Tuesday, February 23, 2010

To hunt. . some reflections from a road trip.

It's a night maybe tonight, maybe not so long ago. I'm sitting in my hotel room, with Arthur C. Clark's 1984: SPRING, A Choice of Futures, Heinlein's Glory Road, and the USA Midway Hunting Gear Catalog to read. Looking at various bow equipment, I pondered the age old question as to whether Heinlein was more a gun or a knife man. Heinlein in Glory Road talks of guns to a certain extent, mentioning 1911's and '03 Springfields, but in Tunnel In The Sky, he armed his protagonist there with a Bowie knife strapped to his hip and a smaller dagger attached to his leg. I have my share of bayonets and knives and guns around but it's a rare season I don't draw out something of the bow variety.

But tonight's reading was not about the method of hunting but the type. Whitetail season. Surfing through the net I saw an article. . . . "I Wish She'd Go Hunting with Me", a web article about getting the wife to go hunting with minimal fuss. I admire the authors intent, introducing his spouse to the love of the outdoors and shooting. For that she is blessed. Perhaps his method works on the average woman. He wrote very well. He obviously loves his family. But had my friends spouted these lines to me when I was first starting out, they know they'd have been found hog-tired out in the woods, doused with Tinks.
For women, hunting is perceived as macho and unfeminine.
Generally speaking, men are competitive and women are cooperative

She has other household responsibilities, she just can't go hunting for two weeks (like men do).

She probably could care less about the technical data associated with the cartridge she shoots

Women need to communicate all the time.. You will spook game because she needs to talk at inopportune times.
As she gains experience, let her do it her way. She will make up for what she lacks in focus and determination with the ability to be "in the moment" .

Hunter. The word is not gender based, nor should it be. Some of us are just born to the hunt, born to the woods, with no more need of urging to get there than a race driven horse with the scent of water in his nose.

I think of my last day of a bow hunt, sitting in a tree bind in abounding woods, stillness and quiet out among the trees and patches of snow.

Sitting up in the blind, I could stop, sit, think and survey the chilly landscape. Had it been warmer, I could have taken a nap there, leaning against the tree, but to relax vigilance in a tree blind is dangerous. I have taken a short "shut eye" while pheasant hunting, setting my gun where it would be safe, exhausted from miles of walking, simply leaning against a tree with a patch of sun tattooing my skin and sleeping for ten minutes.
The woods still fascinate me, the branches concealing  me as I wait for my prey, like any animal, participating in the cycle of the food chain. I am an omnivore and those less equipped than I, forget that at their peril. It is the bringing home of sustenance. Bringing home, not a trophy so much as a sign of provision, that those that work and strive will be rewarded with a full belly and warmth.

I can talk up a storm, but I had no problem being silent out in the trees. I have no title, I have no history. I am a simple, solitary creature out there, seeking respite from a world gone mad, leaving only a few small tracks, taking only what I need to eat, to live. The tree blind is only one small spot on one large planet, sitting up high, abjectly alone, as if abandoned in space, in man's great design.

I'll sit, sheltered beneath the trees, and wait for my prey. My weapon, carefully tended, the bolts carefully selected, the crossbow kept in working order, technical aspects that do not escape notice, even if I could only consider myself a beginner. The breeze shifts through the trees, bearing the tweets and the chirps of birds, and the occasional chattering of a squirrel.

I'll wait, as the insects of the evening begin their low monotonous hum, as though the sound were their only companion. The moon climbs overhead, stillm without light, as the earth lies beneath me, still, without darkness. I doubt I'm alone here, somewhere within a few miles I'm sure, underneath another tree, is someone like me, Perhaps being instructed by a loved one in the fine art of the hunt, perhaps alone, breathing deep the smell of the trees, a smell that lingers like cold smoke.

I am alone, but I am not lonely  Sitting up on the vast trunks I rest, and wait, the trees feeding my spirit as surely as if the roots were joined to my own veins.

When I hit the big 40, I made a will, a simple one, simply directing that I be placed, not in a box, not into a cold mausoleum. Make me ash, with the fire of woodsmoke, and sprinkle me into the waters and the woods that I love. My remnants becoming part of the rough skin of the planet, as time settles into itself and the microscopic bits of me will blend into the cosmos, seeping gently through the leaves in a graceful descent back to where we all became. The earth is a beautiful cradle in which we are all bound to sleep. Hopefully sleep will be long in coming, but I rest better knowing where I will rest.

In my job I'm at war with fate. Collateral damage is inevitable. Sometimes in the midst of it I wonder why I fight at all. As hard as sometimes we try, I realize that sometimes another's life is not ours to save. Some are hollow shells before the spirit has even left the body and we can only watch quietly as it slips quietly over the vale, walking away with revered sustenance of breath.

Perhaps that's why I see beauty in so much, because I deal with death on a daily basis. Leaning against the tree, sun glinting off of icicles on mighty wood, the secret whisper of wind invisible to me and silent. Would we find the beauty in anything if everything lasted forever?

The sun is setting fast. Time to leave the forest, the small chattering woodland creatures scurrying from my enigmatic gaze as I climb down. The autumn air brushes my cheek leaving a blush no cosmetic could compete with. I walk back towards home, happy to be in the company of Autumn, gallant and fleeting as it is. I scout for one last deer as I near the edge of the woods, eyes drawn to stained glass leaves, moving quickly across the forest floor, past the solemn gathering of trees.
The creatures of the forest muse my departure, as nature continues without me, leaves lying vanquished on the earth's bed, there in an embrace of cold and death. Clouds move across the sun, water drips like blood from a branch above. I quietly walk across the leaves that blanket the earth's secret, leaves like little markers of lives who have passed here.

I am a mother, I am a daughter, I am your friend or your neighbor. But that does not matter, for out here, I am a simply a hunter; one with the earth.

Friday, February 19, 2010


It seems we have had more snow this winter then in all the years I've lived in Indiana, as if the state is purposely thumbing its nose at Al Gore. Perhaps it just seems that way as this year I'm having to shovel regularly, with the house for sale and the Realtor needing a place to park and walk. Myself, I'd just put the truck in 4 wheel drive and back over it all, ready for some driving on poorly plowed country roads to get to the city. Driving in snow and wind doesn't bother me one bit. Wrestle a swept wing jet down on an ice slicked runway in a stiff crosswind on some crappy, short foreign runway and driving a truck in a few inches of snow seems sort of mundane.

But this winter, it has been one storm after another, though we have been getting much less than our neighboring states to the East who are still digging out.

I've enjoyed looking at it, photographing it and walking the woods in it.
Cold or not, I have to admit, it IS beautiful. I've hunted in the snow many times, whitetail and some predators. I've played in the snow, with the children of friends, with my own friends.

The snow was just part of my winter, expected, and as an adult, anticipated, especially when hunting season approaches. I wait for the leaves to turn, for those first flakes. I'm up early, a cup of coffee in my hand, as the sky turns from black to pink to a blue of ice and snow that can't be recreated except in my memory. So what if it's minus 8 with the windchill. The sky is clear, and the deer may be moving to gather some food, as it's the first day in a while that the sky has been blue, the wind still, the snow resting after a late night assignation in a cornfield.

But, like anyone that heads out into this weather, I have some gear, I have someone that knows where I will hunt, and what time I will be back, so if I go silent there will be someone searching. The term "cold hearted" is not far from the truth, for nature, especially nature in the winter, is as uncaring a companion as one can find.
I leave the house around 5 am. All around me is blackness, above, only a few stars reflecting off of the fallen snow. Stars stare above, the color of utter and complete stillness. As I walk to my spot, with only memory and a small penlight to guide me, I want to hold my breath, because even inhaling and exhaling is like a cacophony in the deep hush of the white landscape. The woods are absolutely quiet, the animals of day still hunkering down for rest, and the night creatures starting to settle in for light. There is no breeze, no recognition of air even; it is the sound of nothing and everything.

There it is, my spot, my blind up in the trees, where I will wait in stillness for dawn. Waiting for the sun to traipse across the horizon as the animals of the forest follow that Pied Piper of warmth and sustenance, hoping for some food that day. They should be moving in this quieting air, their stomachs likely empty after hunkering down in the last storm.

The day is one of patchy clouds, and not a lot of sun. I came out of the blind around noon, to walk well downwind to take care of business, eat a peanut butter sandwich and some apple slices, before I head on back to the blind. I hope that there would be some movement towards evening when the sky was forecast to clear completely.
My weapon, an old Belgium Browning, is ready, as is my ammo, a few extra rounds in my pocket, stark, lethal and profound in their destiny, waiting to be summoned by the pull of a finger on a trigger. Waiting for that moment between the need and its sound. I wait as well. Waiting for that particular crunch, crunch sound that will tickle my eardrum if I don't move, as the deer move through the woods. You can't see them, you can't smell them. You can only hear that small, crisp sound as their feet break through the crust of the snow, a sound of hope and affirmation, like scent and sight itself.

Then, just as the sun began to dip low in the sky, a big buck came, moving along the tree line in the distance. I got in one shot, as he ran for the thick of the forest. As the shot cracked into the frigid air, the buck leaped into the woods, as I stare, still, amazed at how a living thing like that will keep going, and how far, when it is already dead from that single shot through the heart. But, there's no time for musings now. I need to get him field dressed and ready to transport before it is completely dark. Neighbors and friends up at the house knew to come with transport if they heard a shot. I just had to sit and wait as the sky turned sullen with darkness.
As I wait, I watch the sun leave the sky, the blood from the deer shining on the snow. He looked to be about 5 years old, approaching winter in the life of a deer in the wild. A battle lost that day for him, a moment of quiet contemplation for his life, for mine, as the sun as well, bids adieu. The sky deepens from blue to blue grey, like the whole of Lee's army taking over the battlefield between night and dawn, leaving remnants, blood red on the ground, quickly leeching into the earth, til soon, nothing is left but darkness again. And so I sit, my gun in my lap, the moon a small nightlight against a blanket of snow, a blanket that never warms, yet covers. So dark. So quiet.

We wait in the cold, isolated, only the moon's glint off of some icicles to provide any spark of light. I wait and think of those many winters past, those days of a child, a bowl of fresh venison stew in front of a fire as Mom and Dad gently murmured in the other room as they set up the tree. I think of days as an adult, of a gentle hand guiding me down into deep corridors of sleep with a soft kiss upon my lips, nights now lying safe in a bed of white and ice blue, under the long, soft moan of the winter wind.
But for now, the woods do not stir. Blood drips onto the snow, as above, water melts from an icicle, the moisture from it falling on my check, a drip that tastes strangely of salt.

From a distance comes the light of a small all terrain vehicle, the murmured voices of friends. I will have help with this bounty, I will have company in its preparation and in the meals it will provide. For that buck, one long, last winter, for which I am grateful. Sustenance for the home, and someday soon I hope, warmth to thaw a heart long held on ice.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Time to go . .

As the saying goes, I have to go see a man about a horse.
I'll be back in a day or two for that Range report on the XD9. Until then, maybe a story or some thoughts from the road to come up.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Good Things in Small Packages

This weeks upcoming Range report - The Springfield XD9 Tactical. A friend let me try one to see how I liked it. I did. Something doesn't have to be humongous to be a classic. Like these, a simple cupcake, hardly more than three or four bites. But those are bites that count.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Frosting

I made these over the weekend as I felt like baking Sunday. If you are going to make for a household with children, leave out the liquor and use vanilla flavoring. They're still awesome.
The topping? Flake chocolate by Cadberry, brought back from Ireland. I found it served with the ice cream there. It's a soft, light colored chocolate that's fresh as can be, but crumbles. This ice cream truck was found at a very cold, wind swept beach near Portrush, Northern Ireland. In each little dish of ice cream was a small roll of Flake. I have to admit, I only bought a hot tea with milk and sugar from the nice gentleman and his companion there, but the ice cream looked wonderful. It also gave me an idea after I found a small grocery and bought some Flake of my own.On top of the ultra creaming frosting. . . perfect. Click to enlarge, you know the drill.

The cupcake itself, pure vanilla, light textured, a firm crumb on the outside, and soft as marshmallow on the inside.
If you enlarge this one you can see the stealth snoot in the background, trying to look casual in case I dropped it during the photo shoot.
I didn't. My grip and stance are still good.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Spicy Venison Surprise

This was a "what can I make with what's in the freezer and cupboard" dish that started with a couple of cans and NO recipe but turned out really good. It's basically chili but with the corn and black beans and consistency, serves up more like a gumbo and it was awesome over some rice, with cilantro and sour cream and cheese on the side.

How does it start?

Well it starts with a little trip north with your three closest guy friends.
Then a couple of very cold days later. . .
You all have some venison to grind up in the kitchen.

This was a "what can I make with what's in the freezer and cupboard" dish that started with a couple of cans and NO recipe but turned out really good. It's basically chili but with the corn and black beans and consistency, serves up more like a gumbo and it was awesome over some rice, with cilantro and sour cream and cheese on the side.

How does it start?

Well it starts with a little trip north with your three closest guy friends.Then a couple of very cold days later. . .
You all have some venison to grind up in the kitchen.

To a pound and a half of that fresh ground meat, which you've packaged and frozen for work nights such as this you're going to add. . .

28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 can Rotel
1 small can tomato paste
3 tablespoons Penzey's Chili 9000
(Penzey's has stores in most large Midwest cities and you can buy on line).
1 Tablespoon Penzey's Southwest Seasoning (or substitute ancho chili powder, a dash of oregano and some garlic powder to equal 1 T. for the Southwest seasoning)
1 small can chopped jalapenos (I used the hot ones, if you're timid you will want mild or medium)
2 cans black beans drained and rinsed
3/4 bottle Coca Cola WITH SUGAR (bottled in Mexico, sold in Cosco and from some Coke distributers), well worth the money for the clean, clear taste in my opinion.
2 cups fresh corn, frozen (more of Farmer Frank's awesome corn)

Mix and cook in crockpot or on stove on low for a couple of hours. (You can add a 1/4 cup water to it if it's going to cook for a long time or uncovered). I made this last week, and shared a couple of bowls with two male coworkers. It got a definite "thumbs up".
I'm not sure what to call this, it's more soup than stew, but holds up well to a spoon. The broth (OK it has sugar in it) is divine. "Bambi Broth?", "Venison Surprise?", "I May Need to Sleep in a Separate Bedroom Stew?" You be the judge.

Monday, February 8, 2010

To the Waters and the Wild and Home Again

Come away, O human child: To the waters and the wild with a fairy, hand in hand, For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.
William Butler Yeats

One last day.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Extreme Danger - AND It Will Go On Your Permanent Record Too.

After the narrow roads, everyone driving the wrong way and the sheep speedbumps, I'm supposed to worry about falling off of sea cliffs?

Be careful, or you'll need one of these places afterwards.
Cliffs of Mohr
And a earlier trip to the cliffs south of Portrush.
This could be a book.
Assuming I make it down :-)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Midnight Nears

Midnight nears
releasing time for death and truth
when far beyond the spirits hearing
rumbles the great thunder of things
deep silence of desire
wearing a hood of sound

But daylight clears the vision
that by night is struck blind
and her souls ravening hawk
flies far away again

Moments of time
that perch on great stones
patience til passion
musing in that darkening place
deep in contemplated shadow
crying out

For shadows echo
a rhapsody of stars
that she alone hears
as midnight nears again
deep silence of desire
wearing a hood of sound
- Brigid

Signs of the Times

Sorry - just could NOT resist as I head of the city again.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tall, Dark and Handsome

I knew you wouldn't stand me up.

On the Road Again

Not sure if I'll have internet connection at tonight's motel. Here are a few more from the last few days. For now, heading further southwest where wonders await. Leaving already?
Castles, castles everywhere.
Moments of thought.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Northern Ireland Shore - in Black and White

Heading out tomorrow, Southwest, to avoid Belfast, then South. For today, one that had a light brisk wind, and some clouds and NO people anywhere. some photos from the shore.