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Brad Eden

Essays, Poems, Thoughts. . .

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Wisconsin

RAND’S FIRST GROUSE

    The year was 1899. A young boy of twelve followed his father Carl hunting along the Mississippi River. Carl was a hunter of great local reputation - during the days of year-round market hunting – with a well-developed personal code of sportsmanship. No spring waterfowl hunting for this sportsman. He never hunted after the sun went down. He set his own personal bag limits when there were none. Rand’s father taught him well and started him with a single-barreled shotgun. Gun safety was paramount; “Never point a gun at anything you don’t intend to kill.”

    In 1945 Rand, now a seasoned hunter and writer, vividly recalled shooting his first ruffed grouse. That “partridge” came after nearly two unsuccessful seasons behind his dog. The dog often treed partridge, but his father’s words echoed in his head. “You may not shoot partridge from trees. You’re old enough to learn wing-shooting.”

    “A big partridge rose with a roar at my left…crossed behind me hell-bent for the nearest cedar swamp …a swinging shot …and the bird tumbled dead in a shower of feathers and golden leaves.”

    Ethical lessons learned well, young Rand Aldo Leopold later became quite famous. Today we know him as Aldo Leopold.

I wrote this essay a while back and thought you'd enjoy.

Ken

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Cedar Swamp

"Frankly, Scarlett, I Just Don't Care Very Much"

Murphy’s Chessie “Rommel” farted again, drawing tears that blurred a sky full of chill rain but no ducks. My prospects for roasting a fat mallard any time soon had been flimsy to begin with. On recent Niagara River hunts, Rommel had retrieved ducks successfully; not whole ducks, though, just duck parts. Too bad Rommel doesn’t eat beaks or guts first. Neither do I.

Half an hour after the rain turned white, so did my toes, nose, and fingers. Noticing me shivering glumly, Murphy asked if I wanted to pick up and have a hot breakfast. The hairs on Rommel’s nape bristled when Murphy reached toward the decoy sack.

I chattered through lying teeth that I didn’t care. Maybe I didn’t, but getting the hell out of there had definitely crossed my mind. It was after we collected the dekes and began schlepping our gear back to Murphy’s pickup that it hit me. The phrase “I don’t care” is often about as genuine as one of Murphy’s rubber ducks.

Like a puppy’s growling during a game of tug of war, “I don’t care” can be a soft-pedaled misdirection from the actual “I’d be delighted.” When a young Nimrod's eyes first start to shine on grandpa's well worn scatterguns hanging on the wall, the twinkle is contagious. When the boy finally asks, his grandfather might tell him to take down any gun he wants and to go enjoy himself; grandpa doesn’t care. But the old man’s faint smile tells a different story.

Most commonly, though, “I don’t care” is intended as a literal declaration. For example, Angler B might tell Angler A he honestly doesn’t care which pond they try first on a pleasant summer morning. In this particular case, Angler B should refrain from expressing a geographical preference, such as for casting from the pond’s rocky-bottomed western shore, lest his initial declaration become littoral.

“I don’t care” has a salty side, too, and is versatile enough to use when the gloves come off. A hunter will occasionally float a harebrained scheme – like hunting turkeys with beagles, or making coot jerky – past a buddy, looking for some encouragement. Saying that he doesn’t care what his pal does slams the door on that conversation. If needed, emphasis can be added with a well nuanced eye-roll.

Chillier still is this response for a guy met now and then in camp. He habitually carries his gun with the safety off so he’s ready for a quick “sound shot.” His companions bob and weave every time his gun barrels trace through their torsos in merry arcs. When the host asks whether it’s OK for this jerk to hunt at camp next weekend, the nays are phrased to spare the host’s feelings, but just barely. Even in the funny papers, the thrust of “I don’t &%#@$ care” is crystal clear.

While the example above crashes on the ear, the most ominous expression of not caring is delivered less with a bang than a whisper. Imagine a sportsman receiving an email from his buddy who’s discovered a pond stiff with foot-long brook trout just north of Saranac Lake. Better still, the region was logged about 6 years ago, leaving the cedar and birch clumps that remain a bonasa bonanza. His buddy wants him to drive up late in September so they can enjoy an early season Adirondack cast ‘n blast. The sportsman is excited, and hurries to share the good news with his wife. He thinks better of it when he sees her enjoying herself on the riding mower out back, and so, not wanting to interrupt her fun, he decides to wait for a more opportune moment.

An hour later, still in her sweaty work clothes, sipping a lemonade, she smiles happily at him after hanging up the phone. Now is the time, he senses, to announce his plans, which he does in breathless detail. What he’s forgotten is his promise, made after his salmon fishing expedition last September, not to miss their wedding anniversary again this year. What he doesn’t know is that her phone call confirmed reservations for a romantic anniversary dinner on the very night his buddy expects him at camp. He watches as his wife gently sets down her lemonade, walks toward the bathroom to shower, and sweetly tells him to do whatever he thinks is right. She says she doesn’t care, then quietly clicks the door behind her.

This fellow has just heard Bad News, just like the deer that’s heard the snick of a 12 gauge slug being chambered in a pump gun nearby. For both, any hope of a long and happy life depends on their responses to these dangerous environmental sounds. Even if they both scoot at just the right moment, only the deer can hope for a bloodless getaway. Heck, it’ll even be safe enough one day for the deer to come back.

If Murphy ever invites me back to hunt with Rommel, I’ll probably say something like “Sure...OK... I don’t care... Or maybe we could hunt with my dog this time.” And if Murphy says he doesn’t care, either, maybe I’ll be enjoying that roasted mallard after all.

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Wisconsin

Xx

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browndrake

Hope another fishing one is okay.

A Fish Tale

There are some things in life that one just does not do.  I think that there is a country song written about that.  I want to just mention a couple.

First, you never show up late for a fishing trip.  You may show up late for dinner from time to time, you may occasionally be late to school and community functions, but you never, ever show up late to go fishing.

Do you remember the movie, “A River Runs Through it?”  They guess correctly that the boyfriend would not only show up late but also that he would bring worms…they even named the brand of coffee can the worms would be in.    To quote the movie, “In Montana, three things we’re never late for: church, work and fishing.”

I know that it is difficult to imagine something more grievous than showing up late for a fishing trip, but I discovered something just this last weekend.

Now, for you to really understand the seriousness of this crime, you must first have a picture of the perpetrator.   There is no better man than Colt.  He truly is the salt of the earth.  He will give you the shirt off his back.  He will help you put in sprinklers or dig your garden.  If you need help with anything, anything at all, just let Colt know it and he will be there elbow deep working alongside of you.  Furthermore, he is an honorable man.  If he says it, you can count on it!

You may ask how a person so near perfection could ever commit any heinous act.  Unfortunately, like everybody, Colt has his weaknesses.  You see, Colt loves fly fishing.  I don’t mean that he likes fishing and goes frequently.   No, Colt really loves fly fishing, with the kind of deep passion that has the potential to get somebody into trouble…. And so it was this weekend.

We had a family reunion up on Cedar Mountain.  Camp just happened to be a short distance from Panguich Lake.  Colt and I made arrangements to sneak away from the family reunion for a few hours.  I had gone up on Friday night and Colt was to swing by and pick me up at the crack of dawn Saturday.  I knew Colt well, so I was up long before the sun.  I knew that he would never let me live it down if I was not ready when he showed up.  Who wants to start the day off on the wrong foot and miss the best fishing hour of the day?  I sure didn’t and I knew that Colt was not even capable of imagining such a thing.

When mid-morning had come and gone, and Colt had not yet shown up, I knew something was dreadfully wrong.  As I began to prepare to drive down off the mountain, and search for his wrecked truck, lo and behold, here came Colt.   Before I could ask a thing, his huge grin betrayed him.  He had done something far more grievous that show up late for a fishing trip.  He had forsaken his fishing buddy and gone straight to the lake alone.  I don’t know which was worse: my sorrow at missing out on what he described as one of the best fishing mornings of all time, or my befuddlement that such a man could fall so far, so fast, as to break one of the cardinal rules of fishing and desert a buddy.

The stories that he told of that morning would have been classified as ‘fish tales’ anywhere by anybody.   However, the photographic evidence on his phone was quite convincing.   Trying to regain some grace, he quickly offered to go back out to the lake, as soon as lunch was over.

After a quick lunch, we were off to the lake.  As we drove, the morning’s catch grew in size and quantity.  The stories were told and retold, of the glassy water only being disturbed by giant trout sipping his flies and then dancing across the lake as pitted their strength against his experience.

Upon arriving at the lake, I learned the sad truth that the Colt’s addiction had progressed much farther than I could have ever imagined.

The fish tales that he had been telling us appeared to be just that: tales!  As I pushed myself through the frigid wind, making my way down to the shore, I could see the white caps that covered the lake.

We waded out thigh deep and began fishing.   We flailed at the water.  We fought the wind.  We hooked ourselves. We froze to death.  We did just about anything a person might do at the lake, other than get a bite.

Suddenly, Colt reported a take… Dang! He missed it.

Then… a lady in a boat in front of us hooked up and started reeling in a fish.  Perhaps there is hope.  Perhaps we will catch something…

Colt had another hit it and again he could not set the hook.

(I still hadn’t experienced any evidence that fish even lived there)

Finally Colt connected and the fight was on.  As I watched from a distance, I noticed that things looked a little ‘off.’  I waded out of the cold water and approached Colt as he was unhooking the fish.  To my utter horror, I noticed that Colt was unhooking the fish, but not from his line.  Rather from another line, that he must have planted earlier.

How could he have fallen this far.  I had previously heard stories of addiction.   I knew that one’s tolerance would increase over time and then everything would come crashing down.   This was, however, the first time that I had ever witnessed it myself.  Right before my eyes, was a man transformed.  He had sunken so low in the addiction of fly fishing that not only would he abandon his fishing buddy and tell him tall tales of the morning’s fishing trip, but also he had to secure fish before taking another fishing, for fear that they might learn the truth.

When we arrived back to the parking lot, things didn’t get better.  I saw the lady that had caught the fish in front of Colt and when over to see how their day had been.  To my amazement, the only fish that she had caught was the one directly in front of Colt.  Furthermore, it hadn’t taken her bait.  Rather she had snagged something and pulled it out.  Her fish too was on the end of somebody else’s hook!

Colt HAD had a busy morning after all.

……………………………….

Editor’s (me) notes:  The only things in the story that are not true are: I was never worried about Colt nor preparing to look for him nor did he plant the fish that he caught.  He just snagged some poor suckers line that had broken off that day.  Also the lady that had snagged a rod with a fish on it hadn’t done so in front of Colt and he did not plant it either.  However, both she and Colt did snag lines with live fish on them….

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quailguy

Grey skies, clean, crisp snow

 

Dogs dance an old gunner hopes again

 

Birds fly, fall, dogs dance

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Canuck
8 minutes ago, quailguy said:

 

Grey skies, clean, crisp snow

 

Dogs dance an old gunner hopes again

 

Birds fly, fall, dogs dance

 

Love it.

We call this Hillbilly Haiku where I come from. Got any more?

 

Canuck

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OldSarge

My Dad wrote this. I hope you duck hunters appreciate it.

 

The bent-framed, wicker rocker sits empty today

since the old duck hunter journeyed on across the bay.

His briar black, well caked, now cold rests in it's cherry rack.

The Barnegat sneak, in disrepair, lies out behind the shack.

 

Upon the dust-shroud mantle the Chessy pictures stand,

a tribute to his grand old dogs, Old King, Old Queen, Old Dan.

The decoys in the corner hang their hand carved, pine knot heads

granting solace to the 10 gauge in its case of spider webs.

 

Outside the moon gleams dully upon a running tide

that laps with muted voice against the sea-smooth driftwood hide.

Fog, with fingers reaching, lays upon the eelgrass beds

and shivers to the passing of the Widgeon overhead.

 

Tales he would often tell of days on the eastern shore

where he plied his trade as a market gun before the skulling oar.

Of battery guns, and fingers numb, and bullseye lanterns bright.

The lethal roar of a huge 4 bore shattering the night.

 

He spoke of Cans out on the flats and of black ducks in the fog,

of other men with salt rough hands, and the smell of sea wet dogs.

His eyes would light, he'd take his pipe, settle back and sigh.

Then he'd weave a verbal tapestry of geese and leaded skies.

 

Now somewhere in the great beyond where the flights are always in

the northern birds are massing to ride a sleet-stiff wind.

He listens to the keening of a rising off shore breeze

and smiles at the Chesapeake who's head rests on his knee.

 

DAK

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sprocket

In 1956 my parents got married.  My Mom bought my Dad a gift - an L.L.Bean hunting coat - the 3-button classic duck canvas with corduroy cuff, 5 pockets and a waterproof game pouch.  Only 1 button is original and all the waterproof is gone off the pouch, there are a few patches and stitching repairs aplenty.  It's uninsulated and only got washed in the rain and snow.  It's probably carried more ducks than I ever will.

 

I took it out and put it on the floor with Dad's A-5.  Dobs barely sniffed it before flopping down on it without chewing - Don't try that with anything else...

Dad's Coat.jpg

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pa'tridge hunters

It looks like he's saying, "That's where I want to be". "Let's go huntin."

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mart

The Heart of a Lion

Mandy, my little French Brittany and I didn't do a lot of waterfowling together. Her aversion to water above her ankles pretty much precluded trips to the duck marsh. Our waterfowl time together was limited to an occasional field hunt for ducks or geese.

One morning did find us hunkered in a shallow depression on a layout mat, covered with a camouflage sheet, a poor man's layout blind, with a handful of goose shells scattered around us. The decoys were probably unnecessary as this field was a historic feeding location and myriad generations of geese had set their wings to land here in the early morning. Today was no different. A small band of geese, circled. I elected not to call. A duck or goose call in my hands is one of the most highly effective waterfowl conservation tools known to man. They circled lower and set their wings to land. I picked out the biggest of the group and threw back the cover. I came up with the Beretta and promptly muffed the first shot. Never have gotten the hang of shooting from a sitting position. My second barrel connected and down he came. Mandy launched from my side to retrieve our prize.

The gander hit the ground but immediately was his feet, spitting mad with one wing slightly dropped. He locked in on the diminutive brown creature hurtling his way and squared off. Mandy hit the brakes and they stared each other down briefly and began to circle one another. The gander made a lunge. Mandy dodged it. They continued to circle. The goose would lunge and Mandy would side step until on one lunge she let the gander nearly make contact and lunged in herself. She clamped down with all that was in her on that powerful brantan neck. For a moment, time slowed down. It seemed it took me forever to cover that short two or three score yards as I hurried to rescue my little girl from the murderous intent of this giant. All I could see on the dry ground of this harvested cornfield was a swirling cloud of dust, goose feathers and brown fur. The telling and the reading takes far longer than the event.

As I closed on the pair, the swirling stopped and the dust began to waft away. Out of the cloud emerged a triumphant brown dog, the now deceased goose still locked in her jaws. Her attempts to drag it brought me a hearty laugh. She lifted the neck to my hand, released the bird, and I swear, swaggered off like John Wayne.

 

 

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Fin2Feather
 
 
Fishing Partners

It has been a brutal spring,
an unrecognizable April struggling toward a more hopeful May.
But the rod has been patient
and deserves its first try -
a 7-1/2’ flea market glass,
early 50’s I’d guess.
I’ve brought two reels
and have decided it’s a six;
we were hoping for five
and it may yet have its chance to convince me.

A Great Blue Heron shares this water -
in fairness he was here first.
I am adamant that I will not invade his space
but soon we find ourselves a mere twenty yards apart
and yet he stays;
apparently he doesn’t consider me competition
and so far he’s right.
I see his nearly motionless advance along the edge.
He lowers his slender head – I know he’s close.
Lightening-quick, he lifts his wiggling morsel,
shakes it, tips his head and slides it down his silver gullet,
hones his narrow beak on the rocks,
looks for another.
I watch him closely –
might as well learn from the best.
He takes another,
and following his lead,
I drag my nymph as close as I can to the rocky shore.
Bass fry, I suppose,
and just now I’d settle for one.

He’s ten yards away now, facing me…
I wonder who is watching who.
He misses – selfishly I’m glad,
although I know it’s he who must be laughing.
Suddenly he shrugs his great wings apart,
lifts in that insolent way of the big birds,
establishes himself on the opposite shore
leaving me to my ineptness.

I follow his lead
But give him his distance.
One cast, another,
and finally a fish is on,
larger than those he swallows down that slim throat.
As I play the fish he rises,
makes one swooping, deeply banking pass over me,
settles himself back in the same spot.
Curiosity, I suppose,
but just maybe
it was a thumbs up
held high by a kindred spirit.
 
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