THE 2023-2024 SEASON LOG

January 3, 2023: A Trip, An Anniversary, And Some More Stupidities

Well, I have returned, more or less still alive, from a Christmas trip to visit Mrs Outdoorsman's Nephew and his extended family at their McMansion in Vienna, Virginia. There were moments when I wasn't sure I would. Of course, I had no real input into the decision to take this trip: we were invited, and I was told we were going.

Because of the massive hysteria engendered by the so-called "news" on TV about THE COMING END OF THE WORLD, AND WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE THANKS TO DANGEROUS COLD AND WIND CHILL TEMPERATURES THAT WILL CAUSE A FLASH FREEZE we left early.  I’ll note here that every year the Beautiful Talking Heads on the Boob Tube come up with a new term in their on-going campaign to raise ratings by trying to scare the wits out of us: this year's phrase was "Flash Freeze." Last year's was "Black Ice"; and let us not forget “Bomb Cyclone,” a genuinely stupid term resurrected—like a zombie—from last year.

And then there is rain...the Phrase Of The Year for rain is (drum roll, please) "Atmospheric River." That's what's happening in California. An "Atmospheric River" has hit them. Maybe now they will have enough water in Lake Mead that people in San Diego can go back to watering their lawns and filling their swimming pools. Oh, wait, no, according to The Washington Bleep! that isn't going to happen. Well, of course it isn't: otherwise they wouldn't have any disaster to report. Needless to say, CLIMATE CHANGE is the source of all California's troubles. The life of a Beautiful Talking Head isn't easy.

Because of this sort of nonsense, our original plan, which had been to leave on the 23rd, was altered: fearing the Imminent Death from a Flash Freeze, a death that we would certainly suffer if we drove on Thursday the 23rd, we left on Tuesday the 21st instead.  Unfortunately so did everyone else. The traffic on northbound I-81 was five times what it normally would have been thanks to panic-stricken idiots scurrying to escape death from the Flash Freeze. What normally would have been a four hour drive took five and half.  We got lucky at that: it could have been much longer, had the Beautiful Talking Heads really set their empty, gorgeous minds to it.

Now, you can't show up as house guests two days early and expect to be welcomed.  So we stayed in a hotel. We had our 13-year-old Border Collie Lucy with us. Not every hotel will allow a dog to stay but there is a Marriott Residence Inn in Falls Church that's “dog friendly”—to the tune of $160 over and above the room charge.  This for a “pet cleaning fee” which I believe means nothing at all.  If there's any additional cleaning done I saw no evidence of it.  In addition to all of our own luggage we brought Lucy's stuff.

Traveling with a dog is like traveling with a baby: there's an endless list of things you have to have. Water and food bowls, dog food (dry and canned), dog biscuits, dog towels, the dog's bed, the folding dog cage for the van, and the all-important dog-shit bags for when the pooch has to poop. At home Lucy has her own sleeping space in our bedroom. A very nice wire crate with a plush pad in it. Mrs Outdoorsman had the very smart idea to bring along her bed pad; in the van she rides in a crate but bringing it into the hotel would have been a real PITA. However, Mrs Outdoorsman had a another bright idea: she put two chairs back to back and draped a sheet over them. This created a sort of "tent," under which we placed Lucy's pad. This worked like a charm. Lucy laid down on it right away and was content. It's something we'll remember if we take her anywhere again.

Lucy is a poop factory: I have never seen a dog who generated as much as she does. It's not like she eats that much, either. She poops so much I sometimes wonder if there may be another dog or two sneaking into our yard to crap, there's so much to clean up. When traveling you have to pick the stuff up, so I save those nice plastic bags that Kroger's uses for vegetables. As emergency backup I have plenty of those little bags-on-a-roll, the ones stored in a container that dangles from the leash. These are not so good as the vegetable bags, but they'll do. When you have a dog that poops five or six times per day, you need a lot of bags.

By the time we finally got to the hotel and checked in, it had started to rain. Not just “rain,” it was a veritable Noachian deluge.   It never stopped raining for three days. I, as the Designated Dog Walker and Poop Collector, had to take Lucy out into it at least four times a day. We both returned from these excretory excursions soaked, but at least she was (temporarily) emptied out when we came back in. There's not much to do in a dog-friendly hotel when it's coming down in sheets outside, so at least the poop expeditions broke the monotony.

Two and a half days after arrival at the hotel we set out for Nephew's house.  In the interim we'd had to run some errands which necessitated driving in the (driving) rain. I used to live in the DC area, but every time I go back the suburbs have metastasized another 30 miles out.  The incredible traffic, which used to begin around Manassas, now begins near Front Royal along I-66. It gets worse as you get nearer to DC.  The traffic was simply phenomenal: how people can stand to drive in it for daily errands, let alone commute to and from work in it, is beyond me. Furthermore the roads keep changing. There are innumerable new exits along the highways, there's road construction where there aren't new exits (possibly to make new exits) and the signage is confusing, especially when they try to entice you into “Express lanes” which cost the earth and demand an electronic “E-Z Pass” to use.  

Inevitably you end up playing Dodge-'Em Cars with other drivers when you suddenly realize you need to do a lane change.  NOVA drivers are very aggressive, easily offended by someone having the effrontery to want to change lanes, are determined that You Shall Not Pass Me, are willing to tailgate on dangerously slick pavement, and all in all, seem to have learned to drive in North Carolina, which has the worst drivers in the USA, bar none.  (They're worse than Texans, and that's saying something.)

My GPS seemingly can't keep up with the changes.  It kept yammering in my ear about which exit I needed, blithely assuming that a) the exit still existed, b) that I could find it among the welter of signs, and c) that I'd be able to change lanes without side-swiping an angry suburbanite in a Mercedes or Audi.  (Those are two of The Official Vehicles of Northern Virginia. We drive a Kia, so it's surprising we didn't get spat upon as Ignorant Hicks. Well, maybe we did but with the rain we wouldn’t have noticed.)  The rain and the headlight glare made it impossible to see the road markings; driving mostly at night didn't help things much.

At one point we had to go to the “Crate & Barrel” store to buy a bowl to replace one I’d broken, where I learned that what I'd been taught in Catholic school was wrong: the real definition of “Hell” is Tyson’s Corner Mall at Christmas time.  Crate & Barrel was full of well-dressed NOVA residents of any number of genders, mostly blank-faced women wandering to and fro strewing money around.  I was there to buy only one item, but they were seemingly there to find out what they needed to buy to make their lives complete. 

We also had to go to a Wal-Mart (yes, there’s a plebeian Wal-Mart at Tyson’s Corner, otherwise the Home Of The Upscale Store) which required me to drive up a very steep and slick ramp into a multi-story parking garage. The line of cars up that ramp snaked down three stories into the street.  Mercifully we were able to get into the garage and thus out of the rain.  But if the Tyson’s Corner Mall proper is Hell, the Tyson’s Corner Wal-Mart is surely Purgatory.  Forty-five years of small town life have spoiled me.

But I digress....We did eventually manage to get to Nephew's house in daylight on the 23rd which helped with the drive, though the GPS didn’t. There we met Nephew, Niece-in-Law, his Indian-born wife; her two parents, and Nephew and Niece-In-Law's two boys, aged 10 and 8.

There's an old Victorian era maxim that "Children should be seen and not heard," which seems never to have taken hold in Nephew's house. These two kids do everything at top volume. They seem to be incapable of moving from one place to another except at a run.  The “pitter-patter of little feet” is transmuted into the "thunderous pounding of little feet" on the floors of the house.  Nor do they have a normal bed-time. At that age I wasn't allowed to stay up until 8 to watch "I Love Lucy" but these kids stayed up until at least midnight watching "Glass Onion."

Niece-In-Law doesn’t like dogs.  This is perhaps understandable, she having grown up in a country where strays wander everywhere and 30,000 cases of human rabies per year is the norm. But for Dog People it’s an attitude that’s not just incomprehensible, it's a significant pain in the ass to deal with.  Lucy, we were told, was not allowed in the house. It has bare wood floors and “...her nails might scratch the wood...” so she was confined to quarters in the basement guest room, where there is a rug. For her it amounted to a very cushy kennel.

Nor, for that matter, were WE allowed to wear shoes in the house. Having been subjected to this no-shoes nonsense on previous visits I'd had the presence of mind to bring along some slippers—my mother used to scold me for walking around the house in only my socks, and I damned sure wasn't going to walk around barefoot, though everyone else did, including the boys—lest my toenails scratch the wood floors. Or that I'd get some loathsome foot disease they'd brought in and was lurking on those bare floors.

When I had to take Lucy out (four or five times a day, usually in freezing rain, but after that finally stopped, in sub-zero cold) we had to use the basement entry with its concrete steps because she wasn’t allowed to come up even to exit through the garage.  She’s at an age where she isn’t too active, but she hates to be left alone: she barks to make me feel guilty if I do that.  But social niceties demanded that I spend at least some time with the family, so the dog—as always—had to like it or lump it.   After two days in the hotel, where at least we were with her all the time, she was faced with another three days of incarceration.  Well, it was more comfortable than a real kennel would have been;  she had her bed, she had her food, and she got as much time as I was allowed to spend with her.  That’s all I could do.

She did, however, give us a real scare.  On Christmas Eve she managed to get into the bedroom closet, where she found some chocolate to eat.  All dogs love chocolate, but it’s poisonous to them because it contains theobromine, an alkaloid they can’t process metabolically.  We didn't know how much she’d managed to eat—as little as an ounce of baking chocolate can kill a medium-sized dog—but it wasn’t baking chocolate, thank God; it was those little squares of Ghirardelli “Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Almond.”  Mrs Outdoorsman said there were only about four of them.  Nevertheless I wasn’t willing to take chances.  Luckily there’s a 24-hour emergency clinic within a mile of Nephew’s McMansion, so we rushed her there. 

On arrival I was required to call the Animal Poison Control Center to develop a “case number,” which cost me $95 for 5 minutes on the phone, answering questions that—once we had a case number—the clinic asked me a second time.  Then we were able to hand her over to the vet tech, who took her to the back, telling us they’d call us “in a few hours.”  This didn’t make me any happier.  I was reassured that she seemed to be in safe hands, though no doubt she was totally bewildered.  The essence of being a dog is that things are done to you: you have no control whatever.  Here was the poor thing, four days into a trip to a place she didn’t know and didn’t want to be, having been snatched willy-nilly from her home, dumped into our car for hours and hours on the road, then into Nephew’s basement, then suddenly snatched up again, thrown into the car, and handed off to strangers who would poke and prod her and give her drugs.  In the end she was induced to vomit, upon which event she brought up not only her dinner, but the remains of a loaf of fruit bread she’d eaten along with the chocolate and two still-wrapped Ghirardelli squares, in their foil packets.  That was a good thing: they might easily have led to an intestinal impaction. Then I was summoned, went back to the clinic, paid $648 in fees, was given discharge paperwork, and drove back to Nephew’s house.  Between the hotel and  the vet bill, the trip cost me well over $1000, not including gasoline at Biden-era prices.  Lucy is not a cheap date.

The rest of the time went uneventfully, except for the shrieking insistence of the boys that we play with them.  Mrs Outdoorsman was willing to do this, I wasn’t.  They demanded—and I do mean demanded, not requested—that she play board games, do puzzles, play “Pokemon Monopoly," watch idiotic animé cartoons, on and on and on, endlessly.  I retreated to the basement guest room to be with Lucy as much as I could.

The entire house is wired.  Everything—the lights, the numerous TV sets, the thermostat, the garage door, the oven, the microwave, the door locks—you name it, it’s tied into an “app” on someone’s Smart Phone. The lights in the closets come on when you open the door.  Of course there is the hateful  “Alexa” system in place.  Alexa listens to every word said and I’d bet that somewhere, someone is recording it just in case it’s needed by the FBI or the NSA.  I don’t believe anyone who says you can turn Alexa off.  Alexa is as potentially useful to tyrants as the Chinese facial recognition system and very much—entirely too much—like what Winston Smith had to deal with in "1984."  Big Sister Alexa Is Watching, or at least Listening.

One especially annoying aspect of Alexa is the “intercom” function by which someone can announce anything to everyone in the house, because—needless to say—Alexa is in every room of the house. One night the boys used the intercom feature to wish us a “Good night” long after we were already asleep in the guest room. Then a few seconds later they came back on to wish Lucy—whom they had hardly even seen—a good night.  I’ll admit that I found Alexa useful for one thing: when I had to leave Lucy alone I’d tell Alexa to play music, which seems to have helped her to tolerate her confinement.

Speaking of music, every year I forget how much I hate “Christmas” music.  It’s the same 40 or so songs, every one of them a God-damned ear-worm, over and over, and over. Thank God somehow I escaped hearing “The Little Drummer Boy,” which is certainly the stupidest song ever written. Avoiding that was a Christmas Gift in itself.  Even the emergency vet clinic was playing Christmas music, as people waited to find out if their pets were going to live.

On the 24th I got out of the house for a couple of hours to visit a cousin who lives in Fairfax, and whose brother from California had come in for the Yuletide.  We also managed to meet up with my younger sister to have lunch in an Egyptian restaurant, Fava Pot in Falls Church.  It was a very good one, too: with very authentic food.  It was worth swimming through the rain to get there, in fact.

Mrs Outdoorsman's Niece, a restaurateur from Ohio, came a day after we did.  On Christmas Day another couple, related to Niece-In-Law, came for dinner.  These are very well-to-do people. The wife complained that thanks to having a private elevator that opens directly into their condo’s vestibule, “…we don’t know any of our neighbors…” and her husband, a CEO of several companies, was driving an $80,000+ Alfa Romeo Giulia Q4.  Nice work if you can get it.  We had a very nice dinner with a ham and a leg of lamb they'd brought.  It was all delicious, and accompanied by wine, wine, and wine.

We got home on the evening of the 26th, after a normal-length drive, again with heavy traffic southbound on I-81.  We found out afterwards that there’d been an accident on the highway that caused a 3-to-5 mile backup: mercifully we had passed that point by the time it happened.

Next year, they can come here.  I’ll not subject Lucy to that again.

More Stupid Stuff

There's no place better for stupid stuff than one of these up-scale grocery stores that puts on airs about "sustainability" and "eco-friendliness," and similar bullshit. I keep my eyes open for opportunities to document such things. While in Vienna I went to a Whole Foods store to buy some wine, and found this little gem: gourmet ice cubes. Made from pure—and undoubtedly organic, gluten free, sustainably harvested, etc.—Spring Water. You wouldn't want to risk your life, or worse, the lives of your guests and children, by using ice cubes made from tap water, which is filled with all kinds of poisons put there by Big Aqua to kill us all. No Siree, only the Best will do for Whole Foods' customers.

Needless to say, Stupidity isn't limited to the sort of people who shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's (another fountain of Rectitude and Righteousness in the grocery industry). We hillbillies and rednecks have our share. I place in evidence the following item: flavored cigars. Yes, cigars. One would think that a cigar has its own distinct, unique flavor, but one has to take into account the current wussification of all segments of society, even Rednecks: sweetenings and sugar in everything, now including cigars.

A friend and I stopped in at a bait shop in Radford, and found these things on the shelf. A White Owl cigar is bad enough on its own terms, but a peach-flavored or strawberry-flavored White Owl, let alone a "Strawberry/Sangria," "Dark Chocolate," "Strawberry/Lemon," and "Tropical Twist" White Owl is of a level of vileness hardly to be contemplated. Not to be outdone, on the shelf below the White Owls are numerous "Swisher Sweets" in various flavors. This in a bait shop, a place where you can get minnows and night crawlers, cigarettes, fishing lures, and really, really bad hamburgers. There's no hope for a country that has sold its machismo to the marketeers.

We'd gone to the bait shop to buy...bait. An old friend who's a fanatical fisherman was here for a couple of days over the New Year's holiday. I took him to a place I'd fished before with some success (and no, I won't tell you where it is). He hit the jackpot: an 18" Rainbow Trout. Rainbows are raised in hatcheries and widely stocked in Virginia, but they're a western species, not native to the Old Dominion. I've gone out on some stocking runs, but these fish aren't stocked in the stream we were fishing. I had caught a smallish Rainbow there some time ago and asked about that, but I was told that stream is not and never has been on the DWR's "to be stocked" list.

However, some years ago there was one of these put-and-take fishing places not too far away, and we speculated that the fish I'd caught might somehow be an escapee from that. But that place closed many years ago, and no fish that had escaped from it (or been set free) would have lived that long. Nor are Rainbow Trout supposed to be able to survive Virginia summers: they're a cold-water fish.

Well, I am here to testify that Rainbow Trout do, in fact, survive Virginia summers. The fish my friend caught was a beautiful specimen. Took him on one of those bait-shop nightcrawlers. And no, again, I won't say where it was. My lips are sealed. I want to go back and catch that fish again.

An Anniversary

Today, January 3rd, marks 40 years to the day that I got my first puppy, my beloved, wonderful Toby. He came to us as a bewildered 5-week-old orphan, at a time when we really desperately needed him. We had moved to Texas a couple of weeks before, knew no one, had no money, and things were very bleak for us emotionally. Toby gave us something to love and much, much more. He gave me a reason to live, he gave me faith that the future might be brighter. I did everything wrong with him, made errors I have since not repeated with any of his successors, but he loved and he forgave because that is the nature of dogs.

Toby crossed the Rainbow Bridge suddenly, unexpectedly, in September of 1996, just a couple of months shy of his 14th birthday. His death from a gut torsion was excruciatingly painful and has haunted me for decades. There was nothing I could have done, but I've never really forgiven myself for his dying the way he did. I grieve for him every day, and sometimes, after more than 26 years, I still see him in dreams. All my subsequent dogs owe him a debt, but I owe him more than I can ever repay. Some day I will create a monument worthy of him so that his name will be known and heard for as long as I can make it so.

January 6, 2023: Practicing For Tomorrow's Bird Shoot...

...and I can't hit squat. Took my drilling out to burn up some antique 16-gauge ammo I'd been given. It all went off, despite certainly being at least 80 years old. Paper cases, of course. Most of them split on firing, but they all went off.

Not that it did much good. I hit the first target and missed nearly all the rest. I may well be the world's worst wingshot. I do better on live birds than clay ones, but those pheasants will have to be very unlucky tomorrow for me to hit them.

I'm taking my clunky old Stevens 311 double and a "backup" bolt action 12 gauge because that Stevens has given me some trouble in the past. The drilling has scope mount blocks for a detachable scope so I'm using that as an excuse for my lousy shooting.

January 8, 2023: The Bird Shoot

Yesterday I went to Holland's Hunting Preserve for my annual bird shoot with Phil. He always chooses quail, I do pheasants because they're big enough that I can hit them now and then. That said, I got all four of the pheasants I paid for and a couple of quail. Six kills for 14 shots: better than my usual average. Phil got 9 quail of the 12 he'd bought.

I had planned to bring my drilling but I shot so badly with it in "practice" I opted for my old, reliable, Stevens 311 12-gauge double instead. I've had trouble with this gun in the past so I brought a "backup" in the form of a 12-gauge bolt action. I didn't need it, the Stevens performed like a champ. I shot Remington "Express" high-brass #5's with #4's in reserve. I like fairly large shot for pheasants, though those #5's worked very well on the two quail I shot without messing them up.

Normally John Holland is the guide with his exceptionally well-trained dogs, especially Molly. He uses Brittanies. But this time he had a very large group to guide on another part of the property so we were guided by "Mike," who had Gypsy, one of Molly's pups. Gypsy is a year and a half old, coming on very well, and while she needs to work on her retrieve-to-hand a bit, she found every bird. No complaints!

At right, Mike is holding the first pheasant I shot. That one was a deader in the air, a very satisfying hit, thought not, of course, for the bird.

The weather was overcast but not too cold. The weather people had been predicting a "wintry mix" (why they can't just say "sleet" I don't know) but it turned out to be a very nice day in the end. Well, not for the birds, they had a lousy time.

After I'd shot my birds my hip was bothering me so I hoofed it back to the truck and let Phil finish up. Walking on uneven ground is bothering me more as I age. Gosh, I wonder why?

John told me about a documentary show in which he and his operation were featured. It was broadcast on, of all stations, PBS ! The show is titled "The French Magnolia," and you can watch it here:

Very nicely done. I have noticed in recent years a tendency to, if not approve, at least condone "gentlemanly" types of hunting, though I must confess I never expected to see anything like this video on PBS. They even showed birds being hit in mid-air, something you never see on TV except on the ghastly "outdoors" shows, and even then they sometimes jump-cut away from the kill. The trend seems not to be extended to deer hunting yet. That is still portrayed as Bubbas crazed by blood lust. This new tendency is enhanced by (perhaps motivated by) glossy magazines like "Garden & Gun" and seems to be more or less specifically oriented to the South.

We have little in the way of wing-shooting around here except put-and-take birds. At Holland's the birds are taken out and cunningly placed in the fields, well hidden. Then the dog(s) go out and find them and Phil and I go miss them. It's not the real thing but it's close enough. I'm told wild pheasants are much different to hunt than these pen-raised birds; but I have seen perhaps three wild pheasants in my life, while driving out West, so I don't know.

More Stupidity

This gem came from our local Kroger store, where an understanding of the definition of "oxymoron" seems not to have taken hold. "Fresh for Everyone," even when it's frozen.

January 11, 2023: It's Always Something

Two days ago our clothes washing machine more or less gave up the ghost. Now, since we do laundry nearly every day, this was a catastrophe: especially since it would mean we'd have to to a—gasp, shudder—laundromat. This was entirely unacceptable. So Mrs Outdoorsman decreed we would buy a new washer ASAP. Off to Lowe's we went.

After half an hour the decision had been made: a brand new Maytag no-agitator washer, to the tune of $900+ after having to buy new hoses (which we didn't need but were required if we wanted delivery and installation), taxes, and a $40 disposal fee for our old, useless, worn-out-after-11-years previous Maytag. Oh, and let us not forget the expensive "protection plan" we forked out for, too. Can't be too careful! You never know, someday we might need it. Since "major appliances" these days have a shorter life span than they used to "insurance" is always urged on the consumer. After all, what's a conumer for but to consume?

It was delivered today. Two burly guys who spoke little English (one of them spoke none at all beyond "Thank you, sir" which was after all sufficient) carried the new washer through our yard using straps, hooked it up (complete with the new hoses we didn't need) and carried the old one away. Unfortunately the drain hose on the new washer wouldn't quite reach the place where it had to drain, necessitating that the dryer be moved to where the old, useless, worn-out-after-11-years previous Maytag had been, with the spanking new Maytag installed in the place where the dryer had been. The new washer is on the left; the ratty old dryer is still in service. Give it time....

Then I had to put in a new dryer vent hose. Our nearest hardware store had only the execrable aluminum ones. Having ruined two of these in the past trying to install them (because they're very fragile and easily damaged going around bends) I then drove to another hardware store and bought a vinyl hose. Perhaps I should have bought two of them. I'm certain the Town Code Nazis will in time mandate that only aluminum hoses be used. They will do this for two reasons: 1) because they can; 2) to make my life more difficult. Next time I visit the superior hardware store I'll buy another vinyl hose or two. Sooner or later the Dryer Hose Police will find out and they'll probably arrest me for "...creating a fire hazard..." or something equally silly but it will be worth it.

The new, super-efficient, never-to-be-equaled Maytag uses very little water, which I'm told is a good thing. It's good for the planet and don't you ever forget it! It gets around this by taking an ungodly amount of time to run a wash cycle. I timed the "normal" cycle at 56 minutes. So it uses more electricty, which presumably is not good for the planet, unless of course it comes from wind and solar, which we haven't yet got and probably won't get in my lifetime. Maytag giveth and Maytag taketh away.

Heaven alone knows how long the "heavy soil " cycle will take.

January 12, 2023: Bluebirds, Come Home

We have bluebirds around here, and I've been seeing them in the neighborhood lately. Bluebirds are marvelously beautiful, unmistakable for any other species, especially the males. I grew up in New York; the bluebird is the official New York state bird, but I never laid eyes on one there. We have had them nesting in our yard now and then and I want them back.

So today I bought a new bluebird house. I had to go out to buy birdseed at Tractor Supply (we go through a LOT of birdseed and I believe we have the fattest birds in Montgomery County) so I picked up a house for them. Bluebirds are picky about where they like to live. Has to be over an open area because they eat insects; they don't want close neighbors. For two seasons we had them in our yard, then they decided they preferred some other accommodations. But this new house I bought is specifically designed for them; I hope they like it. The males come first to scout out nest cavities. They're earlier than usual this year so I didn't wait to put up a box.

It has to be about 5 to 6 feet off the ground, so I attached the house to a pole, which is in turn lashed to my fence with zip-ties. Bluebird houses can't have too large an opening lest sparrows and riff-raff like starlings get in. Nor should it have a perch because that's an invitation to snakes and other predators to come and dine on the nestlings.

January 15, 2023: Zilch At The Dip

Went to the Nine-Deer Dip this afternoon. I wanted to try to get a deer with my little Savage 24-S combination gun. I'd got it sighted in with Brenneke 20-gaug e slugs (see the entry for October 16, 2022). I've had that gun for decades and it's always been my go-to squirrel gun, but a 20-gauge slug will do a deer handily. We're now in the extended antlerless season in Montgomery County and with two deer already "harvested" (how I hate that euphemism) I thought I'd give it a turn in the barrel (ha, ha). It shoots reasonably well with the rifled choke tube in place and I'd have limited the range to no more than 54 yards.

But nobody showed up. Nada, nuttin', zip. Of course, as is always the case, on the way out a big fat doe ran across the road right in front of me. Happens every time. The extended antlerless season runs to March 26th: I'll get out again.

I have some issues with shooting does in the Spring when many (most) of them are probably going to have fawns in utero, but the idea is to thin out the numbers and that will certainly do it.  I once shot a doe (in late June on a kill permit) that had nearly-full-term triplets inside.  One shot, four deer, and all their descendants gone from the herd. 

Some of the anti-hunting zanies in places like New York want to use birth control injections on does and/or surgical sterilization of bucks; God alone knows what that would cost per deer, but surely NY has better uses for the money.  Such people cannot understand (or perhaps cannot accept) the truth: the best deer "contraceptive" is a bullet.

January 17, 2023: And Here I Thought Guns Couldn't Get Any Uglier

The obscene object at left is the "Tombstone" lever action rifle produced by some company called "POF," whatever the hell that means. even uglier than the Mossberg "tactical" lever action, taking "ugly" to a new level. But it's probably supposed to be ugly: the visual elements affirm Marshall McLuhan's dictum that "The medium is the message." Ugly=Badass, no?

Not only is it profoundly offensive to the eye, it's quite clear that this company feels that auto-loading rifles are going to be banned, so they'd better get into the market with a lever action—a lever action, for God's sake—that might, just might, placate the anti-gun fanatics while retaining the "tacti-cool" features that everyone whose sensibilities have been deadened have come to believe are good things. They are wrong, of course: nothing can placate the enemies of gun ownership. Just ask the Australians or New Zealanders, New Yorkers, Californians, or people in Illinois or New Jersey. This monstrosity may hold them off for a little while but it isn't going to stop them from going after "assault lever actions" sooner or later.

Rifles in pistol calibers are nothing new: the .32-20, .38-40, and .44-40 all came in revolvers and rifles, usually short handy carbines. What caliber was chosen for this thing? The 9mm Parabellum, that's what. A fine, traditional "cowboy" caliber. NOT. I would also like to hear some sort of logical explanation for the presence of a muzzle brake on a 7+ pound rifle chambered for that round. Well, it's...tacti-cool, yes?

Here is the most incredible thing about it: MSRP is...are you ready?...$1900 to $2100. Anyone willing to spend that kind of money on it needs psychiatric attention.

February 2, 2023: The Festival Of The Meteorological Rodent

Well, Punxatawney Phil came out of his burrow, saw his shadow, and bingo, six more weeks of winter. We started off here in Blacksburg with our first measurable snow: a whole inch when I woke up. Gone by noon of course. But it's a harbinger of things to come. Tomorrow is going to be fiendishly cold, so I plan to wait another day to go do my duty to the Commonwealth by killing Bambi's Mom or little sister. Saturday is supposed to be bearably warm. We'll see.

February 7, 2023: A Bust At The Dip, Again

I've been out to the Dip to take advantage of the extra-long deer season. Have gone at least twice since the last entry on this subject. Nothing doing either time. Except that, as ever, I see deer when I'm driving out. Yesterday I went out from 10:30 AM to 5:30 PM (and was my butt sore from sitting all that time...but I digress) and saw exactly one squirrel, far off in a tree. On the way home two deer, a big doe and her yearling fawn, ran in front of my truck, stopped on the side of the road, stuck out their tongues and gave me the raspberry. I'm scheduled to go out again on Thursday if it doesn't rain, since Mrs Outdoorsman is having her Mah Jong group here. I expect it will rain and I'll be confined to the basement with the dog.

February 8, 2023: The State Of The Union

Well, President Buffoon went on TV last night to deliver his opinion on the situation of the country. You will not be surprised to hear that in his opinion—the one he was told is his opinion by his handlers—everything is peachy-keen, hunky-dory, except for that pesky Second Amendment. And it's all due to him.

The man is way beyond incompetent. He is senile, not very intelligent, just a superannuated party hack who's hopelessly out of his depth, even more so than Jimmy Carter was. The Democratic Party is scared shitless of his running again: all he has to do is make a formal announcement, and they'll be forced to either support him or ditch him under the 25th Amendment. That would of course mean Kamala Harris as President, which scares them even more. He can probably be "managed" until he completely loses what marbles he has left, but likely she won't play ball with them.

February 10, 2023: More Nothing Doing

Went back to the Dip yesterday. I got there at 1:10 and sat until 5:00, then came home because it was obvious no one was going to show up. Too warm and very, very windy.

I set up a game camera and will check it in a few more days. I'm beginning to think that most of the deer on that property are either dead or have decided it's an unsafe place to be. Phooey. I've made five kills from that spot since October 18, 2020, but there have to be some left.

February 12, 2023: What Goes Around Comes Around

I have from time to time weighed in about the firearms industry gulling hunters and shooters to buy stuff they don't need, and a couple of more shining examples have recently come to my attention.

Winchester recently announced with great fanfare a "new" caliber: the ".400 Legend," which is in essence the resurrection of the .401 Winchester Self-Loader of...are you ready?...1910.

This "new" caliber fires a 215-grain bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2230 FPS. The old, useless, no-longer-capable-of-killing-deer .401 S-L shot a 200-grain at 2141 FPS for 2037 F-P.  It also came with a 250 grain bullet. I submit that these differences are insignificant.  Both "hit like Thor's Hammer," as the old ad says. As for Federal's "new" .360 Buckhammer, how it differs, if at all, from the .375 Winchester is not apparent. The "Buckhammer" round has a muzzle velocity of 2400 FPS, and energy of 2300 F-P with a 200-grain bullet. This is essentially the same as the .375's 2223 FPS/2200 F-P. If there is a nickel's worth of difference between these two rounds, I'd be very surprised.

It's worth pointing out that the brand-new, never-to-be-matched .360 Buckhammer is based on...the .30-30 case necked up. The .30-30 is vintage 1895. It's also noteworthy that by not necking the basic case down to accept a .30-caliber bullet the manufacturers save a couple of steps in making the "new" round; not incidentally saving them money and increasing their profit. Oh, and by the way, the performance of the .360 Buckhammer is identical to that of the 1906-vintage .35 Remington. I admit that there is of course considerable brilliance in the name "Buckhammer" as a marketing ploy.

It's quite plain that there is nothing new about these products. They exist solely to sell new guns and to capture market share from people who already have perfectly adequate rifles but who can easily be convinced that they don't. This is understandable in the sense that the companies have to keep shilling this stuff to stay in business, but it is nonetheless reprehensible behavior. Nothing new about that, either. What goes around comes around.

February 13, 2023: Obscene Prices At The Grocery Store; Thank You, President Buffoon!

I think these pictures speak for themselves. Biden's inflation is killing us, but perhaps that's the whole idea.

February 18, 2023: A Misunderstanding Corrected

If you have been following this blog you will know that I've been trying to take advantage of the DWR's special antlerless season, which runs until March 26 in DMA3; that includes the location of the Dip in Montgomery County. The purpose is to reduce deer-to-deer contact that spreads CWD.

I was out last Wednesday (the 16th) and as in previous outings saw nothing. Just as well: the landowners saw my truck and left me a note to ask why I was still hunting. I had thought they would have been alerted to the extended season, but apparently they weren't. She was pretty upset, actually. "This year nobody checked in with us!" then saying that she didn't care about the extended season or CWD, and "We walk back there!"

I apologized and left, leaving behind my game camera and my shooting sticks because it was getting dark. I called last night to ask if I could come out today to retrieve them; she very cordially agreed, and also said that they were "pleased" at my being willing to do things their way. (Well, of course I would: I want to keep hunting there!) I think it helped that I went up to the house to announce my presence before going into the woods. She said, "You called last night, you didn't need to," but I think they were pleased I did. So things were smoothed over.

So today I went out and retrieved the camera. It provided evidence that indeed, there are still deer out there at the Dip. The one above was very curious about the camera! I'd thought it was probably a doe—note what seems to be a fawn in the background—but after showing a second picture, one that shows an abscission layer on the deer's head, to some hunting friends, the consensus is that it's a young buck who's shed his antlers. In the image at right the beast is staring straight into the camera from perhaps 10 inches. I've indicated the spot where an antler came off on the right side.

Either way, this deer would have been legal as "antlerless," but in the event it's a good thing I didn't shoot it. The landowner would have been even more upset. Of course, I couldn't have, because I wasn't there when it came by!

So there are deer left, but hunting them at the Dip is over until the Fall, when the cycle begins again. I will be 76 then, and I'm wondering how many more seasons I have left in me, but I'll find out in October.

February 19, 2023: The Deer Are Winning

When I brought home the game camera yesterday I set it up in the back yard, thinking I'd test its capacity to a) spot my dog when she wakes me up to go out and poop at night (several times between 11:00 PM and 5:00 AM); and b) to see how good it is at recording time stamps on the images. This is a Wildgame Innovations camera, a Model Terra-X, which I don't recommend to anyone. It's a PITA to set the time on it. My old camera had a setting whereby I could just get pictures at night, this one doesn't. I bought this one because it was cheap, and it more or less serves my needs, but next time I'll get a better one.

Last night it did what needed to be done. To my surprise it captured two deer in the yard just after midnight. We have had deer in the yard many times—the fence doesn't deter them at all—but usually they come to eat fallen pears or apples. I can't think what these were looking for, but there they were: a doe and a fawn. In theory they would have been legal game, since this is Montgomery County, but the Blacksburg Police take a dim view of people popping off high-powered rifles in suburban environments. I can't imagine why!

March 3, 2023: Make Sure The Water Isn't Too Hot....

...or your beer will get warm while you're in the shower.

This gem is on sale at a local hardware store. For the hard-core alcoholic. And it grips to shiny surfaces so that your beer won't fall on the floor of the shower and be lost.

March 9, 2023: Lucy Is Ill

Two days ago my Border Collie Lucy, who is now 13+ years old, fell down in the hallway. She has been lethargic and listless for a while, which I attribute to her age, but this was something entirely new.

Wednesday morning, first thing, I took her to the veterinarians we have used for nearly 37 years. The diagnosis was "acute idiopathic vestibular disease," i.e., a discombobulation of the inner ear's balance mechanism. No one knows what causes this ("idiopathic" is medical-speak for "we are clueless") but it's not uncommon, especially in older dogs. The literature I've been reading says it comes on suddenly and passes off in 48-72 hours. I hope so.

In essence it means she is dizzy and wobbly: she has trouble standing and falls down when she walks. She has a head tilt. The treatment, such as it is, is a drug called Cirenia, with additional Dramamine.

So far it seems to have helped. She can now, nearly two days later, walk fairly well (though she still stumbles) and she's more or less okay on level surfaces with decent traction, such as rugs. I have been able to take her on short walks. She isn't much interested in eating, but will accept some dog biscuits and raw lamb; we hide her pills in the latter. Today she has been able to get up and follow me around, a very encouraging sign. I have hopes that in a day or two more she'll be back to as close to normal as a 13+ year old dog can be.

But this has been a reminder that her days are numbered, and that inevitably I will lose her. I can hardly bear the thought. I don't know how I will live without her.

March 10, 2023: Some Improvement

It has been a little over 48 hours since Lucy was hit with vertigo, and she is making progress. We can get her to eat a bit of food, and she will readily take her meds in raw ground meat. She's still stumbling a bit but is much steadier on her feet than she was two days ago. She can walk reasonably well on level ground with good traction, such as asphalt, so I can take her down the street for short walks. On grass she has trouble with uneven ground but she manages. I can bring her to and from our basement by going around the house, because she's not yet ready for stairs. She's spent the last two nights in the basement, but maybe tomorrow we can get her up to the bedroom with us again.

March 13, 2023: More Progress But Not Enough

Lucy is coming around, but she has developed a fear of stairs. She adamantly refuses to go up or down. This is something of an issue because it means she will sleep in the basement, and I would far rather she slept in our bedroom. I think she would prefer that, too. But we are taking it one day at a time.

More Incredible Stupidity

There are times when I want to say, "Now I've seen everything," but inevitably someone comes up with something I haven't seen and perhaps don't want to. Exhibit A: Glow-In-The-Dark toilets.

Here, verbatim, is the ad copy for this marvel of ingenuity. It says it all, and more.

Does this sound familiar? You shuffle your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night and you hit that light switch. BAM! Suddenly it’s like you’re staring at the sun. Good luck getting back to sleep... You could try going with the bathroom light off, but that’s a disaster waiting to happen...GlowBowl   transforms your toilet into a soothing night light and completely redeems your night time bathroom experience. It’s a funky concept, but really quite brilliant! Trust me — once you try it you’ll never go back to the “dark ages!” Who knew going to the bathroom could be so much fun?!

March 14, 2023: But Wait! There's More!

I checked the site: in addition to light-up toilets you can get your shower head and sink faucets fitted so that they too can...ahem...illuminate your life. Not just for your bathroom, but for the kitchen as well.

Isn't technology wonderful? I wonder if they have one for bidets?

March 15, 2023: Monumental Bureaucratic Stupidity

Yesterday I received a bill from our biggest local medical chain, Carilion Health Care (in this part of the world, health care amounts to "Carilion and the Seven Dwarfs"). It was for the "balance owing" for some past treatment because Medicare didn't pay all of it. The bill was for...are you ready?...THIRTY EIGHT CENTS.

I immediately called Carilion's "Billing Customer Service" and asked what the hell they were thinking. The reply was that...are you still ready?..."Medicare has changed its regulations; we are now required to bill no matter how small the amount. We used to write off anything below $6.50, but we can't do that any more."

Now, I always pay my bills. So after affirming that I could a) pay in cash; and b) pay at a local Carilion facility rather than driving to Roanoke, I went today to the nearest Carilion office. I paid the THIRTY EIGHT CENTS in....pennies. I made the woman count it and demanded a receipt. She wanted to mail the receipt to me: "We have a lot of people waiting to check in!" as if I cared. I pointed out that it would cost Carilion $0.63 to mail me the receipt for THIRTY EIGHT CENTS, so that mailing me a receipt was 60% more than the bill I'd paid. That would of course have been on top of the $0.63 they paid to mail me the bill in the first place. That's $1.26 spent to collect a bill for THIRTY EIGHT CENTS. She recognized the stupidity of the situation, and printed out a receipt, something that took her all of maybe 38 seconds. I left, went home, and called my Congressman. No doubt, if I had ignored this insane demand I'd have ended up being dunned by a bill collector, who would have spent a lot more than THIRTY EIGHT CENTS to harass me.

God knows what sort of nincompoop in the Medicare bureaucracy came up with this lunatic rule. Having served a term as a cookie-pushing Federal employee at one time in my misspent past, I imagine whoever dreamed up this nonsense was trying hard to justify his salary.

March 26, 2023: Almost Back To Normal

It has been nearly three weeks since Lucy got hit suddenly by "idiopathic vestibular disease," and she has been making steady progress. She eats normally and is willing to climb stairs, albeit reluctantly. She'll come up to our bedroom on her own now; the basement stairs (less well-carpeted) still give her some hesitation, but with encouragement (using the Flashlight Trick) she'll do them. Going down seems to be less of a scary thing for her. I am always careful to be there to catch her if she slips, but she simply hates being touched in certain ways, especially on her back end. Growls and snarls if I try that, but I'd rather get nipped than see her fall and hurt herself.

She walks normally now, though with a bit of a head tilt (the literature says this may be a persistent effect of the condition) but she stumbles far, far less and on a level surface with good traction she does well. We placed a rug on the tiled floor at the base of the bedroom stairs: a couple of days ago she slipped, fell, and spread-eagled on the tile. Slick surfaces are a real danger, but rugs fix that issue, so far. She can walk all the way around the block (0.7 miles), something she really likes to do. Between a daily "long" walk and a couple of shorter ones she gets plenty of exercise. At her age she sleeps a great deal, which isn't surprising.

She's decided she doesn't like the arthritis medicine she takes in the morning (Galliprant) and will spit it out if she detects it in her food. Sometimes I can hide it in a bolus of raw hamburger but not always. In cream cheese she finds it every time; I have to figure out a way to get her to take the stuff. I might crush it up and put it on her food. There are other meds she absolutely won't take if I don't use trickery to get them past her taste buds.

So she's getting her mojo back, it seems. But again, she is over 13 years old and her final decline has begun. During the day she stays in the basement with me, and seems content with that. In the evenings I bring her up by going around through the yard gate and into the garage. At the moment she is lying in the sun on our patio, warming her old bones.

I have no idea how I will live without her.

April 16, 2023: Those Days When Nothing Goes Right

Everyone has such days, and yesterday and today it was my turn.

Yesterday Mrs Outdoorsman and I went to Staunton, a pretty town in Augusta County, to meet some old friends for lunch. Staunton is a small place but very savvy about tourism: there was a farmer's market going on next door to our lunch venue (the Byers Street Bistro, a very nice place); parking was not available close to the restaurant, so we went to one of the municipal parking garages a short walk away.

On the way into the garage Mrs Outdoorsman popped the right rear wheel of her van over a 6-inch high curb; the back end of the van came down with a BANG! but we thought nothing of it. She has done this before: the van is longer than most cars so on a sharp turn, it sometimes straddles a curb. No big deal, we thought, I got out and looked, there was no panel damage and the van was driving normally as she backed into a parking space.

We had a very nice lunch and catch-up, then we went to go home. As we drove out I heard WHOP-WHOP-WHOP coming from the right rear. Got out and looked...and the tire was dead flat. Deader than Disco.

Of course we had a spare, unfortunately one of those damned "donut" types, hung under the van on a little winch. We had a AAA card, so Mrs Outdoorsman called them. While we were waiting an off-duty police officer came by (the police HQ is in the same building) and asked if she could help. She summoned two colleagues. AAA sent someone in very short order (less than 20 minutes), whom the two policemen guided to our vehicle. The young man easily and cheerfully lowered the spare, put it on, and told us where to get a replacement tire because obviously we weren't going to drive 150+ miles on a donut. Especially not as the donut was low on air, too, but he had a compressor on his truck and was able to fill it so we could get to the tire store. My dog Lucy was waiting for us to come home and feed her. Off to the tire shop we went, and there forked over $204.33 for a new tire. Well, we had to get back, we'd only lost an hour and a half on our schedule, and what's a bit of money?

So today I decided to check the pressure on the spare tire for my F-150. It, too, has a winch that holds the spare underneath. This winch had worked well the last time it was used, when I had a blow-out on I-81. It is worked by a long crank that passes through a tunnel behind the rear license plate.

All went well until I got the tire half-way down. It refused to go any further. Now that truck is 25 years old; the position of the tire allows it to be covered in mud, dirt, road grime, you name it. The winch is mounted on the frame, inaccessible from the top (I had hoped it could be accessed from the truck bed, but it can't be). I tried squirting lubricant into the tunnel and on the part of the winch I could see from underneath. No dice. Worse, the damned thing wouldn't go UP, either. I then had a spare dangling halfway down. (This contraption must have been designed by the same genius who put the slave cylinder for an F-250 manual 5-speed inside the bell housing so that you have to remove the entire transfer case to get at it, but I digress...)

So I tried cutting the cable. Uh-uh, the cable is hardened steel, nothing in my toolbox would work. So I called my neighbor Rick, and asked if he had a bolt cutter. He did. He brought it over and in one snip, he saved me $400: it cut that cable like a piece of string. A new replacement winch is $160+ and the labor to remove the old one and install a new one would be at least that much, likely enough more. No way was I going to spend that kind of money: the truck is 25 years old and while it isn't quite a Beater it is certainly Beater-oid.

We hoisted the spare into the truck bed, and I will use my Redneck Engineering savvy to fit up a way to hold it in place. If I knew who designed that damned system of suspended spares, I'd hoist HIM up under my truck for a few thousand miles.


Oh, yes, I forgot to mention my neighbor's dog. The guy who lives behind me has three, one of them a smallish black-and-brown mutt who's a real Houdini. I see this dog on the street now and then: he gets out of the fenced yard and roams. Someday he'll get killed by a car, but two days ago I came down to find a pile of poop on my lower patio than I knew wasn't Lucy's (after years of picking up after her I can tell). Then I spotted Houdini running loose in my yard.

Lucy doesn't like other dogs. I didn't want a potentially bloody dog-dog contretemps so I put her inside and tried to capture Houdini to put him back over the fence. He wasn't having any of that! Tried to bite me if I grabbed his collar, and screamed bloody murder if I tried to pick him up. I put Lucy up in the main part of the house, and let Houdini, encouraged by treats, come into my basement. There he quite docilely allowed me to clip a leash on his collar. Dogs behave differently on a leash than they do when they're free to run. I was able to walk him back down the yard to the rear fence, but he still wasn't going to let me pick him up, no way, José! I found the hole he'd dug to get into the yard so I could shove him through it, detaching the leash as I did so. Problem (temporarily) solved.

Today I went down and plugged the hole with a piece of hardware cloth and a 3-foot length of 6x6. While I was doing that, out came Houdini to declaim his disapproval of this. He then ran over to another part of the fence, and jumped over it. This little monster might weigh 20 pounds, soaking wet but he cleared that 4-foot fence like an Olympic high-jumper. No wonder they can't keep him in the yard!

Well, as I said, some day he'll get killed on the road. When it happens it will be his owner's fault.

May 7, 2023: More Stupidity, Part 1: Beard Wash

If you have stayed in a mid-range hotel in the past few years you will have encountered the phenomenon whereby you no longer get soap in the bathroom. Instead you find a bottle of something called "body wash," with a little pump to dispense it into your hand so you can...wash your body. This practice saves the hotels money: when they actually put cakes of soap in the room, the "guests" (read: paying customers) sometimes took the soap with them when they checked out. Well, why not? the "guests" paid for the soap, no matter where it was used.

But "body wash" in a bottle (usually firmly fixed to the wall of the shower so you can't "steal" it) remains behind for the next "guest" to use. Thereby increasing the hotel's profit margin on that room charge.

None of this is wrong per se: the hotels certainly have the right to assess charges as they see fit, and to maximize profit. But what's wrong is this business of labeling what is after nothing more than liquid soap (most of which is water) "body wash," and asserting that nothing else will do to wash your body. This is marketing nonsense, but it works.

As stupid as "body wash" may be, a few days ago in a local hardware store (yes, a hardware store) I encountered an even more egregious example of the blatant idiocy of marketeers: "beard wash."

I have a beard but I wash it, at home and on the road, with...soap. Plain-vanilla, Mark I, bog-standard soap. That gets my beard clean, which always has seemed to me to be the purpose of washing it in the first place. I don't have and don't need and don't want "beard wash" for this job. Maybe some people are gullible enough to fall for this nonsense (What am I saying? OF COURSE there are people gullible enough!) but I'm not.

Oh, and don't forget to buy a bottle of the stuff next to it: Bourbon-flavored "Beard Oil." So you won't squeak when you open your mouth.

More Stupidity, Part 2: Highly Exceptional Paper

I suppose that the gullibility quotient in some places is higher than it is in others. Probably highest in tourist towns, especially ones like Staunton, Virginia. Staunton is a very pretty place with a lot of "amenities" in their downtown, though those amenities don't include things like supermarkets or even old-fashioned grocery stores, let alone drug stores.

We were there a week or so ago, wandering the "quaint streets of the charming downtown" (as Viking Cruises might put it) and I came across a store selling paper. Not just any old paper, of course. No sir, this was Highly Exceptional paper, Paper For The Gods, I should think.

Paper that is "sustainably sourced" from some sort of bush that presumably grows in Nepal (so the ad copy says) and is "handmade" for "scrapbooking, collage, framing, writing, and use with ink jet printers" (I'm not kidding, look at the picture.)

It comes in enormous sheets, not—as normal paper does—in reams cut to 8-1/2"x11" size. If you plan to use this stuff in your ink-jet printer you have to cut it yourself. I didn't look at the price but I suspect it's not nearly so economical as the stuff you get at Wal-Mart in 500-sheet packages. Of course, that paper comes from pulpwood, which is theoretically not "sustainable" since one must—gasp—cut down trees, actual trees, to make it; and trees, as we all know, are sacred beings, though nowhere near so suitable to "sustainable" activities as Nepalese Daphne Bushes are, even though pulpwood is grown by the thousands of acres in places a lot closer to downtown Staunton than Nepal.

May 15, 2023: The Stupidity Continues

1. X-Rated Food

Seen at a Wegman's Grocery Store in Pittsford, NY: shield your children's eyes!

2. Poltically Correct Pancake Mixes

From "Fresh Market" in Roanoke: note the hearty lumberjacks on the "Gluten Free" pancake mix. I bet they get to chopping trees faster and harder with it.

And no doubt when they're out there chopping down trees they don't even guess they were served scrumptious gluten free pancakes...

3. Idiots Who Failed The Parking Test At The DMV

This one speaks for itself. People who do this deserve to have their vehicles towed away. From the AAA parking lot in Roanoke, of all places.

May 22, 2023: Well, Where Are We Supposed To Put It?

In the men's room of a local Chinese restaurant:

This Isn't Illegal...But It Should Be

Seen at Sportsman's Warehouse in Roanoke. If you can't kill a deer without this stuff you have no business in the woods with a gun.

It's illegal to feed deer in Virginia after September 1st; it should be illegal all year.

May 27, 2023: A New River Float Trip

My old friend Dave is a fanatical fisherman: I really think he'd rather fish than eat. We've fished together since our college days, in both fresh and salt water, and it has long been an item on his "bucket list" to do a float trip on the New River. We've discussed this many times; neither of us is getting any younger, so it was now or never.

I contacted Tangent Outfitters in Pembroke, about 20 miles from my home, to set up a trip. Tangent has a good reputation locally, so I felt comfortable using their service. They provided us with the boat, a guide, and even a lunch halfway through the day. It was an all-day affair: we left the boat ramp at Pembroke by 8:00 AM, finally coming off the water 16.5 miles down-river, at 5:00 PM.

The boat wasn't really a boat. It was a "cataraft," which is essentially a plywood platform bolted to two inflatable pontoons. It had three seats: one at the bow, where I sat; one at the stern where Dave sat; and one in the middle where our guide, Eric, sat and rowed.

Yes, rowed. It would have killed me to have to row all that way but Eric was easily 25 years younger than either of us, clearly fit, and an expert in guiding the craft through the water. Furthermore a boat that's rowed doesn't have to be registered with the Department of Wildlife Resources, so it isn't subject to their paperwork—or the personal property tax the Commonwealth levies on power watercraft. The cataraft is very stable, you can stand up without trouble.

It draws very little water, a good thing because the New is in most places quite shallow. Four feet seemed to be pretty typical but there were many spots with less water than that. There were also deeper places where you couldn't see the bottom but for the most part you could see all the way down easily in the crystal-clear water. I've spent a lot of time on the New over the years I've lived here; this trip the water was absolutely perfect, as clear as I have ever seen it. There was a decent current running but nothing Eric couldn't handle with his expert oarsmanship. There are several rapids along the run we made, too: the shallow draft allowed the raft to get through these without trouble. I don't care for white water, not even the very mild Class II type we encountered, but after going through a couple I realized that there was no way that raft was going to get overturned.

There was one aspect of the trip that gave me pause: it was to be done using artificial lures. In my 60+ years of fishing I had never caught anything at all on any artificial lure; I am an Apostle of The Holy Doctrine of Live Bait. But I was assured that thanks to good coaching and instruction, even I could catch a fish on an artificial lure. We didn't use our own rods (at least I didn't). Eric brought along what must have been a dozen or more, so that when he wasn't rowing he was rigging them up with various forms of lure. I don't know the difference between a crankbait and a crankcase, let alone spinners, jigs, poppers, etc. But he did. Periodically he'd cast a lure. When one stopped producing strikes, he'd try something else. Then he'd hand me a rod with the replacement lure already rigged, tell me how to fish it, and go back to bending on more lures or rowing. Since I am utterly ignorant of lure fishing I followed his instructions to the letter.

We floated and drifted for a total of nine hours. I cast and cast and cast until my arm was tired and my right hand was cramped, but I kept on at it. The muskellunge is sometimes referred to as "The fish of a thousand casts," but I'd bet I threw a lure at least that many times, without a musky in sight.

We were after smallmouth bass, the premier game fish of this region. Smallmouth are legendary for their fighting after being hooked. I've caught many smallmouth bass on live bait, and can attest to their feistiness. Ounce for ounce nothing fights harder than a 10-inch smallmouth. The New also holds a good population of what are referred to locally as "redeyes," medium sized sunfish relatives with—what else?—red eyes. A redeye is described as a fish that "Hits like a bass and fights like a stick." True enough. The very first fish I caught on an artificial lure was a decent redeye who did exactly that. Somewhere along the way I also foul-hooked a smallish sunfish, what's locally called a "bluegill."

The day wore on, with a stop for lunch halfway. The weather couldn't have been better: perfect sky and water, low humidity, and water so clear you could often see fish as well as rocks. This turned out to be important, as I'll explain. I don't think we encountered any other boats at all: perhaps this was due to making the trip mid-week?

We were scheduled to take out at the Bluff City boat ramp at 5:00. Shortly before then we were coming around a big curve and I actually spotted a fish that was showing a lively interest in whatever lure I was throwing at the time: a "plug" I think. I remember it was mostly red: color seems to play a big part in whatever it is that entices a fish to hit a lure, and this fish was obviously interested in my mostly-red "plug." I saw him watching it, so I slowed down the retrieve; he edged closer, so I stopped it. That's when he hit the lure.

WHAM! He grabbed that lure in typical smallmouth fashion: a hard strike from the side, a sort of swiping movement. This maneuver means that the fish will almost always get hooked in the side of his mouth. Smallmouth bass are more or less apex predators, but that fish's hit got him not a meal, as he thought it would, but a nasty surprise: a treble hook in his jaw. I got him to the boat, we pulled him in, took a hasty picture and back he went into the river for someone else to catch someday. Given the limited intelligence of fish, I expect he'd forgotten all about it by the time he swam away.

A real beauty: we didn't measure or weigh him because we wanted to release him as soon as possible, but he was at least 19" long, probably more. It took me all of a very long day but in the end I did it: caught a very nice fish on an artificial lure, something I didn't think I could do. It was a satisfying conclusion to the trip.

All in all it was a great float, if a bit exhausting for a pair of Geezers. Dave is ready to go back. Tangent Outfitters did a great job of setting it up. I can recommend their services, if this trip is anything to go by. Eric really earned his money, and I'd gladly go out with him again.

If, however, I do go again....I will insist on using live bait. Nine hours is a mighty long time: While I had fun and finally caught a very nice fish, I'd have preferred a little more "action," which I think live bait would produce. I'm not complaining, the trip was worth the cost and it was something a long time in coming.


There is no God but Live Bait; and Nightcrawler is His Prophet

Aftermath: Sinking Creek

A whole day on the water didn't make a dent in Dave's enthusiasm, so the next day we headed for a local creek. Sinking Creek is called that because there are places where it dives underground, to emerge at another location. We went first to Newport Community Park, and threw nightcrawlers into the water. I nailed a 10-inch brown trout, and four, count 'em, four crayfish! There was a couple downstream from us who were collecting crayfish by turning over rocks.

Crayfish are excellent bait, and the man told me, "This creek's plumb full of them!" Likely enough that's true. They sort of reminded me of the crabs you encounter in salt water who grab onto bait and hold on: one difference is that when you lift a crab out of the water he lets go: the crayfish don't. When you go to pick them up to put them in a bait bucket, crayfish raise their claws and threaten you: small they are, but cowards they ain't. Each of those micro-lobsters was ready to take me with him.

My little trout was the only score of the day besides the crayfish. Dave caught nothing. We hit a couple of other spots along the creek where I've caught fish before, plus one or two where we were clearly trespassing on private property, but that trout was it. Dave got "skunked" but he'd done well on the float, so had no reason to complain.

Fishing is what I do when I can't go hunting. In the fullness of time I won't be up to the strenuous effort deer hunting requires; when that day comes, I suppose I'll just have to be a fisherman. Could be worse.

June 1, 2023: A Bear In My Front Yard

I have a trail camera—a Wildgame Innovations "Terra" model, which I don't recommend anyone buy—so from time to time when something seems to be eating Mrs Outdoorsman's flowers or digging in her garden, I set it up. I did so just before Memorial Day. On the night of the 29th, it picked up a big black bear on our front lawn. Lest anyone doubt that southwestern Virginia is Bear Country, here he is:

This appears to be a mature bear, not a young one searching for his own territory. We may well have had a bear or two in the past but if so, we never knew. One of my neighbors keeps bees; so far his hives are undisturbed but if this beast hangs around, a lot of bees are going to be homeless.

The camera I use was the cheapest one I could find, and I got what I paid for. Unlike my older camera I can't set it to be "on" only at night. But its biggest flaw is that setting the date and time are extremely difficult. So frustrating in fact that I will soon get a new one to replace this P.O.S. But to give credit where credit is due, it showed us something we hadn't seen before: a bear on the front lawn.

Bears aren't terribly unusual in Blacksburg: a friend in another part of town had one come through his neighborhood and knock over garbage bins. The Department of Wildlife Resources refuses to do anything about bears. Won't let you kill one (when I was writing kill permits I was specifically and emphatically told I was not to write one for a bear, under any circumstances) nor will they trap and relocate a bear. "That just moves the problem to someone else!" Well, yeah, duh...that's the whole idea. You'd think they could trap one and move it to the 2,000,000 acres of the Jefferson National Forest, but nope. They tell you to "..get bear proof trash bins.." and to "...bring in your barbecue grills.." and "...don't leave your bird feeders full..." but that's it. "Learn to live with bears," but what happens if the bear doesn't want to live with me?

I walk my dog in the dark sometimes: I normally carry a .380 pistol but I think henceforth at night I'm going to bring the .44.