This time of year is a good time to take all of those wild bird carcasses and make some stock. I made a bunch this week. I used the legs and thighs of 5 pheasants, a whole woodcock, and the skeleton of a roasted blue grouse. I also baked a slab of Alaska rockfish in lime juice, garlic, and what-have-you. My old dog Rocket has hunted through the season. He's beat up. At 14 (that's 98 for humans) I'm keenly aware that it hurts him. But when a dog like that comes around (and they don't come around) how can you leave them home? After a big day in the uplands, I don't expect him to rise. But he rises, stiffly, and shakes off the years. Look for a post about him later this year.
A blizzard blew in this weekend, stranding truckers, closing interstates, and ruining volleyball and basketball tournaments state-wide. 18-wheelers capsized all over the highways. I did my part by sneaking up to Buffalo, WY for a weekend of pheasant harvesting. The cocks were flying and so was the snow. Some flake where so enormous that I turned on them with my 20 gauge, thinking they were pheasants. What can I say? I did my part. Where were you? Henderson and Rocket were reminded that they are, after all, hunting dogs. They chased roosters all over Johnston County. We ended up in the Occidental, staring at a hefty shot of Eagle Rare, gulping down the loneliness that is Wyoming small town Friday night. The snow plows rumbled all night and we hunted Saturday at first light. The dogs ravished the hotel room, defying my pleas to keep them off of the bed. There wasn't much on tv. Football season is becoming tiresome. Alabama seems to have a fascist-style hold on college football and nobody seems to care. Follow the money. When I got back to Casper I cleaned birds for two hours and then worked to make coq au vin, which means cock with wine for those of you who failed French and much else in your lives. This dish requires half a bottle of Bordeaux. That stateside crap doesn't quite work. If you can't sacrifice a half bottle of Bordeaux then I suggest giving your cocks away to someone who understands vitality. Take your kids to Pizza Ranch.
It's been a quiet fall. John Venable, poet and cheese monger, was out for the leaf change. We camped in the Sierra Madres and soaked in the Hobo Pool at Saratoga. Henry is turning out to be a pure flushing dog. This is his third season. Now you can tell when he scents a bird. He's all business and he seems to enjoy hunting pheasants more than I do, which is saying a lot. Rocket, 14 no, is still getting around. his nose is fading, but he knows where to look. The two hunted well together this weekend in eastern Wyoming. Let s see if we can make something of the season.
This young bull moose followed me around for a half hour on opening day. I was after elk, but couldn't find one to save my life. The moose escorted me along a ridge of aspens. I asked him to go away. I flung insults at him. Eventually, I gave up and sat down with him. The hunting trip turned into a camping trip. Patrick and his son were good company. Fall in Wyoming doesn't suck.
Another great summer in Homer comes to an end. I'm sitting in the Casper, WY Starbucks, enshrined in flies and heat, the coming and going of people in a hurry. Well, at least we made it home safely--Bill and I driving 16 hours a day, racing the heat and haze. The dogs were a little batty at the end of it. I'm batty too.
After previous disappointments and dashed hopes, Bill Mixer finally caught a halibut worth talking about. We spent the day soaking herring on the Sea Pickle with Captain Dave. The fish hit around noon. An hour later, Captain Dave sunk the harpoon into the beast's gill plate. The fish will feed Bill and his vegetarian family for ten years. It's time to go home. This place is so beautiful that it's depressing every time I have to go home, back to my regular life of baked Albertson's chickens and NPR. I hear it's like 100 degrees down there.
Retiree and former hand model for The Fly Fishing Press, Bill Mixer has arrived in Homer. Here he is with a wild-caught pink salmon filched from a local stream, the name of which I am not at liberty to disclose. Bill used an egg-sucking leech. Bedecked in high-end clothing, Bill is making a name for himself. The motto of our time so far is this: Follow me, and bring your wallet. Below, the last run of sockeyes has hit the local river, whose name escapes me and always will.
I'm very proud of my essay, "Eggs in Your Beer", which is in the current issue of The Drake.This story tells about when I first began fly-fishing with Brian Farmer in Fort Collins. It was great to land a piece in The Drake's 20th Anniversary. Right now, I'm working with their staff to produce a reading of the story which will appear in their weekly podcast. Thanks Bill Mixer for sending this photo of the layout. I'm in Alaska still and I don't get mail here.