Thursday, September 30, 2010

Maybe-Maybe Not

Boys and beer, eh?

48 year old, David Jonathan Winkelman, and his stepson, after hearing KORB radio station DJ in Davenport Iowa, jokingly offer a 6 figure payout to anyone who showed up with the station logo,“93 Rock, the Quad City Rocker", tattooed on their forehead, up and did it.

When they showed up at the station with their fresh tats, they were met by Foghorn Leghorn who told them,"It's a joke son, a joke". David, stepson and presumably David's wife were not amused.

Lawyers were retained, and the case dismissed.

To rub salt in Mr. Winkelman's wounds, KORB has since changed formats. No longer are they the heavy metal kings of Iowa. They are now an outpost of easy listening.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

We are being attacked

Living in the woods has many advantages. It's cooler in summer, the trees muffle traffic and airplane noise while simultaneously providing a perch for the birds of the forest to serenade us. I love it here, our private Eden.

The forest has had a magnificent growing season. A splendid year for crops, and in our case a bountiful harvest of acorns, walnuts and hickory nuts. The squirrels, deer, and mice have a bumper feast to tide them over the winter. Even Eden has thorns though.

The bane of my existence from mid September till mid October are the hickory nuts.

In the photo above, the flat roof portion is the extension of our kitchen (right) and family room. The center tree is an oak, the other two are an unknown to me species of hickory . As nuts are wont to do, when ripe they fall. The acorns are merely a nuisance, the hickory are dangerous.

A ripe hickory nut is about the same size as a good sized hailstone. Weights about the same too. During this time of year we are bombarded with the equivalent of falling rocks. On a windy day we are blessed with the steady pop sounds, and damage of a hailstorm.

On the far left of this photo is the first floor master suite. That too is surrounded by missile bearing nut trees. Imagine, waking to the sound of scampering little feet. Even knowing better, your first thought is "mice?". No, it's too early. The squirrels are having a picnic.

Supposedly, the hickory is related to the pecan. I'd like to gather them, use them in something, and feel virtuous for eating deer food, but I'm too chicken. In the back of my mind, I'm thinking if these were so good, I'd see hickory on grocery store shelves, but then I'm not allowed to go to the store.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lola and Penelope, et al

It dawned on me Monday morning that save for Friday night date nights, and the gym I hadn't been off the reservation for over a week, and I had cabin fever. The crops are in, the pool drained, the calendar bare. All I'm waiting for is the fall leaf harvest, until then my dance card is empty. So I took, our Shih Tzu, Charley to the barber.

Charley has been cut once before at a shop that did a pretty awful job of it. She was so ashamed of her cut, she wouldn't leave her bed for a couple of days. I'm not certain I blame her, it was that bad.

So this time, coupon in hand for what a local magazine calls "the best" shop in town, Charley and I went to the big city, our county seat, where I haven't been in several years to look up, Lola and Penelope's.

L&P's slipped in since my last visit to town. By nature I'm leery of retail shops tucked in the middle of the bank and lawyer street. I don't expect the pin stripe crowd needs a steady source for dog toys in the middle of the day, but as better writers than I point out reality is so better.

The shop was darling, and probably on weekends a chick magnet.

Everything a pampered pet, or pet owner could ever want. Need matching jackets for you and your pet? These are folks to see.

So we met the barber who was sweet girl, who asked a lot of questions, and eventually brought out her Shih Tzu so we could compare and contrast haircut styles. When we were stuck she would head to her office and bring out another one to point out various styling tricks. There were 5 Shih Tzu's being groomed Monday.

Her major concern was that she rarely saw a Shih Tzu who played outside as much as Charley. She could tell detangling was going to be a big part of her day. It may have been but she did and excellent job.

My hat is off to Lola and Penelope's. Charley loved her cut.

She even got C's on her report card.

II. Today's Banned Book

Tony Bourdain's Medium Raw.

"Good authors too who once knew better words,
Now only use four letter words
Writing prose, Anything Goes."

If you like the snarly side of Tony, here it is in full blast mode. It's a medium, not especially well done.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Celebrate Banned Books Week

The last week of September is traditionally Banned Books Week in the United States.

It doesn't take much to become a banned book. Merely, the word of an uninformed bigot and the tacit support of a silent administrator can bring public censure to a work of art.

Most of my favorite authors are banned somewhere in the US. Most of Twain, a bit of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dahl, Capote, Alice Walker, and Webster's Dictionary. You could posit that a book not on the list is not worth the trouble of reading.

For further info check out Google's Banned Book link

Stamp out prejudice, Read.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

William Faulkner: Birthday Boy

Today is Mr. Faulkner's 113th birthday. His novels, mostly set near his home in Oxford, Mississippi tell the story of the early 20th century American South. White, black, rich, poor, smart and not so smart, farm and town. To modern ears they are a tough read.

The Faulkner House Bookstore, around the corner from St. Louis Cathedral, in New Orleans recommends Faulkner's short stories to those unfamiliar with his novels. My favorite collection is the Modern Library's "Selected Short Stories." Many of the themes, characters, and set pieces from the novels had the origin in the shorts.

If you are interested in a true throwback, the University of Virginia taped several lectures and question answer sessions of Faulkner's while he was writer in residence at the university in 1957-58. They may be heard here.


Friday, September 24, 2010


Ever get really, I mean really, overserved at a wedding? The bride's father may have been a bit too liberal with the Cold Duck, or maybe it was just a bad year at Boone's Farm. Whatever.

Ok, so maybe it took a day or so to get your head right, and back to feeling your old self, even it you had to show at work early the next morning. We've all had those experiences. You get over it.

So whatever happened to Hills?

Just sayin'.


*What the What, is a Mrs. Blandingsism

Google Earth

If you have stopped by here a time or two you will quickly notice that I am not science boy. Whatever scientific interests I may have came when I was long out of school. I haven't the skills, the math or the vocabulary to have more than a passing interest. I do have, by marriage, a very good astrophysicist in the family, who I'll use as my lifeline, if I'm ever a game show contestant.

That said, some things just fascinate me. I can spend hours on a treadmill wondering how did anyone ever figure that out, or how did anyone understand enough to ask the questions which led to that.

Google Earth does it to me too. The vastness of space as seen through Microsoft's World Wide Telescope visualizes interplanetary distances in a way I never thought possible.

This morning I came across Google Earth's blog and it appears life as I knew it may come to a crashing halt. I've found my ultimate time sink. Thanks to my old Air Force job tracking things in the sky, I was sucked in by a map, updated every 30 seconds, which shows where all 13,000 satellites are located. follow the link for a better view which also allows you to click on each satellite to determine its identity.

Or, just watch.

Clearly, I'm easily amused.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

My fall favorite

I love Autumn. I love it all, save for the unending gray skies and cold rain. I love the holidays, the traditions and most especially the clothes.

Men's wear tends to lean on year round khaki chinos paired with a fairly non nondescript button up shirt and ...... In the fall the peacock, albeit a muted and ancient Scottish camouflaged peacock, gets to struts his stuff.

What I especially love about fall is the woman's clothing. I wish I had the skills and vocabulary to fully put words to meaning.

I met my first wife while we were in high school. Each August, as the fall clothing hit the stores, she and her sisters would dutifully line up at the local Villager Shop, and get what was new in every color. Every year, they would each pick out the latest variant of what is still my favorite fall womans look.

Car guys, as they age, never mature, tend to buy the cars of their youth. Certainly I have, and at the same time, the woman's fall look I fell in love with at 16 still turns my head. I admit, its a product of a particular time and place but bear with me. Some of you may remember seeing teenage photos of your mother, and may know what I mean.

The outfit is simple. A pair of high waisted, wool shorts, in the olden days tartan was popular, matching knee socks, coupled with a simple peter pan collared oxford blouse, and cardigan sweater.

The sisters regularly had tremendous rows because some wore their sweaters buttoned up the back, allegedly stretching them.

The shoes were ALWAYS Capezio flats. Every color under the rainbow. The older girls wore the same size.

Seems every year, when its time to rotate the closets, Mrs. T and I have what's become a routine. I begin with the I love fall shorts story, she rolls her eyes and tells me to get over it.

I probably never will.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The EP Part 1

On this date in 1862, President Lincoln issued part 1 of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Part 1 specified that on January 1, 1863 all slaves in any state of the then Confederate States of America, that did not return to the Union by January 1, 1863 would be declared free.

As a point of law, Lincoln gave away what was not his to give. As a point of honor, it was the first public declaration by the president that eliminating slavery was a Union goal in the war between the states.

Part 2 of the proclamation, where words became deeds, took effect on January 1, 1863, and it feels like the battle continues.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Public Service Announcement

George Bernard Shaw is quoted as saying, "if all economists were laid end to end they would not reach a conclusion." That said, I was heartened to read the latest pablum that recession in the US ended in June 2009. Sadly, they may be the only ones who believe that.

The aftermath of the latest economic fallout has been ugly, and the human toll incalculable. The past 3 years are likely to scar families for a generation. Mrs. T and I work for a local food pantry and weekly we see the family costs.

In August, our pantry had a record month.
1,949 people were fed with 3,078 bags of food.
$73,210.23 in donated food was shared with families.
$9,927 was given in financial aid for rent/utilities to 81 families.

Our cupboard is bare, as are the food pantries in your neighborhood.

Americans are a giving people. As exciting as it is to give during the holidays, your donation is more appreciated now. If you can, please support your local family outreach group. It's your neighbors, and neighborhood you're supporting.


Monday, September 20, 2010

dazed and confused

Ever wonder if, just maybe, you were the star attraction on Punked?

Some everyday unsatisfying transaction happens, and you expect someone to jump out of the bushes and yell "gotcha". The world can't really be like this, in your heart of hearts you just know, we couldn't have screwed things up this badly could we?

This weekend provided three wake up calls. Each unspectacular in its own way, but collectively they feel an omen for darker times ahead.

Friday Night Date Night: He of the other couple picked the place. A bar with pretense of being a restaurant. My mood wasn't enhanced by the neighborhood fair taking place outside.

We ordered. After an ugly hour, saved by my $5 pitcher of margaritas, apps arrived. Our meager protests overshadowed by hunger.

Too quickly, our plates cleared and foolishly we asked if dinner might be served soon. Waitress responded with they'll begin your food after my 10 top is served. When might that be? No telling. We left.

We walked a couple of blocks, were seated at a nice little place and shared with the waiter our tale of woe. His buddy was the cook at bar #1 so he rang him up, to see what was going down. "Oh,the boss was crabby so we all quit".

Had a great dinner, eventually.

II. Letter from the cable company: I despise our cable company. Everyone is allowed to hate at least one utility. Mine is the cable company. Choose the one that works for you.

We received a letter Saturday, warning us that unless they came to our home immediately and replaced our TIVO cards they couldn't answer for the consequences. Call now for an appointment.

We called,the customer hatred clerk in Pakistan knew nothing of this letter and cared less. Mrs T read him the letter. "The fixer will arrive Sunday between 10 and noon", was the response.

Honest to god, a tech arrived on time, although he was repair and our situation required installation and even if he knew or cared about the letter, he didn't have the part, didn't think the company had the part, but someone would show up sometime Wednesday.

He was still drinking our coffee when driving a machine called to ask how well the cable company solved our problem. Why yell at a machine no one listens to?

III. School: Collectively, let us give thanks. Let us give thanks that Mrs. T does not have school age children in our school district. Let us give thanks that you do not either.

In their collective wisdom, our school masters believe we have too many Friday morning spellers, so spelling tests have been eliminated in all grades.

Take a breath and let that sink in. Repeat.

Isn't it bad enough that cursive writing is as unfathomable as hieroglyphics to graduating high school seniors? Now Facebook and IM spelling become a de facto standard. Blame spell check all you want, but you can't use a dictionary, even an online one, if you can't spell.

In the words of those to whom we entrust our children, by grade level certain "accountable words" that students would be expected to spell correctly in all their authentic writing have been created. Teachers will continue to teach weekly lessons on word principles and patterns to HELP STUDENTS UNDERSTAND HOW CONVENTIONAL SPELLING WORKS. As if.

"Teachers will track each student's spelling weaknesses and address those mistakes individually. We're really trying to work on self-regulation." Socrates died for less.

Thank god I won't live long enough to see how this pans out.

And Finally:

#2 son wrote last Wednesday he'd left Colorado and was heading to Wyoming to work on the dead bark beetle infested forests. Today I received this.
"New fire, we are on the go and here is where you can find out some information about it."

I trust your weekend fared better than ours.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Churchill's paintings

When I was but a lad in Kansas City, I remember being taken to an art exhibit held in a local shopping mall. In many respects I remember the day perfectly. Indoor malls at the time were something of a novelty, and this, while certainly not the Burlington Arcade, was one of my favorite places.

On display were a series of paintings by the patron saint of salesmen, Sir Winston Churchill.

In the early days of television, the first family of KC, The Halls of Hallmark Card fame produced a television series, Hallmark Presents Sarah Churchill, hosted by Churchill's daughter. Over time, in gratitude for the kindness shown their daughter, Sir Winston presented the Hall family one of his paintings.

A friendship developed amongst the families and eventually Hall asked to reproduce several Churchill paintings as Christmas Cards, to which after an extended dance of the seven veils Churchill agreed.

In 1958, long before my time, 35 of his oils were displayed at the Nelson Adkins Museum of Art in KC. It was Sir Winston's first one man show. Eventually, the show toured the country.

From what I can gather the exhibit I saw in 1963 was a display of reproductions taken from the original show and those later used by Hallmark. It was still a pretty big deal.

Even local boy Harry Truman was there.


Friday, September 17, 2010

The Hornet

As I was saying

The Last Word on Goodwood Revival 2010

On Tuesday last we paid tribute to the most stylish British speed kings of all time. Check out the archive September 2010 or click HERE to read the piece.

Unfortunately we made one glaring omission: the most stylish of them ALL. This was very remiss of us and we apologise unreservedly. Hoping to make amends, we’ve given him his very own post on The Hornet. Gentlemen we present, by way of our final word on Goodwood Revival 2010, the one-and-only Mr Toad.

“They reached the carriage-drive of Toad Hall to find, as the Badger had anticipated, a shiny new motor-car, of great size, painted a bright red (Toad’s favourite colour), standing in front of the house. As they neared the door it was flung open, and Mr. Toad, arrayed in goggles, cap, gaiters, and enormous overcoat, came swaggering down the steps, drawing on his gauntleted gloves.”

Caps, gaiters and enormous overcoats. What style!

(You can buy The Wind in the Willows – illustrated here – direct from Penguin Books. Not only is Mr Toad a style icon, old Ratty parades a nice line in linen suits, too. We’ll head back to the riverbank for more of that next summer.)

Bill Hornets adds: “Have a grand Goodwood, all!”

Special Goodwood Revival 2010 Hours at Hornets: Friday and Saturday 17th & 18th September 9.00a.m – 7.00p.m, Sunday 19th 9.00a.m – 1.00p.m.

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    Grocery fun

    It's rare when Mrs. T allows me unescorted access to a grocery. It may come to surprise you that I don't shop the way she does, alright so maybe I do select something(s) I may want, still I can't go. I do miss it occasionally though. It's hard to find a better people watching place than the local market.

    At the same time, she prefers I don't tag along when she goes. I am falsely accused of "rushing" her. From what I gather my sole use at the grocery is that I remember where the car is parked, if that's any consolation. When I am allowed in, I'm obviously placated and sent for very specific items. If I'm good, I get a pat on the head.

    Every now and then though, we make it fun. Ever play "tease the shoppers" ? Our version requires a quick wit, a thick skin, and an ability to make fun of yourself. TOS works best with 1 male and lots of female shoppers. It goes like this:

    Picture a grocery aisle with several women and their carts. I'm driving the basket while Mrs T pulls something off the shelf. Demurely, I ask about a menu item, and naturally the women shoppers ears perk up. After hearing Mrs. T's commentary, I announce loudly enough to be overheard, "That's not how my mother made that".

    The game, of course, is in her reply.

    The honor of the sisterhood is at stake, as heads have turned to see how Mrs. T will deal with this afront. Of course, I'm going to get it and hard, but its all for show. Points are awarded according to how many women comment.


    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    Looking for a job?

    I seem to be on someone's email list, as each day I'm deluged with one hair brained scheme after another. I've gotten fairly good at picking out the pranks, it's the real ones that keep me up nights.

    If you happen to be looking for a job, and have a background in law enforcement this could be the best cop job in America. I just don't know what you'd do next week.

    The following is from the Associated Press. The odd bits are my emphasis. Lock and load.

    Salina police create gang unit

    September 14, 2010 - 9:17am SALINA, KANSAS

    Salina Police Chief Jim Hill says he has created a new unit in the department to confront an emerging gang problem in the central Kansas city.

    Hill told the city commission Monday night that the city has had intermittent gang violence since 1991. (Emerging for 20 years) He says the shooting death in July of a 17-year-old at a city park is believed to be gang-related. (Scare mongering and probably inadmissible)

    Hill says there are two gangs in Salina that are feuding, with about 16 hard-core members.

    *Pay close attention to the math here.*

    The Salina Journal reports that out of those 16, one is dead, another is facing murder charges, four are being held by the Kansas Department of Corrections, one is in federal prison and three are currently on trial for other crimes.

    The two new officers will cost the city about $110,000 to $120,000 a year.

    One cop for every 3 gang members? $20K/member/year? Supposed the town fathers approached the 6 remaining members, offered them $30k to go away. They might just go.

    I certainly don't wish to minimize the deleterious effects of gang problems on a small community,and respects to the family of the dead youth, but I smell grant money. Next year a second shift will be necessary as most gang activity occurs on the late shift. Seems like the local constabulary had this situation pretty well under control.

    Is it just me, or have we really given up?


    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    My favorite concert

    Early in 1968, Ike & Anna Mae Turner applied for a permit to open a night club, virtually in my back yard. If Ike were white, sprouted angels wings, and booked only gospel tours he couldn't have/wouldn't have gotten the necessary permits.

    After Dr. King's and Bobby Kennedy's assassination, the town fathers couldn't do enough to pave the way to welcome Ike and the Kings of Rhythm to their community. Stopping night bus service to the area was purely a coincidence.

    I was barely driving age then,and getting into Ike's club was out of the question, undercover cops were thick on the ground. Living less than a 100 yards away from the club was Chuck Berry. Chuck had a healthy wariness about gendarmes, yet didn't mind ruffling their feathers.

    It was early fall, the club had been opened several weeks, and we local kids, on weekends, hung around the parking lot, to see what we could see, when in walks Berry with his guitar.

    Chuck knew most of us from the neighborhood,and stopped to chat for a bit. He could hear the Kings inside, and probably needed a drink. "See ya later boyz", he said and went inside.

    Minutes later the double doors behind the stage opened. On stage were Chuck, Ike, Anna Mae,and the Kings.They played all night without a break. A night never repeated and one I'll never forget.


    Monday, September 13, 2010

    The Show I'll Never Forget

    Been to a concert lately? If so think back, remember your favorite concert? I'd bet the band or venue was only the backdrop. You remember your favorite concert for other reasons. Who you were with, what you wore or ingested, where you sat, or simply because Sting looked right at you, locking eyes for all eternity. Admit it, you barely remember the show.

    I've had music on the brain over the weekend. This was aided by misreading the card catalog at the local library. Mistakenly, I ordered "The Show I'll Never Forget", edited by Sean Manning. The sub, 50 writers relive their most memorable concertgoing experience pretty well tells the story, and what a stories they are.

    The writers, most of whom you've heard, cover 60+ years of concert tales, each in 3 or 4 pages. The artists, all of which you've heard, many whom you wouldn't expect, range chronologically from Miles Davis in Buffalo New York in 1955, to Metric in SF, 2005.

    For the most part, the band is irrelevant to the story, its the backstory that is more interesting. I'd give it a solid B. Maybe nothing you want to pay full retail for, but a good yarn none the less.


    Saturday, September 11, 2010

    Thank you Lynne P

    Looking back, it was the end of an age.

    Divorce was RARE. Pre-pill, women didn't work outside the home, nursing and teaching were the only options available to those who did. Mothers fretted over the fate of their 22 year old spinster daughters.

    Watts, Detroit, the urban riots were picking up steam, the student protests and Vietnam riots hadn't yet begun.

    Most importantly to an 8th grade kid was how much music was changing. The British invasion had put paid to any white American kid's pop music ambitions. Motown replaced for a time, James Brown and Chuck Berry's overt influence. Jazz was becoming cool.

    Our after school routine was set in stone. We'd go home get out of our hated uniforms, and meet at the department store record department. In those days you could open the LP's and play them, there in the store. Try before you buy. While listening you'd plan your next purchase. Cut the neighbor's grass Saturday morning, listen to your new LP in the afternoon.

    Then SHE came.

    From heaven, a new sales girl took over the record department. Probably a year out of high school, she actually would give our pack of 12-13 yo boys the time of day. We adored her.

    She was Canadian, but never lived there. Her father managed the hockey team, and they just moved from Boston. This, her first job and she took it seriously. She knew music.

    Saturday afternoons, I walk up to her counter LP in hand, money burning a hole in my pocket, and she'd say, No, I'm not selling you this crap. You need to listen to...

    My sole rejoinder was "my album has 12 songs, this has 8". Then she'd cuff me in the back of the head and No.

    I still have lot of her suggestions. Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, Dave Brubeck, John Mayal.

    It took a decade to appreciate the music, and 30 to appreciate the influence she had.

    As quick as she came, she was gone, probably married a hockey player.


    Friday, September 10, 2010

    Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl

    You know those indispensable girls who know everything? Who, what, where, when, how, they know exactly the right answer, without research, it just comes to them, mostly because the work hard to not let it show that they are smart and they work hard. Meg of Pigtown Design is one of those women who grease the skids for we malingerers. The sad part is they rarely get the recognition they so so warmly deserve.

    Today is "Let us give thanks for Meg day" for she put me on to BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week program. This week's book is Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl by Donald Sturrock. You may hear it here.

    Thanks, Meg.


    The Old Timey Southern Dove Shoot

    Today, we celebrate dove season, the camaraderie and competition of the hunt, the enjoyment of watching field dogs working as they were bred to do, a walk in the outdoors and the art of male bonding.

    Our intrepid guide to the outdoors Mr. David Bagwell, late of Fairhope, Alabama is todays narrator. Photos provided by the author.

    The Old Timey Southern Dove Shoot

    In the deep South there’s one thing that says “early fall” even when it’s really still summer: the Southern dove shoot. In what to a Gulf Coast Southerner is “the upper South”– oh, places like South Carolina, Tennessee and North Mississippi and North Alabama [ok, ok; so that’s not “the upper South” to just everybody]– Southern-style dove shoots start about Labor Day. As we all know, Labor Day is also when you put away your white linen suit and seersuckers and white bucks and stuff, even if not yet your Borsalino Panama. And get out your shotgun, if you are so inclined, as I am.

    The Southern dove shoot. Not everybody likes it or even gets it, but I do.

    Not long ago I bought a wonderful English book called “The Best Shoots”, about bird shoots in England and all that. Some really great stuff, about shoots, driven grouse and pheasants, in Edwardian times and now. I recommend it highly. Among other things you’ll be amazed by Prince Duleep Singh, who was Queen Victoria’s pet Maharajah and Godson, last Asian owner of the Koh-i-Noor diamond, now in Victoria’s Empire Crown, who loved the Victorian shoot. A great book with some great stories [uncompensated endorsement].

    The surprising thing about that book, which took a little while to grow on me, is how much the great shoots of England are like the old-time Southern dove shoots. Maybe it’s this way in the rest of the country; I don’t know, maybe I just THINK it’s a Southern thing. Maybe it is a hunter thing rather than a Southern thing.

    Speaking of which, this isn’t the essay in which to explain or debate the killing of birds by hunters. If you don’t want to do it, that’s fine with me. But I do. Unlike some of the great outdoorsmen such as Aldo Leopold and Ortega y Gasset, and Guy de la Valdene, I don’t offer a public explanation for why I hunt. It isn’t Celtic bloodlust; I don’t get a semi-sexual thrill from the kill or anything, but it is a lot of fun and it is satisfying, and it produces good birds for the table. I think it’s actually something traditionally within humans, maybe mostly within men. I cannot even explain it or understand it, but on the other side of the coin I have reverence for the birds I kill and eat, and I support conservation efforts for them.

    And the older I get, the more I like bird hunting, and when I go bird hunting, I just feel very traditionally Southern. In my own case, which isn’t universal by any means, it’s also a literary kinship with the past. I’m the guy in your English class who read Faulkner’s The Bear not for the academic symbolism that the geek professor professed to see in it, but to learn how they hunted in the old Delta. Each autumn I re-read some of the great literature of bird shooting, by people like Nash Buckingham of Memphis, Vereen Bell of South Georgia, Havilah Babcock of South Carolina, and some Yankees too, like the great old-shoe Gene Hill. And especially “Dog and Gun” from 1856, that entirely serious work by the humorist of the old South Johnson Jones Hooper, Alabama lawyer and editor and Indian historian and hunter, which I discovered forty-four years ago in the rare book room of the Vanderbilt library, writing a paper on Hooper. I love all this on multiple levels, partly literary. But I don’t mention that on Southern dove shoots.

    It’s also a lot of fun to be around the other people. In the old days these would have all been men, but in my newest dove club there is a husband-and-wife who joined to take their son out; the wife is a fellow lawyer whose father the judge, now sadly deceased, was one of the best dove shots I ever saw.

    First you have to dress for the occasion, same as any occasion. And with some dove shoots there is fashion almost as strict as any in England, if not so stodgy. In some dove shoots people wear camouflage clothes, and in some they don’t. This doesn’t seem to be so much a geographical difference as maybe what I would never consent to call a class difference [but like Byron’s Julia, whilst saying “I shall ne’er consent”– I consented]. In my crowd almost nobody wears camouflage. We wear mostly dark khaki-colored or brown clothes; nothing too fancy, just understated. Nobody ever mentions the dress differences, but at my shoots they mostly show up in non-camouflage.

    And you have to have your shotgun of course. In the old days of the twenties and thirties most everybody would have had a side-by-side double-barrel shotgun, mostly of American make; a Winchester 21 maybe, or an L.C. Smith field grade, or a Parker or a LeFever. In the late twenties and early thirties automatics came in, often in sixteen gauge, like the Belgian Browning humpback “Sweet Sixteen”, a beautiful gun. There always were some slick-shooting pumps, like the classic Winchester Model 12. And later came European over-and-unders like the Beretta Silver Pigeon, and European automatics like Benelli and others, maybe in twenty gauge. A decade or so ago there was a big move back to side-by-side doubles, usually in twenty gauge or maybe 28 gauge, and rarely– depending on the wealth of the shooters– maybe an English or Spanish best double game gun. There might be some quiet and modest talk and comparison about the guns, but very little or no bragging.

    At an old-timey dove shoot you normally meet your friends near the field in the early mid-day. If you are lucky a good lunch will be there, especially on opening day. Some of my memorable opening day dove shoot lunches have included fried mullet and greens, gumbo with crab bodies in it, and grilled Mexican dove breasts with cream cheese and jalepeno, wrapped in bacon. Another was in a cottage on Mobile Bay, with white-coated service and fried chicken and sandwiches. There might be a Bloody Mary or a cold beer, but drinking is not a major part of this deal. There is the safety issue with drinking, of course, as in any endeavor, but good hunters know that alcohol affects shooting skills, and dove shooting is a game almost entirely based on skill.

    You might go into the dove field about two o’clock, carrying your gun unloaded with an open breech. Usually you go too early. Old Captain Jackson– a retired towboat owner who pulled “rafts of timber” [log rafts] down the river in the old days– taught me memorably that “doves don’t fly ‘til the school bus runs”, at three p.m. to be precise. Good advice, generally, with some exceptions.

    When everybody is safely in the field a truck horn is blown and shooting can start.

    “The dove field”– what is that? Well, it has changed some over the years, but basically it is a large farm field, usually at the edge of town, with shooters stationed around the trees and fences on the perimeter, and some shooters in “dove blinds” in the middle of the field. A “dove blind” is camouflage cloth wrapped around some four-foot stakes in the ground, in my own case the stakes being flounder gigs which I also use to gig flounder in the shores during Jubilees on Mobile Bay.

    The doves? They are Mourning Doves, near town with a few non-native [and non-counted] tough big Eurasian Collared Doves in the mix, the lighter gray ones which sound high and hoarse like a New Year’s Eve blown roll-out whistle. Don’t dare shoot the small ground doves; they are protected. Or the small hawks that look like doves.

    The reason the doves are there is simple: they came for dinner. Just what the doves are coming to eat depends on a variety of factors. Early in the year they may be coming to glean the remains of the harvest, of corn or peanuts, which fell on the ground during “the normal agricultural activity” of harvest. A little later they may be coming in for “the normal agricultural activity” of sewing of seed, in a permitted way the date and manner of which is set out by the local state agricultural college. Whatever it is, it must be followed precisely on pain of arrest because ever since the Migratory Bird Treaty between the U.S. and Canada came into effect just after The Great War to End All Wars, “baiting” of doves has been illegal. A “normal agricultural practice” is fine, but not baiting, and the line can be fine indeed. Since thirty years ago I was a judge who tried a lot of dove baiting criminal cases at the Federal Court in South Alabama, a lot of my friends ask me very detailed questions about the narrow line at the interface between “a normal agricultural practice”, which is legal, and baiting, which is a federal and state crime. Questions like “how many times can you re-sow wheat if your crop fails?”, asked not by a Kansas farmer, but by the lawyer or the car dealer or somebody with no dirt under his fingernails. The mere asking of the question usually answers it.

    A crop planted and manipulated purely for the doves to eat is not “bait”, but there are some ragged edges to that rule as usual. Around these parts a sunflower crop is great, or a millet field left there and run over.

    But bait sure works, and so there is real and illegal “baiting” going on in some places. In the olden days cracked corn was typical. When I was a judge they tried a baiting case before me but nobody ever said exactly what the bait was– the defendant didn’t want to know, and the prosecutors wanted to lure me into it like as the bait lured the doves. I asked innocently enough, “well, what WAS the bait?” The game warden on the witness stand smiled, thought “well, finally!” and said “Judge, the bait was ‘Uncle Ben’s Converted Rice’!” “Uncle Ben’s Converted Rice” on the dove field was not a “normal agricultural use”: GUILTY!

    Ideally the birds do fly and the shooters can hit them. The limit may be twelve or fifteen birds, but not everybody gets the limit. Those who get the limit early, walk back to the staging area, with the act of walking back in quiet modesty maybe almost bragging a little on their shooting skill. Finally about 4:30 or so, or five, somebody blows another truck horn and everybody unloads and opens the gun’s breech and walks in or waits on a ride.

    Afterward, standing around the trucks or cars, the shooters may share a cold beer or a taste of whiskey, water the dogs, talk quietly, try to avoid bragging, and give somebody a little grief about something that happened that day. Usually the doves are still flying over and people point and smile. Birds may be shared around among those who didn’t get quite enough, almost always oblivious to the complexities of the legal requirements for doing that.

    That’s about it. “The Old Timey Southern Dove Shoot”. And what a lot of fun it can be, in the early fall.

    David A. Bagwell

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    miles of style and odds and ends

    Let us be clear one one particular item. Friends, it is still summer in the northern hemisphere. Across the land, it feels like someone threw a switch, made the evenings colder, and the daily highs a little lower, but it is not yet Autumn. Enjoy these near perfect days as long as you may.

    With luck, we've got a good 5-6 weeks before daytime sweaters. Until then celebrate Indian Summer.

    A while back I received an email from ADG. He escaped Washington DC's sweltering summer and decided couple of days shopping in Boston was in order. He rambled about what a great time he was having at Bobby's, J. Press and The Andover Shop, included a few snaps too.

    I've never been to Boston, but do have a bonus daughter there, and if I could get away, The Andover Shop is where I'd head first. ADG's text & photos from Andover.

    "Spent a couple of hours at the Andover Shop today. Trad
    Mecca...haunted by Miles Davis, Merkin and George Frazier."

    It was mid summer, my brain on hiatus, but something about that tweed struck a nerve. I'd seen it before. Something about this tweed gets the juices flowing.

    Before long it hit me. I may not get out much, but I do have a tweed jacket that would do the Andover Shop proud, hanging in my closet.

    Now I know where to get the fabric to have the pants, vest,and plus 4's made.

    The Southern Style issue

    The Garden and Gun Southern Style issue (August-September 2010) missed a biggie. While on the road I like to visit genuine old line men's haberdasheries. Places that know their clients and come with a point of view. One of the best is in Bristol, Tennessee.

    Wm King Clothiers caters to men and women with taste and style. I've only shopped there once, and picked up a really great bow tie, the one with their signature icon, The Man. I wear it a lot, although in Mayberry no one knows what it's supposed to represent.

    After an extensive remodel a second location in Johnson City, Tenn opens this week. Stop in and say hello, tell Mr. King I sent ya. Just might get you a drink.

    If you have seen the news this week, perhaps you have heard of the horrific fires in and around Boulder, Colorado. My buddy, Denise, of Eat Play Love has reported on it extensively.

    I just received word that #2 son's fire team has been dispatched and is on his way. Pray for rain.