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.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Yippie, Yea, Okay, You Got It!

Yup, this issue of The Pines Review is finished, posted and all that. I hadn't planned to spend the entire month of May getting it put to bed! Well, most of the month of May. Still, took me longer than I had anticipated but I think the results are well worth it. The link to the MagCloud site is at the end of this post in case any of my dear readers are interested in ordering a print copy. Okay, it is pretty cheap advertising on my part but can anyone blame me? I am trying to make a buck or two to help defray the costs. Actually, the print copy is worth it because of the quality of the printing (full color) and paper. If you are like me and counting pennies these days you can also enjoy it on the Issuu site, and you get to do that for free! I'm really tickled with the Issuu site and the quality of the technology. If you go to the magazine and look at the cover you'll discover the contents column on the left side of the cover is fully liked to the articles, that means if you want to read (say) the story about the Zimbabwe Borderline Walk, you can put your cursor on that story, click on the arrow and it will take you to that page.

As promised, this issue has a very long profile of Dr. Randall Eaton. I encourage everyone who has a concern about the future of wildlife, our society, and not just hunting, to give it a read. There is a whole lot more taking place in what Eaton is saying than first meets the eye. I am not saying I agree 100% with Dr. Eaton, but with what he is saying there is so much truth.

The Borderline Walk in Zimbabwe is one of the most unusal stories that I've ever worked with. African Expeditions Magazine took on a huge project when the editors decided to support David Hulme in his project to walk around the border of Zimbabwe. David is doing it to draw attention to the plight of Zim's wildlife. Read it, you will not be sorry.

Finally, there is a whole lot more in the journal: poetry, some great photos, some good fiction and even some technical stuff. I feel good about this issue. And now, it is time for me to take a break and finish my porch. Oh, and start getting Cookie into shape, she's gotten fat over the winter. Well, so have I.

Here is the Issuu site so you can read (or even download) The Pines Review online. I look forward to hearing your comments, especially your reaction to Dr. Eaton. http://issuu.com/thepinesreview/docs/v_iii_no_2_spring_summer_2010_online?viewMode=magazine
And to order a copy, here is the link.