great Land") is a bigger place than most people can begin to comprehend.
Ten hours plus behind the wheel,
thus not inclined was I to feel
much like exercise this day.
Nor were choices made for food and drink,
that passed the challenge in any way.
The Hunters' Moon reluctantly cedes its reign of the night
as the new day pushes back the covers and reaches its rays of light
from ridgeline to distant ridgeline.
While in the valleys, morning will stretch and take its time.
Clickety-clack, clickety-clack, them wheels are singing to the railroad track... "If you go you can't come back, if you go you can't come back!"
The 5:15 freight wails through the flatwoods, rushing west to stay ahead of the dawn.
Most days when my workout's done,
I'm ready to go and have some fun.
This day instead of feeling wired,
the prevalent feeling is more like tired.
There's no present like time.
A day of recovery after the previous day's bullin' and jammin'.
If a bird in hand is worth two in the bush,
and the worm is won by the early bird,
when the cock crows twice to break the hush,
will you know just what it is you heard?
"There is no try - only do, or do not." (Yoda)
Sirocco (n): hot, persistent wind blowing north from the Libyan Desert carrying tons of sand dust across the Mediterranean to Italy. On the way it picks up huge amounts of moisture over the sea bringing oppressive humidity to make life miserable. Synonym: Washington Politician.
When inspired thoughts are what you're needing,
tease them out from insightful reading.
An oval pillbox of silver fine,
with script inscribed from olden time.
A Chinese riddle inside is hid,
if only one could pry the lid.
I’ve climbed a lot of mountains in my life – both literal and figurative. There are a number of basic tenets in mountaineering that always hold true for both types of climbing. The most basic being that when you reach the peak, there’s only one way to go. With that realization comes the concept that perhaps it’s better to never quite make it to the top – a lofty goal in the distance keeps the fires of desire burning hot.
The nosy breeze rustles through fallen leaves at the base of the sugar maple. Charred clouds scud over the ridgeline running before the northeastern pressure differential. There's a cloying dampness in the air; this front's bringing rain to the dance.
In theory, systems built to keep,
our wares secure whilst we sleep,
yet the value brought from all we bought,
is justly deemed all for naught,
if motion sensors trigger beeps,
by flights of moths or lizards' leaps.
Oh river Life drifts on while seeming
to give few clues as to its meaning.
Look ye now, the water's teeming
with supper begging for the cleaning.
So wet a line, try your hand
at netting Salmon, bring him to land.
With each bite you will know,
the meaning's found within the roe.
Warning: The following content may cause liberals to squirm, turn red in the face, start spluttering, utter profanities, begin calling me nasty names, and demand my excommunication from general humanity. So, if you’re a liberal, please read on and get as mad at me as you want, but don’t let your blood pressure get too elevated – if you have a heart attack or something, ObamaCare’s not going to save you for a while –they’re still working out the bugs – it may take another 3 years and 5 or 6 trillion dollars out of our pockets before they figure out it’s too broke to fix.
Water is at once ageless and ancient. There's no more or less of it on earth than there ever was, it just passes from one phase to another; liquid, solid, gas, and back again. Our lives flow upon the tides - flood, slack, and ebb - and we wonder where they went.
There’s been a movement afoot for some time now pushing the concept that “water” and free access to it, is a basic human right. The United Nations is pushing it hard, and lots of countries, organizations, corporations, and groups are buying into it. On TV we’ve got the “Fear Factor”, in the UN it’s the “Tear Factor” – “Look at all the underprivileged people in underdeveloped nations who have to walk miles every day to lug poor quality water back to their homes just to survive! It’s creating all kinds of health and economic problems, it’s just not fair...blah, blah, blah”. Sounds just like all the other whining arguments the have-nots make for justifying their personal concept of “redistribution of wealth”.
The reality is humans have been lugging water since about 3.9 million years ago when some adventurous Australopithican (Australopithecus afarensis ) decided to wander away from Afar and see what was over the next hill. On arriving, he (or she) realized it would be a great spot for a brush shelter if there was just something to drink around. Sure it’s a human right – you have a right to live in a place with no water, and you have a right to go try and find some and lug it back. There’s no human right specifying that clean, safe water has to be delivered to the door of your brush shelter!
Deciding that something is a “human right” just because you think it should be doesn’t pass the 60-Minutes test. There are really very few true human rights; we don’t have the right to be born and we don’t have the right to die no matter how much we may wish it to be so. If you’re on this Earth, you were born; whether by plan or by accident, that was someone else’s decision totally out of your control. And we’re all going to die, that’s true – but it’s not a right, it’s a biological fact.
All humans have the right to try and survive by finding food, water, and shelter, we even have the right to try and prosper. We have the right to defend ourselves and our loved ones from marauders, criminals, oppressors, foreign invaders, fire ants, and tyrannical governments. And we have the right to speak our minds, because no one else will speak for us as eloquently or as fervently.
That’s pretty much it as far as I can tell. Everything else that we as a society may deem to be “Rights” should more appropriately be labeled “Wannabe Rights”. “What about the right to a free press?” you might ask. Well, that’s a government-granted right, not a basic human right. There’s a big difference. We have governments to provide structure for our economy and our national defense. The more power we give the government, the more of our personal freedom we must be willing to relinquish. The government can’t decide what is or isn’t a basic human right. It’s beyond government control. It’s beyond our control.
In the case of water, we live in a world with 71% of its surface covered by water, but only 35% of all the water on Earth is considered “fresh” and about 69% of that is locked up in ice sheets on the Polar caps. So yes, potable water is relatively scarce. And yes, there are 7.117 billion people on this planet depending upon that remaining 10,530,000 km3 of sweet, fresh, drinkable H2O! Do they (we) have a right to it?
In a word, no. You can’t really own it – water is transient as I mentioned at the start of this essay. It’s constantly shifting through its cycle; some of it may take a million years or more to complete 1 cycle, while some may only take months. Over the millennia, humans have devised all manner of ways to bring water to us, because it’s inconvenient for us to go to the water. We choose to live in places where water is scarce, or we overpopulate a region to the point where existing sources of water become inadequate, or we squander this most precious resource by polluting it. That is our problem. Man-made problems require man-made solutions. Any problem requiring a man-made solution cannot be a “Human Right”, merely a “Wannabe Right”.
(a compendium of day-start thoughts)
To scramble wildly like a hatter, truly is of little matter. A day of rushing to and fro, with little production for which to show.
To slumber nine for some's like wine, while others think that seven's heaven. Though I strive for that goal in meeting, to sleep past five for me is fleeting.
In the Gulf, a hurricanes stewing, here in Lakeland, my coffee's brewing. Tonight we'll stalk the mighty ‘gator, to fill the freezer with meat for later!
Another night with hours lacking, to sleep is slacking, when 'gator whacking. So coffee strong is what I need, or better yet a mug of mead.
What better way for one to unwind, than to practice fullness of the mind. Ten minutes is the goal we set, but fifteen or twenty's better yet!
If additives we seek to limit by looking closely at what's in it, then think again before you lap the water running from your tap.
When mindful of what life might mean, rely upon the coffee bean. Just grind it up and let it brew, to savor it, deep thoughts will stew.
The peak is past, the leaves are falling, hark I hear ol’ Winter calling. The time has come to un-rack skis, and hone edges sharp before the freeze.
A murder of crows (yes that's the correct terminology for a flock of them) in the yard provided my workout with cadence to their caws. Slightly off-beat, but so am I.
Legs stiff from the running – amazing how the body reacts to exercise – despite riding my bike 15 or 20 miles regularly, just running a few hundred yards using those muscles differently brings on the soreness. The old saying “No pain, no gain” rings true. How do you define gain?
Yesterday, the challenge lay in avoiding fried foods and spirited drink. Today, I fear the scorpion’s sting on my forearm will prove more testing.
The scorpion’s sting didn’t kill me, so I can only feel better from here on out. One’s got to see the good in every day.
In the subtropics sweat comes easy. Spend any time outside and you need to be prepared to change out your shirt at least once or twice a day. It’s a given that we take for granted. Hard-earned sweat, however, takes on a whole new meaning. Hard labor or hard exercise – it’s all good!
Not a breath of wind. The stillness of the morning is broken by a squirrel rustling through the leaves on a live oak branch outside the window.
Work and travel will routine unravel!
Wind rushes up the valley. The leaves are starting to turn. It’s a beautiful day! The morning sun rising over the mountains is a welcoming sight after too long in the flatlands.
A rainy day to quench the soil’s thirst.
Sleep Interrupted: Should one desire a point to gain, seven hours one must attain. Logic would say that five plus two, would more than adequately do. And yet when all is said and done, five plus two feels less than one!
Transported here by rapid wing - back to the land of tooth, fang, and sting.
The pace of time has never varied, yet we label it tarried or harried.
Smoke filters through the screen from a smoldering brushfire beyond the cypress hammock. Lynard Skynard laments “Tuesday’s Gone”. Muscles ache with challenge. The cool night towels off my sweat.
Steam rises from my coffee. The sun rises over the eastern horizon. A fox squirrel barks good morning from the live oaks in the yard.
Five AM in north Florida…inky blackness pervades in absolute and eerie silence…not a whisper from the wind.
The end (or the beginning, depending on how you want to tackle it) of the Cabot Trail is in Baddeck. It’s a small village of about 750 people on the shores of Bras d’Or Lake, but it’s got a grand reputation that tolls well beyond the world-famous Bras d’Or oysters (http://www.oysterguide.com/maps/nova-scotia/bras-dor/). Since seafood and chowders are such an important part of this tale, I have to mention the oysters in passing. They’re a light-in-body, briney delight that are considered the archetypal Maritimes oyster. And if you’re a serious athlete (as opposed to a lackadaisical one such as myself) you might take lodging here in preparation for the 24-hour, 17-stage, 298-kilometer Cabot Trail Relay Race held every Spring (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabot_Trail_Relay_Race). I’m not sure if oysters would make a good protein smoothie to build up one’s fortitude in readiness for the race, but maybe it’s worth a try?
Bras d’Or Lake is really a series of interconnected, saltwater fjÖrds occupying a regional lowland developed in the Carboniferous Windsor Group rocks (mostly sandstone, shale, gypsum, and salt) that were carved out by glaciers some 12 or 15 million years ago (http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mnh/nature/nhns2/900/916.htm). The steep cliffs walling the lakeshore expose pre-glacial sediments that aren't found in other parts of the island. There are only two narrow access channels out to the sea. This produces a much smaller tidal range than out in the open water. The restricted channels, combined with relatively large amounts of runoff entering the lake from snowmelt and precipitation, result in a significantly lower salinity level as compared to out in the ocean, but I wouldn’t get to thinking it’s mineral water-a swig will more than meet your daily recommended dose of sodium!
The name Baddeck is Mi’kmaq in origin; I’m told the translation means “place with an island near” and Kidston Island lies just offshore. Alexander Graham Bell lived out his golden years here in a spacious mansion where he tinkered on so much more than the telephone; the whole community was heavily involved and invested in his experiments. A tour of the Parks Canada Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site (http://www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/ns/grahambell/index.aspx) will open your eyes and your ears!
Bell was a native of Scotland, though he’d spent a number of years in Massachusetts, Connecticut, the Washington, D. C./Baltimore, Maryland area, and Ontario, Canada. Long before inventing the telephone, he’d begun as a self-taught speech therapist, following in his father’s footsteps teaching the deaf how to communicate in a language he invented. He began several schools in this country. In Baltimore, he tutored Helen Keller before recommending her to the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston (where Keller was to meet Anne Sullivan) and they became life-long friends.
In 1885 he brought his family to Baddeck on vacation and they fell in love with it. The next year he began construction of his estate and a new laboratory. He named the complex Beinn Bhreagh (translated from the Gaelic, this means “beautiful mountain”) after his Scottish Highland birthplace. Bell spent the next 30 years splitting his time between Washington, D. C. and Baddeck, but his family mostly remained in Baddeck and they became a part of the community.
Bell’s royalties from the telephone had made him a wealthy man with the ability to pursue his dreams. Ever the inquisitive inventor, he’d already invented an audiometer to test people’s hearing, and a metal detector to find bullets in human bodies. Now he was fascinated with flight and he built countless, complex kites to understand air movement over foils. While the Wright brothers were working on their planes in Kitty Hawk off the Outer Banks of the Carolinas, Bell collaborated with Glenn Curtis, Casey Baldwin, Thomas Selfridge, and J.A.D. McCurdy to create the Aerial Experiment Association. They started designing and building their own planes. In February of 1909, Bell’s aircraft, the Silver Dart piloted by McCurdy, achieved the first powered, heavier-than-air flight in the British Empire, taking off from the ice on Baddeck Bay. They later went on to design and build an aircraft-engine powered hydrofoil (the HD-4) that set the world marine speed record of 114 kilometers per hour in September 1919.
Before then Glenn Curtis (who had started the Hercules Motorcycle Company in 1901) had pioneered the first flight off a temporary flight deck on the USS Birmingham in 1910 with his “Hudson Flyer”. By World War I, he was building the Curtis JN-4 (the Curtis-Jenny) as a military trainer for US pilots. When the war ended, the military sold off thousands of “Jennys” to their former pilots for $300 each. They became the Model T of the air and were largely responsible for introducing aviation to the American public during those crazy, barn-storming days after the war (http://www.glennhcurtissmuseum.org/educational/articles/jenny.html). Curtis’ innovative career was prolific to the point where he is now referred to as both the founder of the American Aircraft Industry, and the Father of Naval Aviation. He died of complications from a ruptured appendix in 1930 at only 52 years old and is buried in his hometown of Hammondsport, NY, just west of Ithaca.
Bell himself passed away in his sleep in 1922 at 75 years of age. We remember him now as the inventor of the telephone in 1876, and indeed when he passed away, the phone systems throughout North America were shut down for one minute in his honor, but some of his contributions over the last 46 years of his life were just as memorable! So when you’re passing through Baddeck, be sure to stop and pay tribute to the man who set bells ringing around the world.
Like a prophesy fulfilled, the cow moose and her calf materialized out of the fog twenty yards in front of the Explorer’s hood – the low-beams barely reflected back off the black legs and chocolate belly of a huge, shadowy behemoth echoed by a half-grown clone as they galloped with ungainly elegance across the roadbed before us! We hardly had time to brake, and then they were gone – enveloped in the misted conifers of the stunted, boreal forest that clung tightly to either side of the roadway’s narrow shoulders.
It was a silent, apprehensive encounter that lasted an eternity, yet it elapsed in less than a few seconds. Not ten minutes earlier I had quipped off-hand that weather such as this was liable to lead to moosehaps – an all too frequent occurrence in the north woods which usually ends with mass casualties on both sides. I was glad we’d rented an SUV, the headlights of a normal sedan would have passed below the cow’s belly and without warning we would have been treated to a moose and windshield sandwich. Instead, all of us let go a collective sigh of relief and our intrepid driver eased even further off the accelerator; we’d barely been clocking 35 kilometers per hour, and now we were crawling at 25, but no one complained.
We’d broken camp at Corney Brook in a late morning fog and resumed our circuitous route around the northern perimeter of Cape Breton Island following the Cabot Trail. A half an hour beyond our near-moose, we emerged out of the fog as the trail descended off the highlands plateau to Dingwall Harbor and resumed its meandering along the broken coast. The slopes above us remained shrouded in mist, and huge fog banks rolled offshore limiting our vision to a tunnel hemmed on our right by the steep wall of the plateau, blanketed in its cloak of mist-laden spruce and fir, and on our left by the North Atlantic pounding with relentless fury upon the jagged rocks of the eastern coast.
We hadn’t seen another vehicle in hours. The world around us seemed reduced to a moving bubble of variegated visibility muted in the monochromatic tones of a black and white still-life. A still-life broken only by the monotonous swish of the windshield wipers clearing the salt-drenched fog to reveal yet another sheltered cove harboring a few buoys marking lobster pots. Each buoy displayed its uniquely vibrant color-coding defining the lobsterman’s ownership; their colors heightening the starkness of the black and white surroundings.
It’s a lonely place that requires a strong resolve to make a passable living off the well-guarded fruits of the sea and the hard-earned bounty of a harsh land. And yet I could feel the draw of it – a simpler life in many ways, but served up on a proclamation that only the serious might apply here. Men and women of lesser fortitude had best stay down in Halifax where civilization has hewn out a tenacious, six-century toehold to provide moral support.
We made camp at Broad Cove, a well-kept National Park Campground with spacious wooded sites, hot showers, and potable water just outside of Ingonish (http://www.novascotia.com/en/home/placestostay/listingdetails.aspx/broad-cove-campground-cape-breton-highlands-national-park/1129 ). There being only two other parties occupying the grounds, we had 193 sites to choose from and we picked a secluded spot within eyesight of the beach. We pitched our tents quickly, cleaned up a bit and headed in to Ingonish. We’d heard that the fish chowder served up at the Atlantic Restaurant over at the Keltic Lodge on the Middle Head Peninsula was not to be surpassed and we were all ready for a meal that we didn’t have to prepare on the Coleman stove.
Our informant was definitely on the mark as the chowder was superb, and the rest of the fare was equally wonderful! We feasted on mussels, salmon, and crab legs until we thought we were full, and then we made room for dessert and coffee. Who ever said camping has to be difficult anyway?
The Keltic Lodge Resort and Spa (http://www.novascotia.com/en/home/thingstoseeanddo/listingdetails.aspx/keltic-lodge-resort-and-spa/1021 ) is perched above the sea offering spectacular vistas for whale watching, excellent walking trails, and the 18-hole championship Highland Links Golf Course. If I were a golfer, I could see myself holed up here and never wanting to leave, but there’s plenty to partake in without swinging a club and following a little white ball around several hundred acres of grass.
Back at camp, reflecting on our trip before the fire, I realized that rating the contenders along the Chowder Trail was becoming more and more difficult; it’s a tasty job, but somebody’s got to do it! (to be continued)
In Margaree Harbor we left the Ceilidh Trail and took on the Cabot Trail (http://www.cabottrail.travel/ ). Also known as Trunk Highway 30, the Cabot Trail was finished in 1932 and completes a 295 kilometer, circuitous, high-bluff shoreline loop around the northern half of Cape Breton Island. It was named after the early Italian explorer, Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot), who landed in the Maritimes in 1497 on a commission from King Henry VII of England. Lonely Planet (http://shop.lonelyplanet.com/canada/nova-scotia-new-brunswick-prince-edward-island-travel-guide/ ) lists the route as one of the best road-trips in the world and it provides spectacular views of the rough-hewn coastline. The trail connects eight distinct, previously very isolated fishing communities of Scottish, Irish, and Acadian descent. http://www.novascotia.com/en/home/gettinghereandaround/gettingaround/regions/capebretonisland/map.aspx
Crossing the Margaree, a Canadian Heritage Salmon River (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaree_River ), we worked our way up the Acadian coast through Belle Côte to Chéticamp. Chéticamp is considered by some to be the cultural heart of the Acadian homeland and is world-famous for the quality of hand-crafted, hooked rugs that are produced by the locals. After stopping at the Cape Breton Highlands National Park Visitor Center to check in and garner information, we continued on a few more kilometers to Corney Brook Campground.
Listed at number 20 of the top 25 campsites in Canada by “Explore Canada” (http://explore-mag.com/6062/camping-2/the-top-25-campsites-in-canada/6 ), Corney Brook Camp is perched on a high bluff above a gravel and boulder beach where the brook spews out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It proved a great base for exploring some of the highlands of the northwest coast. It’s a comfortable camp with picnic tables, fire pits, cooking shelters, and even flush toilets – but no potable water so bring your own, or be prepared to boil what you bail out of the creek. It’s a good idea to make sure you’ve got a sturdy tent also, as the winds off the Gulf, though excellent at keeping the mosquitos at bay, will buffet a lesser-designed shelter to the point where you’ll be ready to buy stock in REI.
Setting off from near the top of French Mountain, we followed the Skyline Hiking Trail. In the far north of the Maritimes, Summer daylight hours linger well on towards 10 pm–not quite “midnight sun” country like Alaska- but close enough so we could post-pone supper a bit and put a few miles beneath the brogans. It was good to work out the kinks after so much windshield time! The trail brought us along through a spruce/fir, boreal forest until we emerged high on a sub-alpine, headland meadow above the Gulf of St. Lawrence. We were treated to a spectacular, panoramic presentation; the Gulf below was glass-calm and if not for the curvature of the Earth, I expect we could have seen as far as the Magdalen Islands (Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec ) some 50 miles to the northwest.
The vantage point is noted as one of the best spots in Nova Scotia to search for whales making passage up the coast. It’s common to see finbacks, humpbacks, minkes, and pilots, along with dolphins and seals, in these waters. But July through mid-October is the prime time and it being mid-June, we didn’t spot any on this particular evening. With several more days ahead of us, we weren’t too disappointed; after all, the journey pales without anticipation! (to be continued)
Well, it's been a year since I wrote the "Tale of the Moose I Keep Missing." Once more, this Spring, I applied for moose tags in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Once again, my name wasn't drawn in any of the lotteries - not even as an alternate. So I really do need to talk to my accountant to determine whether those application fees can be considered tax-deductible contributions on behalf of moose conservation in New England. Hmmm - I wonder how many years I can claim retro-actively...?
My consolation this year is that I did draw a pair of tags in the Florida alligator lottery, so it's time to break out the harpoons and ready the bang stick matey - arrgh!
July 31, 2013
Now any seasoned traveler worth his salt will tell you that the first thing one should do upon venturing into a new land is to get a feel for the indigenous peoples’ ability to refine spirits; it’s a clear benchmark upon which to stake their level of achievement in terms of civilization. And that’s almost what we did, but first we had to stop for fuel, ice, and groceries in Antigonish along the Northumberland Shore. After assuring ourselves we were duly provisioned with several days’ worth of camp fare, we made our way across the causeway at the Strait of Canso and found ourselves on Cape Breton Island and the Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) trail.
Cape Breton Island was settled early on (after the French Acadians had killed off most of the Mi'qMacs by introducing smallpox, and after the British subsequently sent most of the Acadians into exile down to the bayous of Louisiana) by an influx of Scottish colonists. The island is so similar in geography and climate to Scotland, and the descendants of those early Scotsmen are so steeped in highland tradition, that the casual observer could easily be fooled into thinking he’d been ‘spirited’ across the North Atlantic and washed up on the Isle of Skye. Road signs are bilingual in English and Gaelic and children are raised speaking both tongues at home and in school.
To translate ceilidh from the Gaelic, you come up with a close approximation of “a rollicking good time” and our first stop on the trail got us started on ours! About 60 kilometers north from the causeway along Trunk Highway 19 put us in the west coast fishing town of Mabou. But Mabou is renowned for more than just its great fishing; just shy of town is the village of Glenville, home of the Glenora Inn and Distillery (www.glenoradistillery.com/index.html ) - North America’s first single malt whiskey distillery.
Starting with the pure mountain waters from MacLellan’s Brook and locally grown barley, Glenora follows all the traditional steps including malting, smoking, grinding, mashing, washing, distilling, and maturing on their way to producing a selection of what are arguably some of the finest single malt whiskeys that this rum snob has ever partaken in. The word whiskey, by the way, is rooted in the Gaelic word for water “uisge” (pronounced oosh-ga), and as all moonshiners throughout the Appalachian Mountains from Georgia to Newfoundland know, “…you can’t make good whiskey without good uisge!”
The on-site dining room and pub serves up a fine lunch; in fact, “Where to Eat in Canada” (www.oberonpress.ca/wheretoeat/) rates it as the best restaurant on Cape Breton Island. And since this was also our first stop on the “Chowder Trail” (www.tasteofnovascotia.com
), we sated our appetites with an incredible seafood chowder accompanied by a tasty selection of breads and spreads. We quenched our thirst with a Glenora Whiskey Taste. The Whiskey Taste provides a sampler of each Glen Breton Rare product. You start with the “New Make” (50% unaged spirit), move on to the 10 Year (43%), graduate to the 15 year (43%) Battle of the Glen, and settle into the 17 year (54.6%) Cask Strength Ice Wine Finish. But you top it all with the 16 year (64.6%) Cask Strength Cask #224 (1996). It’s truly a worthy journey accompanied by live local music and a comfortable down-home atmosphere.
We learned that the trick in discovering a whiskey’s true flavor is to nose it. The first sip will stun your taste buds with the shock of alcohol, but the aroma will reveal the spirits’ distinct traits without interference. So drink it, yes, but swirl and sniff also! While you’re at it, you can kick back with a Glen Breton Cigar of Cuban tobacco infused with Glen Breton Rare Whiskey and hand-rolled by Paul Stulac in Halifax at “Smoke on the Water” (http://smokeonthewatercigars.com/ ). And if you do happen to partake in just a little too much of a ceilidh, you can grab a comfortable room at the inn across the courtyard to sleep it off!
Moderation is truly the key to honing your senses, and we kept things moderate enough. Soon we were back on the Ceilidh Trail, forging north once more on our way to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park of Canada and more trekking adventures - oh, and that benchmark of civilization...they set it pretty darned high in Nova Scotia! (to be continued).
A Map of Nova Scotia: http://mapq.st/16PuTZx
If you wend your way far enough down east along the Maine coast past Bangor on State Route 9, you’ll eventually run out of the United States in the lumber mill town of Calais, and find yourself crossing the St. Croix River on Canada Highway 1 into the reciprocal lumber mill town of St. Stephen in New Brunswick. Don’t fret this too much; the border guards are friendly. Just be sure you’ve got your passport with you. Back when I was young, I used to cross the border unchallenged with nothing more than a wave from either the Canadian or the US customs agents, but September 11, 2001 put a change on all that. They still don’t stamp your passport though – I’ve been back and forth a couple of dozen times over the years and I’ve yet to see what a Canadian entry visa looks like!
Driving down east through Maine seems to go on and on forever, but after crossing into New Brunswick, you realize that Maine’s idea of forever pales in comparison to New Brunswick’s. Eventually, however, you’ll bump into St. John. Now St. John isn’t the provincial capital (that would be Fredericton), but it is the largest city in New Brunswick (if you can consider 70,000 people a city), and being situated at the mouth of the St. John River, smack dab against the Bay of Fundy, it is the main seaport of the province and one of Canada’s busiest ports. The primary industries here are resource-related; pulp & paper mills, oil refineries, and gypsum mining/shipping. The Irving Oil Refinery in St. John is the largest in Canada.
In talking to anyone you meet, you’ll likely be struck by a notion of familiarity. Folks in Canada’s Maritimes Provinces are about as close to New Englanders as you can get without actually being labeled as such. You see, back around the tail end of our American revolution, a fair number of the colonists who were still loyal to the British Crown saw the writing on the wall (after the upstart rebels pretty much sacked them of all their possessions and land), so they pulled stakes and boarded the first available sailing packet bound for Canada, and ended up in either St. John, New Brunswick or Halifax, Nova Scotia.
For about 75 years beginning around 1680, over the course of the 6 French and Indian Wars, coastal skirmishes and naval actions were frequent throughout the settlements about the Bay as the British fought the French Acadian settlers for control of the region. It was the Bay of Fundy Campaign in 1755 that finally resulted in most of the Acadians being routed and exiled. They made their way up the St. Lawrence River, through the Great Lakes, and down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, where they settled in to stay on the bayous in Delta country; we know them today as Cajuns – a slurred up derivative of Acadian. There’s a lot more to the history here, but I’ll save some of it for another tale.
As a geologist schooled in the northern Appalachian orogeny1, the Maritimes are like down-home days for me. Every passing road cut seemed to bring me back further and further into the Paleozoic Era until 480 million years ago was feeling just like yesterday! Now if you’re into modern geologic/geomorphologic processes, the big draw in St. John is all due to an ancient rift valley known fondly as the Bay of Fundy (although Samuel de Champlain called it Baie Francais when he first sailed into it back in 1604). You see, the greatest tidal range in the world occurs in this long, narrow bay (narrow is a relative term – it’s about 50 miles across from St. John to Digby, Nova Scotia) with tides ranging from 47 to 53 feet. When the tide’s low, you can walk the mud flats for miles out into the bay, but you’d best watch your back; when the tide comes in, it comes up fast and swimming for shore isn’t a great option in the cold northern salt!
The best part of any visit to St. John is a stop at the Reversing Falls. It’s really more of a series of rapids in a narrow gorge. During low tide out in the Bay, the St. John River flows normally and drops 10 or 12 feet in about a one hundred yard stretch. But during high tide, the force of the sea overcomes the river and the falls flow in the upstream direction. It’s a popular rafting and kayaking excursion, but June is pretty early in the tourist season for the Maritimes (Summers are short in the north – July and August are their high times) so we didn’t see anyone braving the haystacks.
The goal on this journey was actually Nova Scotia and the need to reach the Halifax airport in time to pick up another member of the party who was flying in from Boston to meet us for the remainder of the trip. So we didn’t tarry long, but continued on out the coast. We took a quick tour through Fundy National Park, and stopped long enough for a great lobster roll in Alma (locally famous as the birthplace of Molly Kool - the first female sea captain of the western world), before running up through Moncton and east on Canada 2 through an immense array of wind turbines near Sackville Parrish where we crossed the Provincial boundary and entered Nova Scotia! (to be continued).
1 Orogeny: o·rog·e·ny / [aw-roj-uh-nee] noun Geology. The process of mountain-making or upheaval.
Map of New Brunswick:
As dusk settled in, I caught the wail of the CSX Freightliner approaching - still several miles off to the east, but the local coyote pack has much better hearing than I do; they let out a full-blown pastorale and continued their serenade until the rumbling behemoth had passed on through town and was several miles nearer to Tallahassee. They sounded so close that I flicked on my Q-Beam to see if I could break through the darkness and spot their canine forms through the tree trunks beyond the fence, but to no avail. On cue, the chorale ceased and the blackened wood grew doubly silent as the inky cloak of darkness prevailed upon the land.
I savored the silence and thought about what I might have missed if I succumbed to the lure of closed windows and air conditioned comfort. Time never stops running, and there's so much wonder to be witnessed; but repeat performances are rare and second chances rarer still. I'm thankful that I have the ability to appreciate it all!
I’m not what some folks might call a bicycling fanatic. Of the 3 bikes I stable between Florida and Vermont, I know I haven’t spent more than a hundred dollars on all of them combined (that includes replacing tubes and tires too); I picked two up at yard sales, and my most recent acquisition came from the solid waste drop-off center in Lee, Florida. It cleaned up pretty good – all it needed was some air in the tires and some grease on the chain sprockets!
But I do like to ride. Not crazy riding like you see the devotees doing, all decked out in colorful “bike” clothes and helmets, on $1,000 titanium-framed 24-speed machines all hunched down aerodynamic-like to get their 50 miles in before work. Even when I was young (in the pre-driver’s license era), I’d jump on my 3-speed Royce Union English Racer three or four times a week and think nothing of taking a fifty mile spin up and down the hilly back roads of rural New York State; but most of the time I just used it for basic transportation out of necessity.
I got that first bike by walking door-to-door selling Burpee Seeds to my neighbors (along with my first BB gun, baseball mitt, and a host of other youthful must-haves); my poor neighbors must have gotten awfully tired of buying those seeds! I actually still have the BB gun (a Daisy Red Ryder) and the mitt (a Rawlings Ted Williams), but the bike has long since gone to that great scrap metal heap in the Toyota foundry; after reincarnation as a Camry or Carolla, it’s probably doing final duty now in some Alaskan’s back yard as a “lawn ornament”.
As I’ve matured (I use that term loosely primarily to imply age as opposed to sagacity), my riding habits evolved. In my twenties, I don’t even think I had a bike – or if I did, I’ve conveniently put it out of my mind (along with a lot of other things I did back then).
In my thirties and forties, I typically only rode on Summer vacations with the family. This was mostly because my Vermont bike was (and still is) a non-descript 10-speed road racer of questionable manufacture that I spent $10.00 on at a yard sale. It’s still got the original tires. Now this is a reliable bike, but not particularly well-suited for the dirt roads around Osgood Hill. So mostly it got pulled out once or twice a year, sprayed down with WD-40, loaded on the bike rack, and hauled down to Cape Cod or over to Maine where they have pavement. I’d still get out three or four mornings a week on those vacations and put in thirty to forty miles before breakfast, but I sure felt it for a few days!
Now in my fifties, I’m trying to be more focused. Since I stopped refereeing soccer, I don’t believe I’ve run a total of more than a hundred yards or so in the last ten years; it’s just too darned hard on the knees! And after knee surgery, my orthopaedic surgeon did say bicycling wood be good physical therapy - so who am I to argue with him about that? I haven’t worked back up to thirty miles at a stretch yet – neither of the two “mountain” bikes I have in Florida have very comfortable seats. Nowadays I’m happy when I can pull off 15 miles in 50 minutes and never drop it out of 15th gear; we don’t really have what Vermonters would call hills in Florida, but a preponderance of long, gentle inclines where you gain twenty feet in a mile can slow one down a bit (of course you can make it up physically and mentally on the decline side).
So, if you happen to be driving around Lee, Florida and see some old guy in gym shorts, a ratty T-shirt, cheap Wall-Mart sneakers, and no aerodynamic helmet pedaling around on a beat up mountain bike, do me a favor and give me a little room when you pass me; I’m just trying to get my knee back in shape!
The light, persistent rains yesterday afternoon settled the dust and steamed up the atmosphere, hinting at the torrid, subtropical conditions that can be Florida in Summer time. Until now, we’ve been blessed by a wonderfully cool Spring with low humidity, days in the 70s and evenings in the 60s; I almost felt as if I were re-living a hot Summer in Vermont!
Shuttling in and out of the cottage as I tended to a rack of “wild-shot” pork ribs on the barbeque, I followed the progress of a pair of quail as they worked their way around the yard. They were taking advantage of the bounty of insects brought to the surface by the moisture in the midden. Unconcerned by my presence, they foraged busily and an image of barnyard chickens came to mind.
Over the years, there have been times when I’ve traveled thousands of miles in pursuit of these fine-feathered morsels. And in season, I might not be so content to just watch them. But for now, I just hope they raise a healthy brood of chicks and start a fine covey nearby. In the Fall, I’ll greet them with shotgun in hand, and they’ll have more to worry about than the everyday threats posed by hawks, foxes, and coyotes.
I’m awake. It’s 0330 hours by my internal clock; I know that because I fell asleep at 2330 hours last night – after four hours sleep my body wakes up. It’s built-in. Sometimes I can go back to sleep for another hour or two, but it doesn’t feel like sometimes this morning.
Keeping my eyes closed, I assess my location and scan my surroundings. I’m in a bed – mine by the feel and scent of the sheets. I’m on my right side – that’s good since my right ear is useless - almost completely deaf except for some low tones; all the higher-pitched receptors blown out long ago (note-to-self: it’s been more than 35 years –when am I going to write that letter to UNCLE thanking him for instilling the attitude that only sissies wear ear protection? Probably never – nobody left alive who would understand). I listen to the world beyond the darkness with my ear that has less partial hearing loss.
First, there’s the swooshing pulse of blood – mine. I hear it coursing through my carotid arteries. It’s regular, rhythmic, no louder than usual; BP’s probably OK - maybe 130 over 88 – not ideal, but within the acceptable borderline below hypertension. Then there’s the ringing. I wish there was a better word for it. It’s not really ringing like a bell. In my right ear it’s more like Spring peepers – thousands of them – chirping in the darkness forever singing their mating call. In the left ear it’s crickets – several dozen – they’ve been chirping constantly for three and a half decades; long-lived bastards! If I could catch them, I’d put them on a hook and go fishing. All right, those are the regular sounds of my constant penance. I signed an armistice with those intruders long ago; I don’t like it, but there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s kind of like putting up with a neighbor that you aren’t friends with. What’s beyond?
It’s quiet beyond my internal din. I know I’m in the Florida house; I can smell the magnolias through the open windows. I hear the hum of the refrigerator compressor as it kicks on in the kitchen two rooms away; amazing that I can pick that up but sometimes can’t understand what someone sitting next to me is saying – it all depends on the pitch and the amount of background noise. The house sounds normal. Nothing out of the ordinary to set me on alert. Outside the windows a tree frog breaks the silence with a single croak; the raganella1 of the live oak orchestra.
Opening my eyes, I’m greeted by more darkness. I glance at the nightstand; the clock says 0334 hours. I contemplate trying to go back to sleep. Five minutes later I know that won’t happen. Throwing back the covers, I make my way to the head and instantly kill my night vision by flicking on the overhead so I don’t miss. Back in the darkness, I readjust and stumble for the kitchen to make coffee. I hear the water shut off as the toilet tank completes its refill.
1 Raganella: a percussion instrument common in the folk music of Calabria in southern Italy. Technically, the raganella is a "cog rattle," producing a sound that is enough of a "croak" to have derived the folk name of the instrument from the Italian name of the common tree-frog.
April 21, 2013
Another frosty night in northern Vermont. A dusting of snow lingers in the nooks and crannies around the yard reflecting the glint of sunrise into the window as I raise the shades and wait for the coffee to complete its transformation from fresh-ground bean to magical morning elixir. The aroma alone works wonders on my disposition!
A mantle of white shrouds the vacant ski slopes of Bolton Mountain 20 miles to the southeast. On the hearth, I rebuild the fire from last night while watching for the dogs to return from their morning introspection of the woods beyond the stone fence; they have their routine, and I guess I have mine.
Two days ago, returning up the lane from an afternoon's walk with the dogs, I spied my neighbor roto-tilling his garden plot; the dark brown loam contrasting starkly against the matted gray-green of grass freshly emerged from a Winter's burial under knee-deep snows. He's new to rural living in the north country. I admire his enthusiasm for Spring but caution him that frost here can occur as late as June 1st, and we've had occasional snow-squalls in July. The growing season is short and early crops are best started indoors to insure a successful harvest in September.
I wonder if I pulled the maple taps too early, but a glance to the tree-tops confirms that the trees are starting to bud out. That's a sure sign of the season's end as the sweet sap turns bitter and courses it's way through the phloem enroute to the new buds. A parallel with life I suppose; too much of any good thing will spoil us and, in the end leave us bitter with resentment.
The seasons don't ever stop turning in the far north; like a series of brief dances with very different partners, you have to adjust your steps and adapt your lead constantly or you end up slapped in the face when you step on a toe! Time to cut some firewood for next Winter to insure it's seasoned in time.
April 12, 2013
Traveling once more, the hustle of highways and airports makes this commitment a true challenge (the Whole Life Challenge is a Cross-Fit lifestyle change), but I do find myself foregoing the temptations of the fast, unhealthy offerings along the concourses in favor of an apple or banana, a handful of nuts, and a bottle of water. Meat can come later when I'm more confident of its source and preparation. Definite benefits!
April 14, 2013
Pulling the taps and buckets - the sugar maples look naked! A few dribbles of sap run down the coarse bark to pool in the midden at the base of each trunk. Another syrup season has passed. We made enough, but just barely; it's harder and harder each year to devote the time for sugaring! An afternoon scrubbing of barrels, buckets, taps, and evaporator. All is set for next year; hope springs eternal.
March 24, 2013
A warm front blusters in off the Gulf - winds to 70 MPH, live oaks dancing wildly over the roof, marble-sized hail carpets the ground...it's tornado season in north Florida - I think I'll exercise indoors!
March 25, 2013
A cold wind from the north pushes yesterday's warmth back out over the Gulf as a gloomy daylight slowly pushes back the night. The swaying oaks discard a branch and it taps out a tune as it tumbles across the roof. I build up the fire and stretch before the hearth; the warmth soaks into my muscles.
March 26, 2013
The silence of the cottage is broken only by an occasional naah from the two billy goats in the pasture across the lane. The curtain billows as a breeze pokes its head in to snoop around. The morning air is crisp and full of life...
March 27, 2013
Hours of driving, meetings, hotels, restaurant meals...that's a Whole Day Challenge! Didn't succeed too well. Another sinkhole opens in Tampa...geology always trumps engineering.
March 28, 2013
Frost again...living in north Florida once more batters down misconceptions about the Sunshine state. Sap sizzles from the ends of the logs on the fire. A flood crest surges downriver from Georgia. A longbeard gobbles from the cypress hammock.
March 29, 2013
Wild boar sausage simmers in home-made tomato sauce with Vidalia onions and red bell peppers. A crisp salad with mustard greens from the back field. Pure Florida spring water. Can't get more local than this; the cottage smells like an Italian restaurant! A fox squirrel barks concurrence from the dooryard.
March 30, 2013
Dawn creeps into the eastern sky. Two bats "dog-fight" over my stand seeking morsels in the crisp air. A gray fox bitch with swollen teats sidles in to 15 yards seeking the source of hen clucks from the box-call in my hand; she doesn't see me, motionless on my seat, draped in woodland camouflage. A drake wood duck glides silently in to alight on the pond. No gobblers this fine morning.
March 31, 2013
The sun pushes back the dark cloak of night to stretch its warmth over the earth. Azaleas blossom in the yard. A cardinal spars with his reflection outside my bedroom window. The coffee smells as good as it tastes!
For years the stock lay,
Cracked and forgotten in a corner.
Now seasoned, a blank slowly takes its shape-
Chisel biting smoothly into dense grain.
Curls of shavings strewn before the hearth.
Soon the old barreled action will have a new mate-
Dark walnut to worn blued steel.
Ithaca's classic Model 37 Featherlight pump.
The old golden watches contentedly from her corner,
Knowing there will be ducks to retrieve.
Sweat beads on my forehead,
Hands ache from a precision long un-practiced.
We have time - the fire is hot.
Morning sun rays stream through swirling flakes of snow as they drift downwards from the tangle of birch branches beyond my window. It's a fine late Winter day in northern Vermont!
More fresh snow overnight, wind howling around the house, still too cold for the sap to run from the maple taps; March came in like a lion and he's decided to encamp indefinitely...
The cold morning's snow in Vermont yielded to warm evening azalea blossom's greeting me in my Florida yard - but only after 8 hours of airplane and windshield time. An owl hoots from the darkened swamp...
The morning fire on the hearth sends fingers of warmth creeping into corners of the cottage, chasing off the night chill and embracing a beautiful new dawn...
Dashed white ribbon stretches endlessly straight beyond the left front fender. Trees flash past the passenger window. A semi passes with a roaring rush of wind shaking the cab. The road can be mesmerizing...
The live oaks in my yard have finally dropped last year's leaves to make room for the new Spring's shade to unfurl. Rain filters through the delicate green tendrils to splatter on the brown carpet below. A diamondback burrows into a windswept pile seeking refuge from the damp cold. Thunder rumbles to the south...
As I have often alluded, in my various wanderings here and about over recent years, I have occasion to interact with a lot of different folks. Subsequently, I’ve come to the sobering realization that the vast majority of our populace are sorely lacking in practical knowledge relative to the critical importance of grog and the key role it played in the formation of our great nation. Sadly, it is clearly evident that this primer is no longer required reading in the 5th grade curriculum. In fact, even most adults I run into could only vaguely expound upon exactly what grog is. Granted, the definition has undergone some subtle changes over the years, but the basic ingredients – rum, water, and lime juice – have remained consistent now for several centuries.
Back in the days of sail, liquids were critical to keep the men going for months at a time at sea. But prior to the mid-17th century, the two principal liquids consumed on a long voyage were water and beer. The problem, however, was that since it was stored in wooden casks (and hygienic bottling methodology was, as yet, undiscovered) the water would slime up with algae and bacteria. The beer, also in casks, would sour over time. These options were neither attractive, nor were they very palatable! Typically, the men would drink the beer first while it was fresh, and turn to the water only as a last resort (and then only if their mutiny failed).
Another problem was weight; beer and water run about 8 pounds per gallon. Ships were relatively small and required a lot of men to make-way. The standard daily liquids ration was a gallon per day per man. Thus a 70-man crew would need approximately 17 tons of liquid on a typical 60-day cruise. When you’re packing that much beer and water, it doesn’t leave a lot of leeway for gunpowder, cannon shot, or plunder!
Now, around about 1655, British Vice-Admiral William Penn (yes, you guessed it, William's boy Junior later went on to become the colonial Governor of Pennsylvania) took it upon himself to sail into Port Royal and capture the island of Jamaica from the Spanish; this was mostly because he'd been defeated at Hispaniola, had failed in Cartagena, and feared the wrath of the Lord-Protector Oliver Cromwell on his return from the West Indies if he'd garnered no success. But being low on vital stores, Willy was beset with a conundrum; it turns out the Jamaicans didn’t have any beer, and the water – being karstic in origin – was so high in total dissolved solids- they had to eat it with a spoon.
Come to find out, however, that the Jamaicans grew a lot of sugar cane, thus Port Royal was found to be well stocked with a spirit the locals concocted from distilled molasses called rumbustion. From that point on, “rum” held sway and became the favored liquid ration of the Admiralty and of all sailors.
This had a number of benefits; being higher in alcoholic content, the rum would keep without spoilage for years (theoretically anyway, because it never lasted long enough to test out that concept). Also, being more potent, it meant the Lieutenant-of-the-Watch could ration out less per man each day, thus saving weight in the hold; the extra freeboard allowed for the stowage of a lot more booty after expending all their munitions capturing a rival ship or port! As for Vice-Admiral Penn, Cromwell threw him in the tower anyway and Jamaica became one of Britain's most profitable colonys.
By 1731, the standard daily ration, in accordance with the “Regulations and Instructions Relating to His Majesty’s Service at Sea” stipulated that a ½ pint of rum was equal to the provision of a gallon of beer. Now this was all well and good, but sailors being sailors (primarily because all that alcohol is what makes sailors be sailors), things would tend to get unruly topsides at inopportune moments.
In 1740, Vice-Admiral Edward Vernon (the Hero of Porto Bello) decided his men needed some taming; drunkenness and an overall lack of discipline was pervasive. Officers-of-the-Deck tended to be heavy-handed in meting out punishment. Now Vernon didn’t like the common practice of pressment, and with so many otherwise good sailors being forced to walk the plank due to indiscretions brought on by the demon rum, he found himself forced to press too many captured foreigners and slaves into service just so he could make sail and get under way. Determined to bring about a change for the better, Vernon ordered that a new daily ration be concocted at a 4:1 ratio of 2 pints of water to 1/2 pint of rum. Lime juice was added to tang it up a bit and help prevent outbreaks of scurvy. The men were given two servings a day.
Well, Vernon’s men called him “Old Grog” (mostly behind his back) because he always wore a cloak known at the time as a Grogam; it was made of a combination of silk, mohair, and wool stiffened up with gum-rubber sap to make it virtually waterproof. So it came to pass that the daily ration was called Old Grog, or Grog’s brew, or just plain Grog for short. And Vice-Admiral Vernon was beKnighted - though history is unclear as to whether it was for his valor in Porto Bello or for his creation of Grog - I tend to lean toward the latter being the root reason.
By 1763, after trouncing the French once more in the Seven Years’ War (what we colonists had the temerity to call the second French & Indian War), Britain found itself sorely in debt and decided it would be prudent to refill the King’s coffers by imposing some trifling taxes on trade and commerce over in the colonies. It so happened that a prominent Boston merchant by the name of John Hancock took offence at having to pay taxes on the rum and madeira wine he was importing on his ship, the Liberty, from some non-British ports in the Caribbean; he paid the taxes, but the Customs Agents felt he was short-changing them on the cargo volume. In 1768, the British Navy had concluded that Hancock’s Liberty was indeed a smuggling craft. They impounded the ship and turned it into a Customs Cutter (which some Rhode Island colonists promptly set afire).
Now John Hancock ended up being arrested, so he turned to his old pal and attorney, John Adams to help him out. Hancock was tried in a Vice-Admiralty Court with no jury, and little opportunity for Adams to cross-examine witnesses. Despite this, after a 5 month trial, the charges were finally dropped and the smuggling issue was never fully settled one way or another.
The whole affair put a sour taste in Hancock’s mouth (so much so, it is told, that it took several days’ rations of Grog to make him feel better). Where once he had been an upstanding merchant and loyal British citizen, he was now one of the Crown’s harshest critics. He subsequently was appointed by the citizens of Massachusetts to the Continental Congress where he served as President. And in 1776, his “John Hancock” was the first and most prominent signature on the thirteen colonies' “Declaration of Independence”; it came to be the symbolic descriptor for an American signature. After the War of Independence, he served as Massachusetts’ first and third Governor, and he made sure that when the US Constitution was finalized in 1788, Massachusetts ratified it.
By 1805, British sailors were also calling Grog “Nelson’s Blood” – when Lord Nelson was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar, his body was pickled in a barrel of rum to keep it from spoiling on the return voyage to Britain. Legend has it that the sailors still drank the rum after Nelson’s body was removed…hence the new nickname!
Along about 1823, the Admiralty had determined that their sailors were still a bit unruly so they cut the daily rum ration in half, making it an 8:1 ratio of 1 quart water to 1 gill (cup) of rum. And in 1851 they cut it in half again so the poor sailors were only getting a ½ gill of rum per day with their quart of water and lime juice.
The United States Navy followed a similar route, but in 1862, after their defeat at the hands of the fledging Navy of the Confederate States of America in the Battle of Hampton Roads, Virginia, the US Navy eliminated the rum ration all together. The Royal Navy, on the other hand, kept their rum ration right up until “The Great Rum Debate” occurred in the House of Commons on January 28, 1970. Rum was officially taken off the British sailor’s ration list on “Black Tot Day” July 30, 1970.
So that’s the tale behind rum, Grog, sailors, and the underlying stimulus that sparked the American Revolution. And it brings us right up to the present day. You see I come from a family with more than a few sailors who paid their dues before the mast…whether it was the Navy, Merchant Marine, Coast Guard, or the commercial fishing industry, the sea has been in our blood for quite a while. I spent my own time before the mast on the commercial salmon boats out of Bristol Bay in Alaska. I guess that explains my prediliction for rum to be my favorite spirit. And my typical drink for more than 30 years now has been dark rum with tonic water and lime – a slightly fizzy mix, but Grog nonetheless (the tonic part, in case you're wondering, is to ward off malaria - a very practical dose of quinine the Brits came up with in the early 1800s)!
Grog being a brew so steeped in tradition as it is, I am frequently dumb-founded when I order one at a bar; invariably I have to tell the bartender how to make it, and invariably, they tell me I’m the first person they’ve ever made such a drink for. It makes me wonder…what kind of history are we teaching in our schools these days? But after a few sips, I come to the sublime realization that it doesn’t matter and I’m just Grogful that I can pass my meager knowledge along to a future generation of sailors.
Lake County. Rolling south – rubber on the asphalt – canoe on the rack – camo in a sack - decoys in the back. Three hours behind me – four to go. Back stiff, legs sore, mouth stale with cold, sour coffee. Inky darkness draping itself over the rolling hills, embracing the horizon with a goodnight hug. I’m burrowing into black down State Road 27 along the backbone of the Sunshine State.
The heady tang of citrus permeates the truck cab as I plow between mile after mile of orange orchards. Semis laden with crates of the “golden apples” heading for Florida’s Natural in Lake Wales - “All Florida, never imported – who else can say that?” Thank you, Christopher Columbus, for bringing this Malaysian wonder to the New World in 1493; it’s a $9 billion a year boon to the State’s economy! 100 million citrus trees, 90,000 jobs. No wonder the orange blossom is the State Flower.
Clermont…the lights of the Citrus Tower ( www.roadsideamerica.com/story/4030 ) float above the town; 226 feet of 1950’s pride in the fruit that put Florida on the map. The observation platform is 500 feet above sea level; it’s the highest point in the state. You can drop a coin down the center into the wishing well at the bottom for the kids at the Green Isle Children Ranch. Not tonight though. Ducks are rafting in the ‘Glades and daybreak comes too early. Keep on rolling through Orange Tree, across the Polk County line into Polo Park.
Haines City, Lake Wales, Frostproof…place names on a map; momentary flashes of bright along the dark, lonely miles that make up the Lake Wales Ridge – a chain of relict islands that hosts a variety of rare flora and fauna. Keep plowing south. Carrie Underwood belting out “Two Black Cadillacs” on 101.9 FM (WWGR) Gator Country ( www.gatorcountry1019.com/ ) out of Bonita Springs.
Highlands County. Pit stop in Avon Park, stretch the legs, more coffee; is this really worth it? I know it must be because this is the 3rd year in a row I’ve made the pilgrimage. Sebring – home of the Sebring International Raceway ( www.sebringraceway.com/ ) – 12 Hours of Sebring – the American Le Mans Series race. Lake Placid; the “Town of Murals” and the 270 foot Placid tower. It’s taller than the Citrus Tower but the base elevation is lower. Also, Lake Placid is the source for 98% of the world’s caladium bulbs; why does this trivia pop into my head?.
Archbold, Venus, and over the Glades County Line. Palmdale…the spine is starting to flatten out. Orange groves yielding first to Florida scrub habitat, and then, abruptly, to sugar cane. Moorehaven – once known as “little Chicago” - the County Seat on the shores of Lake Okeechobee. Over the Caloosahatchee River; Glades County Deputy Sheriff working the radar on the far side. He’ll have to waylay for someone else.
In the Second Seminole War, the Battle of Lake Okeechobee took place right here in December of 1837 ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seminole_Wars ). 450 Seminoles led by Billy Bowlegs, Abiaca, and Alligator gave a future President of the United States, along with 1,000 of his men, a thorough whupping. Despite his retreat and defeat, Colonel Zachary Taylor claimed he was victorious, was promoted to Brigadier General, and was given the moniker “Old Rough and Ready”.
A few more miles now. The smell of citrus in the cab has been displaced by the cloying smoke of the sugar cane fields. Hendry County line…the lights of Clewiston on the horizon. “America’s Sweetest Town” ( www.clewiston-fl.gov/ ) where U. S. Sugar rules the economy, largemouth bass rule Lake Okeechobee, and ducks (and alligators) rule the Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs)! A left on North Francisco Street and I’m at bass pro Roland Martin’s (www.rolandmartinmarina.com/ ) Marina/Hotel/Tiki Bar Resort! Time to meet the rest of the duck-daft crew, chow down on an Okee Burger in the Tiki Bar out on the dock over the canal, and catch a couple of hours much-needed rest. It’s another 45 minute drive to the STAs and the 3:30 wake-up call will come way too soon…
“Three Dog Night” painting by Harriet Peck Taylor
Back in the 1960’s, while I carelessly gamboled through the frozen mists of my pre-teen youth, the Mayberry world as I knew it was disintegrating under attacks on many fronts. The grainy black and white footage of JFK’s assassination that had glued me to the carpet before my parents massive, Magnavox, living room centerpiece, though still engraved indelibly in my gray-matter, was being mentally recorded over with scenes of body bags, Huey gunships, Agent Orange rains, and napalm strikes transmitted over the airways from a strange land in Southeast Asia filled with obscure little countries with even stranger names like Vietnam (North and South), Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand.
On the home front, civil rights activists marched and protested in competition for media attention with hippies who swayed to the beat of Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs while protesting war, fighting for peace, and communing in the streets of San Francisco, the Catskill Mountains of New York, and the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Our soldiers were embattled against the Red Menace of Ho Chi Minh in ‘Nam, while our abstainers were embracing the little red book of Chairman Moa Tse Tung at home. In those heady days before the discovery of AIDS, the sudden easy-access to the “Pill” made “Free Love” a mantra of the youth, while sitars, Volkswagon Micro-Buses, and multiple varieties of cannabis gave power to flowers.
On the American music scene, Appalachian rockabilly was rapidly being infused and transformed with radical strains of rock and roll brought to our shores by successive waves of the British Invasion, starting with the early pop sound of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Herman’s Hermits and maturing through the psychedelic blues of Cream and Led Zeppelin.
And our home-grown bands sought to distinguish their newly developing sound through unique names of their own like Credence Clearwater Revival, Jefferson Airplane, and Three Dog Night.
Since this little tale of mine revolves around the concept of a “three dog night”, let’s delve into the subject a bit deeper. Three Dog Night burst on the scene in 1968 with a vocals line-up of Danny Hutton, Cory Wells and Chuck Negron. They were backed by Jimmy Greenspoon (organ), Joe Schermie (bass), Mike Allsup (guitar), and Floyd Sneed (drums). Known for their harmonious arrangements (such as “Shambala”, "One", and "Mama Told Me Not To Come"), between 1969 and 1975 they registered 21 Billboard Top 40 hits (with three hitting number one). As of 2012, with numerous changes in their line-up, they were still recording and making live appearances.
According to music lore, the name Three Dog Night originated from vocalist Danny Hutton's then-girlfriend June Fairchild; she apparently suggested the name after reading a magazine article about Aborigines in Australia, in which it was explained that on cold nights they would customarily sleep in a hole in the ground while embracing a dingo, the wild dog of down under.
On a real cold night they would sleep with two dogs, and if the night was below zero, it was a real "three dog night".
“Three Aboriginal Men & Three Dogs”, Thomas William Rodolph, Circa 1870
This all brings me around to the present day. Despite my semi-official adoption as a north-Florida southerner, I’m still a Yankee at heart, so spending the holidays on the farmstead with my family in northern Vermont is an ingrained necessity to keep my cold-blue blood pumping through my veins. Christmas without blustering snow, howling wind, and sub-zero temperatures just wouldn’t be the same in my mind.
And this holiday season certainly lived up to my expectations; the snow and cold set in a few days before Winter’s official start and hasn’t let up since. Some parts of the Green Mountains have registered more than 4 feet of the white stuff already although where my place is nestled in the foothills of the mountains’ western flanks, we’ve only got a couple of feet at the stake.
The cold has been nothing to sneeze at either with temperatures plummeting well below zero at night, only to warm up to a toasty 12 or 15 degrees above zero during the heat of the day (Fahrenheit, mind you as I’m too old to have succumbed to the feel-good averaging of the Centigrade scale)!
The first few nights of this new year, in particular, have been exceptionally remarkable with numerous recordings of negative 22 to negative 30 degrees throughout northwest Vermont and on up into the Kingdom. Yet these numbers are not record setting; we’ve seen a lot colder and I can recall a few 45 below Vermont nights in years past that made me feel like I was back in the interior of Alaska during my walkabout days. Why, this balmy weather nowadays is almost enough to make a fellow buy into the whole “Global Warming” hoax…NOT!
Classic Vermont Bikini weather!
Disney, of course gets everything wrong and distorts the facts to no end. Take for example the movie “Eight Below” – there’s just no way you would need all eight of those huskies at such mild temperatures – it would really need to get to 40 below for it to be an Eight Dog Night! I always figured the ratio to be one dog per 5 degrees below zero…but maybe that’s just me.
Don’t get me wrong though. I’m not purporting that the Vermont Winters aren’t challenging; there’s always hardships to overcome and endure. Snow to plow/throw/shovel off the drive and the roof, neighbor’s vehicles to pull out of snow-banks, firewood to haul in, slow-cranking truck batteries, re-aligning the antenna, and poor defrosters – but these are all just “minor bumps in the road” (to quote our current CIC out of context) that make us tougher when we overcome them. And I long ago learned, back when I was a Ski Patroller at Smugglers’ Notch, that when those three dog nights are in season, it’s critical to shave in the evening; that gives your skin a chance to toughen up against potential frostbite when you head out to catch the first chair on the lift at first light.
No matter how you look at it, and no matter how much I’ve gotten to enjoy my adopted countryside and friends in north Florida, I know certain-sure that given the choice of a three dog night in Vermont or a dog-less night in north Florida, I’ll take the three dogs…providing they don’t hog all the blankets!
If it wasn't a relief, I'd almost say I'm disappointed seeing as I've been in Florida 4 years now and still can't say I've lived through a hurricane. But Isaac has seemed to pass us by. After all the buildup and preparatory activity, the storm track plodded west and is burrowing into the Mississippi Delta country right now. Good news for us in north Florida, but bad news for New Orleans.
Here in cracker country we only received a fraction of the rain and winds that were originally predicted; I was treated to a spectacular tree-toppling event up at Cypress Spring yesterday, though. I was out in the yard loading my truck when a nearby gum tree about 2' in diameter and 70' high just snapped off in the wind about 30' up and came crashing down in a heap about 20 yards from me!
Driving out to the Panhandle Sunday, I passed literally hundreds of utility trucks with their crews heading east and south to stage in case Isaac took out south-central Florida. On my way back east to Lee yesterday I passed them all again, only this time they were heading back west, chasing the storm towards Louisiana; sure seemed like a shell game, but if the resources aren't in place when you need them, there'll be hell to pay later I reckon.
There are plenty of folks seeing good in this storm up in the central mid-west where they've been stomping out rain dances for months now. Hope the good outweighs the bad!
Well, here it is 2012...Twenty-five years have come and gone...why it seems like just yesterday when I first began applying for a moose hunting tag in Maine. New Hampshire's first season in modern times was in 1988 and I applied that year, and every year since. In Vermont, Fish & Wildlife deemed it appropriate to open a season in 1993 and, you guessed it, I've applied there every year since! Needless to say, I have not once been successful in drawing a tag.
I've never considered myself a very lucky guy. In fact, I usually don't take much stock in luck (primarily because I am either totally unlucky, or I haven't worked at it long and hard enough yet). If you ever want to find me at a Ducks Unlimited Banquet, just look for the table with six guys sitting around it - five of them will have won a brand new shotgun - I'm the guy who won the plastic tray that you store gun-cleaning supplies in. Thomas Jefferson is quoted as having said that "I’m a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." I guess I just have to keep working harder!
Now granted, in the early years of the lotteries, the State Fish & Wildlife departments were loathe to let out too many tags; only 1,000 were awarded in 1983 to Maine hunters and it wasn't untill 1987 that they allowed non-resident hunters apply, New Hampshire gave out 75 tags in 1988, and Vermont only issued 30 tags in 1993. None of the States award more than 10% of their tags to non-residents, so my odds weren't all that good when stacked up against the millions (maybe that's a slight exaggeration) of other would-be moose hunters who also apply every year. But even my residency in Vermont through 2008 didn't help me any there. My neighbor, on the other hand, drew two Vermont moose tags in a 6 year period, and you have to wait 3 years before applying again after a successful draw...I suspect he was "lucky" but I rarely saw him work at it.
Eight or nine years ago (depending on which State you're looking at) the Maine and New Hampshire State agencies must have realized that they had to address the amount of criticism they were racking up from unsuccessful applicants so they instituted a bonus point system where, so long as you keep applying every year, you gain a point for each unsuccessful year; this gives the applicants extra chances in the lottery. Of course it gives all the other losers those same extra chances, so your odds don't really get much better. None the less, I am so pleased to be able to proclaim that I now have 8 moose points in Maine and 9 moose points in New Hampshire; and I haven't even fired a shot! Vermont, on the other hand, is still in the pointless dark ages.
The number of available tags has gone up significantly; Maine was up to 3,725 this year, while Vermont was at 385 and New Hampshire was at 275. Now I want to talk about the odds a little more; in 2010 New Hampshire estimated that a resident's chance of drawing a tag was 1 in 27, while non-residents had a much steeper curve to overcome with only a 1 in 82 chance of success. The odds in Vermont and Maine are similar. So clearly, you can see how much of a disadvantage a luck-challenged sod such as myself would be at...you can see that, right?
And then there's the cost...just to apply for the lottery. It's $25/year for each state, so I figure I've donated on the order of $1,700 over the last 25 years towards the worthy cause of moose conservation and habitat management (I should ask an accountant if that's tax deductible). At $5.00/pound, I could have bought 340 pounds of beef that someone else killed and butchered. Another way to look at this is I'm really saving money...If I ever do draw a tag, I'll have to pay the non-resident license fees before I can hunt; depending on the state, that's $105 in New Hampshire, $100 in Vermont, $114 in Maine (plus a $585 permit fee for the tag in Maine).
Of course a good bull moose of the eastern sub-species (there are 4 sub-species in North America, with the Alaskan moose being the largest http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alces_alces ) could yield me 1,000 pounds or more of prime venison. Yes, it is called venison, as meat from all wild ungulates is known...not just deer. And it is fine meat; very lean and of moderate grain. I could eat it every day and not tire of it. How do I know that? Well, I was lucky once, I guess. Back in the stone ages of my young adulthood, I was fortunate to down an Alaskan moose prior to the onset of Winter. It was a young bull, but still big enough to provide about 700 pounds of meat. I split it with a trapper friend of mine who had a boat and was able to ferry the quarters up the Yukon River to my camp for me. It was a primitive camp with no electricity, so preservation followed traditional methods; I made lots of camp-oven-dried jerky, salted and smoked a few roasts, and canned quite a bit in mason jars. It was all good, and I did eat it every day for a long time! And that, my friend, is the tale of the moose I keep missing.
Sometimes a question will stick in your mind for a spell, burrowing its inquisitive nature into the nether margins of your brain to the extent that it pops back up when you’re least expecting it. Such was the quirky nature of this question weighing heavily on my mind of late…”Just what is in a Day?”
Now I’m not talking about just any Day, or the time of Day, or even about what Day it is; there could be all manner of answers to those questions. More to the point, I’m talking about Day, Florida. Yes, there really is a town named Day, and it really is in north Florida along State Route 53 just a tad south of Lee down Lafayette County way below the Boundary Bend on the western bank of the Suwannee River (just past the barn they tore down last year). http://www.city-data.com/city/Day-Florida.html Now if you’ve never had the opportunity to pass through Day, this question may not even have crossed the more remote fringes of your mind. I, on the other hand, find myself in the position of passing through Day on a somewhat regular basis. Invariably, when I do, I tend to Day-dream just a bit…
After all, if you work crazy hours like me, you tend to drive Day-in and Day-out. It is all in a Day’s work, and what better Day to do it than to-Day? You wouldn’t want to put off what you need to do to-Day until tomorrow, would you? Because there’s no time like the present and the present is to-Day. Now I know Rome wasn’t built in a Day, nor was it built in Day, but procrastinating could push things out forever and a Day, so from this Day forward, I’ve vowed to have a field Day from dawn to dusk. And with each passing Day, I will win the Day. Perhaps, after a spell, I can reward myself and take the Day off, but for now I know I’ll keep at it all Day long until I can really call it a Day.
Having more than a passing background in geography, with a penchant for place names, I finally decided to seize the Day and grapple with numerous pressing questions about Day. Pretty high on my list with the approach of Day, is where exactly the local deputy sheriff may have positioned his squad car for the Day? Typically he parks it somewhere along the shoulder of SR 53 – sometimes it’s on the north side of the Day Post Office, and sometimes it’s on the south side. Invariably, when I pass it, the car is empty, and it appears to remain so all Day long; clearly it’s a ruse designed specifically for people who are as honest as the Day is long. Yet, the question nags – will this be the Day he’s actually in the car and manning his radar gun on behalf of the good folks in Day? And if he is doing his job, will I get my Day in court so I can tell it to the judge? I guess that would be my judgment Day!
I don't doubt that some Day, you too might wonder just who are the good folks in Day? Well, when that Day does come to pass, you can thank our friends in Washington, D.C. for saving the Day. You see, demographically, the US Census Bureau http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/12/12067.html breaks down the Day population as 59% White, 30.8% Black, 8.7% Hispanic, and the remainder of American Indian/Asian/or other. They also estimated Day’s population in July 2009 to be a sum total of “0” people, of whom 77% are male and 23% are female, but it might take you a month of Sun Days to find any of them because the population density in the 0.93 square mile town of Day is all of “0.00” people per square mile! Now I’m truly convinced that the Day will come when I will successfully be able to prove to someone that there’s a soul or two to be found in Day. Why just the other Day, on driving through, I glimpsed 77% of a man working under the hood of an old Ford truck in the front yard of his house, but by the time I’d stopped and backed up to take a photo, he must have called it a Day and gone inside. If only, when coming into Day, I had slowed on passing that squad car, I might have saved the Day with proof of life. Alas; my comprehension of a Day in the life of a local resident will just have to wait for another Day.
Another interesting point of note for your Day-Timer regarding the local population is that, again according to the US Census Bureau, the unemployment rate in Day surged as high as 8.5% in 2010 (that was the “Summer of Recovery”, wasn’t it). Thankfully, unemployment in Day in 2012 has dipped below that magical 8.0% mark and on this Day was hovering at about 7.9%. I’m sure there’s some folks in Washington, D.C. who would love to use the economic success seen in Day as a poster child for the stimulus program! Then again, there's bound to be a number of folks there who would rather this information never see the light of Day ( https://www.cia.gov/ ), so watch your back-trail or you might wind up being here to-Day and gone tomorrow.
Of course, if you feel compelled to confront your Day of reckoning, the Census also breaks down the job market by Day’s most common industries: construction (24%), public administration (14%), agriculture/forestry/fishing/hunting (11%), food (7%), truck transportation (6%), food & beverage stores (5%), and health care (5%). And just what is the most common occupation to-Day in Day? Why truck driving, of course…I guess that explains the fellow I thought I saw working on his truck that Day; perhaps he uses it to pick up Day-laborers.
None of this is to imply that folks in Day don’t get their Day in the sun from time to time. Day is, after all, home to Lafayette Blue Springs State Park http://floridastateparks.org/lafayettebluesprings/default.cfm ; the park is not limited to Day-use only, you can also camp or rent cabins for a few Days. The park's namesake is a beautiful first order magnitude spring on the famed banks of the Suwannee River. It boasts a natural limestone arch over its spring run that could be the highlight of your Day! Surely, Steven Foster http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/214640/Stephen-Foster must have slept in Day one Day long ago and was inspired to burn some Day-light while penning "Old Folks at Home" (Way Down upon the Suwannee River) or "Camptown Races"? Sadly, Britannica doesn't even hint that Foster ever set foot in Florida, let alone that he may have tarried a single Day in Day. And of course the State's address for the park is in the nearby County Seat of Mayo, but that's a story to be told another Day.
Though if you happen to like your Day in the sun, this is definitely the place to be! There isn’t a month in the year where Day doesn’t average greater than 55% Days of sun, with several months running in the 60% to 75% range; well above the national average. In terms of average Day-time temperatures, there isn’t a month with a low below 40F or a high above 92F; if you’re looking for snow…why it would be a cold Day in hell if you found it here.
Now if you’re wondering “Just where in the hell did the Day go?”, here’s some handy geographical reference data to plug into your GPS and save as a Day-point:
Elevation: 85’ MSL
Time Zone: Eastern (GMZ-5)
So if, after perusing this post, you feel an itch to take a Day-trip, you wouldn't rue the Day in the least...so long as you remember to keep your eye peeled for that Sheriff’s squad car; if he's on board, he might just decide to let you make his Day. It's always best to slow down and soak up the flavor of the Day. And if you happen to see me passing through, flag me down – I might just give you the time of Day.
Yeah...that’ll be the DAY!
Cedar Key ( www.cedarkey.org/ ) is a small island community of about 750 people sitting a few hundred yards out in the Gulf of Mexico about 2 hours south of our Madison plant. Apparently, their water supply (a number of wells on the mainland piped out along the causeway to the Key) succumbed to salt water intrusion; dissolved chloride levels have increased to triple the Federal MCL in the last 2 weeks. At this point, the cause of the intrusion hasn't been defined, but it's likely a combination of factors - we've experienced an extended drought that has caused a significant drop in the regional water table over the last 15 months, in addition, it's peak Summer visitor season at a very popular Gulf resort and fishing town, and over the last few years the commercial clam-farming operations in the Key's local waters have been employing increasing volumes of fresh water for processing.
Regardless of the cause, the folks in Cedar Key are in dire straights; it could be months before an acceptable treatment system or alternative water supply system can be developed. Because the Town's water and sewer system is a private corporation, the beaurocracy that is the County Emergency Management System was hesitant to act.
After initiating a flurry of cascading e-mails and phone calls, and enlisting support at the local, regional, and corporate level from Madison, to Zephyrhills, to Coppell, to Allentown, and to Stamford, I am pleased to report that Nestle Waters successfully delivered 2 tractor-trailer loads (about 9,600 gallons) to Cedar Key by yesterday afternoon, barely 24 hours after receiving the initial request. And we've got a third trailer load slated for delivery first thing tomorrow morning! This will hopefully be enough to tide the folks in Cedar Key over until they have a tanker shuttle in place using their community volunteer Fire Department's water tanker to ferry potable water in from neighboring towns next week.
The success of this operation required input and coordination on many fronts in logistics, planning, warehouse, corporate affairs, political affairs, public relations, and natural resources (forgive me if I left anyone out). I am honored to work with such a great bunch of folks who are willing to go the extra mile when neighbors are in need; thank you all!
Here's a link to the story in the "Cedar Key Beacon": www.cedarkeybeacon.com/content/cedar-key-residents-line-water
Over the years, I've worked with a lot of rough men on a variety of rough jobs including timber logging, commercial fishing, forest fire fighting, and well drilling to name just a few. In my early years, it was always men, lately there's been a few women scattered amongst the crews and they typically hold their own and earn the respect of their crewmembers, but the team dynamic changes - not necessarily a bad thing, it's just different.
It takes a certain type of personality to succeed in the rough professions; these jobs are physically demanding and typically entail long hours working under harsh and dangerous environmental conditions; on some jobs, promotions come because the guy in front of you made a stupid move and got himself killed (and damned if he wasn't one of the best operators ever!). "Coffee breaks" might occur if there's an equipment failure that can't be fixed unless someone (usually the new guy) hauls ass 20 or 50 miles into town to find the one spare part that can't be improvised on the spot. Meal times are erratic at best; breakfast might be at four AM in some truck stop diner next to the Super 8 where you've grabbed 4 hours and a shower, lunch is usually whatever you've grabbed off the shelf at the quickmart when you're fueling up the rig for the day (if it's something you can throw on the rig's muffler to heat up, that's a bonus!), and dinners can vary wildly, but they typically don't happen till nine or ten at night. Dinner is usually the meal of the day and it involves large quantities of food; quality is often irrelevant so long as there's enough calories and fat to keep you running through the next 24 hours. You might have a beer, or even two, but you sure don't want your head fuzzy or it's liable to get in the way of a battering ram on the job tomorrow, so it's usually sweet tea or coffee.
On the job, you're always dirty; your clothes are soiled and torn, your hands are black with a grime that can take weeks of scrubbing to remove (so why bother), you're either sunburned and bug-bit or wind-chilled and frost-bit, your feet ache, your muscles scream, and your head pounds. When the rain's soaked you to the skin, you curse and call for sun. When the temperature's 105 and the sun boils your brain, you curse and call for rain. The mud's either axle deep and so gumbo sticky you have to scrape it off with a knife, or the dust forms a 1/4" grime on everything and works its way so deep into your lungs that you're coughing it out for weeks and your eyelids feel like sandpaper running over your eyeballs when you blink. If it's dark, you rig lights and keep working. If it's Friday night and the job's not done, you work Saturday and Sunday and just keep on going till it is done.
This isn't the kind of work that gives a damn about catchy corporate phrases like "Total Performance Management" or "Continuous Improvement Program". This is about getting things done as fast and efficiently as is humanly possible while trying not to get hurt or killed. When the "White Hats" come out in the field to see how things are going, you yessir them a dozen times and pray they'll get out of your hair quick and go back to their office so you can get back to doing what needs doing.
There's a camaraderie that builds in the crews that you wont find in too many other places; you'll find it on the battlefield and in the ranks with your unit, but you sure as hell won't find it inside factory walls or with your "cubicle" team at the office. Sure, you've got a family that you love and want to go home to; you hope the job's done soon so you can travel a 100 or 500 or a 1,000 miles to see them next week or next month and relax for a few days until the next call-out comes. But right now your family's this amalgam of very unique individuals with some mighty weird habits, speech patterns, smells, and personality disorders. You're in the trenches with them 20 hours a day; you admire them, you ridicule them, you curse them, you give them your last dollar if they need it. You can't wait to get away from them, and you can't wait to get back to them.
These are the guys who get the job done or die trying. This country was built on the backs of these men; they're not super-human, they may not be very educated, and from the outside you could find all kinds of faults with them. They're not looking for any recognition and wouldn't know what to do with it if it came. All they want is to earn good living doing the job right so they can feed their families and pay their bills. And I am always honored when I can work along side them!
This is the time of year when I fall prey to a masochistic tendency to awaken old aches and pains by spending too much time behind the business end of a chain saw dropping trees and bucking them up for next Winter's firewood. For a few years in my younger days, falling and skidding timber was my livelihood, and I truly loved the work -still do. But it's sure not as easy now as 30 years ago; the muscle memory is there, but the tone takes a while to come back! By the time it does, I've about wrapped up and am ready to put the saw away for a few months.
The house up north in Vermont takes a good 7 to 9 cords every Winter, and lately, it's been tougher and tougher to reach that goal in the limited time I spend there. Usually I end up spending too much money buying a few final cords to make up the difference. It takes a minimum of 6 months drying time to season hardwood in the north country, so if it's not split and stacked in the woodshed by early May, I'll be cursing at a sputtering, low BTU blaze on Thanksgiving Day.
Red or white oak, sugar maple, and beech are the best woods; but oak is scarce on my property, and most of the sugar maples are like sacred cows - I need them to tap for making syrup. So for the hearth, I end up cutting beech (which is relatively abundant) along with green and white ash, hardhack, cherry, and red maple; all decent burning wood, but not quite as hot as oak. For the arch in the sugarhouse, I'll cut another couple of cords in 36" lengths rather than the 18" lengths required for the house. The sugarwood is usually a mix of birch, basswood, poplar, and pine - it's a good way to cull out the junk timber sprouting up in the sugarbush.
Here in north Florida, I can get through the cold months in my little cottage on about 2 cords; that's a fairly easy order to fill, and with the Summer heat, I can cut those two cords in July and they'll be plenty dried-out for burning in November. There's lots of scrub live oak here and it burns fine and hot. It's a little tougher to split than red oak - about comparable with white oak, but it sure smells fine on the hearth!
It's a comforting feeling to walk out behind the house in mid-Summer to see row after row of neatly stacked cordwood laid out in the shed; in the back of my mind I can almost hear that wood saying "You've done your job, come Winter we'll do ours!"
Well, hurricane Season will fast be upon us - it runs June 1 through December 1 here in Florida. May 27th through June 2nd is Hurricane Preparedness Week, but it's never too early to be prepared for a disaster! What follows is a list recommended by NOAA of key items that we all should have on hand in case we are beset unexpectedly. Some of this can be modified to your specific needs, but it's all important.
One thing I notice that NOAA blatantly leaves off the list is weaponry; despite the fact that we hope all folks have good intentions, let's face it, during troubled times, some people leave their scruples in the nearest roadside ditch. When trouble strikes home, let's be sure we're ready to live up to the task - after all, if we are uncertain about our home situation, it's that much harder to focus on helping others! That starts with keeping your weapons and ammo readily accessible - the lessons of Hurricane Katrina should not be forgotten! For most folks that means a good pocket knife, a sturdy belt knife, and your basic 3-gun combo; usually an AR or AK mid-to-large caliber rifle, a 12 gauge pump shotgun, and a handgun. Personally, I lean towards adding a fourth gun; a Ruger 10-22 carbine is light, accurate, handy, and reliable - it's more than adequate on a variety of 2 and 4 -legged critters with well-placed shots, you can configure it in a hundred different fashions, and you can carry a couple thousand rounds in your cargo pockets without breaking a sweat! For the more politically correct information, you can go to: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/prepare/
Water - at least 1 gallon daily per person for 3 to 7 days
Food - at least enough for 3 to 7 days
— non-perishable packaged or canned food / juices
— foods for infants or the elderly
— snack foods
— non-electric can opener
— cooking tools / fuel
— paper plates / plastic utensils
Blankets / Pillows, etc.
Clothing - seasonal / rain gear/ sturdy shoes
First Aid Kit / Medicines / Prescription Drugs
Special Items - for babies and the elderly
Toiletries / Hygiene items / Moisture wipes
Flashlight / Batteries
Radio - Battery operated and NOAA weather radio
Telephones - Fully charged cell phone with extra battery and a traditional (not cordless) telephone set
Cash (with some small bills) and Credit Cards - Banks and ATMs may not be available for extended periods
Toys, Books and Games
Important documents - in a waterproof container or watertight resealable plastic bag
— insurance, medical records, bank account numbers, Social Security card, etc.
Tools - keep a set with you during the storm
Vehicle fuel tanks filled
Pet care items
— proper identification / immunization records / medications
— ample supply of food and water
— a carrier or cage
— muzzle and leash
After eons of deposition (the Archean) wherein I hyperaccumulated a groundmass of detritus, highlighted only by brief yet violent eras of erosion, I was roused from my Precambrian lethargy. Finding myself perched precariously on the proximal edge of a destructive plate boundary, I was helplessly subducted into the Cretaceous Period beneath an accretionary wedge and down through the Benioff Zone.
Here, subjected to extreme pressure (yet relatively little heat), I metamorphosed through the glaucophane phase. With ever increasing depth, the heat increased dramatically, and in a state of partial meltdown, my volatile components were driven off.
Now in a tertiary state of relatively buoyant, magmatic plasticity, I found myself ascending through a thick lid of continental crust until finally I emerged in the Pleistocene. Taking laccolithic stock of my composition, I found myself silicon rich, yet deficient in iron and magnesium.
Thus am I forced to take refuge in the spring-rich environment of Florida and Georgia, where iron and magnesium abound in the magical flows that result from a variance in head!
What more can I say....I am, after all, a geologist.
Well, sometimes it's like pulling teeth (or in my case this afternoon, getting a root canal job) to get the real story out of some of the folks who haunt this site. Perchance it's because he's from Blountstown, where the Apalachicola River snakes through the Panhandle's gum and cypress bottoms on its way to Apalachicola Bay on the Guff where it produces some of the best oyster beds in the world, but Jim McClellan is one of a rare breed of Crackers who would rather complain about faulty equipment than elaborate on how he overcame adversity and still hung a nice buck on the meatpole! If you read his tale below, you might get the wrong picture, so I'll paint one up a little; years of rigorous training as a public relations officer in the Army are really what put this buck on the pole. If not for the constant rifle drills, field stripping, reassembly, and thousands of rounds down-range in preparation for defending us all against the red menace, Jim just may not have been able to turn this success story into a complaint about a 33 year old paperweight! Top that off with a few years running interference in Tallahassee for one of our past Governors, and several years of serving as our first line of defense at NWNA against the angry mobs who think bottled water is a crime against mother Earth and you've got a seasoned veteran with the keenly honed skills needed not just to survive, but even to relish the mosquitos at Iamonia Lake! So here's his tale...you be the judge. And don't forget to open the picture!
"I Killed this seven point (look closely) at Iamonia Lake after dealing with a major rifle malfunction with my 33-year-old .243. I was walking up behind a small gum tree beside a slough when I saw him at about 75 yards. I put the crosshairs on his front shoulder, pulled the trigger and . . .Nothing. I knelt down and opened the receiver (mistake). The extractor
didn't remove the round in the chamber, but the next cartridge in the clip tried to load. Now I had a jam that required me to remove my clip, shake the stray round out (while holding the charging handle back), close the chamber and try again. By now, he (the buck) had closed the distance slightly. I got back up, put the crosshairs on his shoulder again, pulled the trigger and . . . Nothing. Resisting the powerful urge to wrap the rifle around the gum tree, I knelt down again, removed the clip, pulled the charging handle as far to the rear as I could, gently slid it forward, pushed it as far as it would go and, at last, I had tension in the trigger. But I didn't want to take a chance on putting the clip back in, so I quietly stood back up, waited for an eternity before he re-emerged at about 50 yards. So, with my now-single-shot .243, I put a round through his chest and he died on the spot. If you know anyone who needs a long, 8.5-lb. paper weight, let me know. This came very close to being a tale about how I lost my mind and was last seen chasing a deer through the woods with my knife!"
"It was a great weekend, though. I killed a nice hog on Saturday and that buck on Sunday.
We also set out some bush hooks and caught a few big channel catfish. On Saturday night, we cooked them, the squirrels I killed at Cypress and some quail a guy from work shot up near Valdosta. To save time and trouble, we just deep-fried all of it and had a wonderful if not heart healthy meal. As an added redneck bonus, I also ran over a fox on Saturday night, which we turned around, picked up and skinned out!"
Occasionally, someone or another remarks on my tendency to profligate my writing with meandering drivel, obtuse references, or arcane phrases. I reckon having grown up in a semi-rural locale, combined with years of traveling and working various occupations in a world of far-flung and remote locations, I may have absorbed an array of idiosyncratic lexicon from a conglomerate of folks and characters...just my luck, I suspect.
Certain-sure they say a picture paints a thousand words, and I hope some of the pictures I've included in these postings conjure to mind several million words for y'all. Still, at heart I've always been a writer, and over the years photography has become yet another tool in my writer's possibles sack to help elaborate on the words I like to paint with.
Every writer has his style. Hemingway's succinct, clipped prose encouraged his readers to fill in the gaps with their own stored imagery, while Faulkner left nothing to the imagination in his detailed, yet somehow poetic monologues. They were both incredible writers and to this day I never tire of reading either of their works.
Now I'd never lay claim to being another Hemingway or Faulkner; don't go to thinking I'm posing here. I just figured to set forth a rasher of fine wordsmiths to whet your imagination. Everyone has their own way of contributing to their world; hopefully what we contribute radiates out like the ripples from a stone thrown in the still waters of the millpond and touches others in a good way.
Lots of folks pine for the good old days. Indeed, when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I used to wish I'd been born a hundred years earlier (sometimes I still do), but really these are good days; I know I've lived some shining times and sure aim to live through some more! So these musings and photo-essays are my way of sharing a little of the history we each make in our own way on a daily basis. Keep yer powder dry an' yer stick afloat!
Living, working, and traveling through some pretty isolated parts of the nation, I've had occasion to run into all kinds of people. Lately, I speak with a lot of folks in rural America who are rightly worried about the direction our country is heading; frequently I hear them referring to the 4 "G"s - Gear, Guns, Gold, and God as the only salvation to the coming of Armageddon.
I don't know about that (the Armageddon) one way or the other, but reflecting on those "G"s, I might add "Grub" and "Guts" to round it out. Of course none of that will do you any good without a solid footing in field-craft. Personally, I'll put my faith on field-craft as my number one priority. If you've got that, everything else will fall into place.
It's kind of like what the Russian non-comms told their raw recruits prior to battle with the advancing Germans. When the poor farm kids had the audacity to complain that only 6 out of 10 of them had weapons, their Sargeants gruffly told them to keep their heads down and a weapon would present itself soon enough. Naturally, the Sargeants were correct, but only because the first 6 recruits were quickly reduced to cannon fodder and their rifles were freed up.
I learned today of the passing of a good friend. Although I only knew him a few short years, his tales and the depths of his knowledge always intrigued and amazed me. He lived life with vigor and appreciation. He relished all of the minor details that most of us gloss over or take for granted.
Austin Peele always epitomized my internal image of a small-town southern lawyer, right down to his white linen suits, pork pie hats, and redolent cigars. Deep down, I'm convinced it was an image he cultivated purposely; a favorite saying of his was "Don't ever mistake slow talking for slow thinking", and I know he used that to his advantage in many a courtroom. I will miss his counsel and his friendship.
Farewell my friend...sleep well.
I stepped out on the porch here at Cypress Springs today and found myself in the midst of a small herd of deer; they continued about their business, grazing the frosted grass (it really does get cold in north Florida in the Winter) here in the yard and keeping me in their view out of the corners of their eyes. Two decent bucks - a large forkhorn and an 8-pointer grazed side-by-side not 30 yards in front of me, while 4 does and 6 fawns of the year munched away next to my truck about 20 yards to my right. I raised my rifle and executed well-placed broadsides on each of the bucks - but only in my mind's eye...the season here in the panhandle doesn't open until Thanksgiving Day.
So I contented myself with watching and snapping a couple of poor quality cell-phone pictures until they moved off into the brush just around dusk, whereupon I repaired inside and satisfied my inner hunter with a meal of barbequed Florida mottled duck - the last in my freezer from January's hunts in the 'Glades.
When anyone asks you if you have lived here all your life..it's usually safe to reply "Not yet".
In the fire service, on rescue, and on ski patrol, our mantra regarding a drowning or hypothermia victim was always the same: "They're not dead until they're warm and dead." To myself, I would always think back to my earlier days and quietly add..."or they're plugged full of lead."
When the outcome holds some doubt, reload and resume firing; bullets are cheap, life isn't.
The river really doesn't care whether or not you are just too damned uncomfortable in that lifejacket.
Waiting until you've leveled out in cruise after take-off is definitely the wrong time to mentally review your pre-flight checklist and wonder if you inspected the landing gear as well as you should have.
The human body can endure some incredible privations and duress; an average, healthy person can last up to 40 days without food, and up to 2 days without water....how many days do you think he/she can last without air? (Hint...it's a significantly smaller number than 1!)
As a young man, I often wondered what kind of quality of life a person over 30 could possibly hope for. Having surpassed the 1/2 century mark some time back, I now often wonder what kind of quality of life a person under 30 could possibly hope for.
If you've read this far, you may still be breathing but you might want to have someone check your pulse to make sure!
Well, I was mildly surprised to find a pigmy rattlesnake in my bedroom last night (3/8/11) here at the cottage in north Florida. Don’t know how he got in, but he was all coiled up by the dresser next to my bed and not at all pleased to see me. Needless to say, I wasn’t too happy to see him either.
Being slightly larger in stature, I swiftly gained the upper hand and summarily dispatched him by dropping a 5 pound hard copy of Tom Clancy’s latest novel, “Dead or Alive” on him. I thought it was both coincidental and appropriate; a great ending for a real page turner! I did have the option of utilizing my 9 mm, which was also close at hand, but elected to refrain from drilling a hole in the floor.
Naturally, the next hour was spent checking all the nooks and crannies in the place looking for additional "invasive species" and for any surreptitious means of entry; none were found. Even after checking thoroughly between the bed-sheets, sleep came slowly; snake encounters of the third kind are fairly typical in this neck of the woods, but they're generally outdoors where it's somewhat easier to deal with.
"you bat you"
Jim McClellan's a traditional good ole southern democrat cracker (which means he's mostly a confused conservative with a lopsided view tainted by years of overexposure to the humidity and hot air exhaled by folks in Tallahassee). He hails from Calhoun County on the Florida panhandle and he sure knows how to put meat in the freezer!