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Archive for the ‘The Great Outdoors’ Category

There’s no such thing as an ‘assault’ weapon. There are weapons better geared to be used in armed assaults, but I wouldn’t take a deer rifle to a gun fight.

Let me expound on what I mean by that. Yes, there are weapons that aren’t suited to ‘hunting’. Most hunters hunt for the meat, or sometimes the hide, maybe the horns. (I personally have not found a good recipe for horn yet, so I hunt for my love of venison and wild game) You would not, for example, want to use a bazooka to shoot a deer if your intention was to get dinner. (that is unless you have a pallet that prefers bruised, blood, bone and hair speckled hamburger) But technically you ‘could’ use a bazooka to shoot a deer, just the results would not be suitable. So it’s safe to say a bazooka does not make for a good deer rifle.


Squirrel Hunting with an AK-47
But any time you create a ‘classification’ and intend to define things by way of that classification, if another classification equally applies, the stereotyping of that item is potentially invalidated. I know, for example a great many hunters who like to use AK-47’s because they are one of the most reliable weapons ever made. You can literally drop them in the mud, drag them through the sand, bury them in 12″ of top soil, pull them out and still get them to fire accurately enough to take down a deer. So although built to be used for armed assaults, they make very effective weapons for just about any purpose.

But let’s focus on those most ‘evil’ of weapons folks try to demonize. Weapons that are designed with the full intention of killing as many enemies as possible. Large round, full metal jacket, metal spraying machines who’s primary design and purpose is to hurl as much lethal stuff at human bodies as possible in the shortest span of time. They probably wouldn’t be suitable for hosing down deer if, as in most places, you are only provided 1 or 2 kill tags.

The problem is that any weapon created for the purpose of carrying out assaults works equally well for the purpose of defending against those assaults. Any weapon that poses a threat to others is capable of posing a deterrent to others as well. Thus any so-called ‘assault’ weapon is equally classifiable as an ‘anti-assault’ weapon. It’s all in how it is used.

Despite the desires of the anti-gun crowd to suggest otherwise, I have conducted multiple experiments. I have, for example, taken out my Ruger 10/22, thrown a fully loaded 30 round banana clip into it and set it on the table in such a configuration that it met one of the original qualifications as an ‘assault’ weapon. I set it out thus and left it there, properly supervised of course, for over 3 days straight. It never once got up off the table, ran out, and started mowing down innocent civilians and children. As I say, I have repeated this and similar experiments with my other weapons many times. Not once has any of them gone out and performed a killing spree on their own.

So the notion of an ‘assault’ weapon is nothing more than a rhetorical myth created by people who want to demonize something they do not wish to bear any responsibility for. But be damn sure, if they ever need that ‘anti-assault’ capability, they’ll be finding someone properly trained and throw those guns into their hands, all the while begging them “save me save me!” All I can say is ‘how pathetic!’

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I resent Earth day. So I think it’s about time I had a good ole Earth-Day-Mirth-Day rant.274_cartoon_happy_earth_day_large

I resent Earth Day in part because I’ve been involved in countering animal “rights” and environmental extremist groups for over 2 1/2 decades and thus I am very familiar with both the green movement (and all of it’s predecessors) as well as Earth Day itself.  This nouveau populist pap  is a manufactured feel-good-bullshit day created by a bunch of ludite, anti-industrial marxists who perverted concern for the environment into a political cause to advance their own pet agendas and abrogate rights of free loving people around the world with one pseudo-science-crisis after another.

The other reason I despise the sentiment of Earth Day is because it gives all the lazy assholes who couldn’t give a flying rat’s butt what happens to that McDonald’s wrapper or the pop can they hurl out the car window during rush hour, an excuse to think because they ‘think green’ on and off a couple of times during the 18 waking hours of one day out of the year, that they are being environmentally friendly and responsible.

I have been involved in conservation and responsible use efforts since I was old enough to tag along with my father when he did the same. I am watching out for the environment every single day out of the year.

But these pompous, self-righteous, pretentious fuck heads more-often-than-not will curl their nose up at me when I tell them I actually hunt and fish rather than buying plastic windmills (made from oil byproducts) and synthetic clothing (made from oil by-products) and eating tofu (made from soy beans grown on land that could be used for habitat instead of growing their god damn tasteless bean paste), etc.

So every day for me is earth day bitches! Ya don’t like? Well guess what, on your precious Lenin’s birt… er I mean ‘earth day’….  that will now be my one day out of the year where I don’t do jack squat dick bupkiss, when I won’t stop to think about doo-wah-diddly-dip, and shall not think for a second about not making a big ass mess of anywhere I go!

In fact, I think I’ll take my gas guzzling SUV, drive a bigass long way tomorrow to go to public land, catch as many fish as I can stuff on a stringer, clean them right there in the lake and splay the fish entrails all over the futha mucking dock!

Natural? Ya want Natural? There’s a little bit of #($)@( “NATURAL” for ya !!!! that’s as #@()#($() natural as it gets mutha @(#!@#$@!

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We have all gotten soft.  We lead our lives in a sanitized way where we are able to avoid the thoughts of the blood that is on all of our hands.  We have built a society where it is possible for us to abdicate the job of ‘killing’ in our name onto others.  The job of killing for our food, the job of killing for our defense and public safety, the job of killing to build our homes.

This train of thought is one that I have visited before many times in regards to the practice of hunting, but was raised more recently after someone posted a video of police officers killing an aggressive dog in LaGrange, MO.  Many of the links and comments on this video follow a simple theme.  People are outraged.

Perhaps the outrage is justified, but I felt it necessary to take a contrarian role since most people will react to such videos based on the emotional ‘gut’ reaction of watching something die rather than stopping to think further.  My initial comments included:

Worthy of criticism? Of course. Condemnation? I can’t say – I wasn’t there. It’s easy to sit outside such a situation and pass judgement based on ‘feelings’ – but I try not to pass judgments based solely on feelings.

Anthropomorphizing is the real enemy here. We all see our pets as members of the family and transfer those feelings onto other animals that come to harm. I guess my experience has given me a more grounded approach when it comes to animals.

A=A – is what is. An animal is not a human – or to counter the Ingrid Newkirks of the world, a rat is NOT a pig is NOT a dog is NOT a boy.

There is obvious grounds for critique on whatever causes led these guys to this action, but that does not necessarily equate to critique of the officers themselves.

To paraphrase Ted Nugent, the truth is that we all have a blood trail and a series of gutpiles behind us.  Things have to die to make our food, things have to die to make our clothing, things have to die to build our houses and so we can drive our cars.

When I was very young, I used to often explore the Z Farms behind our house.  Before too long the Z Farms were sold to make way for a new subdivision.  For a number of years, the majority of the landmass remained undeveloped as houses slowly popped up one after another.  But the roads made it easy access to a kid on a bike.

I used to love running around Heather Lake (renamed from it’s prior name ‘Dennis Lake’ which didn’t work as well for the new sub’s marketing) and seeing the various wildlife.  We saw deer, quail, mink, rabbits, woodcock, partridge, pheasant.  One year there was an entire family of fox that we found living under a bunch of fallen logs.  They kenneled up there for 3 years straight, each year bearing about 3-6 kits.  The only reason they stopped kenneling there was – you guessed it – someone decided to build a house there.

Dennis Lake used to be great for fishing too.  There was one spot that would get so many pumpkinseeds bedding up, that you could literally catch them with a bare hook – not snagging, they were so hungry they would bite at just about anything.  Oh, I should also add that this bedding area was just below the fox dens and it too was destroyed when the house was built.

The irony of it all is, that the people that moved into that house turned out to be rather outspoken pro-animal “rights” types, a reporter for a local news station in Detroit.  (I took great joys stopping by every now and again and pointing out that their driveway used to be a fox den and their new sand beach used to be a breeding area for the fish)

Swear off meat, give away all your leather and fur, ride a bike to work and start living in a tree – and stuff will still die so you can survive.  Ask any farmer how many small animals die below the tilling blades of their combines to make room for those soybeans and sprouts.  Ask any biologist how many animals have to be killed or displaced to build our neighborhoods and yes, even farms.

By the time I got to college, I had become an outspoken hunting advocate.  One of the projects I helped sponsor for a hunting, fishing and shooting club I started on campus was to encourage all of our members to keep track of ‘roadkill’ they saw as a means to raise awareness to just the sort of thing I am talking about here – stuff dies so we can live.  Oakland University was a commuters campus (where most of the students drove to college from home) and each of us came from a different direction.  There were five of us regularly keeping track of what we saw, trying also to not count any dead, roadside animals we had seen previously.

By the time we were done, the numbers even shocked me.  With five of us keeping regular track over a period of about 2 months, we didn’t just see dozens, or hundreds.  We literally counted THOUSANDS of animals.  The largest category was one I dubbed ‘UFO’ for ‘unidentifiably flattened organisms’.

The entire concept was culminated when someone chose to challenge me one day on the ‘morality’ of my hunting.  The person in question was wearing leather shoes and a leather jacket.  Upon questioning, they were not a vegetarian.  The crux of their argument was ‘how can you kill your own food?’  My question was, how can you challenge the morality of my killing my own without looking at the moral question of abdicating the job of killing yours?  Killing my own food (whenever possible) IS my moral code!

How many of us stop to think about the animal(s) that had to die to make our Whopper (and fries and coke) or the animals that were evicted to dig the foundation for our homes?  I do almost every time.  But, more importantly, how many of us cringe and immediately jump with an urge to shout foul any time we run across something that requires us to look upon the killing of an animal at all?

Death isn’t pretty.  But to reword a popular cliche, death happens.  (or if you prefer “Shit Dies!”)  It’s easy to try to see animals anthropomorphized as ‘human-like’.  But animals are not humans.  They can’t rationalize, identify, reduce, integrate, retain or conceptualize.  Animals do not have morals, are not sentient and do not have “rights”.

The goal of ‘humane’ behavior should be to keep unnecessary harm coming to animals.  But rational behavior is to know that sometimes, like it or not, the death of animals may be necessary or us humans to survive.

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I once compiled an extensive list of animal group names from a dozen or more sources.  Here is the result* including some of my own suggestions:

congregation of alligators
herd of antelope
nest, swarm, army or colony of ants
shrewdness or troop of apes
flange or troop of baboons
culture of bacteria
cete, set or company of badgers
battery of barracuda
colony or cloud of bats
sloth or sleuth of bears
colony, lodge or family of beavers
hive, swarm, bike, drift, erst or grist of bees (suggestion: a stripe of bees)
bunch, votary, brace, plump or knob of game birds or wildfowl
flock, flight or pod of birds
dissimulation of ground birds
wreck of sea birds
sedge or siege of bitterns
chain of bobolinks
obstinacy or gang of bison or buffalo
bellowing of bullfinches
drove of bullocks
swarm, rabble, kaleidoscope or flutter of butterflies
wake of buzzards
caravan or train of camels (suggestion: a hump of camels)
tok of capercaillie
mews of capons
army of caterpillars
clutter, clowder, glaring or a pounce of cats
kindle, litter or intrigue of kittens
destruction of wild cats
drove or mob of cattle
coalition of cheetahs
brood of chickens (hens)
brood, peep or clutch of chicks
colony of chinchilla
chattering or clattering of Choughs
quiver of cobras
intrusion of cockroaches
lap of cod
cover or covert of coots
gulp of cormorants
kine of cows (suggestion: a moo of cows)
pack, band or gang of coyotes (suggestion: yip of coyotes)
cast of crabs
sedge or siege of cranes
bask or float of crocodiles (suggestion: a dundee of crocodiles)
murder, muster, horde, parcel or storytelling of crows
herd of curlews
herd, leash, parcel or gang of deer
brace or clash of bucks
bevy of roe deer
kennel of dogs
cowardice of wild (cur) dogs
cry, mute, brace or sute of hounds
leash of greyhounds
pomp of pekingese
Democrat donkeypace/passe or drove of donkeys or jackasses (suggestion: a democrat of jackasses)
trip of dotterel
arc, dole, dule or cote of doves (suggestion: a cooing of doves)
pitying or piteousness of turtle doves
flock, plump, bunch, brace or badling/badelynge of ducks (suggestion: a quack of ducks)
paddling/puddling or raft of ducks in water
suit or sute of mallard ducks
flush of mallard ducks taking off
sord of mallard ducks in flight
fling of dunlins
aerie or convocation of eagles (suggestion: a patriot of eagles)
fry or bed of eels (suggestion: a slithering of eels)
herd, parade or memory of elephants (suggestion: a trunk of elephants)
herd or gang of elk
mob of emus
cast of falcons
business, busyness/besyness or fesynes/fesnying/feamyng of ferrets
charm/chirm of finches
shoal, draft, next or school of fish in water
drought, haul or catch of caught fish
stand, colony, regiment or flamboyance of flamingos
business of flies
leash, earth, lead or skulk of foxes
knot or army of frogs
flock or gaggle of geese (on land)
skein of geese (in flight)
corps or tower of giraffes
cloud or horde of gnats (suggestion: a buzz of gnats)
implausibility of gnus
flock, drove, tribe or trip of goats
charm of goldfinches
glint or troubling of goldfish
band of gorillas
flight of goshawks
cloud of grasshoppers or locusts
bazaar of guillemots
confusion or rasp of guinea fowl
group of guinea pigs
screech or colony of gulls
herd of harts
cast or lease of hawks
kettle of hawks in flight
boil of spiraling hawks
array of hedgehogs
hedge or sedge/sege/siege of herons
shoal of herring
bloat of hippopotamuses
bike/nike, nest or swarm of hornets
string, team, harras/haras/harrase, herd, stud, field or stable of horses
rag or rake of colt horses
pack, cry, hunt, meet/mute or stable of hounds
clan, crowd, family, community, gang, mob or tribe of humans
charm of hummingbirds
cackle of hyenas
herd of ibex
colony of ibises
horde, flight, nest, swarm, rabble or plague of insects

A 'band' of birds

A ‘band’ of birdsband, party or scold of jays

clattering or train of jackdaws
party or scold of jays
smack, fluther or brood of jellyfish
troop or mob of kangaroo
desert or deceit of lapwings
bevy or exaltation of larks
leap/lepe or prowl of leopards (suggestion: a spot of leopards)
flock of lice (suggestion: itch or scalp of lice)
sault or pride of lions
lounge of lizards
shoal of mackerel
congregation, tiding/tittering, gulp, murder or charm of magpies
Richesse/richness of martins (martens)
mischief, trip or nest of mice
bit of midges (VERY appropriate)
shoal or steam of minnows
labor/labour, company or movement of moles (suggestion: a tunneling of moles)
troop, carload/cartload, tribe, wilderness or barrel of monkeys
plump of moorhens
herd of moose
scourge of mosquitoes
fleet of mudhens
pack, rake, barren or span of mules (suggestion: a braying of mules)
watch of nightingales
raft, romp, bevy or family of otters
herd, team, yoke or drove of oxen
parliament or stare of owls (suggestion: a hoot of owls)
bed of oysters or clams
company or pandemonium of parrots
covey or bew of partridge or grouse
muster, pride or ostentation of peacocks
pod of pelicans
colony, rookery or huddle of penguins (suggestion: a formality of penguins)
Crèche of (nursing) penguins
head, nest or nye of pheasants
nide of brooding pheasant
bouquet of pheasants taking off
flock or kit of pigeons
drift or drove of pigs
sounder or singular of boars
passel or parcel of hogs
farrow of piglets
doylt, trip, drift or sounder of swine (suggestion: a congress or election of swine)
congregation, stand or wing of plovers
chine of polecats
surfeit of skunks (suggestion: a reek or rank of skunks)
prickle of porcupines
pod, school or crowd of porpoises
town or coterie of prairie dogs
drift, bevy or covey of quail or ptarmigans
colony, drove, leash, nest, herd, litter, bury, trace, trip or warren of rabbits
warren, down, flick or husk of hares
husk of jackrabbits
nursery or gaze of raccoons (suggestion: a mob, gang or racket of raccoons)
mischief, horde, colony, pack, plague or swarm of rats
rhumba of rattlesnakes
congress, unkindness or storytelling of ravens (suggestion: ‘nevermore’ of ravens or a Poe of ravens)
stubbornness or crash of rhinoceroses (suggestion: a plasty of rhinos)
building, clamor or parliament of rooks
hill of ruffs

Running fish

Running fish

bind, draught or run of salmon
fling of sandpipers
family of sardines (suggestion: a can of sardines)
bed or nest of scorpions
herd of sea urchins
pod, bob, harem, herd or rookery of seals
shiver, shoal or school of sharks
drift, drove, flock, down, fold, pack, trip, herd, meinie, mob, pack, parcel or hurtle of sheep
dopping or doading of sheldrakes
escargatoire, rout or walk of snails
nest, bed, knot, den or pit of snakes (suggestion: a slither of snakes)
walk or whisp/wisp of snipe
host, meinie or tribe of sparrows
cluster or clutter of spiders (suggestion: an ‘eek’ of spiders)
colony, dray or scurry of squirrels (suggestion: a nut of squirrels)
clattering/chattering, cloud, congregation or murmuration of starlings
fever of stingrays
pack or trip of stoats
flight, phalanx, muster or mustering of storks (suggestion: a pregnancy of storks or a delivery of storks)
gulp or flight of swallows
sownder, team, herd, whiting, game, eyrar, bevy or bank of swans
lamentation of fancy swans
flight or wedge of flying swans
flock or scream of swifts
spring of teal
colony, nest, swarm or brood of termites
mutation of thrush
ambush or streak of tigers (suggestion: a stripe of tigers)
knab, nest or knot of toads (suggestion: a wart of toads)
hover of trout

A 'Gobble' of Turkeys?

A ‘Gobble’ of Turkeys?

gang, posse or rafter of turkeys (suggestion: a ‘gobble’ of turkeys)
nest, turn, bale or dole/dule of turtles
nest or generation of vipers
wake or venue of vultures
kettle of circling vultures
pod or herd of walruses (suggestion: tusk of walruses)
trip or company of widgeons/wigeons
gang, pack or colony of weasels
herd, gam, grind, school, pod or mob of whales
pack, gang or route/rout of wolves
wisdom of wombats
fall of woodcocks
descent of woodpeckers
bed, clew, bunch or clat of worms
herd of wrens
herd, crossing, dazzle, cohort or zeal of zebras

[* Note: a great many of the groups included common used names like ‘gang’, ‘herd’, ‘pack’ or ‘flock’. If it was commonly used or repeated through similar species, I excluded it from the list for the sake of focusing on the lesser known words]

And interesting list of the male, female and young names of animals:
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/animals/Animalbabies.shtml

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ground bees

ground bees

I grew up in a typical middle class, semi-rural neighborhood. As with most middle class neighborhoods, we had our fair share of hyjinx. I was recalling a few of those stories this morning that thought they might be fun to share.

Our closest neighbors right across the street were the McVetys. Our house and the McVetys both had very large yards which meant that a lot of the neighborhood activities were centered around our end of the street. The games of kick-the-can either we or the McVetys hosted were epic! This was assisted by the fact that the McVetys also had one of the biggest families in the neighborhood – 3 boys and 2 girls. (the youngest in particular I recollect, not only because he’s the only remaining resident in the neighborhood having taken over the old homestead when his parents retired, but because he is the only one for whom I know his full legal name, as well as the full names of the rest of the children. In fact everyone in the neighborhood knew their full names, because – as with most middle class neighborhood families – his mom would yell the full name any time she was perturbed “{first name} {middle name} McVETY – GET OVER HERE!!”

During one of the epic kick the can games that would extend from our 2 acres over through the McVety’s 3 acres and occasionally encompassing yards of the adjacent houses, most all of the McVety family and half the kids in the rest of the neighborhood were taking part. I forget who was “it”, but can always remember the mantra. Count to 200 by 5’s!

We had that mantra down to where we could roll it off in our sleep. And played so often, we probably did. “Five-ten-fifteen-twenty-twentyfive-thirty….” It would be come a blur of mush in our mouths as we tried to roll it off before everyone could find their respective trees or bushes or old boats in the long grass. There was also a small creek that wrapped itself around the entire neighborhood. Although creek is being gracious. Yeah the water flowed and if you stood there long enough watching it, you could satisfy yourself of that fact, but it was mostly an 8′ wide trench of mud with a little standing water on top of it.

As the ‘crick’ passed our house, it was mostly at ground level, but next to the McVety’s there was about a 4′ bank. A great place to hide for kick the can. Apparently the McVety boys knew this better than I did, seeing as how it was their property and all, so when I picked a spot along that bank to hide, I soon discovered the oldest of the boys had the same idea in mind.

He told me to move or find another spot. I like to believe I moved over out of respect for it being his property, but it’s more likely that I did so because he was much bigger than me. As I moved, however, my foot slipped down into the water making a splash. I tried to correct my footing and made another small splash. I didn’t think much of it at the time and eventually found a good footing.

I didn’t think that much of it at all until I heard the humming and saw the look on the McVety boy’s face. The look was so perplexing I hadn’t even noticed the humming increase and was only mildly aware of the things landing in my hair and finding their way into my shirt and alighting on my bare skin. Jerry took off like a shot. Apparently his few years of age on me gave him more common sense when combined with the fact he was closer to the way out of the hiding hole as a result of telling me to move over. The manner in which he shot out so quickly also perplexed me and held my attention – but not for long.

‘Ow, ow ow ow – OUCH!’

I soon found I didn’t need to think about it too much either and found myself running after Jerry, but I wasn’t quite sure I knew where I was going. Jerry ran in his house, but I couldn’t rightly do that since I didn’t live there. So instead I started heading toward my house, becoming more aware of the clear and present situation:  Bees!!! Upon realizing this, I slowed down to swat, slap and pick at the dozens of the buggers now stinging me all over the place!

It wasn’t too long and Mrs. McVety came bounding out of the house with a fly swatter. By this point in time, I had become aware that I was making quite a ruckus (screaming and crying as kids of that age could be expected to do) as a result of the whole affair. It was about this time that Mrs. McVety caught up with me and was trying as daintily as possible to swat at the bees on my skin with her fly swatter. Unfortunately for her, it was also about this time that my dad became aware of a kid wailing in pain somewhere out in front of the house.

So imagine this scenario as a parent: You are trying to enjoy a weekend off from work, sitting in the living room and you finally got the kids out of the house to get some ‘me‘ time. You’re just settling in to relax in front of the TV when you hear a kid crying. You head to the front door only to learn the horror of horrors – it’s your kid!!!!! and the crying is getting progressively worse….. and then you notice that some woman is standing by your kid – HITTING HIM WITH A FLYSWATTER!!!

My dad turned into a raging bull, he flung the screen door open and charged leaving a trail of uprooted grass and dust in his wake. Mrs. McVety looked up just long enough from her swatting to try to determine the source of this coming maelstrom only to see the beat red face of Mr. Wood barreling down upon her! A moments hesitation of ‘oh crap’ mental dynamics ran through her head as she groped for the right thing to say to immediately clarify the situation.

“*uhhh uhhhh*…. BEEES. BEES BEES BEES!!!

24 of the little buggers to be precise. I got to enjoy a few days of epsom salt baths and laying in bed with little dots of baking soda speckled across my body. Good times!

(originally posted to facebook)

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Once when I was in my teens I was exploring out in the woods.  I went further than I had ever explored.  I loved exploring and learning new things as well as finding new places.  I was heading toward a far northern corner of the club that my parents belonged to where there were no roads or marked trails.  I got up into a thick area of woods at a bend in the creek surrounded by muddy swamp that I had to sludge knee deep through to get to the place where I stood.

It was a beautiful summer day with blue sky speckled only with a few, sparse, whispy clouds.  The air was clear and full of nature smells.  The breeze was light and the temperature mild.  I could hear the birds chirping and the sound of the muted gurgles of the river bending around me in stereo.  The thought suddenly occurred to me that my efforts could well be awarded by the distinct possibility that I was very likely one of the few if not one of the first humans to ever head to this backwards corner of the property and stand on this spot.

Then I looked down and saw the deteriorating remains of a plastic grocery bag  a few feet ahead of me laying on the ground…

That was a long time ago and a great many epiphanies struck me in that moment.  One of the epiphanies was revisited again tonight in a manner of fashion when I was reading some quotes from Henry David Thoreau.  One of the quotes in particular reminded me of that event:

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
— Henry David Thoreau (Walden: Or, Life in the Woods)

I have always loved and craved the outdoors.  Nothing will change that.  But in recent years I’ve gained a love for things such as the works of Ayn Rand.  I remember reading something at one time that she wasn’t particularly fascinated with things ‘wild’, likely due to their randomness.  She was far more fascinated by things shaped and hewed by the hands and ultimately the mind of men.  I can see merit in that, yet I’m still drawn to the wilderness.

This confused me a bit, not because I particularly needed a specific justification to love the woods, but because I generally try to find the ‘why’ behind things that compel me and my interests.  I too find things created by men to be fascinating.  But I am equally fascinated by the manner that randomness of nature tempered by the requirements of survival lead to smatterings of ‘natural order’ in random wilderness.

What it comes down to is the same thing that I have discovered in other areas when it comes to my joy of things made by the hands (and ultimately the minds) of men.  I can appreciate things built by the mind.  But when building things myself, I don’t really get a particularly overwhelming thrill when I build things that have already been built before.

When I looked up at the sky on that day, I saw myself as ‘treading new ground’.  When I looked down, I realized that someone had in fact been there before.  It was still a beautiful summer day, but it was not longer special and my efforts not as rewarded.

Yeah, I like the wilderness.  I like to figure things out for myself whenever possible.  I didn’t read Rand until I’d figured out a great many things that she wrote about already for myself.  Perhaps part of that can be summed up by something else attributed to Thoreau:

“We hear and apprehend only what we already half know.”  – HDT

But more than anything, I crave the frontier…

Out on the border
of a changing skyline
We put hope in front of fear.

And all the heroes
have gone east of eden.
We all need new frontiers.

Journey, Frontiers

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Back when I was in high school I was doing quite a bit of bird hunting.  That also meant I was doing quite a bit of shooting practice.  I had gone out and picked up an entire box of 20 gauge shells to use for both practice and for hunting.

Bald Mountain recreation area was the closest range to where I lived and all they had for shotgun shooting was a skeet range.  So once a week I would stop by to shoot 2-4 rounds of skeet.

Skeet involves shooting at various ‘stations’ at a total of 25 targets.  The score is based on the number of targets hit.  The targets are launched from two towers on either end of a half circle.  Some targets go one at a time, depending on the station, some are launched simultaneously from both towers, one high and one low.  The final station is in the middle and thus involves half the distance and therefore half the time to hit the target launched one at a time from each of the two towers.

Although the rotation around the various stations provided different combinations of target motion and shooting angles, skeet is not the best possible practice for hunting type scenarios.  For one thing, the targets are rather predictable and they are launched when the shooter calls ‘pull’.  But, I wasn’t there as much to shoot a flawless round of ‘skeet’, as much as I was to keep my shooting skills up.  The end result was that I would usually shoot around 18-19 out of 25 targets on average.

There were young guys that worked out at the range who would load the ‘houses’ full of the clay pigeon targets and then serve as the range ‘puller’, pushing the buttons to release the targets when the shooter called ‘pull’.  (it was kind of a standing joke that the guys guy so used to pushing the button on the word ‘PULL’ that if you walked into the office and shouted ‘pull’, their thumbs would involuntarily twitch as a result)

Most of the young guys were easy going and a fun bunch, but there was one young guy that I didn’t particularly like.  He was a good shooter, and he knew it, but he wore it like a chip on his shoulder and it tended to rub me the wrong way.  But there was a fun bunch of guys that would show up regular on the days I would shoot and we’d have a good time regardless who was pulling for us.

Well, one particular day we get lined up with the arrogant young kid.  I tended to avoid him so as a result I tended not to have him as my puller.  I missed one of the targets on the second station and showed a little frustration and he decided to proffer me some advice without my prompting it.

Mind you, I’m there to practice for hunting.  So my shooting style wasn’t the same as most of the other guys.  I would hold my gun at my hip not much unlike I would walking through the woods.  You don’t hunt walking through the forest with your gun at your shoulder waiting for a bird to pop up on command!

His advice dealt with this unconventional stance.  Without knowing (or caring) what my motivation was for being there shooting, he decided to criticize my stance first then suggest that I start with the gun on my shoulder.  He was right, but he took no consideration for my goals in being there.  I was in fact frustrated at my miss so this just irked me off more.

I decided that I had to shoot better than I ever had.  But I had to do it my way.  I wasn’t going to walk through the woods with my gun already on my shoulder and my finger already poised on the trigger.  But the thought had occurred to me that if the bird dog got on a scent or a bird had already gone up, I wouldn’t walk around with my gun at my hip either.  Instead I would hold it in a ‘ready to shoot’ position part way between the two.  So this was how I shot the rest of the round.

I’d already missed two targets by that point in time so the best I could possibly shoot the rest of the way around the course was a 23.  My end score was 22 of 25.  After that incident I only missed a single target and there was some doubt as to whether or not I didn’t put a pellet through that one as some of us saw dust fly off it but it didn’t ‘break up’ as they were supposed to do.

Initially I rebuffed the puller for opening his ‘trap’ when it wasn’t solicited.  I stuck by that.  As I pointed out, he had no idea of my motives and he didn’t care.  So my hackles going up as a result of it I still considered justified.

As a general rule they put a puller out with 3-4 guys to shoot a single round of skeet.  As a general rule, each of the guys throws in a buck at the end of a round to give the puller as a tip.  I can’t remember the exact conversation I had with the kid when I came in (I say ‘kid’ – at the time he was only 3-4 years younger than I was) but it went something like this.

I set a $5 down on the table in front of him and I told him:

“Your ‘pointers’ took no consideration for my reason in being here.  I’m not here to shoot skeet, I’m here to practice for hunting.  I don’t hunt with my gun on my shoulder so I sure as hell am not gonna do it here, skeet or no skeet.  I wasn’t seeking advice, didn’t ask for advice, and your advice was and still is unwelcome when it takes no consideration what-so-ever for my own goals and desires.”

“But this $5 is yours because that’s the first time I’ve ever shot a 22 score, and I want you to know right now – now that you know my goals and desires, don’t EVER be afraid to give me advice again.  But if you ever want a tip from me again, don’t EVER say another word that only serves to air your own opinion of my style.”

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When I lived in north Ann Arbor, I had a real problem with ‘cat owners’. My real problem was not necessarily specific to the cats themselves, but the problem resulted from the all-too-typical irresponsible behavior of cat owners who assume that kicking their animal out the door at night so it becomes all their neighbors’ problems to deal with is perfectly sensible and reasonable.

I tried a great many things to solve the problems but quickly  learned that all it really requires is to get creative. In my case, I developed a methodology that I still use to this day in various circumstances that I refer to as the ‘nice prick’ solution.

When I first moved to town, I specifically chose a town-house style apartment complex near the Huron River on the outside edge of town. I specifically chose an apartment on the outside edge of the complex right next to a small, undeveloped plot of park land across the road. It was very naturesc and was ideal with only a few short comings. It was close to the expressway but not so close I heard traffic all night. It was close to fishing with the river down the road. It was surrounded by natural setting.  The only real draw backs was a train that would run at night (but quiet enough as not to be a big deal.  it was actually quite soothing to hear it ker-chunking by at night)  And a canoe livery down the road that would sometimes wake you up at 8 am as they took their first load of canoes *kerbanging* up the hill to go up river.

One of my big beefs was that according to the management, I would not be allowed to get a dog. They had a condition in the lease that allowed for small dogs or cats, but upon my doing the ‘right thing’ and checking with management first, they told me that the type of dog I wanted to get (an american water spaniel) was not ‘small’ enough to adhere to my lease. There were dogs in the complex, including some as large as an American water spaniel. The claim of management was that they were grandfathered it when the new management company took over the property, but I later learned that at least one was obtained by the owner after the purchase of the complex but that there was no way to ‘prove’ that it was not ‘grandfathered in’ – or at least not in a ‘cost effective’ manner.

Ann Arbor has a license law for dogs, but no such license law for cats. Ann Arbor has reasonable laws relating to controlling your pets, both cats and dogs. But Ann Arbor, like most municipalities, has ‘cost effectiveness’ issues related to animal control. Namely, they will not trap an animal. If an animal violates your property rights, it is contigient upon the property owner to ‘trap’ it prior to calling an animal control officer to come get it.

I had bird feeders. I had a motorcycle. I had a truck. I had a flower bed.  The cats booted out by other apartment dwellers as well as adjacent houses in the neighborhood would regularly stalk my bird feeders scaring away the wild birds. They would crap in my flower gardens leaving wonderful little ‘surprises’ for me when it came time to plant or pull weeds. They would crawl all over my truck at night leaving dirty little footprints and they especially loved to crawl up under the cover of my motorcycle (which I parked right under the window on my front porch) to sit on the nice cooshy padded seat while the engine was still warm since their owners didn’t seem to give a crap that their cat was outside freezing all night long. To crawl up under said cover, they would have to dig their claws into the seat, chrome and/or paint finish.  It was actually ‘damaging’ my motorcycle for them to do this.

Of course there was more than one cat being thus booted out at night and sometimes they would end up finding one another, generally in the proximity of my bird feeders or my motorcycle and get in fights or worse, fucking for hours on end. (if you’ve never heard two cats ‘getting it on’, it’s hardly something you can sleep through) This was occuring regularly at 2-4 am in the morning.

First, I solved the problem with my motorcycle with a rather simple fix. I’d tried contacting the management. They did nothing. I’d tried posting fliers all over the complex outlining the problem roaming cats cause, the local laws as well as the restrictions spelled out in the lease that the management refused to enforce. I tried manually ‘scaring’ or ‘shooing’ the cats away when I would hear them at night. Generally they would come right back or would simply go to the empty lot across the street to fornicate where it was still well within earshot. Nothing worked.

Ultimately, I bought a couple of spring mouse traps. I would put one ‘set’ under the cover on the seat of the bike. It only took 3-4 times of cats getting ‘snapped’ by the traps to stop them crawling under the seat at night. But they still harassed my birds, still were using my flowerbed as a litter box and still screwed or fought making a terrible ruckus all night long.

I had to resort to a new strategy. I set out, ‘behind’ my motorcycle in a space only about 3-4″ wide, a small bowl of milk – sometimes an emptied can of tuna or sardines. I set up some bells on strings around the perimeter and started sleeping on the couch directly below the open window. When I would hear the cats climbing over the strings or hear their nightly ruckus, I would go outside, move the milk and fish cans more into the open and talk nicely to the cats until they came up close enough to pick them up gently. Even if they ‘spooked’ upon my opening the door, they would generally come back for the milk.

Once I had them scooped up, I would keep them calm by petting them and talking to them etc. If the cat had no tag, I would call animal control. Most of the people at least adhered to the policy of management that you have your animals tagged identifying the owner. That was where the ‘nice prick’ part came in.

Mind you, these cats were doing this at 3-4 am in the morning. I was being woken up regularly by them. I didn’t want to be woken up by them. Their owners meanwhile were somewhere sound asleep while their cats became ‘my’ problem and ‘my’ wake-up call. All I wanted was the problem to stop. What better way than to subject the owner to the same treatment that I was receiving?

Shortly after scooping up the kitties coming for the milk and finding a tag identifying a particular owner, I would find said apartment and knock on the door until someone woke up and came down. I would then very sweetly and sincerely express my concerns that I ‘saw their animal down by the road’ and was ‘worried that it might get run over by a car or the canoe guys or a train’.

It seldom took more than once, and never took more than twice of doing this and the cats no longer were seen (and more importantly, ‘heard’) outside at night. Of course, part of the scenario involved my suggestion that ‘since the lease says you have to keep your cats on a leash’ that it must have ‘just got out’ so I ‘assumed you were up – so sorry to wake you!’ I would say with a big smile.

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In that both of my parents were school teachers, we used to spend our summers up at the Canada Creek Ranch during the summer break from school.  Many of the other kids that were up there for the duration of the summer were also children of school teachers.  Sure, there were other groups of kids that would come and go, but the one’s that tended to be up there for the entire summer tended to all be teacher-kids and thus we ended up hanging around together a lot  more than any of the other kids.

One such kid was my friend Mark.  He was an outdoors dork like me.  In fact, Mark could be a bit more of an outdoors dork than me sometimes.  We were both skinny little guys at the time, but Mark had dark, thick rimmed glasses, brown curly hair and was seldom seen without wearing a fishing hat like something you’d see Marty Stouffer wearing.

That particular summer, Mark had picked up a nickname.  Both his older brother and my older brother got to calling him ‘Ulee’.  Mark had taken to reading any magazine on fishing, hunting or the outdoors that he could get his hands on, and doing whatever the article said.

He drilled out all his crank baits and put BB’s inside. He started re-painting all his jigheads in flame orange and chartreuse. He broke the barbs on some of his fish-hooks to make it easier to set the hook. He stuck reflective tape on his spoons. He started building special rigs for perch fishing even though there were very few perch in any of the lakes.  He even started learning and tying all sorts of knots for practice.

…and this here knot used to be used to tie indians to posts for target practice…” (ok, that’s a tad of an exaggeration, but you get the idea)

Someone – it may have been his dad, one of his many older brothers or maybe even my dad – suggested one day that if Mark saw one of Ule Gibbons TV shows that told you how you could eat tree bark, Mark would be out there scraping at the trees with his pocket knife inside of 10 minutes.  My brother Tim and Mark’s brother John were within earshot of the comment and the nickname stuck.

Mark’s and my families both had canoes.  With a little coordinating, we figured out how we could canvas any of the three main lakes in the cabin area by keeping each of our canoes on a different lake and fishing together.  For example, we found out one day that it wasn’t horribly difficult to carry my family’s Michicraft up over the hill between the Lake Geneva beach and down to Wildfowl lake.  From there, it was a short paddle over to the docks and then just a short portage across the road over to Horsehead lake.

On this particular day, we had a plan and we were on a mission. I’m not sure which one of us had gotten the crazy idea first, but we had both seen a bunch of snakes hanging out sunning themselves on a beaver mound near the back corner of Horsehead lake.  Neither of us had seen any rattles on any of them so we determined that they must be northern water snakes.  The only snakes with any kind of venom to worry about were the rattlers.  (Massasauga rattlers are the only pit viper in Michigan)

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

Our idea was to clobber one of those water snakes to get it’s skin.  I was already diddling in leather work at the time and Mark kinda liked the crazy idea as a change of pace.  It was like huntin!!!  And we were frankly getting bored with fishing every day.

So we hauled the canoe across the hill, then over to Horsehead and set off for the Beaver mound.  We weren’t disappointed either.  Even before we got close we could make out a whole slew of snakes already slithering down into the branches or off into the water.

We pulled up along side the mound and scanned the remaining visible snakes.  We wanted to make damn sure we didn’t see any rattles on any of them.  After looking good and hard but not seeing any rattles, we picked out a snake and proceeded to clobber it over the head ‘but good’.  (of course, not without a few misses, a whole lot of splashing and nearly tipping over the canoe twice)

The snake ended up in the water just off the edge of the beaver mound. Since I was the one that would likely get the job of skinning it, I got stuck with the job of scooping it up in the net.

I got the snake into the net and picked it up out of the water, pausing to let the water drip out of the mesh, then moved the net into the boat.  The next thing you know, the snake starts to move around.  Both of us panic!

Even though the idea of a northern water snake didn’t really skeeze either of us out, the thought of a snake squirming around inside of a wobbly canoe wasn’t the most pleasant notion to consider.   Of course, the first thing that came to my mind was to donk it over the head again.  But I didn’t want to rip a hole in my net either so I told Mark to get his paddle ready because I was going to dump the snake out into the bottom of the boat.

As I flipped the net over, the snake’s “fangs” hung up in the net.

Mind you, I already mentioned that northern water snakes don’t have fangs.  Massasauga rattlers have fangs.  Massasauga rattlers are the only snakes in Michigan that are considered deadly poisonous.  So, obviously, this snake must be a Massasauga rattle snake and not a northern water snake.

This is approximately the same thought process that was running through both of our minds at that very moment; me holding a fish net out at arms length with a half stupefied snake hanging off it by it’s fangs, Mark holding his paddle dangling out over the side of the boat.  Both of our eyes scanned down to the tail at the same time as we continued our thought process in sync with one another.  Nope, no rattle – what the…. ?!?!?

Now is about the time a real panic started to set in.  Now is also about the time it would have been appropriate for someone, anywhere nearby to start the song ‘Dance of the Cuckoos’ because events quickly degraded into a bad scene from a Laurel and Hardy movie.

Ahhhh, why does it have fangs?” I said.

uh… uh… crap! THROW IT OUT – IT’S STILL MOVING,” stuttered mark.

*wobble wobble* said the canoe.

“No wait, I have an idea!” I responded as I slowly lowered the snake’s body back onto the floor of the boat.

“What the heck are you doing?!?!” cried Mark, “Get it out!”

“No trust me…. He’s stuck in the net.  I’m going to stretch him out see?”  Realizing the snake was still somewhat out of it, I stretched his body out in a straight line using the net to keep him ‘hung up’ so he couldn’t move – much.

“If I stretch them out like this they can’t coil to strike.  Right?”  I asked the question in part to put Mark a bit more at ease, in part hoping he might answer it and do the same for me ” He’s still dazed anyway!” I added, hoping that if it wasn’t so, that saying it might just make it so somehow.

At that point I grabbed for my paddle with my other hand.  Before I completely set the snake down, I stuck the blade of the paddle right across the middle of it’s neck behind the head.

“Just like that see?  Now hit my paddle.”

“OK, now hit my paddle with yours!”

Before I could say anything, Mark swung his paddle out to the side and gave a hefty lateral swing.  In his panic state he almost took out my fingers in the process, not to mention that he made me lose my hold on the snake with the end of the paddle.

“DAMMIT ULEE!!! NOT FROM THE SIDE YOU IDIOT!!!  FROM THE TOP… FROM THE TOP!!!”

I quickly moved the blade of my paddle back onto the neck of the snake.  My shouting seemed to snap Mark back to a reasonable level of sanity and he made sense of the idea.  He gave the top of the paddle a good 4 to 5 thumps with his.

We both stood back as I released the pressure off of the paddle and placed the net over the top of the snake, keeping it’s fangs hooked up in the net for ‘additional safety‘ I thought.  After a few seconds we looked at each other and nodded.  Without needing to say a word, we quickly sat down and paddled back to the dock.

I’m not sure which one of us landed on shore first, but we were leaping out of the canoe at the same time without any need for further instruction.

After a few minutes passed, we determined the snake was really a goner this time but still didn’t have the nerve to take it back to skin it right away.  Instead we stuck it down in a shallow marsh puddle behind where we pulled the canoe up and resolved to go hit the ‘Trading Post’ for a pop.  Then we would see if it was still wiggling by the time we came back.

It was a good 15 minutes, even from Horsehead lake, up the hill to the front gate of the Ranch on foot. So we figured that would be more than enough time to make sure it was dead.

Now I don’t know if those 4-5 whacks didn’t do the trick or if someone (or some critter) came by and spotted the snake, but there was no trace of it when we came back a half-an-hour later!  For the next few weeks we were extremely wary any time we fished Horsehead lake for fear there was an irked off rattlesnake wearing a neck brace lurking somewhere back in the bushes!

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8-trackI remember growing up, dad was always a bit of a square peg. (and I loved him for it!)  One such time, we were spending a typical day shopping – mom going through Sears (back when it was still coupled with Roebuck), dad stuck watching me and my brother.  Poor dad.  So dad heads for the electronics department.

We’d recently gotten a new blue Ford van to replace the old white one that finally needed to go.  My dad opted for the latest in technology and had it fitted with a brand spanking new stereo 8-track player!!! (everyone can ooooo and ahhhh now!  Yeah, I know – I’m old!)  He didn’t opt for much else.

Dad didn’t have any 8-track tapes.  So we get to the electronics department and lo, there is a bounty as good as gold to an eclectic man on a school teacher’s salary, that just spent most of his money on a new van and has to also pay to feed two kids!  An 8-track bargain bin!!!!!!

So as my brother and myself look about the various gizmos and gadgets doing our best to behave (and no doubt failing miserably), dad scours the pile of fools gold.  He came out with three tapes that day:

  • Everly Brothers - Pass the Chicken and Listen

    Everly Brothers – Pass the Chicken and Listen

    Roger Whittaker – All My Best

  • The Everly Brothers – Pass the Chicken and Listen
    (a bluegrass album they did produced by Chet Atkins)
  • Neil Diamond’s Greatest Hits (pre-1968 ‘hits’)

Now mind you, I already eluded that this was back when 8-track tape players were considered ‘new’ technology.  And since the tapes were in a ‘bargain bin’, most of them were old titles already.  The Neil Diamond ‘hits’ album for example had all the old classic hits (including his own, original version of I’m a Believer and even a few covers like his version of the Gary U.S. Bonds New Orleans and the song Hanky Panky with the girls at the beginning begging him to ‘do it, do it!’)

Over the next half-a-dozen years, those three tapes got burned into my brain every summer when we would make the four hour trip ‘up north’ to the Canada Creek Ranch (where my parents are currently retired – CCR is a property owners association for hunting/fishing/camping)

I never once hated any of those songs and have a copy of Pass the Chicken and Listen as well as a few of those old Neil Diamond and Roger Whittaker tunes in my mp3 collection.

Oh I don’t believe in ‘if’ anymore…..

A few interesting asides about the ole blue van:

  1. The van itself was kinda low-frills.  It had a plastic covered floor that we of course threw mats on top of, and nothing but a white paneled fiberboard ceiling with alternating rows of punched holes.  My brother and I figured out on one of those four hour trips that if you hung your head back over the (vinyl) seats and stared at the dots, over time your two eyes would confuse the dots and little by little it would look like the ceiling was coming closer and closer to your face.  Funny, because this is the same method modern ‘stereogram’ images use, yet I can’t seem to get any of them to resolve for me.
  2. It was one of those vans with the little fold out windows in the back that opened no more than about 2″.  This made for an interesting dilemma the time that dad’s friend Bob discovered completely by accident that the coffee candies he brought along for a fall hunting trip created the most devastatingly putrid farts you have ever smelled in your life!  To this day, nothing has ever topped those coffee candy farts and I think I still have an impression in the side of my cheek from the metal frame of those fold-out windows as I tried desperately to fit my entire face through that 2″ opening for fresh, unspoiled air to breath!
  3. I picked up a number of behaviors – either through genetics or proximity – from my father.  One of my father’s typical things was a ‘knee-bob tick’ when he was idle.  He’d sit reading a book or a magazine and he’d start bounding the heel of his foot causing his knee to bob up and down.  I do similar things.  Many a time while riding shotgun in the blue van, I’d dangle my foot down inside the step rail of the  passenger’s side door but since my foot was dangling I’d twisted it left and right instead of bobbing it up and down.  Often I’d ever-so-lightly touch the inside edge of the step rail’s metal side creating the slightest little *tunk tunk tunk tunk* sound.  As with my father, I was seldom aware when I was doing it.  This gave poor old dad many a gray hair as he would suddenly become aware of a slight ‘tunking’ sound and strain to hear if the engine was missing or something else in the engine or drive train had gone awry.
  4. Although we were still quite young, as the van got older we were often allowed to drive it down the two tracks at CCR.  So although we seldom went faster than 10 miles per hour while out deer spotting prior to hunting season, both my brother and myself essentially learned to drive in the ole blue beast.  This was, of course, before the days of adjustable steering wheels and those old vans had almost a bus’s angle on the wheel – which was a good thing because as a no-frills package it also had no power steering!  Also, being an automatic transmission, one of the nice things was that at idle, it would generally go that 10 miles per hour without touching the gas at all — which was great for a 11-13 y.o. something as you only had to worry about steering and when to apply the break.  (and when driving on a two track, you often didn’t have to worry about the steering part either)

I could probably write 100 of these, so I’ll leave it at that.  Of course the 8-track as well as that trusty old Ford van eventually became relics.  But a few years ago I chased down the CD release of the Everly Brothers album for my dad’s new Dodge pick-up that he had equipped with a CD player!  (although it’s now available through Amazon and others, at the time I had to order it all the way from Great Britain!)

I miss that old blue van!Blue ford van

(the pic is just one I found on the web of a similar van.  I’m going to see if I can get mom do dig out one from her albums to post later – if this disclaimer is gone, it’s will be a real pick of the ole blue beast)

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