Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Differences & How One Method of Argument is Used Against Hunting

Responses to my recent posts have given me reason to think about some of the assertions that I made, primarily in the area of verbal and writing skills. NorCal pointed out some very interesting facts from the USFWS and her own experience that run counter my assertions. I’ll admit to being passionate about my belief in the need for learning verbal and writing skills, regardless of the intended profession. Also, because I did teach Technical and Business Writing, both as a lecturer (Northland Community & Technical College) and at UND, it is a field in which I have some experience.

While teaching, I amassed a sizable amount of research suggesting that companies (English speaking and English ESL) were struggling with a need for employees to have better communication skills (English). This was true across the business spectrum. As a result of our discussion here I became curious as to how much the environment has changed and I did a twenty minute online search, without using any academic search engines, and found an impressive number of studies, all concerned about the problem of a lack of verbal and writing skills among employees and prospective employees. One of the quickest scans for information is the PEW Project’s studies on the problem, but other studies, including the 2004 College Board’s National Commission on Writing, all present an increased need for these skills, noting that two-thirds of all salaried workers in large companies are in positions that require writing skills. While I was teaching at Northland and UND one of the exercises I gave my students was to go through the Sunday newspaper’s “Jobs” section and determine how many advertised positions required good verbal and writing skills (communication skills) for the position. The results were impressive, driving the point home for the students, because the percentage hovered around 80% of the listed skilled jobs and it soared to 90% when we factored in ads that did not list that requirement but were for the same type of job in which other companies did list it. I am sure the percentage will vary by region but it will remain impressive.

So, the need for better communication skills exists throughout both the blue and white collar communities. But, the objections NorCal raised is that the hunters she frequently interacts with, while being accomplished in their fields and possessing high levels of non communication-driven skills, did not necessarily have the higher communication skills. She rightly points out that the lack of these skills does not reflect on their intelligence or any other social measurement, only that their careers have not called for the communication skills. There is, I believe, a separation between her experience in the hunting community and my experience and it has to do with my having interacted more with men (and women) with higher levels of communication skills in hunting camps both here and in Africa. Even though many of these hunters were from traditional blue collar jobs, because of their more developed vocational and communication skills, they were more successful in their fields and tended to rise in position and salary. I am not sure how this translates into the broader spectrum of the outdoor community but I do think it is worth pursuing, if for no other reason than it will help us to better understand the role of our media. I will offer my opinion, however, and it is only my opinion, that as higher education reacts to the growth of social media, and its dependency on more finely developed communication skills, the shift to more required communication studies as the basis of more disciplines will spread exponentially at all education levels. I doubt that many of us will recognize exactly what is being taught as communication skills, but it will be there. Every aspect of communication technology is changing so quickly that unless a person is riding on the leading edge of the wave they are in danger of being left behind.

NorCal does raise a wonderful point about personal experience (specifically hers) not being subject to debate. I differ. I maintain that all provable personal experience is axiomatic to any argument. I use, as an example, an apple on a table. In one test, if two hungry people walk into a room in which a single apple, of which they have differing opinions of its edibility, based on personal experience, has been placed on the center of the table, and they sit in chairs placed on opposite sides of the table in such a way that each individual can only see one side of the apple, personal experience will dictate how each person relates to the apple. If one person maintains that in his/her personal experience that type of apple is crisp and delicious and the other maintains that in his/her experience the apple is mushy and is distasteful then the two obviously disagree on the apple’s quality and should try to reach a resolution. If both maintain that their personal experience is not subject to debate and refuse to debate the apple’s merits then only one person will eat the apple and the other will remain hungry. But, if both agree to debate their personal experience, accepting each as axiomatic of the apple’s merit or lack of merit, and each presents the circumstances of personal experience and why each believes the other is wrong, and then defends each assertion with deductive reasoning so that each axiom is presented equally, discussed, and equally reduced to form one truth from the two; they will reach a finite sentence that will be a proof of the argument (discussion). At the end either the two will share the apple and both have something to eat, or they will both leave the room hungry but in agreement. This can only be true if both agree to reach the finite sentence. If they cannot reach that sentence then the discussion will continue until the apple spoils or one of them tires and leaves the room. (Think Iraq and Afghanistan.)

Now, what does this have to do with hunting? If we understand the principle of the apple then whenever we enter a debate with someone about hunting, wildlife management, or any related issue, if the principle of a deductive series of statements to reach a finite sentence by virtue of the provable statement (axiom) is not present, there will not be a successful conclusion with a finite sentence. How do we know the deductive series is being avoided? Simple, if the other person’s argument includes statements outside of axiomatic “personal experience” or science (soft or hard) but are emotive and cannot be proven or disproved, then the debate cannot reach a successful conclusion. A successful conclusion is when both parties of the discussion agree to the same action by reaching the finite sentence. This is why debaters from the hunting community rarely (if ever) best Wayne Pacelle or his compatriots. He is well trained in the art of argument (debate) and always includes elements in the debate that preclude the finite statement, which creates doubt about the validity of his opponent’s argument. In other words, for every one axiomatic element introduced by the pro hunting side, Pacelle (or others of his ilk and training) introduces an un-provable emotive combined with a provable element, claiming both are axiomatic of the same element. The pro hunting side is always left with the task of trying to disprove one part of the element while reducing the other, which is impossible and creates conflict because reduction requires truth which, as Pacelle and others know, will imply proof of the emotive even though it is only implied proof and is wrong.

Anyway, that’s my take on the role of personal experience but it helps me illustrate why I believe the hunting community loses so many arguments.

I can be very tiring, eh?

Any thoughts out there?


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More On Media Quality-Responsibility

In NorCal Cazadora’s reply to my last post she covers some important points from the USFWS 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife–Associated Recreation report's statistical data as it relates to the education level of hunters. I think we’re in agreement on the need for a higher standard in outdoor media, and when I look at the numbers she quoted (and the others in the report) I believe it is a clear case of the numbers proving the point of my argument—the quality of the material being published and/or broadcast is directly influencing the future of fishing and hunting. I believe that the less appeal published and broadcast material has to the better educated segments of the population the less likely members of that segment are to be exposed to the positives of hunting. As we lose elements of this segment of our population we lose support from incrementally larger segments of the non-hunting population simply by the influence of one over the other.

An interesting example of how our media functions is in a report published jointly by Responsive Management and The NSSF, The Future of Hunting and the Shooting Sports. The report contains fascinating corollaries between percentages of hunter retention, new hunters and non-hunting support of hunting. The report takes the USFWS report’s numbers and plugs them in with other studies to present a broad picture of what we need to do to preserve hunting (and shooting). In one section it does point out that 94% of active hunters watched a TV program on hunting and 22% were prompted to go hunting after watching the program. As for print media, 78% of active hunters read about hunting and 15% were inspired to go hunting after reading about it. To me, this reinforces my argument about the need for quality in outdoor media. Our work is reaching a very significant portion of the hunting public and therefore we have an obligation to maintain a level of excellence.

NorCal does make one assertion that I would debate—I don’t believe we can make a blanket statement that hunters overwhelmingly come from professions that don’t focus on or require high-level verbal skills. Now, things might have changed (and probably have) in the fifteen years since I last ran a hunting camp, but my experience was that hunting had a fairly equal mix of professions so I don’t think we can sort them out in that way. The exception being (as the numbers point out) waterfowl hunting, which has always drawn heavily from the erudite population and I am convinced this has more to do with the requirement to think about the hunt than some other mystical qualification. (It is unfortunate that waterfowl hunting has taken such a serious black eye in recent days.) I also believe that the professions she listed as examples do require high-level verbal skills. In today’s environment the most successful entrepreneurs, engineers, etc., are those men and women whose command of language (spoken and written) enables them to clearly communicate their ideas, whether across the internet, or the board room. Recently, I read a report (which I have since lost, but I’m sure the data is on the internet) that managers were less tolerant of text-speak than ever before and expect their employees to write cognizant, well organized and thoughtful reports whether in email or on paper. The reason for this demand is quite simple—our litigious society. As society becomes more complex the demands of language are going to increase, not decrease and the question has become one of the tool by which we will receive that language. I do agree with her closing statement that there is a widespread tendency to judge people by how articulate they are, therefore, I do believe that the statement proves the proposition.

Be all that as it may, I fully stand behind my previous post and my argument. If we take the USFWS report at face value and do not apply other studies of hunter/shooter/angler behaviors to understanding the meaning of the numbers and what they represent then we are doing a disservice to the men and women who are the angling/hunting/shooting public. If we assume, based on the report, that the majority of hunters and anglers are less educated and by extrapolation therefore less interested in the future of the environment, and the outdoor sports, and consequently dumb down our work, or insist that our contributors do, then we are adding force to what must become a self-fulfilling prophesy—that American hunting is being pushed out of the model created by Theodore Roosevelt (and others) and into the European model.

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Response to My Outdoor Media Question

I’ve had so many great comments on my questions about the responsibility in media I think it is time for me to comment.

I think it is a safe assumption that a significant percentage of the audience for outdoor programming is NOT the hunting intelligentsia, but on the same thought line I believe it is very dangerous to make the assumption that the viewing audience is somehow intellectually challenged or lacks the benefits of higher education. For nearly 40 years I have watched, studied and researched our body of literature, and watched this trend of our better writers (broadcasting included) struggle with the insistence that the majority of hunters, shooters, anglers, et al. lack the formal education, or are somehow hampered with the lack of intellectual capacity to understand complex issues affecting the outdoors, or are incapable of grasping the nuance of fine literature.

When we analyze the writings of many of the anti-hunting authors a recurring theme is that the hunting/fishing/shooting community is populated by men and women generally lacking a high school diploma. These writers encourage their readers to believe that hunters/anglers/shooters lack the ability to exhibit compassion for wildlife and cannot grasp the ethical analysis of hunting/angling and the environment. When these writers attack hunting and hunters, angling and anglers, for proof of their assertions, they frequently reference our own media! They focus on broadcast programming’s excessively poor language, outrageous high-five behavior and fishing shows that depict casual indifference to fish being returned to the water—none of which are factual representations of the outdoor community—but they persist in our media because we allow them to.

I think an excellent exercise is to actually conduct a comparison between the housing/education/income statistics (discounting the present economic distress) and the audience statistics of Sportsman Network. There is a very interesting corollary between the data and it suggests that if we examine the characteristics of home ownership and then plug those characteristics into the characteristics of the Sportsman Network’s audience we’ll arrive at a result that proves that the greater percentage of men and women participating in hunting/fishing/shooting are better educated, and by extension better read, and have a much better grasp of the issues (political and scientific) surrounding the environment than the general population.

My question is why, when we consider all of the available information, do publishers, programmers, producers, media buyers, personalities, and even our industry and media leadership, insist on playing to the lowest perceived audience denominator and not to an actual, common denominator that would put forward a better image of anglers and hunters? Is it money? Is it fear of a vocal minority within the audience? Or, is it insecurity within themselves and their own hierarchy? I believe it is a combination of these factors.

Our industry, most certainly our media, must come to grips with the fact that this is not the middle of the last century when the chasm between the pro and con was so wide the actions of the antis were largely perceived as the mumblings of a disgruntled minority. The Silver Springs monkeys, Peter Singer, Edward Abby, Cleveland Amory and a handful of other activists were instrumental in refocusing national attention on our relationship to animals, and ultimately on hunting. By 1990, and into this decade, as tools of the media began to radically change at an increasingly faster pace, it is interesting to note that the outdoor media’s adoption of these tools has been slower than the anti-movement and at the same time, as a defensive measure akin to circling the wagons, the leadership of the varied arms of the outdoor industry (manufacturing, sales, management and media) with support from many of the individuals within those arms, began to insist on a Golden Age, or perhaps more commonly expressed as “the Good ‘ole Days” of the outdoors as having been the ideal before the interference of environmentalist and animal rights activists, often blurring the line between the actual role of the hunting community in establishing awareness of the need for environmentalism and the emergence of the extremists. If we want a date for this claimed interference perhaps the earliest would be 1949 and the publication of Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac (A Sand County Almanac; with essays on conservation from Round River), but a later date that is often popularly cited as the opening of the environmentalist movement is Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (Silent Spring), published in 1962. But, if we take the long look at our nation’s history of hunting and fishing we are forced to admit that the claimed “Golden Age” never existed except for a short time in post-colonial America. Neither the populations of the species nor the availability to the hunt by the general population existed in a combined condition that provided the conditions asserted in the Golden Age mythology. This is not to say that hunting, and excellent hunting, did not exist because it did, but it was not universally available throughout the population.

Another interesting, and often ignored truth, is in the alleged numbers of species that were exterminated or nearly so, in westward migration. Outside of a few well publicized species (buffalo, pronghorn, passenger pigeon, etc.), if you have read the journals of the Lewis & Clark expedition and not the “cleaned up” versions found in most libraries, the stunning truth is the expedition very nearly starved to death for lack of game! At one point Clark (I believe, perhaps Lewis) shot a doe deer and before he could reach the animal his starving men fell on it, and in their frenzied desperation for food ripped the carcass to pieces and devoured it raw! Yet, as recently as an outdoor writers’ conference in Columbus, Missouri an exhibit of the L&C expedition completely glossed over the expedition’s trials.

Except for a few familiar species most wildlife was scarce. Some anti-hunting literature argues that the colonial and post-colonial writers’ gushing about the presence of wildlife is proof that hunting has destroyed wildlife populations. These writers ignore the fact that these colonial writers were promoting interest in colonizing by poor Europeans, or in the post-colonial period to entice the stalled westward migration to begin moving. Another important argument, and one that is seldom heard, is that the presence of even a small population of game would be beyond the experience of most of the colonists, and in their enthusiasm would exaggerate the amount of game—a condition that still exists among those of us who are outdoor writers! Another rarely citied argument is that as civilization pushed into the wilderness the wildlife pushed deeper into the forest. The most common argument by the anti-hunting community maintains that America’s wildlife was completely plundered by market hunting and prior to that the landscape was teeming with wildlife. This is an assertion that is not unique to North America. Africa, Europe, Asia, they were presented as having vast number of ALL species. It is simply not true. There were vast herds of specific species (American bison, African wildebeest, etc.) and it is true that these herds suffered from the ravages of market hunting, but it was largely a pre-refrigeration phenomenon that corresponded to the transformation of social structure to urban areas to support industrialization. As refrigerated rail cars opened the possibilities of moving domestic meats to distant markets, whether in Africa or North America, the need for market hunting largely collapsed, although vestiges of it remained as species specific, although even this ended, first in North America and later in Africa.

The mythos of the Golden Age or good ‘ole Days is that there was a period in early to mid 20th century America in which game was universally abundant, a hand-shake sealed all bargains, neighbor trusted neighbor, land was generally open to hunting, the public eagerly supported hunting and nearly everyone hunted, and was a gun owner. All of these are false. Today, in fact, we live in a period of the greatest amount of hunting opportunity this nation has enjoyed since the brief post-colonial period. There are trouble spots and most of us know where they are, but if you are at least older than 55, and hunted in the 1950s and sixties, chances are you remember a time when finding a place to hunt was problematic, but today there are PLOTS, CRP and other lands open that were previously closed. The amount of game is staggering. Old timers here tell me that in the alleged “good ole’ days” they never saw a deer, grouse or partridge and now all are abundant. The Golden Age was a state of mind. Between 1835, which is the birth of what is today’s outdoor writing, and July 2, 1961, American outdoor writing reached its zenith and was a major part of the literary canon, but by the end of the Vietnam War that position had collapsed under the weight of changes in the social landscape, and rather than face these changes and deal with them our entire industry circled the wagons, giving the writers of the anti-hunting, anti-gun and animal rights movements the room they needed to assault public opinion.

My point is that every time a writer decides NOT to write a think piece on environmental issues, or puts an outdoor short story in a file drawer believing no outdoor magazine will publish it, or decides to simplify a text because the editors maintain the readers can’t understand it, or they don’t want to read something “that” complex, or a TV personality mixes metaphors, confuses verb tenses, talks like he/she flunked seventh grade English—three times, and does a sophomoric high five dance around a newly killed animal, the future of fishing and hunting are each cast that much further in doubt. There is no substitute for good writing and there is no justification for poor programming. Ironically, when we go back in the history of outdoor literature we discover that only a handful of decades ago excellence was the standard, mediocrity was not abided, and outdoor literature appeared in literature text books.

Interesting, isn’t it?


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Snow Plow and Small Town Living

I had planned to take an afternoon off this weekend and do some late season pheasant hunting. First, I had to clear the snow that had accumulated Thursday night and most of Friday. It wouldn’t be such a bad job if I didn’t have an ongoing battle with George, head of the City Shop and primary snow plow driver. In a lot of ways I find the whole thing amusing and somewhat reminiscent of the rural mail delivery madman Crumb Petrie in the 1988 Chevy Chase film Funny Farm. In the film Petrie drives over the mailbox, throws the mail at Chase’s character and commits a number of other hilarious acts. Our George hasn’t driven over our mailbox (we don’t have one), but he has buried our driveway in up to three feet of snow on a good day (for George). After he passes with the snow plow I can count on at least half-an-hour, if not more, digging out the driveway entrance—even with my snow blower! The problem is simple enough, George must clear the road and when he passes my drive his plow mounds up the snow.

George is actually a pretty nice guy and we are both members of the Finley Wildlife and Gun Club, but I can’t help but picture a slight upturn of his mouth when he first eyes my driveway and slowly, carefully, and corresponding to the distance closed as he nears my driveway, his features begin to take on a distinctive Snidely Whiplash sneer as the snow that had once blanketed the street is scraped from the asphalt and gloriously pilled in my drive--the new guy's drive. Sometimes, while standing in my kitchen looking out the window and watching George bearing down on my driveway that I had spent half-an-hour clearing (with my snow blower), I want to grab my cane and run into the snow-covered yard and shout at him to spare my driveway, or maybe chuck a few snowballs at the massive plow. Instead, I wonder if my insulated coveralls have finished drying and whether I’ve got any Grabber foot warmers to tuck in my boots while I dig out the driveway--again.

Such is life in a small, rural community in North Dakota.

Maybe a pheasant hunt for Cookie on Tuesday.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Outdoor Media Comment

In my last post I struck a nerve with a number of people. Not only on this blog but in wider circles, and I have had a surprising number of comments from some surprising individuals. Most of the comments have an underlying agreement that outdoor TV programs (and online video programming) need improvement, and the suggestions range from content to language with every stop in between. Not everyone agrees, however, that the outdoor broadcast media is having any effect outside of our community. Again, the opinions run the gauntlet from “they are killing us by rednecking us” to “no one really cares.”

I will take some time and look deeper into this issue. When we begin to examine “our” broadcast media should we apply the axiom abusus non tollit usum to the outdoor media? Just because both the standard (language) and the intent of some requirements (blaze orange) have been abused in the past does not alter either the requirement (blaze orange) or the standard (language) for the present. In short, the abuse does not create new rules—although a few comments lean in that direction.

Among the cursory things I have done is to look at the language of various codes of ethics or behavior among some of the outdoor media organizations, and other than a vague language referring to “truth” there are no firm governing rules. In fact, if one took the time to analyze the language of these “codes” they would be found to be archaic. Reading them reminded me of the “Pirate’s Code” from the Pirates of the Caribbean in which various characters, at opportune moments, recite the code as being “guidelines” or “rules” as each circumstance was deemed best by and for the speaker. It seems to me this is exactly the way we want to treat outdoor media, particularly the broadcast side—we’ll apply rules or guides as best suits the speaker—not the sport.

This is a complex issue and one that has been the bane of the outdoor media, and surprisingly to many outdoor writers, reaching back to the 19th century. I can accurately state that the question of quality in outdoor media can be traced back (in this country) to the antebellum years when Henry Herbert (his profile appears on every cover of The Pines Review) was writing his articles on the “sporting life,” establishing the art and form of modern outdoor magazine writing, he was also blasting other, emerging outdoor writers, for what he maintained was “dishonesty” in their writing.

I hope to read more comments on this issue because these comments help guide me when I am doing my research, by providing questions that I don’t think of, and for which I can then search for answers.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Responsibility in Outdoor Media

Today I received my replacement glasses! While I was waiting on my glasses I did follow Holly’s advice and buy a pair of those magnifying glasses for reading but they were only minimal help. I need prism glasses and the magnifying jobs didn’t quite work for me. All’s well now.

While waiting I haven’t been slothing. I’ve used the time away from my office and keyboard to cut firewood and keep the walks clear of snow by use of the snow blower. Also, while doing these chores, I have an advantage—I don’t work fast and I take a lot of breaks, which gives me ample time to think. I have a more or less forced pattern of work-rest-work-rest and during the numerous rest periods I will often get out my notebook and scribble notes. Don’t get any ideas that the note writing is some mystical, literary help thing. My memory sucks, so when I think of something I write it down or I’ll think of it again later and swear it is a new idea!

Something I have been thinking about, and writing notes on, is how much influence outdoor television actually does have on future hunters. The source of this is an ongoing debate in The Pines Review,
(http://issuu.com/thepinesreview/docs/the_pines_review_vol._iii_no_3_autumn_2010) my little literary journal for the outdoor media and industry. The debate is between California-based outdoor writer Jim Matthews and Michelle Scheuermann, who is the Director of Communications for Sportsman Channel TV. The debate is over (of course) the quality of outdoor programs. Matthews hates it and Michelle defends it. Recently, Holly Heyser (http://norcalcazadora.blogspot.com) commented to me by email that while she was watching some outdoor programming she became disgusted with the mangling of the English language. Specifically, she was frustrated by the constant butchery of verb tense and number by the “stars.” Her displeasure is nothing new from people who care about language. This is the foundation of most arguments against outdoor television, and a second argument is that the programs are unrealistic. To one degree or another, the claim can be made that we turn a blind eye to both problems and grudgingly admit that the problems are endemic to the medium and not going away. Then, at the start of this deer season, a dinner table discussion made me question that blind eye.

Most of you will recall that I recently wrote about my nephew’s first duck hunt and the adventure it became when Cookie battled a raccoon. Move forward from duck season to the opening of deer season. My father-in-law, Don, decided it was a good time for Alex, his grandson, to be exposed to deer hunting. Good idea. I wasn’t with Don and Alex for any of the hunts but I did hear about Alex’s reaction to being told he had to wear blaze orange. He was appalled and argued vehemently that he shouldn’t have to wear blaze orange. Now, a kid on his first big game hunt is usually pretty excited and when his grandfather is teaching him the ropes it is all going to be a cherished memory, or at least it should be, but outdoor television had so corrupted Alex’s view of deer hunting that Don found himself competing against the “experts on TV” and those “experts” don’t wear blaze orange. Alex finally caved on the issue because it was blaze orange or stay home.

When this incident was passed on to me (in the form of advice on what to write about in the next issue of The Pines Review) I didn’t quite buy Alex’s argument and offered the opinion that Alex was stretching things and perhaps he was referring to archery hunters. I was then reminded that Alex is much smarter than most kids his age and he is also addicted to weekend outdoor programming. If he is not fishing or hunting he can often be found glued to the television the same way I used to be glued to Saturday morning cartoons. I decided to check out his argument. Guess what? In fully two out of three programs the “stars” were not wearing any blaze orange even though they were rifle hunting. Some of the hunters in these programs were on private land where the safety vests are not required, others were in hides, a couple hunters were in tree stands and one was on an elk hunt that was on private land. The programs where the stars consistently wore blaze orange were obviously on public lands where blaze orange is required by law. Alex is able to distinguish between hunting on private lands where the blaze orange is not required and public lands where it is, and it is an issue made more complex for him because he and his grandfather were hunting on private land—Don’s family farm—therefore if the reason the TV hunters don’t wear blaze orange is they are on private land, and Alex and his grandfather would be hunting on private land, there was no reason for them to wear blaze orange.

I think we’ve got a problem here because it is not limited to the broadcasting medium. I went through a number of magazines and for every one photograph of a hunter wearing his blaze orange there are eight to ten of hunters without it! Even Ron Spomer, an outdoor writer for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect because of his language skills and knowledge of hunting, appears in a photo for his shooting column (“Shooting,” Christensen’s Hunting Illustrated), posed sans blaze orange, with a shooting stick as if shooting at a big game animal. Admittedly, many of the hunting articles (and photos) were about either muzzle loader hunting or bow hunting, but not all. In my short survey I found most photos were of hunters in camouflage, whether posed for a trophy photo, or posed as if hunting.

I do plan to do a more thorough examination of the outdoor media on this problem but also the by-laws and ethics of the outdoor press organizations. I am curious, however, what you think. For myself, I see an element of a growing problem with many new members of the outdoor media whose lack of a formal education in media law, ethics, practical journalism and creative writing/film/broadcasting, is contributing to increasing misinformation about hunting and fishing by many non-hunters/anglers.

Or, should I find another windmill because this one has First Amendment written on it?

I am curious about your thoughts.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Limited Posting For a Bit

Hey Guys, Due to my having lost my reading/working glasses I am unable to do much posting because, frankly, I have trouble seeing the screen. I guess it is time for me to get a big flat screen monitor.
Will post when I am not seeing fuzzy double, triple or whatever that is.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ted Nugent in the News--Again

I don’t know how many of you caught this but The Nuge has made the news again and this time it is in South Dakota. Apparently Nugent went pheasant hunting on a private hunting preserve (Dakota Hills Shooting Preserve) before appearing at a Second Amendment rally sponsored by Citizens for Liberty, which is a Rapid City tea party affiliate. According to Kevin Woster, a reporter for the Rapid City Journal, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks is investigating whether Nugent violated South Dakota Game & Fish law by hunting in South Dakota. Apparently, South Dakota and California are part of a multi-state cooperative agreement that if a person is convicted of a game violation AND HAS THEIR LICENSE REVOKED they cannot hunt in states that participate in the agreement (which is a good thing).

Now, let’s get this straight—the agreement specifically states that the person convicted of the game violation must have their license revoked. After reading everything I could locate on Nugent’s California episode I cannot find anything stating that Nugent had his license revoked. I am not saying that he didn’t, I am saying that I can’t find anything that indicates he did! So, if Nugent did not have his license revoked in California then he DID NOT violate South Dakota laws.

What I am reading in the Rapid City Journal is a deliberate attempt to discredit Nugent and the Second Amendment rally’s organizers. Whether the investigation began with the GF&P launching an investigation on its own, or being prodded into the investigation by outside sources is the core of the argument. Unless Nugent’s lawyers were crafty enough to have a significant portion of the punishment levied against Nugent buried and hidden from the public record then this entire case is MaCarthyism harassment targeting Nugent to discredit hunting (and the Second Amendment Rally) by discrediting Nugent. I have not had time to pull up any of the past writings of the author for a credibility check but this new episode in the life and times of Ted Nugent reads like skunk stink. If you are interested in the link to the story, here it is. http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/news/article_793b6f6e-e0ab-11df-afa1-001cc4c002e0.html.

If I am correct in my assertion, that this issue is skunk stink, how do we, as members of the hunting community, deal with this? Do we turn our backs on it, comfortable in the knowledge that if Nugent did nothing wrong in South Dakota the issue will quietly go away, as most do? But what if the investigation turns up a real violation? What if Nugent did have his license revoked and it was somehow kept out of the press and now we learn an ugly truth? Do we ignore it and hope it goes away, which is the usual course of action.

My answer is “No!” to both results. If it turns out that a case of MaCarthyism harassment was leveled against Nugent because he was in Rapid City to participate in a Tea Party like movement and the action was intended to somehow discredit him—then everyone who participated—from the GF&P employees to the Rapid City Journal must have their feet held to the fire of legal and moral inquiry and suffer the appropriate legal punishment and a lesson in morality spanking. If it means that some GF&P employees lose their jobs because of their malfeasance then let it happen. If a newspaper reporter loses his job for participating in the “creation” of a story to manipulate public opinion, let him join the unemployed.

On the flip side of the same token, if Ted Nugent did have his lawyers hide part of his punishment from the public view and then did knowingly violate South Dakota GF&P law, then he must be excommunicated from the circle of hunting communicators. Past good works are no salve for present misdeeds.

The traditional course of action for the hunting community, in either case, is to pull the wagons a little tighter, huddle under the tarpaulins and ponchos and wait for the storm to finish blowing, and then see how much was lost, and then try to go on as if nothing happened. That approach is counter-productive. For once let’s see the outdoor community flex its muscle and be willing to throw a few punches at the villain—whether in our camp or the other.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hunting In Mild Weather, Cats that are Pets, and Feral Cats

Cookie and I have tried a couple of times to get on some grouse but the mild weather and hunting pressure has made them as nervous as a virgin when the fleet's in and they flush just about as far as I can see! As for the ducks, they aren't too interested in moving around much. But there is hope, there is weather starting to appear. I got a little taste of it today and I am hoping for more later this week. I much prefer to hunt birds when there is a strong chill and little wind, just a soft breeze for Cookie's nose.

After short hunting attempts I've returned home to renew my efforts at getting the yard ready for winter. That means pulling the root veggies and all of the flowers. I always feel guilty pulling flowers that still have some color in them so I clip the ones that are not gone and put them over on the little graves of my cats. Funny how my cats generate such feelings yet when I see feral cats I have the exact opposite. Feral cats destroy ground nesting bird populations and can even wreck the cottontail population. I am always amazed at the people who truly believe they are doing their cats a favor by dumping them in the country. They are often the same people you see signing up to protest hunting. This disconnect in their brains is the source of so much damage in nature, yet when they are confronted with this fact they pass it off as lies to protect hunting. The root of the problem? Some say it is in our classrooms and perhaps they are right, but is it the teacher or the support being given the teacher? I am not talking about pay and benefits but the parental support. If the only parents in the classrooms are of the same sort of mindset as the people who dump their cats to "save them from being killed" while the parents who know better, whether hunters or just more informed individuals, stay home because they don't want to be bothered--what is going to be taught? Perhaps another case of "we've met the enemy in the mirror?"
Think about it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Issue of Pines Review

One of my projects is The Pines Review: Literary Journal of the Art and Literature of the Outdoor Sports. I started this project several years ago and each issue it has grown and become a stronger publication. I am pleased with the direction it has taken this past year and I know the next year is giong to be even better.

The review can be read online from Issuu or printed copies can be ordered from Magloud.

The Review is a project that is close to my heart and everything I value in the outdoors and it takes a lot of work, which takes me away from this blog because I am an office of one. If you get an opportunity to check it out, please do. I think you'll find something worth reading. So, take a look at The Review and feel free to let me know what you think.

Here is the link to the online version:

Here's the widget to the printed verson:
Vol III No 3 Autumn The Pines Review

The Pines Review Issue 5: Vol III No 3 Autumn The Pines Review

This issue examines Izaak Walton's "The Compleat Angler" and its impact on our culture.Outdoor Writer Tammy Sapp examines the myth of the number of women in the outdoor Sports.Dennis Dunn completed Archery Hunting's North American Grand Slam using a bow without any sights. Dunn's book about his 4…

Find out more on MagCloud

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bluebird Days

We have had nothing but bluebird days. Some wind but fairly warm. I am planning to take Cookie out for pheasant and duck this weekend but without a little weather--anyone's guess.

I just finished reading the proof copy of "The Pines Review" and I'll type the corrections in sometime tomorrow, after my hunting--I hope. When it is ready I'll post the link here.

Have a good weekend of getting outdoors. I hope everyone is able to get in some fishing or hunting this weekend.


Friday, October 15, 2010

The Adventure Begins--

First, my apology for promising a post and then disappearing. I just had some things to attend to and now that they are done—the story, edited for posting. glg

The Adventure Begins---

The outdoors is, or should always be, an adventure. There should be an element of surprise on every trip. When our hunting or fishing trips go exactly as planned then in time the outdoors becomes the mundane and we find ourselves turning away from nature. I don’t worry about my trips becoming mundane. If I can’t find some way to keep it exciting then nature has a way of lending a helping hand. Here’s what happened two weeks ago.

My brother-in-law, Ken, has been teaching his nine year-old son, Alex, the basics of shooting a shotgun and introducing him to hunting, so I decided that it would be a good thing for me to step in and offer to teach Alex some of the finer points of duck hunting. Now Ken has some hunting experience but he’s never set a spread of decoys, used a call, or enjoyed the frustrating thrill of stalking mallards on a prairie slough (pot hole). So, I offered to introduce Ken and Alex to duck hunting. The first surprise that morning was me—I was up on time and picked them up on time. After stowing their gear I explained to Alex that the big bag was duck decoys. When everyone was settled, we headed for my wife’s family farm (they lease out the tillable land) and the farmstead’s four sloughs: the north slough, the south slough, the corner slough, and the roadside slough.

The north slough is my favorite for setting a spread of decoys. The south side of the slough is the treeline boundary of the long abandoned farmstead. Although the farmstead’s buildings are in general decay from their abandonment, the presence of the house, granaries, one-time chicken coop and of course the large, traditional barn all influence the flights of ducks nearing the slough. To the north and west of the slough are tilled fields, and on the east are a few more trees that curve into the treeline. Put together, the slough sits in a perfect tree-formed funnel and with a small spread of decoys along the southwest banks the birds turn, cup their wings, and drop in—a picturesque setting and within easy range. At least that is when everything is going right. Nothing went right.

The reason for setting decoys on the north slough is it is perfectly positioned to intercept and decoy birds being flushed off sloughs in the surrounding countryside. Within a three mile radius of the farmstead there are a dozen sloughs that hold anywhere from a handful to a hundred ducks each day of the season—when the birds are leaving Canada and northern North Dakota lakes. On any weekend of the waterfowl season hunters like to cruise the back roads and flush birds from the sloughs, shooting at ducks as they flush. The ducks, depending on wind, flush either north or south (rarely east or west) and either direction sends them to our area and the north slough is one the ducks look over, giving me the chance to decoy them.

But, that only works if there are ducks on the other sloughs, and I always get a good idea of ducks in the area by looking over the sloughs we pass on the drive out. On that morning we didn’t see any ducks. Not good. I was determined, however, so I drove to the slough, passing the roadside slough—no ducks, and a half-mile from the south slough—no ducks. Humm, this wasn’t looking very promising. A youngster sitting in the cattails and watching decoys bob in the water could get very bored, very quickly. Usually, when I approach the north slough to set my decoys I can hear ducks on the water. This morning there was complete silence. Curious, I drove to the top of a small rise where I could look down on the slough. It was empty. I decided to see if we could flush some ducks from the corner slough. It would often hold a few birds when sloughs closer to the roads were empty.

Once near the corner slough I told Ken an Alex to sneak to the northeast corner and hide near the cattails while I crept to the south end of the slough where I would send Cookie into the water to flush the birds. It should have worked and probably would have if there had been any birds on the slough. After Cookie had splashed from one side of the slough to the other, without a flushing a single bird, I called her back and started for Ken and Alex.

There are some larger sloughs north of the farm and these sloughs are usually productive because these are the sloughs where I rely on hunters to flush the birds and send them south, toward my decoys. We climbed into the suburban and bounced across the field and climbed back on the road and turned north.

This time we got a little action, but it was quicker than expected. Nearing the cattails surrounding the slough, Alex nearly stepped on a whitetail doe and her fawn. Both deer exploded into the air just a few feet in front of him, nearly knocking him over as they burst from cover and sprinted for the safety of a soybean field—their tails waving as they ran. When we’d recovered we decided the deer would have flushed anything on the water and we returned to the Suburban. As we drove away four adult mallards, flew past us and cupped their wings to sit on what I call a mid-field slough, one that is surrounded by tilled fields. We decided to follow them and try to flush them (within range) from the slough.

We climbed into the Suburban and drove toward the mid-field slough. The field had been recently harvested and pinto beans, missed by the harvester, covered the ground. It was perfect pickings for the ducks, which love the beans. Plus, the slough was a quarter mile from the road. I parked below the crest of a small rise and the three of us, plus Cookie on her leash, crept toward the slough. As we neared the slough the high cattails hid us from the ducks, which we could hear on the water. I told Ken that I would take Cookie around the slough and send her in from the far side, flushing the ducks over the two of them.

I hadn’t covered ten feet when Cookie caught a scent and started lunging into the thick cattails. Holding her back was a struggle and I knew the commotion would flush the ducks. I turned and told Ken to get Alex ready. Whatever she had scented, she was determined to get, but I had no idea what was in the cattails. I thumbed up the setting on the control for her shock collar. At least if I had to call her back from a deer, the collar was set. Once I turned her loose I expected her to pop back out of the cattails with a crippled duck or goose that had been lost by a hunter. Not a season has gone by when she has not found at least one bird lost by a hunter.

That’s not what happened. When I freed Cookie she plowed into the cattails—a 70+ pound German wirehair on a mission. Her tail was furiously wagging, then she started barking, the bark of “I am gonna kill you, dude!”

“Holy Crap!” I thought. What is she after? Cougar? They’ve been reported in this area. Bear? They too have been reported. Wild pigs are rumored to be moving toward us. There are also moose, even the occasional elk. Then, suddenly, all hell broke loose. Her barking was furious and filled with low, guttural, killing growls and in return something was spitting, howling, snorting, and then spitting some more. The cattails were waving like hurricane winds were whipping them. All I could see was her tail and I grabbed it to pull her out. She lunged back in and the uproar increased. The air smelled of musty cattail dust and the roots mingled with the rotting stalks of last year’s cattails; the tiny puffs of cattail cotton from the pods being whipped by the melee, were everywhere.

I glanced at Alex and Ken. Ken was asking me what was going on and Alex, on his first duck hunt, was watching and hearing something that was loud, mean, and scary as hell. His eyes were open like liberty dollars and he was clutching his H&R Single-shot as if it was all that stood between him and the devil’s own cattail demon! I turned back to Cookie and again grabbed her tail, it was all I could see, and I tried to pull her back. That didn’t work. Whatever she was fighting was holding its own against her. A few of the cattails were pushed down by the snarling, snapping, rolling dog and unknown creature, and then I saw the flash of teeth. It wasn’t a cougar, bear, or pig. Guessing, from the size and number of teeth, I thought she might have cornered a bobcat, which was double trouble because they cannot be hunted in my area. If she had cornered a large, feral cat, the cat would already be dead, she’s killed several. Regardless of what she was locked with, in mortal combat, I had to get her out before she was seriously injured. I reached into the swirling cattails, caught her collar and I yanked her back, only to have her lunge back into the cattails and resume her attack. I’ve seen a lot of dog fights but nothing like this. Cookie was snarling and spitting and clouds of steam like dragon fire burst from her mouth and nostrils whenever her snarling head broke free of the cattails, and the clouds of steam-breath surrounded her head like smoke. She went back in the cattails and I reached in again, grabbed her collar and pulled, this time with the force to choke off her barking and as I pulled her up for the first time I could see her adversary—a fully mature raccoon.

Doggies and raccoons have a long had a mutual hatred of each other but now I faced a new problem—rabies. Cookie is up to date on her vaccinations but the possibility of a rabid raccoon could not be ignored. The raccoon was not making a retreat but was standing its ground, only its snarling face, white teeth exposed, could be seen through the cattails. Ten years of hunting the sloughs flashed across my brain. I had never seen a raccoon in a slough, although lots of sign around the edges. I’ve also seen beaver, a couple of foxes and several coyotes stalking ducks, and once I watched a coyote emerge from the cattails surrounding the corner slough with a mud hen in its mouth, but I had never encountered a raccoon. I had to err on the side of safety—and kill the raccoon. If Cookie’s fierce attack had injured it, the raccoon would suffer needlessly. If the unexpected encounter of a raccoon in the cattails surrounding a slough meant the animal was sick—it had to be destroyed. I got the leash on Cookie and then pushed her out of the way. The raccoon still wasn’t retreating and five or ten seconds had passed while I struggled with Cookie. Holding my shotgun in one hand and trying to aim it, while holding Cookie clear, I fired a load of No. 4 steel at about five feet. I thought the load would blow a hole through the raccoon and end the struggle. I missed, or the steel shot was useless, or the raccoon was pumped with so much adrenalin the pellets had no effect. I fired the second barrel and the raccoon snarled and edged toward me.

Ken had sent Alex to the Suburban, and he was now kneeling beside me. The smell of the cattail dust and the cattail cotton both still hung in the air; and both the raccoon and Cookie were still snarling, eager to resume the savage death battle.

“Here,” I said, “reload the damn gun and kill the raccoon.”

Ken took the shotgun and I handed him two more shells. I struggled to get Cookie completely clear. Ken maneuvered until he could see the raccoon in the cattails, then it turned to face him, hissing menacingly through barred teeth. Ken fired one barrel and the raccoon seemed to roll to its side, but Ken could see it was only injured and not dead. Finally, through a narrow opening in the thick cattails, Ken could see the raccoon’s full head. Ken’s second shot finally killed “the beast.” With Cookie pulled away and calming down, Ken made sure the raccoon was dead and then he dragged it to the edge of the cattails. I explained to him that I planned to make some calls and if I had to retrieve its head for a rabies test I could easily find it. Ken and I walked slowly back the Suburban and once there I checked Cookie for injuries, she had only one small puncture wound on her cheek. I washed it out while Ken and I discussed the day’s events, we decided to fold up our tents and call it a day.

Once the guns were put away, Cookie given water and a treat, I climbed into the driver’s seat and started across the field; just as I pulled onto the dirt and gravel road Alex, commenting on the morning events said, “That was exciting. Is duck hunting always this exciting?” Then he wanted to know when we could go again.

That evening, long after a call to the sheriff to see if there had been any problems with rabid raccoons (no) and the call to the vet (treat the puncture like any other, keep it clean and put on antibiotic), with my notebooks open and a cup of coffee in front of me, I reviewed the day. Nothing had gone as planned and Alex wasn’t any closer to learning how to set decoys or successfully creep up on a slough of ducks; but Alex had summed up the morning with one word, “exciting” and he’d asked when we could go again.

I think he’s got a good start on a long hunting career.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

An Interesting Story--To Come

Okay, I went duck hunting this weekend and had an interesting experience. I'm still writing it down and it's not ready to post but I promise it will give you pause to think. I promise to post it within 24 hours.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Nugent and Notes

There are times when the book is not worth the candle. The Ted Nugent game violation story is one of those times. As I thought about publishing a story in The Pines Review, my small literary journal, about Nugent’s transgression I sought advice from a number of people, including members of the Board of Directors of the NRA, members of various outdoor writer organizations, friends whose opinions I value, and so forth. The comments and suggestions were varied and they ranged from “burn the SOB,” to “leave him alone because he paid the fine.”

I also did some reading. I read accounts of other, much more famous, and a lot of not-so-famous who did similar things. Not all of them were “burned” but a few were—including a friend of mine from the Deep South. I also sought advice in the writings of a couple of philosophers and what I finally arrived at is that Ted Nugent is not worth the trouble, i.e. the book is not worth the candle.

Our candle is the public support of hunting, fishing, the Second Amendment, and of course the book is the publication of the missteps of someone who has a very loud voice, and frequently makes an ass out of himself with his outrageous commentary. But, buried in all of the bravado and BS that pours from Ted Nugent is more than a kernel of truth about the value of hunting helping young people have a better respect for nature and to extrapolate from that, the workings of our society (with its problems). I don’t know exactly how many young people Nugent reaches, but I do know he does reach a significant number and in reaching them if they learn the value of family, nature and develop a spiritual relationship with nature, well, I’m not willing to wreck that by catering to the antis who, of course, will relish any wrong done by the more visible members of our community. I don’t want to burn that candle. But, if Mr. Nugent pulls another stupid stunt like he did in California then the gloves will come off and I would be happy to lead the pack of dogs that tear after him.


Simple, once shame on you (Nugent) twice, shame on me (us). So now Ted is on the skyline and he’s drawn two targets on himself. One target is for the antis and the other is for his brethren in the community of hunters. Let’s really believe that in time he’ll manage to erase both of those targets.


I am blessed with having a lot of friends and a few of them are truly “best” friends. That tiny group of people includes Chas Clifton (author of natureblog) and now, for the past three years, Chas has made the long drive to North Dakota to hunt sharptail grouse with me. This year I added a new name to my list of friends, Holly Heyser, who flew out here to join us on the hunt. You can read a wonderful account of the hunt on Holly’s blog. http://norcalcazadora.blogspot.com I wish I had been able to show the two of them more birds because I know they are here. I don’t always find them but there have been days when I’ve managed to flush half-dozen coveys in a single morning. It happens, just not this time. But having the two of them around for the long weekend was wonderful. We had great conversations, my wife Michelle, fixed great meals after each day’s hunting and best of all Holly got to meet Cookie and learn that I wasn’t making anything up about what a great dog Cookie is. Of course, Holly also fell for my bad dog, Rosie, which I’ll never understand.
Read Holly’s blog on the hunting weekend. It’s a good read.

It is now time for me to get back to work on the next issue of the Review. I’m running a little behind schedule so I’ve got to get back on it. Almost finished.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dennis Dunns Massive Book Barebow!

Okay, I’ve been busy trying to make my house, yard and whatever, look somewhat presentable to my soon-to-be-here guests. Chas and Holly will be here to hunt birds but Michelle, my wife, would like for me to make things look a little presentable considering that we are in a constant state of remodeling! But, mixed into that task is trying to get the next issue of The Pines Review out. I’ve been held up on a couple of things and one of them has been writing the review of Dennis Dunn’s massive tome Barebow!, his account of his 40 year quest to be the first person in history to complete the North American Grand Slam of big game animals with a bare bow. For those of you who don’t know a bare bow is one that is sans all of the sighting gadgets that are hung on most of today’s hunting bows.
This is a pretty incredible book. First from the size and second from the content but even more so by the scope of the story and finally by the most unlikely looking appearance of Dennis Dunn, because he looks like a nerd! Actually, that isn’t too far off because he has both a BA and an MA in Romance Languages, and his BA is cum laude from Harvard! To complete his quest he climbs mountains, has a face-to-face encounter with a grizzly bear and gets charged by the most unlikely of big game animals. (I’ll let you find that one out for yourself.)
The whole story is pretty remarkable and the book reads extremely well. My review for The Pines Review is much more detailed and covers a lot more ground, sort of like Dunn’s book. But, when I finished writing my review I asked myself another question—is Dennis Dunn setting archery hunting up for a flood of new hunters who attempt to duplicate his feat, or at least take up hunting bare bow? The truth is that every person I have ever met who is a bow hunter (except for one, and he was a national champion archer) needed those sight pins and whatever else they were using. In fact, I tend to think that without those sighting aids that are hanging on those hunting bows most bow hunters would be wounding and losing a lot of game.
Damn few people have the perseverance to truly master instinctive archery and bow hunting today is not instinctive archery—it is hunting with sights and aids all designed to help the hunter but equally important those aids reduce the number of wounded and lost game. I think all but a very few hunters need those sighting aids.
Dennis Dunn is a remarkable man. What he did is an achievement that will always rank at the top of archery hunting history but it is not for every bow hunter. I hope that bow hunters who think they are capable of hunting the way Dunn did give it a lot of long and careful thought before making the attempt. Every animal’s life is too great a prize to squander by wounding them trying to imitate a master. glg

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Just some thoughts and notes

As odd as it may seem I have still not reached a decision on whether to write something about Ted’s misadventure or to just let it die. By write something I am referring to my small literary journal, The Pines Review. Perhaps I should just let that dog go to sleep. He’s paid his fine and we’ve had our share of troubles so adding to the pile doesn’t make any sense. The flip side comes from my training as a journalist and years of working as a journalist, both freelance and staff. On that side I am telling myself it is a duty to write on what happened even if my journal is published months after the incident. I’m still thinking about it and will probably think about it for most of the week while I finish this issue.

Other news of note. Our dove season is open and I have not stepped into a field. For some reason my feeble brain was thinking it opened this coming weekend—on the eleventh! Okay, I am stupid but not for much longer. Cookie and I will be making up for lost time starting tomorrow!
Last week I took Cookie into the vet’s office for her annual checkup and shots. She is a dog that always pleases me because she is so sweet and well behaved in public. There was less than a pound’s difference in her weight from her last visit and as always she sat quietly while she got her shots then the vet and her assistant fawned over Cookie, asking if she was ready to go hunting. I cringed because “hunting” is a word that sets Cookie off. This time all she did was begin to wag her tail. Then the vet said “bird” and Cookie was no longer sitting but standing and looking around the sterile room as if to ask “how could there be a bird in here?” I was pleased because Cookie pleased others.
In another week the sharptail season opens and the two of us will be beating the grass country for the birds. Over the years Cookie and I have had great times together hunting sharptail. I don’t know if it is because it is the first of the upland bird seasons and Cookie is working off all the stored up energy or just her joy of life, but she plows through the grass with a gusto that I truly love to watch. I suppose that in some ways the bird hunting season is so special because I’ve had wonderful dogs and many of my best memories are of the season. I’m looking forward to the weekend of the 18th and 19th when one of my best friends, and a new friend, will be hunting with me. I just hope I can put them in the birds. Well, put them where the birds are, the dogs will do the rest.
I hope everyone is having wonderful early seasons and getting ready for a great autumn. glg

Friday, August 20, 2010

Good Leadership and Nugent's Failure

What is to be gained by more commentary on the Ted Nugent fiasco? He stepped on it and he has no one to blame but himself. A person might insist on arguing that others are responsible because they failed to inform him of California’s hunting regulations, but that argument does not wash. The simple truth is that Ted Nugent is the person in charge. It is his show. He is the person behind all the moving and shaking about sponsors, selling the concept to networks. The whole “Spirit of The Wild” effort is his baby, so when something goes wrong only so much of the excrement secreted actually flows down hill, contrary to the laws of physics in nature, in responsibility it rolls uphill. Here’s how it works: The person in charge is the person who is ultimately responsible for the actions and welfare of those below.

Those people below may argue against an action conceived, ordered or otherwise endorsed by those above them but only the person in charge is ultimately responsible for the actions of the others. There are a thousand reasons, all of them knife-sharp and ready to be turned against an underling who refuses to obey an order, and because of them nearly every underling will carry out wrongful or just misguided orders. Occasionally, there is the underling martyr who refuses to carry out an order and is fired, or hanged in totalitarian regimes, but it is rare. More frequently, there are the captains and lieutenants who refuse to sacrifice the lives entrusted to them to the idiocy of deranged leaders. But, good leaders also depend on those below them to provide good intelligence—but they have to ask for it! Underlings rarely provide that intelligence without being asked to get it. That’s when the excrement flows up hill. Did Nugent task his lower managers with getting the facts on California hunting? Did he educate himself to the facts so he could recognize good advice and poor advice? That’s what a good leader does. A good leader is well enough versed in whatever the framework of an action is that poor advice, bad intelligence, is recognized or at least suspected, and steps taken to get more information. Here is the perfect example of poor leadership--Ted Nugent failed in his leadership. The little brown piles rolled up hill.

But, on his web site Nugent does say that he takes full responsibility. I guess that shows he is being a leader.

I don’t agree.

His web site mea culpa acknowledges that he plead “no contest” to two “misdemeanor game violations.” The Latin basis is nolo contendere which translates into, “I do not wish to contend.” The defendant does not dispute the charge but does not admit to any guilt or wrong doing. Here’s the kicker, the charges to which the defendant pleads “no contest” cannot be used against him or her in a future case. The defendant must, however, accept the punishment for the offence as imposed by the court.

Ted Nugent did not accept guilt for his actions. Through a plea agreement the state agreed to accept the nolo contendere that was entered into the court in absentia (he was not in the courtroom). Further, the state dropped the other nine charges! Ted Nugent did not show any leadership or class. He used his position, influence and money as “Ted Nugent” to beat the system for an offense he committed. Is there any person who truly believes that any “Joe” or “Jane” off the street could commit the same, or nearly the same set of offenses, and get nine out of eleven charges dropped and the other two a nolo contendere plea?

I believe that Ted Nugent failed to live up to his position of leadership in the outdoor community. A 37 word, three sentence mea culpa without an admission of guilt is not sufficient for a person who claims a position of leadership in the outdoor community, a position that includes leadership of young people.

Ted Nugent’s star has fallen. Now he must pick it up and spend some time polishing it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

August Weather and Goose Hunting

Suddenly the temperature drops into the low fifties and the dove start packing their bags. I hope they are not in too much of a hurry since the weather people are forecasting a return of August weather by the middle of the week. Of course, August weather up here is somewhat more temperate than August weather in other parts of the country. I shouldn’t be too quick to brag though, the last of July and first week of August we had some lousy hot weather in the 90s and if you toss in the humidity the temperature “felt” like 100 or 101. Then I look at other parts of the country and give a sigh of thanks that Michelle talked me into moving up here.

I haven’t had a chance to get out and try that early season goose hunting. I did take a drive around to check out some of my waterfowl hunting areas and there are geese hanging around but I’m not convinced there are enough geese on those sloughs to merit donning cammies, packing the smoke pole and Cookie. The geese were pretty laid back and didn’t seem to be too worried about my presence. I will probably take a drive to a much larger slough that usually has more geese on it and see if that would be worth returning to park myself for some pass shooting.

The idea behind this early season is to get the resident goose population down before the geese migrating from Canada arrive. According to the wildlife people the target population of resident geese here in Eastern North Dakota is 80,000 birds and right now we’ve got a resident population of 140,000 birds. For people who don’t understand, all of those geese have got to feed somewhere and they like to visit the various farm fields and help themselves. That’s a lot of geese gulping down soybeans, wheat, and who knows what else, all at the expense of farmers.

There is another reason for getting the number of birds down—health. Whenever birds like waterfowl begin to congregate too heavily there is always the chance of disease, both for people and birds. So, sometime this week I’ll go out and do some goose hunting. It has been a long summer, even if summer isn’t yet over. As for the dove, they can unpack their bags and hang around for a few more weeks, there’s lots of warm weather yet to come.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Early Goose Season

Yesterday’s newspaper had an announcement that the North Dakota early Canada goose season opener is set for August 15. At first I was sort of excited about it. This has been a long summer with some problems that I hadn’t expected that kept me from some projects that I had planned. So, I was kind of excited about taking Cookie goose hunting. Then I walked outside and got hit in the face by the mid-90 temperatures and the humidity.

Sorry guys. Goose hunting, at least for me, does not mean beating back hoards of mosquitoes and flicking ticks off my arms, legs, head and neck. Besides, my waterfowl clothing is for cold weather. Hunting from a sauna hasn't got much appeal.

Of course, there are a lot of good reasons for going out in the early season and they all revolve around the need for population control. There are too many birds and not enough habitat. I don’t have any problem with the early season and I do intend to try and get in one or two hunts and if, by some magical combination of the planets, I manage to actually get my limit of five geese that would be enough to fill up a good part of my freezer. I know a lot of hunters will breast their birds and toss the rest but I was brought up not to waste meat from the game I killed so a one day limit of Canada geese in my freezer would be a huge bonus for the coming winter.

I’ve been watching geese so finding them won’t be hard. What will be hard is taking enough insect repellent to not be carried away by the mosquitoes. We’ll see how it works out. Hunting them in such warm weather as we’ve been having is something I still haven’t managed to get a handle on so any advice from readers who have some experience with warm weather goose hunting is welcome. glg

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Outside vs Inside Nature & Caves of Steel

If we hunt we are acting “within” nature. If we only observe then are we acting “outside” of nature? Over the past few weeks I’ve been reading a couple of books and a number of essays on the subject of identification of our position in relation to nature. Now, as some of you may know, I maintain that nature is consistent with wherever a person happens to be. The sort of nature a person is experiencing will vary, from the living room of a home to the nature of the northern woods, but I believe each one is nature. In the one nature will exist the mites, insects, pets, houseplants, people and maybe even mice, and at the other end we will have moose, bear, fish, with thousands of other forms of wildlife.

My question is this: “Is there a true separation between being “within” and “outside” of nature?

Can anyone actually find themselves living outside of nature short of living in a bubble to be isolated from even bacteria? I want to answer my own question with the statement that “no, we cannot escape from nature.” But, if that statement is true then how do we explain the identified psychological problems that are known to arise with children and adults who have been raised to think of themselves as being separated from nature by the march of technology and growing reality of Asimov’s Caves of Steel?

We don’t need to read the work of today’s influential thinkers to realize there is a functionality disorder commonly shared among people who grew up in the sans-nature environs of urbanized cultures. Frequently, we find these people the targets for fund raising campaigns by radical anti-hunting/fishing movements, or similar activities, and these people never check the groups’ backgrounds to verify their claims. Simply being pro animal rights on some level is enough and they make their donations, ignoring the Silver of Judas in the leadership’s hands. Sadly, these same people will reject valid conservation and preservation programs administered by organizations with no connection to the consumptive sports—even in their own backyards—to follow the movement’s credo. What is truly disturbing is that very few of these well-meaning people are capable of identifying wild flowers, animals, and even local bird species and when asked, cannot identify the ecological zone they live in! For millions of people the very closest they ever come to “wildlife” is the city zoo and the only interaction with an animal is a dog, cat, or other pet and they cannot fathom a cat relieving itself outside of a box of kitty litter or a day not following Spot on the city sidewalk and picking up after the dog.

Most authors of academic studies place the blame for the creation of our “no nature” generation on the advent of replacement social technology. That is the technology of tools that replace the need, or desire, to go outside and interact with nature and other people in the freer environment of nature where playful creativity and social interaction generates a stronger sense of well-being. These researchers are on to something that is important, except that the replacement technology, whether we are talking about computer games (online or in computer) or other aspects of technology, are only as valid as the individual is willing to let them become and they only gain validity when the technology is an economical substitute for outdoor activities. I realized the importance of the economic battle between technology and the outdoors when pricing fishing tackle after a discussion with my step-son over the price of a computer game—the computer game was much less expensive than the lowest priced, moderate quality rod and reel combination. That revelation had been foretold nearly twenty years ago when an older hunter stopped by our Colorado hunting camp to share hunting tips and coffee. I and another hunter from our group had been working on our laptops because both of us had article deadlines for the day after we returned from camp. The older hunter looked disgustedly at the computers. He asked me how much I paid for my laptop and after I told him he snorted and said, “Someday, when that thing is cheaper than a hunting trip, people will stay home with those and your grand kids won’t get to go hunting.”

He was a prophet.

That’s the problem that so many researchers are alluding to—technology is replacing activity. I maintain there is much more to the equation than technology being guilty of locking us indoors—we’ve made nature a victim of ourselves. We’ve damaged nature with the industry that drives our civilization and if there is to be any repairing of nature then people have got to be willing to foot the bill. I’m not so sure people are. Consider the BP spill, media attention has increasingly focused on how much the spill is costing BP and then how and when that cost will be passed on to consumers. Already, those people who live close to the spill are worrying that both the government and BP are setting the stage to “cut-n-run.”

I suspect that two strong factors are working against the repair of the damaged nature and they are the public’s fear of paying for cleaning up coastal wetlands that most people have never seen, nor do they understand, and the second factor is time—the more time after the event the farther the event is from the public’s mind. The public needs to understand that when nature has people interacting and protecting it, it is going to support us as a species. We, as individuals, must not be tricked into accepting an artificial nature created in a computer or the lobby of a massive hotel as the nature that sustains our world. No matter how hard programmers try to incorporate nature into the machine it remains the machine and is outside of nature, and when the real nature needs humanity’s help a line of computer code will not save nature as we know it.

Think about it. glg

If you have never read Caves of Steel, the robot series, Caves of Steel (Robot (Spectra Books)) or Robot Trilogy: The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, The Robots of Dawn it is well worth the time to read it. He wrote The Caves of Steel in 1954 and it is incredible how much of the book has become reality. You don't have to be a fan of Science Fiction to enjoy Asimov's work. glg

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Just Thinking About Dogs

There are three pictures on a book shelf across from my desk. Two are black & white and one is color and the color one is of my mother kneeling beside my Springer Spaniel, Gretel. I’d just had Gretel to the groomer and I stopped at my mother’s home for our daily visit and coffee, and to let her see Gretel all groomed and cleaned up. It was the last time my mother saw Gretel alive because two days later a drunk driver hit and killed my dog. The shock of having my dog die in my arms is something I have never recovered from. Don’t misunderstand me, I’ve seen my share of death and some of it has been in pretty large doses, but having that wonderful, loving, spirited dog die in my arms while my wife was driving madly to the vet’s office has never left me and that’s probably why the two black and white photos are on my shelf. One is of Gretel when she was only a few weeks old, hiding behind a pine tree and playing “catch me.” The other is of me leaning over to pet her. I’ve got a shotgun in my hand and we’re standing in water. The look on Gretel’s face tells it all—she’s having a great time.

That’s not the only picture of Gretel in my office. There is one that was taken on a partridge hunt and another of me kneeling beside her, taken the same day that the one of her and my mother was taken. Those last pictures are treasures and every year when I make it back to Colorado I take some time to visit my friend, Al, and while there I go outside to spend a few minutes at the graves of my pets.

Between Gretel and now Cookie I had a third dog—Jenny. She too was a Springer and like all of my dogs was a wonderful part of my world and when I close my eyes I can relive and laugh about her antics. She made the cover of a couple of magazines and was a constant companion, whether fishing, hunting or just being. Jenny was fantastic at finding birds and doing what she was supposed to do—flush them into flight. After we moved to North Dakota Jenny got sick and when nothing helped I finally had to have her put down, but I didn’t have the heart to bury her here in North Dakota so I had her cremated and her ashes are on another shelf. Sometimes I pick up the urn and hold it and read her ID tag. I haven’t had the heart to scatter or bury her ashes, although Al said I could bury her ashes with the other dogs.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t pet and love all of my dogs (I now have three, plus M’s Jack Russell, Rylie and he gets his share of my attention). Each one of them is an important part of my life and that includes my rotten Jack Russell, Rosie. She spends most of every day getting into trouble for one thing or another—although she is sound asleep in my lap as I write this. (Cookie is on my feet and Buster sleeping next to my chair. Rylie is in the house with M, probably curled up next to her in bed.) I try to balance my attention between the dogs because I know there will come a day when all I’ll have of them will be the pictures on the book shelves and the memories of them. It won’t be enough, but it’ll be better than life without having had them in my life.

I’ve always thought that dogs give our world a magical value that pound for pound has a greater worth than all of the precious metals and gemstones humanity has ever mined. Those of us who hunt with our dogs, whether they are so-so hunters or smarter than we are, get the added pleasure of stocking up on memories that give our lives a depth of meaning the non-hunter can never share.

Dogs in our lives sort of make everything else bearable, don’t you think?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Radish Sandwiches and Nature

I remember the summer trips, years ago, when I went with my parents to the family farm near Lamont, Oklahoma to spend the day working in the garden. My parents, Fred and Dora, usually planted a garden that included just about anything that would grow in Oklahoma. I don’t remember how they watered it during the driest and hottest summer days but I’m sure they pumped water from the well and had some kind of hose gizmo or some such thing. I vividly remember that each time I’d accompany them, whether just my father or both my parents, we always worked through the morning; pulling weeds and hoeing the rows of vegetables until it was time for lunch. Before walking over to sit in the shade near the well and the metal pump we would pull some green onions and plump radishes from the garden, sometimes we had leaf lettuce and we’d pick a little of that as well. In the shade of the elm trees we washed what we’d picked, my Dad working the pump handle while I washed away the dirt. When everything was clean we sat down and prepared our lunch—radish, onion, leaf lettuce and cheese sandwiches. We’d buttered the bread before we left home and the bread was thick slices of my mother’s homemade bread. To this day it is a sandwich that I make for myself whenever I have radishes in my fridge, today, however, was truly special because I had radishes fresh from my small garden. I pulled them from the ground and dropped them on a pile of greens that I’d just cut, then I carried everything into the house, washed the harvest and after putting most of the greens (I couldn’t help it, I had to much a few as fast as I washed them.) in the fridge, saving a crisp mustard green leaf for the first layer of my radish/onion and cheese sandwich, which I washed down with strong, black coffee.

Today I know that I enjoyed a small, but still significant harvest, and it is what kicked in the memories of “the farm” and living in north central Oklahoma in the 50s and 60s. The other thing I remember is that about the only wildlife we ever saw on the farm, other than birds feeding on mulberries, was cottontails, jackrabbits and an occasional coyote. I have absolutely no memory of ever seeing a deer, turkey or even a quail on the farm. My parents sold that farm in 1961 and I did not return for 35 years but when I did there was nothing left to mark the place that had been the farmstead, that alone my parent’s garden. Every nail from any out building, the farm house, or a splinter from any fence post, had all been taken away or returned to the earth. In town, however, I talked with a man who told me that in the creek bottom there were turkeys and deer and quail had returned to the area. That was 15 years ago. It’s getting close to time for me to take a trip back to Oklahoma and visit the site of the farm, place some flowers on the tombstones of my brothers buried in Oklahoma and Kansas soil; I'll see how the deer and turkeys are doing, and find out if the quail are holding their own against whatever is thinning their coveys around the country.

I wonder if that’s what we mean about some of us being “nature-based” people. We grew up with our fingers digging into the soil to both plant and harvest our crops, however small or large, and when we look out, at the places where we hunt and fish, we don’t see dividing lines between wilderness and non-wilderness, we just see nature and we know where we fit into it.

I remember that a worm was used for bait to catch a fish we would eat that night and a shotgun and shell we used to kill a rabbit or a duck that would be a meal. Life was all natural and ordered, just like those radish sandwiches. Thick slices of homemade bread with butter spread on them, first a leaf of lettuce then green onions, sliced thin and lengthwise and laid on the bread, then the radishes, cut into slices and spread over the onions and sometimes a sprinkle of salt for flavor and finally slices of cheese cut from a chunk of strong cheddar cheese bought that morning. When the layers were in place the bread was pressed down slightly, to hold everything together for each new bite—start to finish. Finally it was washed down with cold well water slurpped from hands cupped under the pump’s spout. Then it was time to go back to the garden and gather a small harvest before starting home.

Strange, the things we tend to think about, don’t you think? glg

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Kennel Cleaning Time

I'm trying to make a few adjustments in my office, changing things I don't like, adding a few things here and there AND cleaning out the inside kennel. I clean the outside on a daily basis and try to keep the inside somewhat clean by dragging the dogie blankets out and shoving them in the washing machine at least once every couple of weeks, but that does not help the muck which the dogs drag in and grind into the floor. Somehow dogie goo that is tracked in on their feet does not polish but cakes on the floor and I have to clean it off at least once a month. Cleaning it requires crawling into the kennel, via the dog door, taking a wire brush with soap and water and scrubbing it clean. Smells great for about 24 hours then it goes back to smelling like a kennel and I fire up the scent candles when I am at my desk. I think someone needs to invent a dogie kennel smell be gone widget.
I'm also doing some repair work, changing the mesh that keeps dogs in, repair or replacing the nylon screen that is supposed to keep flies and mosquitoes out. Cookie has a habit of poking her front feet through the outside screen to get at the grass. I think I've solved the problem with cattle fencing cut down to fit and doubled so I can offset the squares so she keeps her head in and doesn't get it stuck. Then a 1x12 across the bottom of the outside kennel. Should work.
As for inside, sort of the same thing except I've got to put a wire screen up that will keep her from trying to catch my cat that is supposed to be living in my office and not in my bedroom in the house.
Progress is slow in matters of the dogie kennel, mostly because I move slower than I once did.
For now, back to work on the kennel so I can put my office back in order and get some stuff done.
later, time to think....

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Amtrak and the hunter

Last week and over the weekend I went to the OWAA conference in Rochester, Minnesota. I presented a seminar on the philosophy of outdoor writing in the 21st century. I think my presentation went well and it was well attended with a full room and some good comments and questions after the session.

To get to and from the conference I took the Amtrak from Grand Forks to Winona, MN and then a shuttle from the Amtrak station to the Kahler hotel (across from the Mayo Clinic). The trip was pleasant, both ways, and I managed to get a good night’s sleep on the train so that when I reached the conference I was ready to go and when I returned home, the same. I did have to spend an hour in the station waiting for the shuttle to take me to the hotel but I used that time to take a few photos of the station. Sitting in the station after the other passengers had been picked up I looked at the old benches could imagine the people who had passed through and worn down the wood of the benches. The station itself, an old brick building that needs some repair, has all the wonderful glow of the golden age of train travel. I hope the Amtrak leadership has the sense to preserve the building and not try to “improve” things by tearing it down and building another one of those intolerable, ugly, personality free tombs they have built to replace the “aging” stations.

Amtrak has some personality problems with its management and creative people, and it is lacking a couple of routes that could make it a much more desirable transportation system, but just because the dog is old doesn’t mean it isn’t still a good dog.

I enjoy travelling by train much more than I do by air. Airports, although they are full of all the amenities to make the travelling experience more bearable, they are too big, too noisy and everything is way over-priced. Train stations are, by contrast, rarely as well maintained, rarely offer the travel amenities and since it is sometimes a challenge to work out a train schedule that gets you where you want to go without a long layover a lot of people refuse to travel by train. For those of us who hunt there is another problem—Amtrak will not allow firearms to be checked as baggage, even in locked cases that are locked in the baggage car! It is a short-sighted rule on Amtrak’s part and I have heard there are some efforts to lobby congress to force Amtrak to drop the rule but I haven’t followed up on it. The other problem is that you can’t take your dog on the train, even (again) in a locked crate that is checked. With a little planning on their part they could make an accommodation if the dog had a bark collar and a muzzle (if that’s their fear), was in a crate and the crate was in the lower level area (with the owner). I can remember when animals were allowed to travel by train in the baggage car so I know it hasn’t been “that” long ago unless I am older than I think I am.

I hope the rule can be changed. I’d like to take the train over to some places where I could hunt different species of birds and it would be a lot easier for me to visit my grandkids if I could put Cookie in a crate and take her. Even if she did have to ride in a crate she would rather go with me than be left behind. If I add up the cost of either putting her in a kennel or hiring someone to take care of her when I am gone for a week or more a ticket to take her with me would cost less.

I am sure that to some people the whole notion of being able to check a gun case or take your dog on the train seems trivial compared to other issues. It is not that easy. This is our country and as hunters (and anglers) the transportation system is there to serve us—as in the consumer and taxpayer—hunters are consumers and taxpayers. I don’t know how many hunters would take a train from where they live to a Rocky Mountain or other western state for a guided big game hunt or a week of bird hunting, but I have a hunch that with the problems of plane travel, the numbers might be higher than one suspects. I get angry when I realize that we are being treated as second class citizens, yet we are expected to pay most of the bills for the wildlife management throughout the ski areas and other “playlands” where the trains travel and promote vacation packages.

I love to travel by train. Next month I’ll be taking a cross country trip with my son and grandson, from California to Chicago, and the month after that I’m taking a train to the POMA conference. When I think about how Amtrak is screwing the American sportsman and woman I begin a slow burn. We deserve better. After all, if Amtrak can build special racks in their coastal train so they can haul surf boards and bicycles I really believe they could think of some way to accommodate the men and women paying the biggest part of the bill for the nation’s wildlife.
Just a complaint that I had to air while I am thinking about it.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Geese and What Went Wrong, Then and Now

In 1982 or 83 I wrote a story titled “Oil Patch Pilots” for Soldier of Fortune magazine. This was a story about the helicopter pilots of the Vietnam War who found work flying crews to and from the Gulf’s offshore oil rigs. During one group interview in a ready room, while talking about flying, Vietnam and the oil rigs, my brother Wayne told the story of blowing the transmission in his Bell helicopter and having to auto rotate into the Gulf. When the helicopter hit water the floatation devices failed to fire and the helicopter completely submerged before a short in the system finally fired the floats and the aircraft bobbed to the surface. Wayne turned to the passenger, a top oil company executive, and said; “don’t worry it’ll float."

The oil executive quipped, “yeah, but it is supposed to fly!”

Something else Wayne said during that conversation also stayed with me; “The problem with those oil rigs is ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ If people can’t see the rigs, they are out of mind of what can go wrong.”

Wayne warned that someday, something would happen to one of the rigs and in his words, “there will be hell to pay, and hell has a big price tag.”

Wayne died before seeing his prophecy come true. In the closing years of his life Wayne increasingly fixated on religion and had an increasing critical rage over the veracity of mega industries, such as today’s BP, and politicians.

Wayne is only one of my brothers who died from the lingering effects of exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. In my research of how our government has used chemical defoliants I’ve learned that they were deployed in the Korean War and at one time commonly used around nearly every military installation with any sort of vegetation, which included the vicinity where another brother (also dead of cancer) served at an isolated radar installation. Of the five of us who served in Vietnam only one brother seems to have escaped the ravages of exposure to AO and that is because he was based in Thailand and flew over Vietnam. As for myself, every day is a new adventure in pain--but such is the price of glory.

Some argue that my family is predisposed toward cancer, an argument that can be easily disproved, other doctors have said they believe Agent Orange contains a chemical that is a triggering mechanism that turns on a family cancer gene. Another doctor said it is because all of us were smokers (all of us quit in the 80s) and grew up around a smoker—my father. But neither one of my parents died from cancer.

There are no clear answers—only the graves and the questions.

I bring this up because once again there are the dead, admittedly the dead are birds and fish and mammals, but they are just as dead and there are lots of questions. I had a flood of questions wash over me this afternoon while I watched a skein of geese pass over my house and begin circling the slough north of town. Come October, how far south will the waterfowl of the central flyway go? Will they stop short of the oil-covered marshlands?

I thought about Wayne and the distrust he brought back from his years of flying in the Gulf. I thought of Albert, Richard, Robert, Jerry and Wayne, now cold and buried. Albert trusting that the vaporized metals he breathed, while he welded those oil tanks, wouldn’t kill him, but they did. Richard, spraying “weed killer” around the radar shack, Robert, in Korea and later Vietnam, twice exposed and Jerry hearing the liquid falling on the roof of his hootch in Vietnam when the planes flew over, and finally Wayne. He brought back pictures he had taken from his gunship when he flew escort missions for planes dropping defoliant, long after the practice had allegedly been stopped. And now our young people, the pride of our country, are fighting again. What will they bring home? Are they like the geese that, come this autumn, will join the hummingbirds, and robins, and waxwings, and bluebirds and who really knows the others, and all fly south; they will be trusting, as they always have, that nature will be right. But this time nature will not be right and the tragedy is nature did nothing wrong.

We did, and no man can resurrect the dead.