2010 Blogs

11/28/2010

At times, people have said to me, ‘Bird, I can somewhat understand why you run over animals that are in the process of crossing the road, but why, oh why, do you run over the dead ones?’.

My only response is that there are many things about the Birdwell that even he himself doesn’t fully understand. It’s just the way I roll. (Ha!).

But there may be some historical precedence to this behavior. To this end, I will have to bring Tom Brown Jr. into the discussion. Mr. Brown is known as ‘The Tracker’ and was raised, in part, by an old Native American, in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. I spent a weekend with this man camping and learned more about woods living, animal tracking and general field survival than I could properly give credit for. I also read (several times) his first book, aptly titled ‘The Tracker.’ Part of Mr. Brown’s training was to observe how things changed over time – tracks in the mud, leaves on the trees, ice on a pond, footprints in the sand and carcasses rotting in the sun. That was what made him such a good tracker. He understood how things looked after a couple of hours, a day, two days, etc.

I had a job in East Hanover, NJ that required me to sit at a particular traffic light (Rt. 10 and Walnut St.) for maddening amounts of time. Once, as I crept slowly along, I noticed a very large raccoon that had gotten walloped the night before. Notable was the size of this beast.  It was more like a mid-sized dog. This is not uncommon in suburban raccoons. The abundance of food and easy living is conducive to enormous growth.

When I first noticed this critter it was mostly intact. Vehicular impact was diminished due to sheer mass. Anyone driving on the road could see the heap of fur a long way off and in plenty of time to swerve out of the way (although not, obviously, the person who whacked it in the first place). It was either spring or early summer. Conditions were right for the daily observation of decay. And observe I did.

No one wanted to go anywhere near the thing, particularly after it began to bloat and increase in size.  And nobody, not even the Birdwell, wanted to have to clean putrid raccoon splatter off of their car. The smell alone caused mayhem, what with people struggling to roll up their windows and swerving in and out of traffic. After a couple of days resembling a plastic blowup pool varmint, it exploded and deflated to a hairy sack of bones and liquefied flesh. Without form or substance vehicular traffic no longer feared the obstacle and the flattening began. Day by day the carcass became more and more a part of the pavement until it was no longer identifiable as a raccoon. It truly was road pizza.

The days became warmer and the raccoon waffle dried out. By now, people were stopping on top of it, because it was nearly indiscernible from the pavement.

Then it rained. The critter falafel, having every one of its fibers and structure broken, turned into something resembling paper Mache`. Now as people ran it over it squished and splattered. A couple more cycles of dry, then rainy days and there was nothing left. Not even a greasy spot on the pavement. The entire process took about a month.

So, it would seem that at least part of the reason I run over deceased fauna is because I am doing my part to help with the whole ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ thing. But that is not the whole truth. The other part is that I feel somewhat left out, not having been the one to actually do the initial hit and run.

And, well, I guess it’s kinda funny, too.

Damned critters.

A Public Service Announcement from your friendly neighborhood Birdwell
Dateline:  November 12, 2010
Re: If you are going to cheat on your husband, try to pick someone who doesn’t bring you to an active hunting area (WMA) to fornicate.

Studogg, David and I were making an afternoon push along a thorny hedgerow in western Massachusetts. It had been a mostly unproductive day. The boys were deployed to my left, on the other side of the hedgerow.

Suddenly (every bird hunting story needs to have a sentence that begins with ‘suddenly…’) a bird burst up from under the briars and did an aerial acrobatic dance. It was a woodcock, not my game bird of choice, but a game bird nonetheless. I took a shot and missed (the sun was in my eyes), but saw where the bird landed and headed in that direction.

I was preparing for another flush when I heard a shout from the woods. At first I thought there were some other hunters pushing their way down the hedgerow and we had entered each other’s area of operation. When I didn’t see any orange clothing through the trees, I figured it might have been a bow hunter, because they dress in camouflage (they’re sneaky like that). I called out to them to better get an idea of where they were. No reply. Then, another bird flushes and flies towards the boys. They hold off shooting, because it’s not safe. Now things are getting tense. There are two birds within range and I’m waiting on some knuckle-head (or two) to clear the area.

Waiting, waiting…then some guy comes out of the woods. He’s wearing a pair of jeans, a black baseball hat advertising his favorite soft drink and a shirt on that could only be described as disco-camouflage. It has splotches of grey and black, but is something you would find in the men’s department at Kohl’s, not from your favorite outfitter. He obviously is not hunting.

I’m maintaining a pleasant disposition, but trying to convey a sense of urgency to this dimwit. There are birds just inside of the hedgerow… and we are bird hunters… hunting birds… and he obviously is not. The Studogg has been pushing us hard all day and the next minute or two are critical.

Is your partner coming out or what? Yeah, he replies and goes back inside the trees to move things along. I look into the woods and see someone crouched behind a low bush, putting on a shirt. Then I see him folding up a blanket.

Shirt? Blanket? Wtf?

He comes back out and continues conversing with me about shotguns, bird hunting and other things that I am only mildly interested in talking about at that time.

Finally his ‘partner’ comes out. It was a woman, looking rather hastily put together. She avoids us altogether, walking a good 30 yards around and behind. We part company, he joins up with her, and they cross the field, but leave the area in separate vehicles. It becomes obvious to me that we have interrupted a little roll in the hay. Interrupted with the concussive blast of a 20 gauge shotgun. (Gee, honey, this sure is a nice spot, but why is it raining birdshot on us?) Whatever. I got back to business at hand, which by now had changed quite measurably in the birds’ favor.

We flushed the two birds again, but we were not in as good a position as we were initially. Shots fired, bodies raked by evil briars, the Studogg verbally whipping us like oxen, but no birds bagged. We exited the brush and debriefed at the truck.

The boys were incredulous. They didn’t see the couple, so they were quite entertained by my tale. I’d have to say that if I hadn’t witnessed it myself, I might be reluctant to believe. It made great grist for evening commentary as we hashed and re-hashed the incident. I must say I have not laughed that hard in some time.

So, hats off to you, Mr. This-looks-like-a-good-place-to-do-it (and your humiliated ‘friend’). You surely split the boys’ sides that night.

 

11/7/2010 – Hey Bird, what’s living in the fish tank?

I am not what you would call a ‘pet person’. I have had no need for a pet. They don’t serve any purpose in my life, indeed even slowing me down somewhat, what with daily care required and then having to find someone to care for them during my absence. But I did have one or two over the years. Easy to care for critters, like fish and once, a turtle.

When I was living in the barn in Titusville we found a young snapping turtle on the front steps. I believe it measured 1 1/2 inches across the shell when we found it. Having a fish tank in storage, we made a cozy home for it. My thinking was, hey, who the hell else has a snapping turtle for a pet? How novel. How cool. How backwoods. We named it Snapple. I never was sure if it was a male or female. I decided on female.

Feeding Snapple was about the only interesting thing we ever did with her. Just like fish, they are only there gawk at and feed. We would purchase a dozen feeder goldfish from the local pet store, open beers, dump the goldfish into the tank and watch the show. It was interesting, at first. She would stalk her prey, sneaking up and slowly extending her neck out, then striking. But like all animal shows, it gets old after a while. Snapple would see us coming with the bag of goldfish and watch us dump them into the tank. Then she would go into attack mode, snapping and gulping each one until all that was left was a piece of fin and some scales.

We were never sure if we were feeding her enough. She was a good eater, consuming all that was put in front of her. Never did a goldfish last more than a day. We would have liked some to live for a while, so that there would be a constant supply of food that she could snack on at her leisure. But she was a little glutton. At times we even resorted to frozen hunks of salmon that I had brought back from a fishing trip. That was the good thing about having a pet snapping turtle; they eat just about anything, alive or dead. I could have gone down to the river, caught a sunfish or two and saved myself a couple of dollars. But I wanted to make sure she retained her hunter/killer instinct, for when I eventually released her.

At one point, I thought that we had acclimated Snapple enough that I could feed her from my hand. I dipped a hunk of frozen salmon into the water and watched as she mounted her rock and began extending her neck out. I lost my nerve at the last minute and it was pro’ly a good thing. I remember several times when she would trap a fish in the corner and hit the tank so hard with her snout that it vibrated the glass. I kept envisioning a V-shaped notch taken out of my index finger.

About a year later I was riding my mountain bike along the Delaware-Raritan canal when I happened upon another baby snapper. This one was brown. I captured it and somehow got it home without getting bit, although there were a few close calls. I held it in one hand and steered the bike with the other. As long as we were moving the snapper kept tight in its shell. But when I stopped it would reactivate pretty fast. I would have to do some daring poking and flipping to keep it from embedding itself in hard to reach places, like under the seat of the truck.

I put the brown snapper in the tank, thinking Snapple would enjoy some companionship. She didn’t. The brown snapper was much more aggressive than Snapple. He would crawl into her favorite hidey spots, push her off the dry rock and eat her food. At times I would buy 2 dozen goldfish and the damned brown snapper would eat 20 of them, pushing Snapple out of the way.

Well, Snapple was my turtle, so the brown snapper had to go. Being that he was such a rude turtle, I thought about dropping him into a pot of water with some root vegetables and select spices, then slowly bringing the pot to a simmer. Fortunately, I am not that fond of snapper soup. I took him back to the canal and let him go in the same spot that I found him. He didn’t seem to have any reservations about leaving.

Eventually I moved out of the barn and into an apartment in town. This was a good move for me both mentally and biologically, as now I had a better chance to live and reproduce. Of course, Snapple came with me.

But feeding her was getting to be a pain in the ass and I was feeling guilty about keeping her penned up. I wasn’t sure if I was doing her a disservice by feeding her through the winter, or if she needed to go into hibernation. One summer day, I scooped her up, measured her (she gained over two inches under my care), and released her into the big lake next to the Mercer County Home for the Criminally Insane (looney bin). It was a much better place than I found her. The lake was big, clean and would afford her a lot of opportunity to grow. Sort of like me moving into town, I guess. I like to think she hesitated at first, and then made her way out into the big water.

How can someone feel nostalgic about a snapping turtle? Not sure, but I feel like I had raised her and then set her free. Of course, I captured her in the first place.

(hold on a sec…I got something in my eye…)

10/31/2010 – Eating rattlesnake

I have eaten a lot of ‘bush meat’ in my day – buffalo, deer, elk, pheasant, grouse, duck, dove, woodcock, frog legs, rabbit, squirrel, rattlesnake, snapping turtle – even crocodile and kangaroo at a theme party. I listed those in order of preference. The first six are pretty darned good; I would not hesitate to consume them again. The next six are okay and the last three I can do without.

Proper prior preparation and pepper are the keys to making game taste good. You must keep the meat clean of gastric liquids. This point alone can ruin an otherwise delectable venison roast or elk steak. Hair, feathers, scales or skin must be removed. This is important with frog’s legs, crocodile and rattlesnake. You should hang the meat a few days in a cool environment to let the meat tenderize. This happens due to chemical breakdown of tissue (it is the same thing that is done with beer, pork, lamb, etc. before it arrives at your local market). And nuke it with pepper.

Sometimes, however, circumstances don’t allow for all of the four ‘P’s to be implemented. That is when a good camp cook, a Dutch oven and enough black pepper to choke a horse come in handy.
I consider myself a decent camp cook, judging by the lack of complaints from ‘crew over the years. Of course, rolling into camp tired and hungry after a full day of bird hunting can turn even a mediocre meal into a feast. A few bottles of good beer per man help, also. Then there are times when you just have to roll with what you are given.

Studogg’s bachelor party at Camp Mohican circa 19xx. Someone inadvertently ran over a rattlesnake. Upon hearing such news, I bolted out to the accident site, snatched up the carcass, beheaded the serpent, skinned it, tacked it to an empty Budweiser box and blessed it liberally with kosher salt. I still have the skin, rattles attached and all. I got what I was after, the skin and rattles, but Stuart’s old man admonished me for tossing away the carcass.

‘Haven’t you ever eaten rattlesnake?’ He queried.
Why, no, I have not. But that will change right about now, I replied.
I retrieved and cleaned the serpent du jour, tossing it onto the grill, next to burgers and dogs. Quite a sight, a half dozen beef patties, equal amount of dogs and a 3 foot snake body wrapping around all of the above.

At first the gathering of friends was very much appalled. For the most part, they were not ‘woods wise’ like the birdcrew, so their astonishment can be understood.
‘Yikes!’ they exclaimed.
‘Eeek!’ they cried.
‘Ohh nooo!’ they wailed.
But I was having none of it. I made sure everyone tried a piece. Tastes like chicken, I heard them exclaim. And I’d be willing to bet a frosty can of Bud that all of them speak of the experience with pride.

“Did I tell you about the crazy bastard at Stuart’s bachelor party? He made us eat rattlesnake.”

You know, if you have to cook a rattlesnake to like, eat, you might appreciate this advice – cook it till it is well done. Personally, I like my crotalus slightly scorched. It goes down easier, cause then it’s like jerky – you know, like beef jerky, only made from a deadly poisonous snake.

F-ing snake jerky.

10/24/2010 –

So, the other Sunday morning, I was staring blankly out of the kitchen window, in my boxers, waiting for the half mug of coffee to begin coursing through my veins and clear away the fog when I saw something jumping around in the untrimmed grass around the fence. “Awfully dark coloration for a squirrel”, thought I, followed by, “Well, if it was a squirrel, it will soon be in the trees and, as such, will be in good position to have a marble flung at it.”

You see, the squirrels raid the bird feeder. But they are adaptive rodents and conducive to negative conditioning. Flying marbles unnerve them. They associate flying marbles with the bird feeder and Viola! Problemo solved. So, I topped off my mug and dragged my carcass out onto the deck to reconnoiter.

In short order I heard some squeaky racket coming from the hedgerow.  I spotted some movement – and then was rewarded by the sight of something chasing down something else. Then a weasel popped out of the hemlocks with a young rabbit in its mouth. (A brown, short-tailed weasel). It stopped in clear view and shot me a look with that beady-eyed weasel face, as if to say, ‘you’re not the only one keeping shiate in order around here, Birdwell’, then disappeared into the woods.

Arrogant bastard.

But then the neighbor’s cat appears on the scene, obviously drawn by the squeals of the snatched rabbit. It pays me no never mind and vanishes into the bush. Typical feline behavior. I figured, well, cat, your ass is gonna get ripped up now, for weasels are nothing to be trifled with. But, no, wrong again. In short order the cat re-appears, rabbit carcass in mouth. Once again, not so much as even glancing in my direction, despite my hanging jaw and coffee stained drool leaking out of the corner of my mouth.

And that was only the second weasel I have seen. The first was a blonde weasel that the Val-mommy treed in the middle of a field in Washington Township. Not sure if I was allowed to blast it or not, I stood there as the dog circled the bush-tree a couple of times and the weasel freaked out. A freaking out weasel is a fairly interesting sight. They slither around the branches of the tree quickly and make squeaking noises. The Val-mommy lost interest quickly and went off searching for pheasant, which was her job to begin with.

I watched the weasel, watching me, wondering if I needed a NJ state weasel stamp to legally harvest a weasel or if they fell under the general rules of ‘small game’ or if, {gasp} they were a protected species. But my decision was soon made for me as the air filled with the awful stench of frightened weasel. It smelled like a cross between cat spray, skunk urine and some other rotten smelling crap. Not wanting to carry that stinking carcass around with me, I walked away and the weasel spiraled back down the bush-tree, in the opposite direction it went up, and disappeared into the heavy under scrub.

Damned weasels.

10/18/2010 – “That’s a $25 bottle of Scotch…”

Pre 9/11 travel via small, commuter airlines with my firearms was sort of comical, to me, at least. I would show up with my gun case and watch as the baggage check crew pulled out their manuals and talked amongst themselves as to what was proper procedure.

I had been through this before and knew what needed to be done. Open the case, ensure firearm is unloaded, place (signed) tag inside case stating firearm was checked and is unloaded, close and lock case, affix (signed) tag stating firearm was checked and is unloaded to outside of case, load case onto baggage conveyor, wish passenger a nice flight. Ta-da.

What I was not prepared for was the dingbat in front of me at Hanscom Field Airport. This woman seemed like the quintessential dingbat (plus 30 years). Her husband (companion, lover, co-habitant or whatever he was) struck me as a real-live version of Popeye the Sailor Man, complete with the arms, chin, bell-bottomed jeans and facial features (plus 30 years). He may have even had a corncob pipe, but I’m not sure.

From what I could put together, he met up with this ditzoid in some bar, figured his days of carousing on the high seas were coming about nigh anyway and decided that this would be an acceptable place to dry dock his vessel. She may have been something in her day, but time had crept up on her and was taking its toll. She, however, was stuck in a time warp. They were traveling with a child, not their offspring, judging by the distance and lack of communication Popeye was having with her.

She was a chatty Kathy, to say the least. Thing was, most of what came out of her mouth sounded like teenage drivel. She commented on everything, loudly. Popeye seemed to know better than to try to quell her mindless ramblings.

Now Popeye, he looked tough. Tougher than me, I remember thinking. I may be younger and spryer, but he was, after all, a sailor man. Then I recalled that I was the one holding the firearm. (Two, actually). And cold blue steel trumps muscle every time, even if it is double locked in a hard case and about to be stowed in the belly of an aircraft.

I was minding my own business, shuffling along in line, thinking about how long it would be until I could get a glass of Scotch in me, when an airport baggage handler approached.
“Excuse me, sir. Is that a firearm you have in that case?”
“Yes it is.” I replied.
“We are going to need to inspect and tag that piece of luggage separately.”
“I understand. Please let me know how I may help.”

When the word ‘firearm’ penetrated her bleached blonde ears, the aging bimboloid got a look on her face like Popeye had shoved a can of spinach up her ass.

I could hear her air-headed comments as they pulled me out of line and I opened the case for them.

‘He has what!?’
‘Ohh noo!’
‘Eeek!’
‘Is that is safe!?’
But when the baggage dudes said, ‘oh, you have two firearms.’ well, she nearly crapped her star spangled mini-dress.

At one point the child asked what would happen if the plane crashed. Blondie said, loudly, ‘oh don’t worry about that, honey. This man is going to make sure that the plane doesn’t crash.’

How she concluded that, I don’t know. Perhaps I was to straddle the failing aircraft like Slim Pickens in ‘Dr. Strangelove’, a shotgun in each hand, laughing insanely. Popeye looked down at the ground. I could tell his life was all about enduring the long version of what I was going through. I felt bad for him.

I helped the baggage handlers determine that my firearms were indeed safe for transport, relinquished them to the conveyor belt and took my place back in line. Blondie slowly calmed down, but not without casting worried glances in my direction. Popeye continued to contemplate his place in the world by studying the walls.

In due time we approached the carry-on baggage scan. I dropped my knapsack on the conveyer and stepped through the metal detector. They pulled me aside. What now?
“Could you open your bag, please.”
“Sure.”
They extracted my half finished bottle of Johnny Walker Black.
“Careful with that, brother.” I half joked. (Half)
“You cannot board the aircraft with this. You will have to pour it out.”
Now it was my turn to look like I had just gotten a canned spinach enema.
“That is a $25 bottle of Scotch and the only place it is getting poured is into my gut!” I exclaimed, quite emphatically.
From behind I heard a chuckle from some F-ing comedian.
“Bottom’s up, dude.”

I was allowed to exit the line and decide the fate of my bottle. I proceeded out of the airport, where I was fortunate enough to find Studogger still on site. I handed off my precious bottle and ran for the plane. Last one on, again, and to the obvious displeasure of everyone on board.

Well, eat me. I had to sit in the last available seat, which was at the very front of the plane, facing back. So I got to look at everyone giving me the stink-eye. In the past, I may have hung my head low and avoided eye contact out of embarrassment. Not that day. I had just come back from a great hunting trip, rescued my bottle of Scotch from the drain and I had firearms. Silly day commuters. I am the Birdwell. And you are not.

The flight attendant was most kind. She gave me a cold beer, no charge. It wasn’t good Scotch, but it took the edge off. I inhaled it and purchased another.

As my sister pointed out, they were more concerned with the open bottle of Scotch than they were about the firearms. Me thinks that they had alcohol related incidents in the past. Silly commuter airlines.

10/10/2010  –   You ran a trap line where?

Along the Elizabeth River, border between Hillside and Union, NJ.

I wanted nothing more than to live in the country, but we lived in Hillside, a fairly built up town in the 70’s. Today it is nothing less than a full blown city and nowhere near as nurturing as it once was. These days I actually live in the country, but my trapping is limited to the mice in the garage. (how’s that for ironic?) Actually, I do quite well, thanks for asking. Last year I bagged 19 of the little rodent bastards.

Although I have skinned mice in the past, I decline to do so these days. It’s really a pain in the ass, working with their little bodies. But really, there is no market for mouse pelts. I mean, what are you going to make out of them, fur coats for your daughter’s Barbie collection? A pair of Ugg boots for her Moxie Girls out of the ears? A fur rug for her doll house? Hey, wait a minute…

But I was a country boy at heart. I sought out the limited woodsy areas that were available and did country boy kinds of things. At some point I realized that muskrat fur was a commodity that I could (legally) harvest via trapping. How much more country can you get?

Trapping season is late fall through the winter. I purchased a dozen size #1 Oneida/Victor single spring leg hold traps and half as many skin stretchers. In true country boy fashion, I dyed the traps black and deployed them at key areas along the river bank.

I did quite well, as there were plenty of muskrats out there. Some days I would get 5. That is a lot of rodent to skin, stretch and salt. I got quite good at it. There is a technique, that I won’t go into, that facilitates the process. You might think that a muskrat fished out of the Elizabeth River would be coated in industrial/residential residue, motor oil, PCB’s, radioactive isotopes and the like. But that wasn’t the case. As it turns out, the fur is quite clean.

Sometimes I would get a big garbage rat, but most times only half of one. Something would come up and eat the other half before I got there. Most times. Garbage rats are nasty motherfarkers and have no qualms about letting you know it. They make a lot of noise squeaking and biting, can hold their breath a long time underwater and take quite a clobbering with a stick before giving up the ghost. I can remember questioning what the hell I thought I was doing after one particularly brutal clubbing. Standing there on the river bank, soaking wet, traumatized, feeling like a seal clubber who just beat something cute and furry to death. Only it was a rat; ugly, disgusting, vermin ridden, of no intrinsic value and in no short supply. I got over it.

I got my hand caught in the traps a couple of times. It is not a big deal. More startling than painful. Getting it off of your hand can be tricky though, what with only one hand to work with. You see, the trap doesn’t slam shut very hard, but it holds very tight. You can’t just pull your hand out. Thing is, you have to get somewhere solid, a good log or rock, where you can step on the spring and free your hand. Those places were few and far between out there. You look a little odd walking around with a trap hanging off your hand, but generally no one sees you anyway.

Pro’ly the most difficult part was pulling up the stake that held the trap under water. At least a few times I had to break through the ice, feel around in the cold, muddy water for the trap, pull it up and reset it. Reverse that sequence, with a loaded trap. More than once I did the slip/curse/splash (with the occasional snap! of the trap closing on my numb hand).

As it turned out, a city boy can be hard pressed to find a buyer for his muskrat pelts. I considered fashioning a jacket for my mother, but she declined.
Eventually some kids saw me setting my traps and swiped a bunch of them. That, and the embarrassment of having to cross the main avenue through town with my hip boots, bag of rat skins and other stuff, most times wet and muddy, essentially put me out of business. But I learned some stuff.

  • It is not a good idea, at all, to reach into a muskrat hole where you can’t see. Seems that a few different critters occupy those places, none of which are keen on being groped by human hands. That, and the loaded trap can ruin your day.
  • River ice is not very safe. Chances are it won’t support you for very long.
  • A pair of wet jeans will freeze on your ass and become pretty damn tough to walk in, let alone downright uncomfortable.
  • The difference between black mud and brown mud is that brown mud washes out. Black mud usually has oil in it and doesn’t.
  • Stay far, far away from 55 gallon drums. Nothing good is in them.
  • Shopping carts are only safe to stand on if they are still silver/shiny. Otherwise they are rusted out and will drop your fool ass straight into the drink.
  • If something looks like a body, leave the area immediately and don’t come back until after a hard rain. (so it can wash away).
  • Let sleeping hobos lie. (they’re ornery when woken).
  • The bubbles coming up from a big patch of mud are composed of methane. Methane is flammable and will burn all of the hair off your hand and arm (some skin, too), if you light it with a lighter. So, refrain from doing so. (hard as that might be).
  • Don’t throw skinned rodent bodies into the river. You may get a chuckle, but the other muskrats don’t think it’s so funny.
  • Look out carefully for snapping turtles. Some of those bitches are BIG and they don’t have much of a humor either.
  • A brown water snake is a lot more fierce when you are hip deep in muddy river water.
  • The pain from a trap closing on your fingers only hurts a short while. Or, you can soak you hand in icy cold ditch water which will numb it good.
  • If something is bloated and floating down the river, don’t shoot at it with your slingshot. If it ruptures it could saturate the area with a horrid stench.

 

10/3/2010 – Opossum graveyard

In Hillside, there are several areas where the Elizabeth River is bordered by undeveloped flood plains and woods. This is where you could find us, slingshots, bows or BB guns in hand, pursuing whatever varmints were unlucky enough to happen by or unintelligent enough to be flushed out. One place in particular, Conant Park, was bisected by railroad tracks. These are old, double tracks and very active.  They ran on top of a large embankment which had the effect of keeping the patch of woods along the river segregated and wilder.

One day, Dollar and I were stalking about in this area with my dog, Boof (his given name was Chip, but I re-named all of my dogs – nicknames, sort of). We happened to notice that there were an awful lot of dead opossum’s lying around. A shiate load, in fact. I’d say I spotted about 10 in the immediate area around us, plus the remains, mummified, skeletal or otherwise of quite a few more. We always knew there were a lot of opossums in the woods, but we had never seen so many in one place, dead or alive.

We were poking around, trying to figure out what may have brought about their end when all of the sudden, Boof began crying, howling and running away, his legs buckling and contorted. We had no idea what had happened. I thought one of the opossum’s had bitten him and proceeded systematically shooting every carcass I saw. Because, you know, they ‘play possum’ when they’re scared. I figured that one was doing just that and when my back was turned, latched onto poor Boof’s leg with those rip-saw teeth and ornery disposition they have.

But Dollar soon convinced me that wasn’t the case; all the opossums were indeed dead (he always was more insightful than me). It must have been something else. Maybe it was this long piece of green copper wire hanging down from the telephone pole along the tracks. Nah, couldn’t be, we postulated. The wire was broken off one side of the pole. And according to teenage electrical knowledge, that meant an incomplete circuit and thus no juice. Just to make sure, though, we applied good solid teenage logic and swatted at the wire a couple of times. When that didn’t produce any discomfort we proceeded to pull on the wire, because it sure looked like it had other uses for us. When the wire wouldn’t come down, we gave up and instead concentrated our efforts on getting Boof to come back over by us, because we were hunting, after all, and needed his participation. This took some time; because he was really shook up about whatever the heck it was that shook him up.

We watched him carefully, still trying to figure out what had happened to him and the opossums. Boof sniffed around a couple of opossum carcasses (he must have thought they were up to no good, also) and then, with me watching intently, slowly brought his cold, wet, black nose to sniff the hanging green copper wire.

All of the sudden Boof is howling and crippled again, running off into the woods. Son-of-a-bitch! we said. The wire is live after all. Who’d a thought? We couldn’t figure out why we didn’t get zapped. It might have been our Timberland boots insulating us. Or perhaps the heap of dead sticks and crap that we were standing on. I still think it was Divine Intervention. Whatever it was, the opossum’s didn’t have it, so when they came poking around looking for a snack, they touched the wire with their damned opposable feeties or that scaly tail and were zapped.

I can’t feel too badly for them. Although they are marsupials (properly), they aren’t more than a rung or two up from rodents. And rodents are expendable.

9/26/2010 – Emily

We met in September, 1993. I won’t forget. You were my first.

I drove an hour and a half to meet you. I knew enough to be cautious, but my heart was broken – had been for some time. Getting hurt more, even killed, were not concerns of mine. I chose to dance with you despite.

Your reputation preceded you. I knew you were hard on the boys, liked to slap them around, show them who was in charge. When I saw you, I understood. You were sexy, dangerously sexy, and dominant. I even saw you snap a spine. But I was there, in front of you and not about to back down.

Careless might be a good adjective, you trashed better men than me. I decided to submit anyway.

It was rough. You made sure that I had to work. Like a toy, you pushed, shoved and slapped me in the face several times. It was your version of hard to get. When I got past the froth you let me ride just enough to catch my breath.

Reality came on hard. You were bigger than I imagined. When you came on, you hit me with all you had. This was no game, it was work. And I worked hard, because I wanted it.

Even when you held me down, I didn’t feel like I was drowning, although I may well have been. I kept my wits about me, stayed calm and determined. Time and again I surfaced, sucking in huge breaths of air as I bobbed in your tempest, salty sweetness flowing from my mouth and nose. Then I jumped up and went at it again. I wouldn’t realize how beat up I was until the next day.

I knew I was done when I tried to ride into shore and you picked me up, flipped me over and ground me into the gravel, sand and shells. I sliced my knee open through my wetsuit. Any surfer will tell you, if you’re bleeding, get out of the water. Few do it. There were times when I didn’t, but not this time. It was tough paddling out through the wash, diving under closeouts and near misses. Too many times in the wash cycle, not able to get to the surface because I was stuck in the turbulence of a big roller, or holding my breath and staying down until my board was past my head, finally getting to the surface to suck in one desperate breath before getting clobbered with another wave. I was done.

I did what I came to do. I surfed in Hurricane Emily at Lyman beach, Mantaloking, NJ. Wave heights were 8 – 10 feet. When you are sitting on a surfboard with only 3 feet of your body above the waterline that is a 5 – 7 foot wall of hard hitting Atlantic Ocean bearing down on you. You’d best know what the fark you are doing or you will get your ass kicked. And by kicked I mean you would consider yourself lucky to collapse in the beach break, gasping for air, puking up sea water, tangled in your leash like a farking rat-dog and bleeding from the mouth where your board clocked you. (Yes, got the t-shirt).

Before I even got into the surf I saw a dude wipe in the impact zone and come up with his board snapped. Out in the lineup, a big wave would closeout early and take out half the dudes there. Guys would wash up along the beach like trash. Often times, I was one of them. A few of us were bleeding. It wasn’t the first time. Kinda feels good, actually.

That might be one of the reasons we go back, but certainly not the only. I cannot describe the feeling of having a wave push you along while you are perched on top of a surfboard. The power of the ocean. There is something Zen-like, about it. There isn’t anyone but yourself to rely on; just you and your board.

That day was seventeen years ago. I surfed a lot before and after that day, including a couple more ‘canes. Anyone who laughs about surfing in NJ is unenlightened. Get your ass out in the big surf and then come back and run your mouth. Sister Ocean doesn’t suffer fools.

Surfing is something that cannot be described accurately in words. There are too many nuances of the ocean, the culture, the elation of catching a great wave and the hang time in between just watching, reading the water. But once you’re infected, you’ve got it for life.

I’ll be back some day.

 

Belching

I don’t know what all the fuss is about belching. I think most guys would be right there with me when I say that few things are as gastronomically satisfying as a hearty belch. Not only the relief of belly pressure, but there is something about the resonation – the vibrating in the fundemental mode (Dr. Stryke, are you listening?) that occurs when a properly expulsed belch is released. The reverberation of the esophogus, epiglotis and vocal chords is most pleasing.

Granted, the belch meter doesn’t swing both ways on the male-female metronome. Much the same as excessive body hair, a female who belches is a distinct turn off. Sorry, girls, it is nothing biased. It’s just that I like my women feminine. And belching is masculine. Much like camoflage pants, but that is another discussion.

The jocularity of such was long ago lost on my Sys. Or, at least I thought so until she gave me one of those singing birthday cards. This one has someone reciting ‘Happy Birthday’ while belching. It may be an inside joke, but it certainly is a hit with my daughter.

Personally, I cannot speak in belch more than ‘Birdwell’ and only that after a few good slugs of carbonated beverage (your choice). I have been in the company of others who can (and did) recite the entire alphabet, asked the operator for a phone listing (she hung up on him) and could say ‘Cheeseburger and a side of fries’. True masters. If I had known better, I would have requested they recite a passage from the Dead Sea Scrolls or a verse or two of Ave Maria.

Seems to me that almost every campsite repast is concluded with what can only be described as a belching serenade. Depending on the attendees, (and the quality of the meal) this can be quite a chorus. Something on the order of a pond full of frogs after a mid-summer’s rain. It tells me that the boys are satisfied and well fed. Let the drinking begin.

And, this may just be the Birdwell, but sometimes I go down to the pond after dinner just to hold session with the bullfrogs. Because, it is then that I can speak their language. I am not entirely sure what they are saying, but it sounds a lot like ‘STFU dimwit’.

Of course, belching has it’s share of caveats, just as any other bodily function. The acursed vurp, a sinister convulation of vomit and burp that sends caustic stomach juices northward, which, if not stopped in time could result in {gasp!} nose pukes. Damnit!

Belching is not without it’s practical side. Apart from the safe release of stomach gasses (which birds and rodents cannot do, thus allowing for human trickery to work effectively at exterminating such pests – with cola and/or Alka Seltzer tablets) I have used belching to elicit a likewise response from my infant daughter. An ‘audio clue’, if you will. Better than patting her on the back and waiting for her to barf on me, I would just look her in her beautiful eyes and belch. It only took one or two time before she caught on.

Now to break her of the habit….

So the next time you are IMing someone and they give you the ol’ BRB, you can safely say ‘Excuse you.’

Greasebread

Ah, greasebread. The very word brings back memories of standing around the morning campfire in our Boy Scout uniforms, watching slices of white bread deep fry in the left over bacon fat on the griddle.

Of course those were the days before bacon fat clogged your arteries, made you obese, contained insane levels of triglycerides, pcb’s, sulfites or was anything other than a delicious by-product of breakfast. Doubtful you will ever hear Alton Brown, Paula Dean, Rachel Ray or Emeril extol the virtues of greasebread. But that could be due to the fact that they have a slice jammed into their mouths and are busy looking for a napkin…or maybe not.

A bunch of cold numbed boys standing around a campfire watching a pan swamped with elixir eu de swine? That was just a culinary treat in the making. It’s like toast, only completely soaked in bacon fat. Hot, juicy, bacon-y, delicious. While it is arguable if it is good for you, it will keep your ass warm on a cold winter morn as you gear up for the days activities. Fat equals calories and calories burned equals a warm body. It was pretty good at lubing up the works, too. Plus, being that boys tend to eat with their fingers a lot, it kept dry skin at bay. Who can argue with that resume`?

Boys outside in the cold burn a lot of calories, so there never was any danger of arterial buildup. Not then, at least. Try eating that crap now and you could find your blood thickening to the viscocity of ketchup before you finished your first slice.

Back in the days of yore, when camping was a damn fine way of spending a late fall or winter weekend, greasebread came into its own. Try deep frying a chunk of Italian bread, a fat slice of a French boule or maybe even a few left over biscuits. Properly prepared, a hunk of greasebread will be thoroughly saturated with oinkment, toasty brown and crunchy on the outside, juicy and delicious on the inside. Serve hot. A cast iron griddle over a wood fire is a perfect setup.

Squatted down on yer ass next to a roaring pine/oak fire (close enough to stay warm, just far enough away so your jeans don’t burst into flames), surveying the bulged, contented faces of your mates. Crunching your own slice of greasebread, alternately washing it back with a fifth or sixth cup of joe. Moments away from taking up arms and striking out into the woods for a day of grouse seeking.

Good times. Good farking times.

“We don’t eat road kill.”

Ok, that is a fairly straight forward statement that shouldn’t leave anyone guessing. After all, we’re not the Clampets, riding into Beverley Hills and stopping to let Grandma argue over a flattened squirrel.

But, this being the BirdPage and all, I’m sure you know that there is more to it than that.

First, I don’t eat roadkill. Never have, never will. At least, not the roadkill we all are familiar with. You won’t catch me dragging a squashed whatever-the-fark-it-was home and tossing it onto the grill. No worries there.

However, the definition of roadkill has been re-defined for me by Lisa, my wife, who has MUCH more stringent parameters as to what falls inside or outside that realm. As I understand it, anything that has contacted the road – just prior to, during or after – being blasted, shot, detonated, speared, impaled, bludgeoned, swatted or otherwise waffled, is road kill. Not to be eaten.

And by road, that means improved (paved, or otherwise) or unimproved (dirt, gravel or sand).

Thus, by extrapolation and/or circular interpolation we can conclude: If the grouse that was walking alongside the dirt road in the backwoods of Maine was successfully bagged (from inside a moving vehicle or not), it is roadkill. Not to be eaten.

The pheasant that I shot on Radio Tower Road during Thanks-giv-o-fest ’87 – roadkill. Should not have been eaten. (although, it sure tasted good).

If the pheasant pecking gravel in the middle of Rt. 173 had been successfully clipped by my vehicle (it was not…damnit!), it would be roadkill. Not to be eaten.

Which brings us to methods of demise that will cause animals to fall into the category of roadkill and, thus, unfit for consumption.

If the animal was contacted by a vehicle – truck, train, car – it is roadkill. Not to be eaten. So the rattlesnake that I made the guys at Studogg’s bachelor party eat…well, I forced roadkill on them. Deadly poisionous snake roadkill, to be exact. My bad.

And so, by the completion backwards principal, we can conclude: If you are driving behind an Omaha Steak truck and the back door flies open, releasing a cascade of vacuum packed, frozen tenderloins, t-bones, delmonicos and eye round, you must keep driving. Because that, mi amigos, is roadkill.

And we don’t eat roadkill.

3/23/2010 – Don’t put raisins in my meatloaf

The ol’ man, he likes to cook. And, like most people that dabble in the culinary arts, he likes to try different recipes, variations and diversions from the norm.

Ok, understandable. After all, that is how new, tasty fare comes our way. Someone says ‘Hey, bet if I dusted a dash of nutmeagan (nutmeg) over this simmering pan of spinach, it would improve the flavor…’ and viola! something new is birthed. (try it.)

And that is all well and good. I don’t really care if you like your corn on the cob smeared with mayo, your banana’s combo’d with peanut butter or your celery stick stuffed with cream cheese and pimento.

However, if you invite me over for dinner, tell me we are having meatloaf and I find raisins mixed in, you sir, will be challenged to a duel. (pistols, ten paces, dawn.)

What, you may ask, could instigate such anguish, such displeasure, such grim resolve to face off with firearms at some ungodly hour in dim light?

I will tell you. One time the ol’ man invited me over for dinner. Sure, I replied. What’s on the menu? Meatloaf, was his reply. Very good, I thought. The old standby. Ground beef, salt, pepper, maybe some garlic, baked to a crispy delectable outside and a tender, juicy inside. Smashed pototes, brown gravy and maybe some root veg. Having been out on my own for a while and existing generally on crap, I looked forward to classic meatloaf dinner.

Man, was I wrong. I forked up a heafty peice, too large for proper table manners and jammed it into my pie hole. I barely noticed the pale color at first. Then, as I masticated, waiting for the delicious beef juices to flood my palate, I bit into something squishy, something not of the same consistency as the rest of the loaf. Something…reconstituted.

Wtf, I thought. Then I tasted it. Sweet, sugary, squishy (again). I swallowed. No beef taste. No juicy goodness. It reminded me of oatmeal.

I shot a look at the ol’ man.
How do you like it?
I don’t, Chef bait and switch. What is this? Where is the meatloaf you promised?
It’s a veal loaf…with golden raisins.
FOUL, I cried. Golden rai…who th…WHAT th..? You said ‘meatloaf’. I specifically heard you.
It is a meatloaf, only made out of ground veal…
With golden raisins in it! Who the hell ever heard of a meatloaf with raisins in it, golden or otherwise?
It’s a variation of the old meatloaf recipe.
Variation my ass. Abomination is closer. And what’s with this gravy? It’s off-color,too.
Yeah, it’s a red-eye gravy. For veal.
Damnit! The potato…
Not potatoes. Mashed turnips. They’re better paired with veal.
Fungoul abast! (which is old world Italian for something not nice. I heard my Gramps exclaim it a few times. My Grandmother would usually reply with ‘ava nabla’ which loosely translates to gfy.)

I’d been had. I didn’t even want to try the vegetables, not being sure if he was going for a triple play or not. But, I was never a very picky eater. I didn’t even have a problem with school lunch. At that point of my life, food was just a base for alcohol. I put down what was on my plate and shot out of there, making my way to the local pub to wash the bastardized loaf off my palate with a (properly identified) pint of stout.

 

7/10/2010

Could someone please enlighten me as to what happened to the phrase ‘Thank you’?  I have noticed that it is completely absent from most of the merchants that I frequent.  Maybe I am missing something. Perhaps society has changed and it is, in fact, the consumer who should be thanking the merchant for our purchases. After all, we have inconvenienced them to scan our items, put them into a bag, touch the filthy money and interrupted their train of thought while they were texting the bff’s.

Generally, it is the overworked, unappreciated, misinformed, angst-ridden teenager or young adult.  And who can blame them, what with the man keeping them down, slave wages, the overburden of school work, lousy Internet connectivity and… like… you know… other stuff?

When I was a merchant it was enforced on me and our employees to say ‘thank you’ to everyone,  even if they had given us a hard time. So ingrained in my psyche is the response ‘thank you’ that I say it automatically. I used to think it was my general good nature (Ha!). Now I know better.

It took the exceptional foul dispostion of a certain ditzoid at the local liquor store to get me to realize what a waste of breath it was.  I frequented this establishment from the first day I moved into my home.  Despite weekly large purchases, I rarely, if ever, heard a ‘thank you’ from the clerk.  And always that lingering hang time – while she waited for me to thank her.

Thank her.  For what?  Taking my farking money??  I don’t thank the Government for taking my money and they do it every day.  Nor do I thank the Toll collector or the person who collects my parking fee. But you want me to thank you?  GFY.

This particular chick was the quintessential ‘I don’t like anyone over the age of 25’ type.  She changed her hair color with the weather.  Angst flowed from her like snot out of a 4 year old.  I noticed that, with each visit, her aptitude (I tend to use that word interchangeably with ‘attitude’. Usually it fits) issues became more pronounced, to the point where you could clearly see on her face that she was displeased with my presence.  Despite my fist full of dollars and a propensity towards single malt scotch, fine wine and 30 packs of lager, she would not say much of anything.  Any communication was in that atypical clipped, short, ‘do you have to talk?’ tone. I took to avoiding the times when she was working, and trying to avoid her register.  Eventually I stopped going to the store.

It was around that time that I noticed that almost no one thanks me for my purchases.  Not the gas station attendant, the grocery clerk or the bartender.  Nor does the convenience store clerk, the pizza person, the waitress at the diner or the Christmas tree purveyor.  They all seem to wait for me to thank them. (but don’t you dare forget to tip).

Point here is that I can go to any one of a number of different merchants for any of these items and I choose to frequent those who say ‘Thank you’.  Not anything more, just a simple ‘Thank you’.

And here now a note to those merchants who actually may be reading this:

It is the foreigners who always seem to say ‘thank you’.

Are you following me on this? The next time you start your bitching and caterwalling about how the country is going to crap and you can’t make a dime because the (fill in racist remark of your choosing here) down the street is taking away all of your clientele, stop and listen to how you converse with your customers. If each purchase is not concluded with the simple words ‘thank you’ then you have created your own problem and thus, can GFY.

Furthermore, why are the owner/managers not instructing their people to politely say ‘Thank you’? It would seem to me that any merchant worth his/her salt would be well aware of this. It may just be that the prevailing thinking among the employees is that they expect to be thanked and they teach this to the others.  A sign of the times, I suppose. Life is just too damn easy for young folks today.

These are the responses that I have heard and my unspoken response in ( )

Here ya’ go        (screw you)
There ya’ go      (GFY)
You’re all set     (fark you)
Have a good one (a good what, evening repast?  Fark off.)
Silence             (I hope you contract an anal fissure.)
The ‘stare’         (die in a fire, bitch)

And just to avoid the inevitable hypocrite attack, yes I was young once and yes, I did have a bad attitude at times.  But I have grown up, through the careful observation of human interaction and social mores. That and the constant reminder of how to act like a polite individual.  Not left to act however I pleased.  Because, as we all know, kids are stupid.  Teenagers are even dumber and people really tend to bottom out on the intelligence scale right around 23-25.  What I term the age of ‘I know everything, don’t tell me, I’ll tell you’.

Thank you for your time.

BWL
~/~/~

 

8/18/2010 – Ole`!
In direct contrast to sentiments echoed in previous communiqués from this desk, I have been enjoying tequila during the warmer months. Enjoying it quite a bit, actually. It occurred to me that tequila comes from a warm weather country and thus would make a decent warm weather libation. And I was correct.

Now, in the past I may have equated tequila to the likes of, oh, say… gutter swill. It took an article in the back of one of those airline magazines to enlighten me. Subsequent research of the matter turned up a host of finely distilled tequilas. It only took the sampling of a few before the days of Jose Cuervo were behind me. Cuervo is fine as a margarita mixer, but that is about where it ends.

You see, tequila, good tequila, is made from the fermented juice of the agave plant. It is questionable if regular, old, garden variety Cuervo has much, if any, fermented agave juice in it. If it does, it wasn’t fermented properly.

There are some things that you should not pair with tequila. Strawberries for example. Strawberries have no business swimming in a bath of tequila. I should know. For I have eaten a strawberry that had lain for a month in such a bath…and it made me SICK. Sick, as in gastrointestinal distress that lead to vomiting. Sick, I tell you. Eating that strawberry was like chewing on a kitchen sponge soaked in grain alcohol. I should have known something was wrong. Good manners kept me from spitting it out. Good manners put me through four hours of nauseating hell.

Which brings me to Mezcal and that farking worm. Mezcal may not be 100% fermented agave, but it is the farking worm that is the problem. First, it sits in that sauce for who knows how long, soaking up all kinds of stomach churning impurities (just like the strawberry did). I also hear tell, but cannot confirm, that the farking worm has a penchant for peyote buttons at some point in its life and is, therefore, hallucinogenic. Even if it is a low grade, crappy trip, it still is enough to set yer guts in motion after drinking all that you did to reach the little bastard in the first place. Which, as we all know, produces severe gastrointestinal distress followed by the involuntary and forceful ejection of stomach contents.

That’s when I realized what the issue is with tequila – it’s not tequila per se that is the el problemo. It is the kind of tequila one is swilling. For most of us, our indoctrination to tequila is via that semi-lowlife Jose Cuervo. A half-breed at best, he may even be an outright poseur. The tequila equivalent of bathtub gin. A brief scan of the label will reveal ‘made with agave’ or words to that effect. Typical marketing verbiage, to throw off the uninitiated.

What you should be looking for is ‘100% agave’. That, mi amigos, makes all the difference in the world. You may balk at the price, but I ask you: Would you rather balk and cough up a few extra pesos at the register or yakk and cough up everything you ingested over the previous four hours into the nearest convenient receptacle.

That’s what I thought.

Should you have began your foray into the tequila world with, say, Patron or Hornitos, well, you might not only have become a believer early on, but also had held onto your lunch.

One last thing – Stay healthy, don’t mix.

Adios

 

Pet food

Pet food companies market to the pet owner’s inner sense of guilt (and palate) and not the biological nutritional requirements of an animal.

I purposely do not visit the pet food aisle in the supermarket. It is bad enough with some of the names on this canned slop –

Hearty Pulled Pork
Beef tips with garden vegetables
Nova Scotia salmon sauted in a rich butter sauce
Sushi grade Bluefin tuna, medium rare, in a brandy reduction with herbed compote.

– but they went too far when they installed the refrigerated section.

For crying out loud, they’re animals!  Animals don’t want that crap. They want a dead mouse, a hunk of deer carcass, an old cow bone or some of that left over spaghetti you had – and at room temperature, thanks very much.

I have had a few pets over the years. Dogs, mostly. Like most, I learned how to care, feed and utilize the dog from a higher source. In this case the ol’ man.
(Disposal was something self-taught).

See, the dog, it really doesn’t care what kind of food it’s getting, as long as it gets it. Dogs may not be the sharpest stick in the forest, but they do have an inner sense of nutritional value. If they smell protein, they eat it. And that will explain the ‘why’ to certain things you and I have seen dogs eat.
(I will not elaborate further on that point out of courtesy). Put some dry kibble, a sloppy can of rendered horse meat and/or whatever you scraped off of the kids plate into a bowl and most hounds will be content.

What is wrong with good old Purina Dog Chow? Countless generations of animals have survived on
it. Not only hounds, but cats, goats, sheep, horses, rabbits… for the sake of brevity, let me paraphrase from the Purina website…

“…if it walks, crawls, swims or flies…” (sounds like sling-shot targets to me)

Another thing – most Purina chows are of the dry kibble variety. Which means all you have to do is
scoop some out with an old Tupperware bowl or the coffee mug from your last job, dump it, whistle twice and walk away. If you’re feeling generous you can douse it with some luke warm water. Simplicity in itself.

If Purina Mills can grind out a properly blended chow for just about any animal a sane person might
keep, bag it, (shelf stable no less) and keep generations of farmers, pet owners and 4H folks content, what would possibly entice me to buy my pet an ‘entree’ called NY Strip Steak in a Savory Sauce?

 

Cream Corn SUCKS

Cream corn sucks and I’ll tell you why.  That gruel that comes out of a can is the furthest thing from the intended creaming of a vegetable that there is.  Creamed spinach, a perennial favorite, is aswirl with the heavy goodness of said base veg and a thick white sauce (cream).  It overflows the bowl with sumptuous goodness.

Canned cream corn is nothing more than the waste product of a cob scraping.  The intact, whole kernels went into the regular (analog) corn can.  Canned cream corn is the crap that got sliced, mutilated, ruptured, crushed, beaten, flattened, waffled, squished, pressed, ground, mashed, fell off to the side or otherwise didn’t survive the de-cobbing in pristine whole kernel condition.  All that by-product was gathered up, most likely by underpaid mutants, put into a vat and blended with a some kind of thickener, pro’ly corn starch, guar gum or gum Arabic, the usual suspects.  Add in the proper amount of preservative and pump under pressure (about 16 psi) through a 4 inch lead pipe straight into the can.  Afix the label of your choosing.  You call that appetizing?

You want creamed corn (notice creamed, not cream) refer to Alton Brown of Good Eat’s fame.  Now there is some proper vegetable creaming.

You want something that looks like vomit, gets slopped onto your plate, oozes across the surface like some alien slime mold, engulfing the other components of your dinner until every fork full of meat, veg and/or starch is slick with maize-mucus?  Notice the arrogance of the cream corn, taking up as much space as it can, stopping at nothing in its conquest.  Like some kind of off-yellow petroleum spill, the cream corn seeks any open space. When you try to scrape it back into its place, it out flanks you.  Try to dam it in with some green beans, it breaches your feeble dykeworks like storm surge swamped the lower Ninth Ward.  If you try to quickly fork some to mouth, it drips through the tines.  Is that what you want?

Nor I.
Man, that crap that came out of the creatures jaws in the movie Alien(s) ain’t got nothing on cream corn from a can.

Would you care for some cream corn?
No.

Pass the cream corn?
Sure – go long.

 

&$*&^@#()$@+^#!@*#%%!#

Opossums get no respect in this world.  They are not cuddly, cute or endearing.  When is the last time you saw an opossum stuffed animal?  About the only time anyone thinks about an opossum is after they are dead.  Opossums, most often, are road kill.  I’d bet that next to deer, the opossum is next on the list of automobile induced casualties.

Personally, I don’t have any issues with the opossum.  They make good targets, both for rolling Detroit steel and # 4 lead shot.  Good slingshot targets, too.  But I was thinking about the opossum from someone else’s stand point.  What is it exactly that has cast the lowly opossum in an unfavorable light?

They have no function other than to consume road kill, thus putting themselves directly in the line of fire to become…road kill.  You are what you eat.

They do that ‘playing ‘possum’ thing when frightened.  So, basically, if you come upon an opossum, it pretty much dies in front of you.  Even Mother Nature has conspired to relegate the critter to road kill.

They look like giant rats, and everyone dislikes rats, especially giant ones.

Although it is spelled O-P-O-S-S-U-M, you don’t pronounce the leading O.  If you do, you sound like a dolt to those who are in the know.  The English language has essentially thrown the opossum a curve ball.

They are marsupials, which means that they have a pouch where their young reside after birth and that is disgusting.

Even their fur looks like crap.  More like an aging crack whore on a bad hair day.  You know of anyone who desires a full length opossum coat?

Very few people eat opossum, and of those, I’d be willing to bet they don’t do so willingly.  I hear it tastes like shiate.  Like, really, really bad shiate.

They come out at night from who-knows-where and eat your garbage.

They are gastronomically in leagues with crows, meaning they eat road kill and garbage.

Garbage and road kill – nice menu, you friggin omnivorous piece of shiat, you.

Of course, there is that tail.  A hairless tail that is prehensile – it can curl around tree limbs and stuff.  That’s disgusting.

An opposable thumb?  Nothing with four legs should have an opposable thumb.  It’s just not natural.  What, are they trying to be human?

If you are driving down the road at night, and something ambles out in front of you, chances are it is going to be an opossum.  They are dumb like that.  And you are contractually obligated to swerve, because their skulls are pointy and might pop your tire.

The opossum.  The homeless bag lady of the animal kingdom.

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Salt, in all of its various occurrences, formulations and incantations has been a staple of the human (and animal) gastrointestinal kit bag since the beginning of time.  A quick spinning of the rolodex could bring up all manner of salt-inferred references; worth his salt, salty dog, old salt, pass the salt, go pound salt, you get the picture.

One notable exception would be the exclusion of salt from the phrase ‘Piss and vinegar.’  Given the caustic nature of both piss and vinegar, I’m moving to add salt to the list.

Say it with me: ‘Salt, Piss and Vinegar.’
Or ‘Piss, Vinegar and Salt.’
Salt, Piss and Vinegar has a certain ring to it.

Examplia Gratia:
“He was full o’ salted piss and vinegar, arrrgh.  (Pirate speak).

“…to be soaked, for no less than three days, in Salt, Piss and Vinegar.  Foreman, gather your men and procure a keg of beer from the church basement.  Pissing will commence at once.”  A sentence handed down by a Puritan Judge in colonial Virginia.

“Soak the carcass in a brine of salt, piss and vinegar for 4 hours.”  Excerpt from chapter 2 of the Rough Foods Cookbook, dog preparation.

But that is not the treatise for today.

No.  Today’s mouthing off is about Kosher Salt.  Arguably the King of Salt.
Salt is salt.  It’s all the same NaCl – Sodium Chloride.  Road salt, Kosher salt, table salt, Sea salt, salt licks, salt blocks, salt pills, salt air, salt water, red salt, black salt, pink salt, salt pork, salted pretzels, salt scrub, salt water taffy, Lott’s wife…it’s all the same stuff.  The difference is in the purity (table salt) or the lack of such (rock salt).

But kosher salt, or ‘the Kosh’, as it is know to us Bird folk, occupies an elevated plane.

My introduction to the Kosh was from the ol’ man.  As a lad, I walked into the house with a freshly skinned squirrel hide and asked how one would go about turning this limp rag of fur into a comfortable pair of moccasins.  Squirrel slippers, if you will.  His brief reply mentioned that first; the hide had to be cured with kosher salt.  Well, we didn’t have any Kosh in the house at the time, but we did have an ample supply of table salt.  I applied liberally and left to dry.  It worked well enough.  On occasion I still am forced to use table salt, but it is not as good a desiccant as the Kosh.  It works, soaking up water, blood, fat, juices and other liquid crap just fine, but it tends to melt and soak into the fur, degrading the pelt.  As it turns out, the answer lies in the size of the grains.  The Kosh is larger grained.  This leaves it on the skin longer, so it can suck out more juices.  And juice sucking is what hide preparation is all about.

I have even used Ksalt to clear a path to my Sysheem y Bro’s house over snow dumped flagstones.  After shoveling what could be shoveled, a liberal blessing of the Kosh absolved any remainder.  It wasn’t as kind to the surrounding turf, but that was not an issue until the Spring and fell to the landlord’s obligations anyway.

I hear tell, but cannot confirm, that the Kosh is loaded into shotshells.  The legendary ‘Salt shot’ that stung many a young punk’s hind quarters.  I always thought that one used road salt for such a purpose.  The rock like pebbles and chunks certainly look like what one would shoot out of a shotgun.  Indeed they would function quite well.  Well, maybe too well.  Because you could easily kill a man with a 12 gauge shotshell loaded with rock salt.  It’s rocks, after all.  That is why they call it rock salt.

On a more benign note, I have used the Kosh to ice my champagne down to proper temps.  I prefer my champagne as cold as can be made.  After packing the bottle of bubbly in more ice cubes than can fit in the bucket, I bless the works with a few passes of the Kosh.  Just like when making ice cream, the addition of salt allows the temperature to drop below 32 degrees F.  No physics lesson today.  It works.

Cooking with Ksalt needs no further mention from me, except with the notable exception of brining.  To brine – as in to brine a turkey – is to soak the carcass in a solution of water mixed with Ksalt and additional herbs.  I use sage, rosemary and thyme (no parsley, Garfunkle).  Then I leave it to do the fowl swim for no less than 24 hours, I extract the sea bird, stuff the herbalessence into its gaping cavitation and smoke, yes, smoke that biatch with hickory and cherry chips.

Better than roast dog.

And about Lott’s wife, who, as we all know, was turned into a pillar of salt after doing what the Lord specifically told her not to do (namely, turning around and looking at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah).  Do you think He turned her into a pillar of just any old salt?  A pillar of iodized salt, maybe rock salt?  Doubtful.  I submit that she was turned into a pillar of the Kosh.  And if Lott had any sense, he would have enlisted the help of a few friends, hauled her non-complying, saline ass off poolside and spun off margaritas.

BWL
~/~/~

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Saturday is 9/11. As always, I would like to do something to honor our fallen, while at the same time pissing off those who have caused us so much grief.

Seems to me that those who despise us so damn much also despise our way of life. Not only our choice of religion(s), but the food we eat, alcohol consumption, mode of dress and bathing.

So, I will be eating PORK at every meal. I will do so wearing only the minimum clothing required (boxers during breakfast, swim trunks at lunch, denim shorts/ripped t-shirt at dinner). At precise times during the day I will face towards Mecca and bathe profusely, using lots of soap and hot water. I will, of course, shave my face (I dislike beards). I will go to church and pray – to MY God, MY way. Needless to say, in the afternoon the beer will be flowing.

You see, they can’t stand the way we live or our freedoms – religious or otherwise. And they really, really hate PORK. Water is scarce and soap is unheard of. Alcohol is forbidden. But here in America those things are the staples of life.

There are those who say they have already won because they have changed our way of life. They have scared us, disrupted mass transit, destroyed our icons.

I say, flip them the finger. A double, in fact. Patriot’s Day should be celebrated in standard American tradition – barbeques and beer.

How pissed off do you think Oksana binLadle would be, seeing Rudolph Giuliani chomping on a hot dog and washing it back with a cold lager?

 

What can brown do for you?

Nothing.  I hate brown for a fashion color.  I don’t mind wearing it in the woods, where it melds nicely with its inspiration – dirt.  But not for a shirt, suit, pants and/or shoes.

Whoever decided that brown was going to be this or last years color should be taken out back and pelted repeatedly and at length with smelly, old, high school basketball player’s sneakers.

I can hear the brainstorming session now…

‘…oh!, oh!… and we can pair it with all sorts of eclectic psuedo colors like aqua and rotten citrus green.’
‘Orange!  What about orange?’
‘Yes, it works!  Don’t forget about yellow…’

Brown and yellow.  Great combination.  Want to know what pops into my head the instant I see someone wearing a yellow shirt with brown pants?  Pro’ly not, because it sure doesn’t make for polite conversation.

Who are these far-sighted bozaks who decide what is going to be the ‘fashion color of the year’ anyway?  The same folks who elevated camouflage from an exclusionary garment of hunters, paramilitary types and socially outcast teens (as I once was) to the cover of GQ magazine. And, lest we forget, that only paved the way for alter-camo. The conflict inspiring pink and gray camo. Talk about femi-nazi overtures. They cut the very testes off of the only garment pattern that explicitly said ‘male’.  When I see some wannabe guerrilla chick with her spiked purple hair, Che Guevera t-shirt, knee high combat boots and pink/gray camo cargo pants, well it just fills me with the urge to vomit. (well, maybe not that bad, but it does cause me to mutter unpleasantries under my breath.)

[Or something like that.]

Then, my wife purchases me a brown shirt/shorts combo. Of course I’m going to wear it, I value a quiet evening as much as the next guy. Figuring that I don’t see the shirt I am wearing after I put it on anyway, I donned the ensemble and headed for the weekend pool party. Nobody has seen this blog entry yet, so I’m good.

Then along comes Tamatha, (family, friend and technical advisor). She praises my selection, which I dutifully hand off to my wife. Love the color she says, may be the best she has ever seen me in, her favorite, in fact.

Well, hell. I may bitch about a lot of things, but I know better than to cast assunder a compliment. It is a nice shirt/shorts combo. It worked well in the mid July heat, keeping me cool and well ventilated. Should the need have arisen to vanish quietly into the brush, I could have done so easily and without detection… in fact, I may have done so… about every third beer.

Now I need to root around in my woods clothes to see if I still have that brown t-shirt with the pocket and camo cutoffs. Seems like they might be in style.

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Here we are in the depth of Winter, pissed off that the flea infested rodent had to come out on one of the sunny days of the season and alternately hoping that either a) the mud will freeze or b) global warming will increase for just a couple of weeks and dry things out.

Looming on the horizon is the month of March, with Spring far off. Oh, don’t be fooled by the whole Equinox thing. Spring doesn’t make itself prevalent until April. And don’t start cracking wise about the first day of Spring being on March 22, this is tongue in cheek rhetoric I’m writing here, not a text book.

March is like adding insult to injury. It’s a crummy month, wet, cold, nasty, snowy, blowy, icy. The whole ‘in like a lion’ thing. About the only good thing about March is St. Patrick’s Day (and your birthday, Mom).

April, on the other hand, is a happy month. The first Spring flowers, Easter, warmer temps and at the tail end …May!

So why not just delete the month of March all together? That way Spring can arrive when we all think it arrives and with luck, we can deal Old Man Winter and his lapdog rodent groundhog a sound waffling. Slap ten days on the ends of September, October and April. Kinder, gentler months. Add the last day onto the end of May, so we can have a really decent weekend holiday.

When you think about it, the only thing holding us to this ’30 days has September, etc.’ bullshit is the fact that a bunch of high shaking Roman heads got together and named months after themselves. And what the fuck did they know? Lounging around in the warm Tuscan sun, snacking on olives, drinking wine and throwing toga parties. Hell of a way to make a living, I say. How many times do you think they had to shovel the chariot out of a snow bank, squish across the lawn to retrieve a waterlogged news scroll or sit in traffic along Hadrian’s Wall because the lazy ass DOT-R (Department of Transportation-Roma) couldn’t salt the viaduct? Damned few.

When you think about some of the other mind exercising variances we put up with (Daylight Savings Time, Leap Year, meat/no meat?), what diff would it make to have a 40 day April, September and October? So someone would have to make up a new rhyme. Maybe I’ll do it…

Thirty days has November,
but not April or October
and not September
Winter sucks,
and March does too
So we moved things up more close to June

 

Pork Fat

Lard, grease, chittlins, cracklings, dripping, scrapple…call it what you will, Pork fat is to the militant Islamic extremists what kryptonite was to Superman. One touch and its over. No meeting Allah, no afterlife, no Nirvana. The jihad or fahtwa, or whatever other misspelled word they use to justify their total disregard for human life, would fizzle like a damp fuse on a child’s firecracker.

We all fear anthrax, or any one of a number of deadly bacterium’s, viruses and manufactured poisons. But militant Islamic extremists fear the Pig. They detest the Pig. No militant Islamic extremists will ever ride high on the hog, be as happy a pig in shit or squeal like a pig in delight. There will never be a big, greasy breakfast for a militant Islamic extremists. For them a hot, dripping pork roll and cheese sandwich is the culinary equivalent of Socrates’ hemlock.

Hell, even touching the swine is forbidden by their religious beliefs. Now, I am not here to put down anyone’s beliefs. After all, America was founded on freedom of religion. If swine contact prevents you from kneeling before your God in the afterlife, by all means, I will take your side of bacon, Spam or sausage and redeem you. Because my God knows a well seasoned Jimmy Dean breakfast patty nestled next to two grease poached eggs on the right and a pile of fat crusted home fries on the left, is one fine way to kick off the day. Wash that back with a flaming hot cup of java and you’re ready to rock and roll. Surely the Almighty began, and most likely ended, the week of Creation with a hearty, balls to walls, heart-stopper style feed. I’m talking about eggs, PORK, cheese, butter, probably a bagel and a large coffee (milk, no sugar) …to go. You can’t honestly tell me the world was created on a granola bar and a glass of orange juice.

But I digress. The great rock band, Pink Floyd, may well have been prophets when they conceived the masterful album ‘Animals’. And surely they are sending the entire free world a message with the specter of a flying pig. Take heed America. Fly thine swine to the desert and spread it liberally over the entire region. Not a shot needs to be fired in anger, no troops will need to invade. Just let the Air Force fly over the major cities and camps dumping lard, pork and pork by-products at will. Those idiots on the ground will do the rest themselves. After all, can’t fulfill Allah’s work if you are tainted by the pig. I think self immolation is the only purification for a soul poisoned by the hog.

Anecdotal: When the cover for the Animals album was being shot, Pink Floyd had a large, inflatable pig tethered over a power generating facility outside of Southampton, England, I believe. During the course of the shoot, the pig broke free and at one point had drifted as far as Germany (people whom, I might add, do not fear Pork by any means). I would ask the band if it would be OK if we borrowed the pig for a while, to let it drift over the desert for a few weeks, sort of as a harbinger of things to come.

If you didn’t care
what happened to me,

and I didn’t care for you,

we would zig zag our way
through the boredom and pain,
occasionally glancing up through the rain.

Wondering which of the buggers to blame
and watching… for pigs on the wing.

(Pink Floyd – Pigs on the wing – Animals)

United we stand, divided we fall.

And if our backs should ever be against the wall, we’ll be together; together, you and I.

God Bless America.

And because we all know, I can’t stop there…

Patriotic Americans,

I will sally forth the suggestion that from here on out, on September 11, we make it a point to consume pork, the otha’ white meat, in one form or another. Pork roll/sausage/bacon sandwiches for breakfast, ham sandwiches, chef salad or spinach salad liberally sprinkled with bacon bits for lunch and a big, fat old baked ham for dinner.

My thinking here is that, militant Islamic extremists hate pork. They avoid it the way cats avoid water. As noted in previous communique’s from this desk, it is this red blooded American’s opinion that we should use their porcine fears against them.

This will not come as anything new to us. We are used to celebrating our holidays with a specific food item or three. Some notable examples would be a turkey at Thanksgiving, corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s day, fish on Christmas Eve, hot dogs and hamburgers on the 4th of July, candy on halloween and eggs on Easter. Even going out to McDonald’s could be considered an act of rememberance (militant Islamic extremists hate fast-food, along with alcohol consumption, scantily dressed women and soap).

So I say to all Americans and those who support us (the rest of you can go to hell):

On September 11 let us feast on Pork! Let us consume alcohol in decadant quantities while our women run around in bikini tops and mini-skirts (not you, Mom) and let us bathe copiously. Let us fly our flag, not just proudly, but arrogantly! Be it an in-your-face show of the metal that defines us. (I spelled that word wrong on purpose).

I will go home on this day and, in reverence of the more than 3,000 innocent lives lost, sit down to a scrumptous meal of swine, washed back with one bourbon, one scotch and one beer. I will sit back in the comfort of my home while my little girl runs around in the yard, casting off her burka, secure in the knowledge that she will grow up free. Free in a country that her grandfathers and great-grandfathers fought for. I will relax knowing that, should some misguided zealot asshole try to persuade her to die for his/her religious ideals, she will have the good sense and skills to help that person along to martyrdom.

I implore you to send, along with the usual sundry items that are mailed to our troops, a can of lard. I would say to our troops, take the lard and use your imagination- smear it on the handles of doors and windows, throw it into burning fires so that the smell permeates the air, throw globs of it back into the crowds of people that are throwing rocks at you. Drop scoops of it onto the bodies of our enemies. Force them to embrace the horror as the scent of incinerating lard wafts through Sadr City like a porcine pestilence.

 

Snakewell

To the best of my recollection I will recount an incident that happened on or about August 15, 1999.

Dingo and I were performing some general pond maintenance around the Tarn, where he was living at the time. I, of course, had my wristrocket at the ready and was hurling marbles at whatever seemed like it needed a marble hurled at it. Dingo noticed that the outflow for the discharge pond was clogged and proceeded to pull sticks and crap away from the pipe. I was somewhat uninterested and busy scanning the surrounding area for movement.

Then, I thought I saw something in the torrent of water that ensued in the tailrace from Dingo’s efforts. At first glance it looked like something swimming against the current. Couldn’t be, thought I. But, just in case…

Now, you need to know that when you score a good hit on flesh with the slingshot, it makes a peculiar sound. Easily identifiable the initiated. I heard that sound. Off like a shot, I jumped into the tailrace and waded downstream (I was barefoot, as usual). I went to the area where I thought the marble had impacted and then began thinking twice. What if it was a snake, and it wasn’t quite dead yet? It might clamp on my big toe, much like happened to Boof’s nose that time. Before I could retreat, however, I saw the unmistakable form of a snake wavering in the current. Quickly, I shot it, although it may not have been necessary. I say may not, because I was not sure if I had killed the snake on the first shot (it’s head was mangled) or broke its back on the second shot (in the water). It had appeared to be clinging to some reeds, but it may just have been hung up on a stick or something.

Either way, I snatched up my victim, holding it behind the head most firmly. If it wasn’t already dead, surely it suffocated in short order. It turned out to be a 3 foot water snake that had been unceremoniously flushed from it’s hidey-hole and consequently into the sights of the ever vigilant and well armed Birdwell. My first shot had indeed connected and bashed its forked tongued, beady eyed, slimy serpentine head in.

 

I hate lawn ornaments

What is with these gazing ball things that are sprouting up on peoples front lawns? You’ve seen these things, they look like a giant cement chess piece, the pawn, only the ball is some fascinating shiny color that doesn’t match a thing around it. When I was a wee lad I would happen upon these things. I was entranced by their metallic shine, as metallic paint was not fully exploited as of yet. Most of all, I couldn’t figure out their function. Things should have a function. Most things do. Not the gazing ball. Come to think of it, neither does the plastic pink flamingo, the caricature of the bent over farmer’s ass or the farmer’s wife’s ass, the bear, sheep or deer, the silhouette of the Marlboro man or any of the many other plastic and concrete molded schlock that folks choose to adorn their front yards with. There was a lull after my youthful years, but now they are sproinking up again. Want to gaze at some balls? I have a couple that aren’t on my lawn that I am real proud of.

Why the hell can’t they just plant a few bushes? Or trees, how about trees? There’s a novel idear.

I learned the hard way that it is far easier to maintain a patch of grass than it is any other growing medium, such as islands, shrubbery or flower beds. Invasive weeds make it drudgery. And maintaining a lawn is made even easier without an obstacle course of cement forest animals, polyethylene birds or insipid gazing balls. And don’t forget; you will have to trim around all of it at some point. And trimming takes just as long as cutting, effectively doubling your lawn upkeep time and reducing by half your beer swilling, hammock lounging, down time.

Despite its obvious functionality, even the birdbath is not needed adorning the front lawn. You want to host a bird washing station, put it in your backyard. It’s just going to collect acid rain, black soot and tree fruits, freeze into a rotten, pock marked puck in the winter and breed parasites and algae in the spring. And birds are going to bathe in that? You call yourself animal friendly?

There used to be a place on the highway that sold all sorts of lawn ornaments. There was an orchard of gazing balls, families of deer, a villa of Japanese pagodas, lawn jockeys and the Marlboro men, among others. It was basically a life-sized chess game. Although, you needed to make a call to the local teamsters union to make a move.

And what kind of novelty is the lawn jockey, anyway? A stone (not stoned) dude standing there, a wire run up his ass, holding a dimly lit lantern. Just the thing to complete the motif for the main portal to your home. In my opinion, that is just asking for abuse.

Just a thought here, but do you think the folks that purvey the headstones and monuments for the recently deceased have something going on with the lawn ornament folks? Seems that some of the shapes repeat themselves. Then again, I never saw a gazing ball or a concrete elk as a headstone.

In my teenage years, there was a concrete elephant on this guy’s lawn on the way back from the local park where we all hung out. On the way home, I was known on occasion to stray off of the sidewalk and kick it over. Once I think I relieved myself on it. I don’t know why. It might have something to do with, or manifested itself into, the first sentence of this rant. This went on for, I can’t remember, a few weeks, until one night the guy ambushed me. But I was too drunk to care, so his tirade fell on deaf ears. A couple of times after that, I would see him peeking out of his front window, waiting to bushwhack me again. I never gave him the chance. I had sufficiently intrigued others, who took up the fight. Eventually the elephant was moved.

Damned pachyderms.
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My zeal to hit animals crossing the road has at times nearly gotten me killed. I specifically remember one night, traveling down Rt. 652 in freaky Hopewell Twsp., when a raccoon came out of the woods on the right, making a bee-line for the golf course on the left, presumably to play the back nine. It was far enough ahead of me that I had to swerve across the double yellow and gun it, but it must have detected danger and hurridly climbed the embankment. Not to be out done, I too tried to make it up the embankment, nearly clipping a tree and almost rolling my truck in the process.

(Alcohol may have been a factor)
The raccoon made its tee time.

Then there was the time that Dollar and I were headed out to the Pines for a weekend of eating, drinking, firearms and debauchery. We had loaded the truck to the gills with supplies and were racing down the Beaver Dam Road in Warren Grove, when, up ahead, a raccoon crossed from left to right. Hot Damn! With some raucous heavy metal tune blasting and the two of us whooping it up, I landed on the accelerator and beared down on our intended victim. We’re going to squish it flat and cut off its farcking head! (to be proudly displayed in camp, of course.) The sumbitch climbed up on the sand bank on the side of the road, but I had seen that trick before. I cranked my truck up onto the sand, crashing through the pines, certain, by the position of critter and headlights (and the resultant thump) that I had scored. Elated, we jumped out, prepared to mount that bitch on the hood, and cut off its farcking head later. But all we found were tire tracks going over a raccoon shaped hole in the sand. It would seem that we had indeed ran over the varmint, but the soft sand had created a sort of buffer, from which that bastard was able to extract itself from and run off to cross the road another day.

Despite hunting hard, drinking even harder and eating like pigs for the remainder of the weekend we couldn’t seem to get over our deprived feelings. Again, alcohol may have been a factor.

Loon Mt., New Hampshire. On a week long ski trip where my skills so vastly improved that I was able to cut my round trip time from 20 minutes to less than 10, I had the good (mis) fortune to encounter a red squirrel in middle of the run, not far from the lift exit. A couple of times of this and I could see that this misguided creature was digging for nuts. Problem # 1 was the depth of the snow – may have been 3 feet. Problem # 2: The Birdwell.

As I mentioned, my skills were improving quite a bit and being just off of the lift, was well rested. As I rounded the turn, there he was, engrossed in burrowing down for some hidden goodie. I increased my speed and bore down as silently as possible. Once again, some force of nature alerted the red squirrel to imminent danger. It looked up to see the Birdwell about 10 feet away and closing fast! He ran left, I cut left, he ran right, I cut right. Now I was nearly on top on him, so confident was I that I was going to bury him next to his nuts that I let out a cry of excitement. Mere inches from the tips of my skis, he cut left once again, more out of panic and desperation than good planning, I am sure. But it turned my premature victory cry into a yelp of anguish as I tried to cut left, caught an edge and dumped onto the hardened ice and snow. The garage sale that was my equipment and clothing strewn across the mountainside only added to the pain of several grapefruit sized bruises I sustained on my elbows, hips and ass. Alcohol was not a factor, but it is worth mentioning that I was drunk every night prior to this day and every night after.

Damned red squirrels.

Another example of the ghost of critters past still capable of extracting a measure of revenge will be the time I noticed a rag hanging from the exhaust pipe under my truck. I had just picked it up from the mechanic and thought he may have left something there by mistake. Fire hazard, I thought, as I reached under and grabbed for the material. My hand closed around what can only be described as a well worn leather dishrag. It wasn’t a cloth after all. It was the weather beaten and hairless skin of something I ran over that had gotten hung up on a bolt and dragged around for who knows how long.

 

9/19/2010     What can brown do for you?

Nothing.  I hate brown for a fashion color.  I don’t mind wearing it in the woods, where it melds nicely with its inspiration – dirt.  But not for a shirt, suit, pants and/or shoes. Whoever decided that brown was going to be this or last years color should be taken out back and pelted repeatedly and at length with smelly, old, high school basketball player’s sneakers.

I can hear the brainstorming session now…

‘…oh! oh!… and we can pair it with all sorts of eclectic pseudo colors like aqua and rotten citrus green.’
‘Orange!  What about orange?’
‘Yes, it works!  Don’t forget about yellow…’

Brown and yellow.  Great combination.  Want to know what pops into my head the instant I see someone wearing a yellow shirt with brown pants?  Pro’ly not, because it sure doesn’t make for polite conversation.

Who are these far-sighted bozaks who decide what is going to be the ‘fashion color of the year’ anyway?  The same folks who elevated camouflage from an exclusionary garment of hunters, paramilitary types and socially outcast teens (as I once was) to the cover of GQ magazine. And, lest we forget, that only paved the way for alter-camo. The conflict inspiring pink and gray camo. Talk about femi-nazi overtures. They cut the very testes off of the only garment pattern that explicitly said ‘male’.  When I see some wannabe guerrilla chick with her spiked purple hair, Che Guevara t-shirt, knee high combat boots and pink/gray camo cargo pants, well it just fills me with the urge to vomit. (well, maybe not that bad, but it does cause me to mutter under my breath.)

Then, my wife purchases me a brown shirt/shorts  combo. Of course I’m going to wear it; I value a quiet evening as much as the next guy. Figuring that I don’t see the shirt I am wearing after I put it on anyway, I donned the ensemble and headed for the weekend pool party. Nobody has seen this blog entry yet, so I’m good.

Then along comes Tamatha, (family, friend and technical advisor). She praises my selection, which I dutifully hand off to my wife. Love the color she says, may be the best she has ever seen me in, her favorite, in fact.

Well, hell. I may bitch about a lot of things, but I know better than to cast asunder a compliment. It is a nice shirt/shorts combo. It worked well in the mid July heat, keeping me cool and well ventilated. Should the need have arisen to vanish quietly into the brush, I could have done so easily and without detection… in fact, I may have done so… about every third beer.

Now I need to root around in my woods clothes to see if I still have that brown t-shirt with the pocket and camo cutoffs. Seems like they might be in style.

Fruitcake

You know, I don’t know what all the fuss was about fruit cake.  I say was because the furor has died down in recent years, all of the rabble rousers succeeded in admonishing those who would endeavor to bake a fruit cake. It is now regarded as a holiday faux pas, a blunder, misstep, screwup, outdated, old fashioned, a backhanded crack to the chops (ker-smack!).  Even the display of a fruit cake is seen as a party foul, to be avoided at all costs lest the yoke of ridicule fall upon one’s shoulders, to be endured as an albatross around the neck.  (Ha-ha, Granny made a fruit cake.  Ger-osss).(you eat it.  I’m not eating it, you eat it.  No way, ewww.)

Well, to h3ll with that bullshitake.  I like fruit cake.  I like the way it looks, with its glistening sheen, its delectable fruits and golden brown color.  I like the way it feels, heavy, full and dense.  Fruit cake is like the heavy metal of deserts.  A fine topper for a holiday meal.  Its sheer molecular structure helps to push the evening repast down the esophagus.  Likewise, the same qualities make a slice (or two or three) a fine midnight snack.  It sits low in the gut, quashing the pangs of hunger that caused you to arise at some ungodly hour in the first place.  Washed back with a cold glass of milk, you can get back to the task at hand, that being getting much needed rest time.

Both of my Grandmothers used to make fruit cakes.  And what tour de forces they were, what with their abundance of candied cherries, citron cubes and raisins.  Oh what a joy it was to get a whole sliced cherry, green or red, in my slice.  Sometimes Grams would flip me a whole cherry off the top as she was carving up the fruit cake, just like one of the Japanese chefs with their Ginsu knives.  I would gladly snap up the treat like a hound that was tossed a table scrap. (ro-kay, Shaggy).

I’m thinking that the downfall of the fruit cake was that too many came to the table dry, over baked or perhaps without enough goodies inside.  A dry, crumbly fruit cake lacking a decent amount of moist, candied surprises is no treat, copious amounts of spiked eggnog or not.  Grandma'(s) fruit cakes were always moist and delicious.  They were also heavy.  You could easily use one for a football, should the need arise, or a counter-weight.   Of course doing so in their presence would get you much more than a backhanded crack to the chops, I assure you.

I’m thinking here of the season of giving.  That, and that pesky neighbor or distant family member that shows up at a holiday gathering that you really didn’t plan on.  What better way to show your distain then to bestow a fruit cake upon them?  Now, follow me here.  It’s Christmas, you are in the company of many people and you have to keep up appearances.  You hate the fact that you have to give something to the douche_bag neighbor that drove tractor ruts through your lawn, but you have to be cordial.  So, instead of doing a few shots of cordials (ha!), or maybe in addition to, you bestow upon him {dun-dun-DUHN!} –  a FRUIT CAKE.

Now the tables have been turned.  Now it is he that must subvert, compelled by the restraints of society and good social manners, to be grateful, thank you and put up appearances (even if it is an act).  And it is you, my friend, that sits in the catbird seat, gloating like a fat man in a belching contest, reaching for the bottle of Blackberry brandy.

But I heard him say, ere he drove out of sight,
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~

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