Monday, April 29, 2013

Missed opportunities

There was an inkling of a plan this past weekend; make a trip up to the Mid-Atlantic Spaniel trials. The trip would have been long ( ~10 hrs each way), but the reality is that it's not easy to get from here to ANY spaniel field trials without traveling at least 8 hours each way. I wasn't interested in going to compete. Emmie is just now coming off the injured-reserve list and isn't steady to wing-and-shot anyway, which is a real Rubicon for field trials.  Steady-to-wing-and-shot only comes in as a metric for Hunt Test at the Master level. 

I was really just hoping to drive 10 hours, stay in a crappy motel room and watch some quality spaniels in action; hopefully I'd learn by osmosis and generally pick the brains of those who would stand still long enough for me to sidle up.

As it happened, I didn't go.

I also didn't go to the 'inkling of a plan' #2: the Southern SXS; held on this same weekend.

While this was in NC and would have only been a ~7 hour trip each way, the likely-hood of wanton drooling and physical pangs over my particular financial situation was much higher. (why they have this thing right after tax time, and right when my $ is due for our hunting lease is beyond me!)  Booth after booth of guns.  Properly aged, well mellowed guns that I could actually pick up and handle?  Booth after booth of accessories: leather, waxed cotton, brass fittings, tweed....not that I'm all worked up about that kind of thing.

No I wasn't going to do that to myself.  I will have to appreciate the beauty and smell of burnt cordite, but it will happen in my mind, not at the range.

Of the two-I think I would have chosen to go to PA, and had I done so I might have had an interesting time.  Before I got Emmie I was in deliberations over getting a cocker, a "super-cocker" to be more precise. I honestly can't say why we wound up not getting the cocker, but we didn't.  In the end I think I was concerned (probably overly so) that this would be more dog than I was able to handle.  I really can't tell you for sure, only that when I told the breeder our decision I figured I'd never hear or see anything about them again.

Well, the spaniel world is small. Turns out that the 4th place at this field trial was one of the pups I was looking at, and her progeny was #1 ("super-cocker" indeed):
Darcy and Ruthie-belonging to Walter Leytham
When I found out about the win I contacted the seller and congratulated him. It's been five years, but I wouldn't have held it against him if he told me to piss-off for wasting his time back then.  Part of his reply today:
I am sure glad I kept her.  She was the runt, but from the time she opened her eyes, she couldn't keep them off of me.  It was like I was her whole world. I decided she was mine.
I don't know what would have happened if I had gone ahead with my purchase, but I don't think I have wasted my time, and I hope in hindsight, he doesn't think I wasted his. 


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

On Passing

As I look out my office window I see the comings and goings of people who never seem to age.  They are perpetually locked in the glow and vitality of their youth. I don't generally witness their lives once they've left our institution so I don't see them grow old or weak or sick. I always see them at their peak. They are always facing forward with the sun in their face.  The world is open to them. The future is open to them.

Looking out my window is a reminder that things continue, even if we do not. Even if our friends do not. Even if everyone and everything we know and cherish does not.

I think it is a fear in that realization 'we' will not continue that can lead people to despair; so evident  in our modern, hedonistic times.  I find that sad.  Historically this realization was probably the catalyst for most of humanities profound thoughts.  The knowledge that we will not continue, but that 'life' will; that we have some responsibility to that future through out actions in the present.

I have just received news of the passing of a friend.

I knew it was coming. Some kinds of cancer seem just beyond the current, although sometimes miraculous, powers of modern medicine. What's remarkable, and what I want to share, is that at this moment I am neither sad, nor angry with the disease that took him. I thought I would be, and have honestly been so since the last time I saw how much the disease and subsequent 'treatments' had affected him. When I saw that I simply wanted to cry.

No, and maybe it's because I know the finality of passing; instead I am remembering the manner in which he faced his situation.  He was a medical professional and knew the likely prognosis the moment he heard the diagnosis.  I really don't know what went through his mind at that precise moment, but what I witnessed him doing for the following weeks and months is worth attesting to.  He spent his time recording lectures and developing course materials for the times when he knew he would be incapacitated by chemotherapy. He was not thinking of himself but rather how he could do the most for others, all the while believing he would pull out of this; recover.

He didn't recover. He did, and will, persevere.

In 2007 when Randy Pausch gave his now famous "Last Lecture" it made waves in our small department. Based on the fact that over 15 million people have watched the youtube video, I'm certain he had a profound impact outside our small department.

In case you haven't watched it:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


A distinct benefit of working where I do is the friendships I can develop with people from all over the world.  One of my closer friends happens to be of the Germanic persuasion, and is more of a firearms enthusiast than any Americans I know personally.  He has introduced me to many traditions and customs of the Europeans, that many in this country would find difficult to embrace.  

Friends-especially male friends exist in a constant dialogue of barbs, jokes and general competition.  Anyone not participating, or taking too much offense, is immediately suspect.  There's never a coup-de-grace between friends. The jabs aren't meant to be mortal blows.  So long as you understand some thing are taboo in different cultures, and you are quick to learn what those things are-you have free reign in all the things that aren't!

Being of the Germanic persuasion opens my friend up to all kinds of friendly barbs and jabs regarding "efficiency".  I mean-who has time to consider the 'proper' method of coiling a long dog lead? 

Well some people do and now you can too:

As I've said, barbs aren't any fun if someone gets their panties in a wad and my friend is good about this. When I shared this video he was more than pleased.  Finally I was interested in doing things by the 'correct method' and so provided me with yet another option-albiet in a .pdf that I would have to German.... but since I'm an illiterate, culturally hegemonic American (jab our direction)-fortunately there were pictures.

So the barbs are not one sided. Of particular annoyance is the constant refrain that "you Americans never clean your guns".  This is often after a refrain about the HOURS spent cleaning after a trip to the range. My general counter to that is "the perfect is the enemy of the good".

To that end I offer this demonstration from the NSSF; one of the best and most thorough cleaning demonstrations I've seen. Thanks to Steve Rinella for pointing this out in his FB post.

BTW.  The absolute worst, and unfortunately my friend knows this, is when I'm referred to as "you Yankees".  I still haven't found a comeback to that which won't end with me no longer referring to him as "my friend". That's just part of the nature of friendship. I'm sure I say some things that rub him just as raw, but he's too German to ever let me know.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

__it happens.

It happens. 
Athletes get injured.  It's what happens when you push the limits.

Everything has it's limits.

The after-effects of pushing past the limits can be beautiful in the long run. Can anyone imagine Yosemite if the glaciers hadn't worked their magic? Ansel Adams?


An incredibly abstract example - occurring in a literally geologic timeframe and what we revere are the after effects; the remnants and remains.  

Witnessing and participating in such transformational experiences, on a more personal scale, is not so pleasant.  Imagine the first time you watched the images of Joe Theisman having his leg broken-is it as indelibly etched in your mind as mine? That too was the result of forces in the natural world coliding with one another.   The strength of bone vs the force of inertia. 

If I close my eyes I can still see the effects of gravity demonstrating the frailty of my own skeleton. My foot slipped off the skateboard and the bones gave way. It was an accident, but it lingers and makes me who I am, even today. Not all scars are visible.

To wit: an injured pup confined to 2-3 weeks of cage rest:

I didn't see the injury happen. All I know is that when we came back from a walk in the woods she came up lame. I put her on rest for a week and she seemed to get over it. But two weeks later I found that she seemed to have difficulty when doing any turning. Linear movement was good, but a sharp change in direction would have her 'tripoding' again. It was time to get some insight, and since I don't have an x-ray machine in my garage (and I suck at reading films anyway); off to the clinic we went.

Diagnosis: Likely torn cruciate ligament.
Prognosis: Good
treatment: Kennel rest for 2 weeks. If no improvement- MRI ($$$) and consider surgery ($$$$$). 

Fortunately Emmie was introduced to the kennel at a very early age: 
And I actually think that she does better in a lot of ways when she spends time in the kennel. She is so tightly focused on work that I think kennel time gives her a chance to 'turn off'. It's her safe space. This is a concept I had read about but that I honestly had a hard time understanding before Emmie. My other dogs have been primarily bred to be companion animals and I had primarily expected them to be with me at all times, I ASSUMED they wanted to be with me at all times-wouldn't being in a kennel be cruel? No, when used properly.
I've come around and fully support the use of a kennel...but a significantly important aspect to effective use of kennels is that pup gets out and get exercises.  But when ALL out-of-kennel experiences must occur via a slip lead, the kennel's appeal can wear off.  
We're on day 4.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Irish Setter Wingshooter Boots, a review

Bought on sale from Orvis, the Irish Setter Wingshoter boot:

Irish Setter Wingshooter boots
from the website:
A simple and classic wingshooter's upland boot for the hunter that believes in the tried and true. Ultradry™ waterproof membrane keeps feet dry. Lightweight midsole for support and Irish Setter's Prairie Black outsole sheds clay and dirt. Goodyear welt construction. 6" height from the inner sole to top of boot collar. In brown. Leather. Imported. 

I already had a slightly different version of this boot; one with the 'white' sole rather than black.  I found it on a clearance rack in Bass Pro Shop for less than $50.  How could I go wrong?  I soon learned that I wanted something different than the white sole for my main hunting boots when I realized they were , even 20' up in a deer stand, the most visible thing about me. They were almost fluorescent and I was certain that every animal in the valley was immediately alerted by the blinding light!

But the were comfortable from day one and remain so almost three years later. Comfortable and still waterproof.

When I saw these on sale I splurged-even on sale they weren't the obvious value the previous pair represented.  But aside from that, when there's something you like you should consider buying two. Because if you don't surely they will be discontinued or at least changed when your first wears out and you go to find it's replacement.

When they arrived I was surprised. They were decidedly different than the last pair. The leather is richer but more supple than the pair they replace. The boots had a nearly 'wet' surface reminiscent of a baseball glove in my memory from 1978-freshly coated in neatsfoot oil; ready to be broken in. 

As hoped, they were as comfortable as the previous pair from the start, and although they didn't require a true break-in, I wouldn't have taken them for an afternoon bird hunt fresh from the box.

Given a good week of wear...they became my go-to.


the obvious is that they aren't made in America. Woe...the geo-politics of manufacturing....

Whenever possible I try to find a home-grown product; even when it costs a bit more. The quality in these boots, however, is better than what I'm used to from far either eastern import or domestic production. 

All in all-maybe I should get another pair before they change or discontinue them!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013



I think my daughter is about to enter the stage where every interaction will be met with a "why?",  and maybe dealing with that will cure me, but at this point I still often ask it myself- "why?".

Why do I do the things I choose to do...In the current social and political climate, living with what can be described as 'first world problems' it's easy to feel (and be) scrutinized for some behaviors.

Why do I hunt?

Why do I hunt in at this most unique period in history when chicken and ground beef are both easily available and affordable?  My dad gave me this bit of an aphorism-
"for the first time in history most people are waking up and deciding what they are going to eat, rather than how they are going to get something to eat."

Not discounting the hunger and privation that exists, I think this is a true statement, at least of the day-to-day life in the west in the early parts of the this century.

It's not solely money, for if weighed out on a dollar-per-pound basis, game meat probably far surpasses the best Kobe beef; so much so that I refuse to do the math for myself! However, it would be disingenuous to say money does not factor in at some level. I concentrate on large game for my family's diet because it provides the best return for time and money invested. However, this may be regional in effect, as we have a very large deer population in the GA and someone in ME would probably go hungry waiting for a deer. 

That it's incredibly tasty is beside the point.

Money/time is neither the only nor primary factor but it is one nevertheless. I primarily hunt for health benefits: mental, physical and spiritual. And if I didn't get any/enough venison for the family I would choose to spend money for grass-fed beef or chevre rather than industrial farmed animal agriculture.

Economies(money/time) are always inherently in the picture when thinking about hunting. When compared to big game hunting, small game hunting is an incredibly elite activity.  Whereas historically all hunting was demarcated and limited to a specific class,  nevertheless a peasant would expect to trap rabbits/hares-not stags; despite the return for investment.  It's hard for me to imagine, but it was not that many generations back when my forebears would be LEGALLY either maimed or killed for doing something I take for granted. 

(to be continued...)