The bull elk have been hard to locate. Rick and I tried a new area. There were elk around, but none offered a shot. We saw lots of blue grouse and even a big, black bear. The cow elk were on the hillsides, and that's where we left them. The weather was glorious and the food was pretty good. So, all in all, it was a good season.
Spent Sunday morning helping to pack out a bull elk my friend's shot shot. The weather was moving in, so we had to hustle. It was pretty steep, but it I'm counting this as my workout. Good thing we got it done; this morning we had five inches of wet snow.
I always wanted to be one of those few high-test males to pass through the eye of the needle. Elk season was a bust; we didn't have enough time this year. Back when I was flat broke I had more time. It's hard to find people who can break away for more than a day or two. We ate well and saw some amazing things--including the International Space Station scudding across the Wyoming night. But we didn't see any elk.
The dog-work didn't dazzle me, but we bagged a nice blue this weekend. Rocket, as an elder, took a bite out of the bird's lower unit. But with old dogs you expect a harder mouth. The weather was cool, a wonderful development. It feels like hunting season here in Wyoming. I'm making a stew tonight, using the whole bird to make a stock. I want to be one of those few high-test males to pass through the eye of the needle. But don't think everything is coming up roses. I think my transmission is about done on my truck.
I live in the West, which means I eek out a puny existence in a 7,000 square mile area of thistle, sage brush, and oil fields. It was nearly 95 degrees this weekend, the atmosphere eerily smoky. The cottonwoods were leaking a thin, sticky residue. I wanted to get Henry on some partridges and grouse. But any self-respecting gamebird would not live in this wasteland of barbwire, No Trespassing Signs, plastic baggies, pop cans, and disposable diapers. What I'm saying is that the West isn't what you think. I haven't met an adult this year who doesn't think Hillary Clinton killed several dozen people in her run-up the last year's election. The yuks out here recently got a huge kick out of the eclipse, but deny the science that told them it was going to happen. A woman in a 1998 Honda Civic chased me down because I failed to signal my turn into the Albertsons. She gave me the finger. She called me a racial slur, and I'm as white as Dean Martin.
A half hour into our "hunt", the dogs were beat, gasping for breath. They could only jog between slices of shade. We flushed thousands of grasshoppers, some tampons, broken glass, and burned tires. This was one of the walk-in areas the state likes to brag about. There was no water. I used both of my 32 ounce water bottles just to keep the dogs alive. Finally, I put them in the truck and drove to the Tongue River, where the interstate blasts over in a concrete memorial. The dogs swam for an hour while I listened to college football.I downed two Coors Lights for hydration only. A rancher came by and looked at me from his late model Chevy. My team, Virginia Tech, was struggling against a cream puff team. The rancher wrote down my license plate while I tried to understand why our coach always passes on second down. Finally, after staring at me for an uncomfortable moment, Roy Rogers drove off in a veil of dust and country music. Rocket, who is 80 year-old in human years, still seems a little goofy from the whole experiment. It's mid-September, yes, but it's not hunting season. At least I can say I was alone, more or less.
Not every hunting or fishing trip can be a great success. I get it. But this one almost cost me my old dog. I can see why whole generations of Americans now split their time between The Olive Garden and Buffalo Wild Wings. Or they binge watch television slop from their slave homes and try to sell it later as cultural literacy. It's not. But don't tell them I said so. I think our country needs some sort of unifying character to come down from the hills and cure us. Think John Denver. Think James Taylor.
I published "Shout Outs" back in February with the Nervous Break Down. It's an essay that talks about going to a majority white state university in the late 80s. In the dorm where I was an RA, someone lit a cross on the door of two black students. The nonfiction editor at NBD, Chelsey Clammer, and I had some frank conversations about the piece. She almost decided against it. I'm glad she published it. In light of recent events in Virginia, I thought I'd post it here. It might be worth another look.
Are you the kind of person who buys wild shrimp only to throw out the heads? If so, let me quote the late Bob Dole of Kansas and tell you that there is no place on this website for you....the exit is clearly marked. I made shrimp and grits for my parents this week. I used the heads to craft a broth that later went back into the dish. I'm not bragging so much as telling you that if you're going to do something, do it correctly. These things matter. Don't tell me about the chaos of the world, or you most recent romantic endeavor. Get in the kitchen and do something well. Same goes for salmon. same for osso bucco, and those little game hens that have gained popularity of late.
Bill and I finished the Alaskan fishing season in a maelstrom of dashed hopes and lost tackle. It looked promising at first--clear skies, easy seas. But our boatmates tangled lines, broke rods, scorched reels and generally threw the whole day under the bus. We managed a few "chickens" but were otherwise rejected from Cook Inlet and other locales. The worst part of it was that it wasn't the guide's fault. Sometimes you get stuck with folks who think they can cast a 16 ounce jig without their thumb on the reels. There's a splash and then the sound of expensive monofilament spinning out of control. They (the other clients) didn't know a salmon from a rock fish, and yet the wanted them all for themselves. Leaving here, I have a new understanding about charter fishing. I'll try to keep most of it to myself. I don't think we will see Mr. Mixer on a halibut boat in the near future.
The Rodfather is here and catching fish. Other than losing my car keys (for good) within an hour of arriving, he's living up to the challenge of Alaska. Kenai Float and Fish guide John, took us on a great float of the river this week. John and Heather run a first rate operation. They even made us coffee. It's truly a family owned business. We caught lots of rainbows on dries and a few sockeye salmon. Above, Bill demonstrates perfect fish displaying methods. Notice the position of his hands. He is still one of the best, if not the best fish-hand model in the fly-fishing press. Below--can you guess what this is?