Tuesday, December 22, 2015

I Love My Job!

It's no secret that I embrace the roll of Santa Claus.  Basically, I look like the guy, so it's an easy transformation to become the character so beloved by children, malls, and department stores.

Each year there are many memorable moments as I visit in homes, corporate parties, fund raisers, special needs homes, and children everywhere.  And each year I try to remember my most treasured occurrences and narrow it down to just one or two absolute favorites.  This year isn't over for me as I write this, but already I'm overloaded with favorite moments. 

If I had to pick one favorite moment so far from this year, it would be with a five-year-old girl in front of an audience of many hundreds of family members.  (Not just her family, but families of a large group of children brought together for a Christmas pageant.)  She came up on stage to tell Santa what she wanted for Christmas, but she had a couple of questions she wanted me to answer first.  It went something like this:

            Santa:  What would you like this year?

            Child:  Santa?  I want to ask you some questions first.

            Santa:  Okay.  What are your questions?

            Child:  Which reindeer is your favorite?

            Santa:  All of them.  Santa has no favorite.

            Child:  Oh.  Well, what is your favorite cookie?

            Santa:  The round ones.  Santa likes the round ones best.

            Child:  Okaaaaay.  I see where this is going.

            Santa:  HoHoHo.

I guess you had to be there, but the audience was in stitches, and Santa almost fell out of his chair laughing.

Last year I received a photo taken of me holding my grand-niece, and I do believe it is my all-time favorite moment.  To her I've always been 'Uncle Santa', and I hope it always remains that way.


Friday, November 20, 2015

How Long is a Dog’s Memory?

I was reading an article about “scientific research” on dogs, and I wondered if such “research” was carried out by actual scientists.  The article was about a dog’s memory retention, not the things learned such as ‘fetch,’ ‘roll over,’ and ‘the sound of a can opener.’  It explored whether or not a dog could remember what happened yesterday, or last week, or last year.  The conclusion was “No,” a dog has no memory of events of the past.

I’ve shared this before, but it bears repeating.  I was walking Biggie across the street near the taco stand when a lady dropped her taco.  Biggie broke free from me and devoured that taco in just moments.  Since that day Biggie has deliberately taken me to the taco stand almost every time we go for a walk.  He hasn’t forgotten that chance taco nearly three years ago.

Biggie’s groomer was telling me today about her little dog and a forgotten hamburger in the back seat of her car.  She and her mother-in-law had stopped for burgers at a local joint and had purchased an extra to take home for her husband.  They set it in the back seat of the car, drove home, and promptly forgot all about the burger.  The next morning she got back into her car with her dog, which immediately jumped into the back seat.  The dog had never been in the back seat before, nor had it ever shown any inclination to do so.  She turned around to see what was going on just as the dog was swallowing the last bite of the forgotten burger.  Since then, the dog immediately jumps into the back seat upon entering the car.  He didn’t forget.

Not all dog memories are about food.  Over forty years ago a friend gave me his hunting dog Hubie.  My friend had purchased a lime-green and white 1956 Chevrolet Belair two or three days before moving out of town and leaving Hubie with me.  Hubie saw the car only once or twice, but he would always look closely at any 1956 Belair he saw.  If the color wasn’t right, he would quickly turn away, but if the color was correct, Hubie would go in for a closer look.  Hubie remembered. 

Geoffrey was an eight-week-old puppy when he came my way.  I had him less than a year before having to let him go to another owner, but just before his departure, I took him back to visit the people who had given him to me.  He immediately ran over to a corner of their store and tried to push aside a barrel to get behind it.  We moved the barrel and there was a dog toy, which made Geoffrey very happy.  The thing is, Geoffrey was in this store only once for an hour or so on the day I received him.  He had been given this toy on the morning of the day I received him.  His association with this toy and this store were very minimal and had occurred some ten months earlier when he was a puppy.  But he hadn’t forgotten the toy or where he had lost it.

I was discussing hunting dogs with a friend at the fishing club.  (Some fishermen are also hunters.)  He told me one of his dogs couldn’t find a downed bird on a dove hunt, but the next year they returned to the same place, and the dog immediately began to search the field for the missing bird.  It bothered the dog that he had failed to find the missing bird a year earlier.

Anyone with a dog will have at least one similar story.  I believe it is not possible to own a dog and not be aware of the mind of the dog.  Dogs (and in fact all animals) are amazing creatures.  Often I hear the phrase ‘dumb animal,’ but I am convinced all animals possess enough intelligence to survive.  And memory plays an important roll.

Can a dog remember the events of August 22, 2014, or that next Tuesday at 10am he is scheduled to visit the vet?  Probably not.  But I do question if the “scientists” who did the “research” ever owned a dog.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Old Grayback

The highest peak in Southern California is San Gorgonio Mountain.  It stands at 11,503 feet (more or less), and its peak set the baseline for the original land surveys in the area.  It usually is snowcapped throughout most, if not all, of the summer, and is a great place to hike and camp most of the year.  Most of the year—not all of the year.

After I moved from Texas to Southern California, I entered the geology program at a local college.  For several years I had been climbing around on the sides of mountains wondering about the rocks I was hanging on to.  Some were crumbly, some were solid, some had lines of other rocks running through them, some contained seashells even though they were several thousand feet above sea level.  I was curious about them.

At the end of my second quarter, several of the students decided to hike to the peak of San Gorgonio Mountain, and they invited me to join them.  They didn’t have to ask twice.  It had been a mild January, and the first two weeks of February were just more of the same.  The mountain had seen some fresh snow, but not enough to stop determined hikers.  We packed our backpacks, checked the weather forecast, and drove to a parking area high in the mountains where we could join up with the trailhead.

We had allowed for five days of hiking, and we took along enough provision for seven days.  We expected to use up three days in total, but we were all experienced enough to know that any winter hike up a mountain could involve a sudden change of plans.

The first day was quite easy.  We hit the trailhead at about 7:00am and by 1:00pm we were well above the tree line and surrounded by snow.  We had put on our snowshoes much earlier and were having no trouble with the hike, especially after we had left much of our camping gear at the Dollar Lake campground.  We each had daypacks stuffed with food, warmer clothing, emergency stuff, etc., just in case, but we weren’t anticipating any trouble.  Then again one never anticipates trouble.  Soon we had completed the hike to the summit, or what we believe was the summit since we assumed any marker was buried deep under the snow, and after an hour or so of taking in the vista, we headed back to our campsite. 

The trip to the campsite was beautiful.  Climbing the mountain was a lot of work, and we really didn’t look at much more than the trail, or what we thought was a trail, in front of us, but coming back down, we were able to follow our ascending tracks, and take time to enjoy the views.  On this particular day we could clearly see Catalina Island more than a hundred miles away.  Wow!

Back in camp, we had our dinner, and we prepared for a good night’s rest.  We were hoping to just hike around in the area on day two and have some rest and fun before returning to the trailhead and our cars on day three.  Just as we were about to crawl into the tents, Tom noticed the stars had disappeared.  In fact the clouds were gathering all around us.  Uh, this wasn’t in the weather forecast.

We guessed we were in for a cold, wet night with a little snow.  How about a lot of snow?  About two in the morning I heard a loud yell for help.  Immediately I rushed out of my tent (the process of getting out of my sleeping bag, out from under the blankets and throwing on some warm clothes somewhat negated the ‘rush,’ but I did my best).  I discovered my tent to be the only one I could see.  All of the others were buried under a mound of ever-deepening snow. 

I worked my way over to where Ray was still calling for help and pulled him out of his collapsed tent.  We gathered all we could of his belongings and moved them over to where my tent was sitting in a protected area.  I had about six inches of snow around my tent with very little on top of the awning.  I had placed my tent next to a rock outcropping where the north and east sides were completely protected from the snow and wind.  Overhead were the branches of several trees (admittedly, it’s never a good idea to place a tent where tree branches can fall, but there were no real clearings in this area), and the snow was just not coming down where I had set my tent.

Also, I had a three-man tent rather than the single-person tents everyone else had (I like some wiggle room), so I was able to move Ray in with me.  We were just getting settled down when we realized Mick, Tom, Steve, and Kevin may be in trouble and not able to call for help.  We went back out to check on them.

My seven-foot by seven-foot tent was quite crowded with six people in it, but we were warm.  The next morning we crawled out to a wonderland.  It took an hour or so to gather everything up and sort through it all, and we weren’t real happy with messing up the snow to do it, but just outside our camp was a scene of incredible pristine beauty.  We made our breakfast, and every one of us decided to do what we had set out to do on day two.  We rested and had fun.  And we prepared for another night in a single tent.

Somewhere around noon or a little before, several forest service rangers entered our camp.  They were a search party looking for us.  We had registered our itinerary before our outing, and even though we weren’t yet due back, they guessed we hadn’t done very well in the surprise storm.  The decision had been made to rescue us.

We were about to make lunch, so we invited the rangers to join us.  They stayed for a couple of hours sharing stories of unprepared hikers they had extracted from the mountain over the years.  But they also decided to leave us alone.  We were obviously in great shape for this adventure.

One of the things they left with us was a rescue board.  I don’t know what the thing is actually called, but it’s designed to strap someone on it and slide him or her over the snow to safety.  The rangers thought we could use it to carry our packs when we decided to hike out, but we had other uses for it.  Wahoo!!  (Or is it Woo Hoo!!)  We spent hours sliding around on that thing.  Oh, such fun!  But night came, we had our dinner, and soon we were stacked back inside my tent.  Sometime in the late afternoon of the third day we stopped in at the ranger station to register our departure from the mountain and turn in the rescue raft, or whatever it was called. 

Old Grayback, as the mountain is often called, has talked to me for many years since that trip.  My five companions and I have not seen each other since a few months afterward, but I’m certain each one of them still treasures the memories of those three days.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

What Time Is It?

For some reason I am usually aware of the passage of time in small increments.  If I look at a clock at 10:30, then for the next half-hour or so I tend to know what time it is within one or two minutes.  It’s just always been this way.  Rarely do I not know approximately what time it is.  Although I sometimes wear a watch, mostly I don’t bother since looking at a clock once or twice an hour is usually sufficient.

A few years ago I was on a “cattle boat” fishing near Catalina Island.  The sun was extremely bright and I lifted my hand at arm’s length to shade my eyes for a moment just as a friend asked me what time it is.  A few minutes earlier I had noticed the time on the watch of another fisherman, so I added about six minutes and said, “It’s 1:18.”  The fisherman whose watch I looked at glanced at his watch and confirmed the time as 1:18.

My friend was a bit confused by this since he realized I wasn’t wearing a watch and I didn’t look around for one.  He made the assumption I could tell time by holding my hand in the air and looking at the sun.  When I realized how he had come to this conclusion I knew I could carry this ruse on for a long time.

“How did you do that?  You just held your hand up and looked at the sun to tell the time?”

“Yep.  That’s what I did.  It’s really simple.  Just hold your fingers horizontal and spread out a little.  Count the number of hands the sun is above the horizon with each hand representing forty-five minutes.  If the sun is two hands in the air and the sun came up at six a.m., then the time is 7:30.  If the sun is between the index and middle finger, then the time is 7:45.  A little practice and you’ll learn to divide the spaces into individual minutes.  Works every time, unless it’s cloudy, then you need to use both hands to create the illusion of a shadow on the front of your shirt and read the results upside-down.  Give it a try.”

And he tried.  And tried.  Finally he came back to me and asked me to show it to him again.  Fortunately I had recently checked the time again and knew it was about 2:20, so I held my hand up and showed him how to count the distance from the horizon to the sun, add up the 45-minute intervals, calculated the individual minutes and came up with the time.  He walked over to a man with a watch and asked the time.  The look on his face was priceless when he discovered I was right to the very minute.  For the rest of the day until the sun went down he continued to ask me the time at random intervals.  And I was always right within one minute.

After returning to the dock we went our own ways as we each headed home, but his mind was apparently dwelling on this for weeks.  I was at his house one afternoon helping him with a project when he suddenly asked me what time is was.  Fortunately he was wearing a watch and I had looked at it about fifteen minutes earlier, so I held up my hand to the sun and made my best guess.  “2:32.”

He looked at his watch, looked at me, looked at the sun, looked at his watch again.  He didn’t say a word.  I wasn’t certain if he was confused or angry.  I realized right there this game had become a quest for him to debunk, and I wasn’t about to tell him the truth.

For nearly three years he kept trying to figure out how I could tell the time by looking at the sun, and for nearly three years I gave him the same answer.  Then one day he didn’t ask.  I was prepared for the random timing of the inevitable question, but it didn’t happen.  And it didn’t happen the next few times I saw him.  Now I was worried.  Was he just observing me to see if I was cheating?  Well, just to stir the pot a little, I confided in one of his other friends what I was doing and how I did it.  Then he decided to get in on the act by doing the same thing.

We had our mutual friend completely baffled by the process.  Of course we showed him over and over how we did it, but he just couldn’t get it.  Then it happened to me. 

I had taken a day boat out onto the ocean and I heard someone ask another person the time.  I looked over there and saw a man holding his hand up towards the sun for a moment before saying, “10:19.”

For the rest of the day I watched this guy to see if I could figure out how he did it, but every time he was asked, he knew the answer.  To be honest, it has me stumped to this day.  Was he pulling the same trick I was using, or did he really tell the time by looking at the sun?

I’ll never know, but there is no way I’m giving up my secret again concerning how I did it.

Oh, wait.  I think I just did.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

2015 Wild Game Feed

If grown men are allowed to cry, now is the time.  The 2015 Wild Game Feed is over, and it is not coming back for a whole long, long year.  The food is gone, the beer is gone, the cigars are ashes and stubs, the prizes have found homes, and the exhibits are packed away.  The park is clean and ready for the next group to use.  I’ve experienced this nearly twenty times and it never gets easier.  But like it or not, the waiting now begins for the 2016 Annual Wild Game Feed.

As usual there were too many friends and not enough time.  Too much food and not enough capacity.  Too much beer and, well, uh, not enough, uh, time.  You get it—one day just isn’t long enough.  Maybe that’s the thing that keeps us wanting more.

So now we start the countdown to next year.  Now the organizers try to exceed what they just did.  And we will let them do what is necessary to make the next Feed even better than ever.  From my personal past experience, the organizers will succeed.

Thank you to the members of the Annual Wild Game Feed.  You give us a great time, and you provide help to many charities.  Your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.  Thank you for letting us participate in the festivities and giving us an opportunity to contribute to your worthwhile causes.

8,760 long slow hours to go and counting down.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Wild Game Feed Irvine Lake 2015

I’m counting down the days.  Seventeen to go.  I’ve already packed, unpacked, repacked, changed my packing list, and started over again.  My biggest fear is over sleeping on the morning of the 2015 Annual Wild Game Feed at Irvine Lake.  September 18, 2015 cannot arrive soon enough for me.

I’ve always arrived early, but for the last few years the line has started forming earlier than my arrival.  No big deal, but I want to spend every possible minute inside the designated area.  I do not want to waste a single minute waiting in line after the gates open.

On the other hand, the entry starts at 12 noon sharp and about 1,500 men are busy eating before 1:00pm.  Not too bad.  I know some guys who every year arrive about 12:45pm, and by 1:00pm they are busy eating.  They are willing to sacrifice 45 minutes for the privilege of sleeping a little later and not having to wait for hours in the queue.  I choose to be there early.  It may be a long wait, but waiting in line is almost like having a tailgate party before the tailgate party.  By the time the entry booth opens, quail eggs will already been consumed, cigars turned to ashes, and beverages recycled through the body.  The party before the party. 

This year I plan to take some photographs.  Every year I bring a camera, and every year I forget to use it.  It’s impossible to explain this event to anyone who hasn’t been there, and they say a picture is worth a thousand words.  I think it would still take a thousand pictures to give someone a basic idea of what the Feed is.  But I’m going to try to take some anyway for later postings.  If you see me there, remind me to use my camera.  Thanks.  I appreciate it.

Remember, if you can make it to the Feed, please stop by my shelter near the entry booth.  Old friends and new friends are all welcome.  Just come in and make yourself at home.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Birthday

HELP!!!  I’m 27 years old and trapped in a 66 year old body!  A fat, balding, out of shape 66 year old body!  What Happened???  Today is my 66th birthday, but I don’t remember having about 30 of them, so can I subtract that 30 from the total number?  If so, that would help a lot.

I’ve never really observed my birthdays unless someone else just wanted to make a big deal out of it.  And as a result, I’ve often not known my actual age unless I did some math, but in recent years, people have started reminding me of my age.  Why do they do that?  If I don’t really care about it, why should they?  I guess I’ve managed to survive longer that they wanted me to.  Maybe that’s the answer to my question.  Sorry.  I plan to be here for many more years, so get used to it.

Birthdays are a bit odd to me.  I could never understand why someone would want to celebrate the march to the end by ticking off the years.  I had rather enjoy life and count the memories instead of the years.  And I have a lot of memories.  If you the reader have examined my previous writings, you will probably agree with me that I’ve had many great (and not so great) experiences, and I’m planning to add many more.

I was talking to a gentleman recently at the Long Beach Casting Club about the idea of counting memories instead of years, and he said to me, “If a person can’t count memories, all that is left is to count the years.”

My reply was, “Everyone has memories, just think about them.  Focus on where this journey has taken you and where you still want to go.  The years don’t matter.  It’s the journey that counts.”  And I really do mean that.  Every day is borrowed time, so I can choose to enjoy each one, or I can waste my time worrying about how few days may be left.

Today is just another day for me, but several restaurants have decided I need to experience a free (or discounted) meal to celebrate my birthday, so I will indulge a few of them.  My wife and I, along with the neighbor’s dog Biggie, will find the restaurants with a dog friendly patio, and we will share a good time.  We will make new memories, and within a few days we will have forgotten completely that the memories were made on my birthday.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Service with a Smile

Service is a relative term.  Car service, room service, military service, tea service, religious service, food service—many kinds of service, but it’s all relative.  What exactly does service mean anyway? 

I once took my car to have a new battery installed.  When they told me it was ready, I looked over the paperwork and discovered I had received an oil change, new wiper blades, and new brake light bulbs—but no new battery.  When I complained, they told me I needed to make another appointment for the battery since I used up all my service time on these other things.  Well my car needed the things they did to it, but I still needed a battery.  I went somewhere else because I wasn’t happy with the service.

I like waffles, so while in Atlanta decided to have my breakfast at a locally famous cafĂ© with a reputation for good waffles.  When I received my order, I received pancakes.  Although I like pancakes, I was on a waffle hunt, so I sent them back to be replaced.  The waiter thought I was being picky and managed to tell everyone in the place his feelings about me.  When he finally brought my waffles to me, they were the original pancakes but they had spent some time in the waffle maker.  Actually a lot of time.  A lot of time.  As I was leaving, he shouted, “If you don’t like the service, don’t come back!”  I didn’t.

When dining in a rather upscale restaurant in another city I traveled to, my waiter wasn’t the most highly trained, and he was also in a bad mood.  Grumpy would be an understatement.  Maybe surly would be a better description.  When I was being seated another gentleman was also being seated at a table a few feet away.  The waiter first went to him and then to me to take our orders.  Later he brought out a tray and served the man at the nearby table.  A few bites into his meal he realized he had received the wrong order and informed the waiter.  The waiter stood looking at the man’s plate for a few moments, before picking it up and placing it before me.  Hmm…  I left with the other gentleman, and we enjoyed a great evening dining at a nearby tavern where the service was supurb.

I was having a business dinner with a few of the company’s managers at a very posh restaurant in a major city when suddenly the dim lights dimmed even more, and a spotlight focused on the maitre d’.  One of the highlights of this restaurant was the presentation of flaming shish kabobs on silver swords.  The maitre d’ whirled and twirled these flaming swords as he was escorted to the diner’s table by a bevy of aproned waiters.  Very impressive except for the fact that every whirl and every twirl was lobbing a chunk of lamb or onion or other vegetable into a flaming arc across the dining room.  The problem went unnoticed by the maitre d’ until it was time to remove the morsels from the swords to the diner’s plate.  The replacement dinner was made with much less fanfare.  One of the pieces of lamb landed on our table, but the manager to my left was faster with his fork than I was.  He said it was good. 

Recently I had an afternoon lunch with some of my friends at a Chinese all-you-can-stand-to-eat buffet.  Believe me, it was nothing special, and it was also not busy, which was the main reason we went there.  In fact we were the only ones there.  We wanted to just spend some time talking and catching up on things.  We had a good time just being with each other, and we also each made an occasional trip to the buffet tables to search in vain for something good to eat, but we usually just settled for a few bites of what ever we were standing closest to.  One of the guys, Charlie, somehow got hooked on the cheap canned chocolate pudding and went back time and again for more.  And then our time was up.  We didn’t set any particular time to leave, but the manager did.  Apparently we were allotted two hours to complete our meal and get out.  Suddenly the manager was standing at the end of our table shouting “TIME UP!  TWO HOUR!  TIME UP!”  I think Charlie summed it up perfectly when he said, “Thank God!  I don’t think I could stand any more of this chocolate pudding.”

Sometimes the best service comes when least expected.  Rachael and I had been married about a year and were living in a small town about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.  One evening we decided to have dinner at one of the local Italian restaurants.  We drove around the old building a couple of times checking it out.  The two dogs on the back porch next to the screen door to the kitchen didn’t win any points, but we could see the inside and it looked spotless.  So we went in (the front door).

It was good Italian food, but it was not great Italian food.  We enjoyed our meal and were about to leave when the owner came up to us with coffee and dessert.  Suddenly we were his special guests, and we were treated like royalty.  When it was finally necessary for us to leave, Rocco the owner refused payment.

About a week later we were driving by the restaurant with our still fresh memories, and to our dismay the building was gone.  Bulldozers had destroyed it to make room for a fast food chain restaurant specializing in heat-lamp burgers.

I’ve never forgotten the service that evening, and to this day I use it to compare all other restaurant service.  Rocco was already well past retirement age when we were there over 35 years ago, so I’m certain he is no longer with us.  But wherever he is, someone is getting great service.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Irvine Lake 2015 Wild Game Feed

Seventy Days and Counting Down to the 47th Annual Wild Game Feed.  Friday, September 18, 2015 is still too far away for me, but it will arrive when it arrives, and there is nothing I can do to speed up the process.  (Still—10 whole weeks?  That’s like watching the clock on the last day of the school year when I was a kid.)

Today I was counting the jars of pickled quail eggs on my shelf, and it looks as though it’s going to be a thin year.  Thirty-one jars and no time to make more.  Last year I brought forty-seven and ran out, so for those persons wanting to give’em a try, stop by my shelter early.  Since this is not a part of the AWGF, but just something I do on my own, each year’s supply can vary according to the availability of the eggs and just how much energy I have left to pickle them.

It’s easy to locate me.  My shelter is always just a few feet away from the main ticket entry, and I’m usually there, at the ticket entry, or finding something to eat.  Just look for the old fat man with long white hair and beard.  Most likely that will be me, although there may be another one or two who match that description.  If I’m not at my shelter or the ticket entry, just help yourself to some eggs.  Should the flavor you want to try not be opened, just open it.  You’ll save someone else the trouble of doing it.

Also, I usually have some cigars to swap around.  Most years I have several different brands and styles, and this year will be no exception.  Some are better than others, but none are bad or cheap.  Last year I even swapped a Gurka Centurian for a Swisher Sweet.  I don’t care.  I just want everyone I meet to enjoy the AWGF as much as I do.

If you’re an old-timer at this shindig, then you know the drill.  Eat, drink, eat, drink—not necessarily in that order.  If this is your first time, well, it will take you about two minutes to figure it out.  Just start with eat, then go to drink.  Try this a few times, and then switch up the order.  You’ll get the hang of it in a hurry.

Every year I’m asked the same questions by first timers—“What should I bring?”  The simple answer is “Yourself” and of course your ticket.  After that it’s just a matter of how much you want to haul in and keep track of. 

There are certain “basics” I always bring.  A chair, a mug (big), a shelter, a table, and a metal knife, fork, and spoon (I hate plastic utensils).  Sometimes I bring an ice chest with a few of my favorites in it, and I always bring cigars, although you can buy them there at a reasonable price.  The quail eggs usually happen, but aren’t guaranteed.  Oh, and I tend to bring along a few plastic bags in case I want to take home some of the good eats the AWGF provides.

The main thing is just to be there, and you are always welcome at my shelter whether or not I’m there.  And before I forget it, the Feed opens at Noon, but the line forms a few hours early.  I used to show up about 10am and be first in line.  That was years ago.  Last year I arrived at 7:30am and about fifty or sixty men were already in line.  Just sayin’.  If you do come very early, make certain you have a chair or it will be a long morning.

If you have any questions, just email me at fineleatherart@yahoo.com .  I may not have the answers for you, but I can usually find out.

Remember, this event is really for charities.  It’s easy to forget that with all the fun going on, but any monies spent on raffles go to great causes, so be generous and enjoy the day knowing you are helping this organization help others.

Friday, June 19, 2015

La Paloma

The dove is never an easy bird to hunt.  I say that after losing a bet with a friend over 40 years ago.  Hank and I were not much for bird hunting, but we did do a little.  He and I had both hunted ducks and quail, and he had hunted dove, but I had not.  I was decent with a shotgun, although I wasn’t great, and I had discovered there are differences in shooting skeet, trap, and live birds, but birds are birds—right? 

Over the years I had run many boxes of shells through the old bolt-action twenty-gauge I had inherited from my grandfather, and I thought there were no birds that could fly through the pattern that gun made.  Hank bet me some small change that the dove could do it.  No Way!  But Hank insisted it could be done, so I took that bet, and we went dove hunting.

My cousin’s family had some property in west Texas where the doves were plentiful in the fall.  One particular stock tank must have had the right flavor of water, because the dove population would always be rather dense for two or three hundred yards around it.  I didn’t remember ever hearing of anyone hunting these birds here before, so I thought it would be a perfect place to test Hank’s theory and take his money from him.  I didn’t think about the fact that the cost of the gasoline just to get there was several times the amount of the bet.  Sometimes cost doesn’t matter when money is involved.

As we were driving from Fort Worth to the ranch, I decided to make a second bet.  I told Hank I could take the limit of birds (I think it was fifteen) with one box of shells and have several left over for the next hunt.  I drove from Mineral Wells to Abilene before he stopped laughing, and we were past Odessa before the snickering subsided.  Come to think of it, his big grin never did go away.

When we arrived at the ranch, my cousin was waiting on us.  I had talked to him for permission to hunt the property, but I didn’t expect to see him at the ranch.  However, there he was, and he was planning on joining in on the hunt.  When he found out about the bet, he sided with Hank.

“I’ll double Hank’s bet.  Shooting dove is like shooting a hole in a cloud.  It can be done, but it ain’t easy.”

Two against one.  Great.  I’ve seen dove fly, so why are they supposed to be so hard to hit?  Both of these guys know my hunting ability, yet they think I’m going to have a difficult time filling my limit.  They should know better.

We were up very early the next morning, and by first gray light we were near the stock tank awaiting the sun’s rays.  Just before the first long shadows appeared we began to see flights of white wing dove, and we were ready.

All three of us let go at about the same instant.  The double boom of Hank’s Ithaca twelve and the rhythmic pounding of Vern’s Browning pump along with the unsteady popping of my little Mossberg 185d made the morning sound like a war zone.  And the dove fell.  We gathered our first round of birds and settled in for three more rounds before the flights became more sporadic.  Hank and Vern had their limits and I had one more to go to fill my bag, but that one proved to be my undoing.

By now the birds were flying alone, and every shot could be judged on its own merit.  No more of the ‘two birds with one shot’ scenario.  I had to make this work.  I had just seven shells left in my pocket, and I had to go back with 1) my limit, and 2) several shells left over.  I wish I had sneaked in a few extras, but I was just too confident.

I wasted two or three shots on cross flights about thirty yards out.  Another shot followed a bird as he flew from behind me, over my head, and in front of me, but he was just too fast for the pellets.  And then it happened.  I loaded my last three shells, two in the magazine and one in the chamber.  In the distance was a dove flying straight toward me.  When the bird was about forty-five yards away, I pulled the trigger and immediately chambered the second round.  Again I pulled the trigger, and the last round went into the chamber.  And I fired again.  I had seen that dove fly right through the oncoming shot three times, and then it flew over my head and away to the nearby hills.

I paid my bets, and I took a lot of ribbing, but later on I discovered the real quality of my friends.  I never heard about my humiliation after that day—not from Hank or Vern or anyone else for that matter.  They never said a word about it to another person.  And I learned a valuable lesson.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

47th Annual Wild Game Feed

New Post on May 30, 2018.  50th Annual Wild Game Feed.

New Post on June 23, 2017.  49th Annual Wild Game Feed.

New Post on June 1, 2016.  48th Annual Wild Game Feed.

Okay.  It’s that time of year when anticipation just isn’t enough to keep me satisfied.  I need the real thing, and I need it NOW!  But like everyone else, I have to wait a little longer for the 2015 Annual Wild Game Feed at Irvine Lake.  It’s not going to happen until the third Friday in September.  That means September 18, 2015.

Today my ticket order form arrived in the mail, and it is already filled out, sealed in an envelope, and ready to drop in the mail (as soon as I post this).  No hesitation allowed.  I talk to people every year who waited a couple of weeks to return their order form only to find discover this grand feast is sold out.  If you’ve got an order form send it in immediately or plan on waiting another year.

The AWGF is absolutely the best event of its type I have ever attended.  The food doesn’t end until the sun goes down.  Even then I manage to take a bit home to enjoy another day.  And it’s a bottomless beer mug event.  This is a dream come true—too much beer and too much food all in one place.  One of the things I always laugh about each year is how we stuff ourselves on appetizers of wild game sausages, chili, buffalo ribs, frog legs, clams, salmon, halibut, gumbo, spit roasted pig, quail, game hen, crawfish, tamales, and a bunch of other stuff like corn on the cob, quail, chucker, and calimari, only to have dinner served.  And who can pass up stacks of venison, buffalo, antelope, caribou, elk, boar, alligator, ostrich, duck, sea bass, and who knows what else.  Of course, it’s all washed down with more beer (or soda—your choice).

On top of that there are events, exhibits, and raffles.  Events have included a Sportsman’s Challenge in Target Shooting, Casting, and Archery.  Exhibits have included a large display by Safari Club International, and Live Birds of Prey.  Raffles are endless, and special raffles have included cars, motorcycles, and hunting dogs.  Grand prizes usually include shotguns, rifles, rods and reels, big screen televisions, and barbecues, as well as high-end hunting and fishing equipment.  And for those needing something else to do, how about some volleyball or horseshoes.

For the 1,500 or so men (stag only and 21 or older) who gather together for this event, there is a strange bonding.  We all become instant friends, and we remain friends whether or not we ever met at the Feed.  Over the years, I’ve encountered men under various circumstances outside of the Feed and the subject of the AWGF came up.  Since we had both attended in the past, there was a sudden understanding between us that only friends can have.  And that is the point.  No matter who we are, or where we came from, the Feed unites us as friends.  Just recently I encountered a gentleman who had moved out of the area and had not been able to attend in more than 25 years.  We have almost nothing in common other than past attendance, but we became instant friends.  And he plans to be there this coming September.

All of this is great fun, but it is for charities this event exists.  Many charitable organizations benefit from the monies raised by the Annual Wild Game Feed.  I know the ticket is a bit pricey, but it’s worth every penny and then some.  Hope to see you there.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Memorandum

Recently I opened an old reference book I used for many years while working as an accountant.  An inserted page fell out and many old memories returned.

About twenty-five or thirty years ago I was working for a small company where the owner was, uh, well, not my favorite person.  The hours were long and most were without compensation.  Breaks of any kind were not allowed.  Speaking to another employee was a firing offence.  And DO NOT be caught on the phone, even if one’s job was to answer the phone.  Fortunately the owner was usually not in the office. 

I developed a good working relationship with the owner of a vendor company, and began to realize she understood full well the circumstances where I was employed.  One day she asked me if I had already received my daily beating.  I laughed, but the thought stayed with me.  After a few days had passed, I had a very slow afternoon and wrote the following memorandum.  After sharing it with the vendor company owner, I tucked a copy away in my reference book where it remained all these years.  I didn’t forget about the memorandum I wrote, I just forgot about where I had placed it. 

In another job I was required to make sales and deliver product to various customers around the city.  In several offices, backrooms, break rooms, and work areas belonging to these customers, I encountered copies of the memorandum I had shared with the vendor at my previous company.  I occasionally wondered if any company had ever actually adopted it.


M E M O R A N D U M

TO:  ALL EMPLOYEES

FROM:  MANAGEMENT

RE:  COMPANY BEATINGS

Management has listened to your complaints about the company beating policy and has decided several changes to the policy are in order.

1.     Merit beatings will be eliminated; however, random beatings will be increased in order to create a more even distribution among all workers.
2.     Weekly beatings will now be alphabetically rather than by seniority.
3.     Any employee who misses the weekly beating must make up for the missed beating with two beatings on personal time.
4.     All employees must submit to beatings both before and after filing any complaint.
5.     New job applicants will be test beaten.  Any applicant failing the test will be beaten until satisfactory results are achieved.
6.     Voluntary beatings must now be by appointment only.  Friends and other non-employees will no longer be allowed to participate.
7.     Any employee failing to comply with the new beating policy will be beaten.
8.     The improvement of morale at work may result in fewer beatings, although they will not be eliminated in order to serve as a reminder of what happens when morale is low.

Please continue to express your concerns to management.  We pride ourselves in our ability to respond to our employees’ needs.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Hawaii

One of the world’s great vacation destinations is Hawaii.  Or so I am told.  Paris, London, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Florence, Athens, Amsterdam, well, I’ve been to a few more than these cities on business trips, and I also was able to take time to enjoy my visits to those wonderful places.  But Hawaii?  Oh, well.

The company where I worked for so many years usually brought the Hawaii managers to Los Angeles for our twice-yearly business meetings.  It was just more convenient and cost effective for them to come to me rather than for me to visit them.  In Los Angeles, I could simply bring a lot of managers together for fewer meetings and save a lot of time.  Actually I could save about four days of time, and my time was very valuable to both my company and to me.

This arrangement worked well for several years until I decided I wanted to see Hawaii.  I knew I would have limited time to spend in the islands, about four days maximum, so it was necessary to be as efficient as possible, but still, I thought I could get in some sightseeing.  However, it was not to be.

I was in Chicago 24 hours before the meetings were to begin in Hawaii, but the time difference between Honolulu and Chicago gave me a bit more time to play with, so I thought I was safe even though I was cutting it a bit close.

I drove to O’Hare International where a company jet was to fly me to LAX in Los Angeles.  From there, I would take a commercial jet to Honolulu International.  I planned to grab a taxi to a hotel and get a couple of hours rest before meeting with all the gathered managers at the company store in Honolulu the following morning and afternoon.  Then I could take about two days for myself and see what I could see.  But the company jet had a few in-flight problems forcing us to land in Denver.

Denver’s Stapleton airport that evening was not the busiest place I had ever been.  In fact, there were no flights out to Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, or just about anywhere else until about 5am the next morning.  I didn’t have much choice but to wait.  I did manage to get my fight from Los Angeles to Honolulu changed, although it meant I would need to fly coach instead of business class.  I’m a big guy, so the thought of a long flight in coach was not appealing; however, I needed to get to Honolulu.

I purchased my ticket for the next flight to Los Angeles, but when it came time to board, I was bumped.  I had to wait until about 10:20am for the next flight.  Bumped again.  I did get on the next plane, but my rescheduled flight from Los Angeles was already in the air without me.

At LAX I discovered the flights to Hawaii were every other day in this off-season of early May.  So I had a long layover.  The managers awaiting me were notified of the situation, and we made the best of it.

Finally I arrived in Honolulu.  I walked down the steps to the tarmac where I was greeted by a dog looking for a fight.  Just where he came from was anyone’s guess, but he decided he didn’t like my left leg very much.  A couple of airport workers pulled him off of me, but my suit pants were shredded, and the leg needed some medical attention.

I was taken into the terminal where a staff nurse examined my leg, cleaned it up, and applied about a pound and a half of bandages.  Good enough.  I had a meeting to get to. 

As I walked out of the First-Aid office, I heard my name over the airport speakers.  It was one of the managers I was to see that afternoon.  He was waiting for me in a nearby room.  I walked into the room to find every manager ready for a meeting.

“We just got word from Chicago that you need to be on the next plane out.  It leaves in about seven hours, so we decided to meet here and get it over with."

About seven hours later I was bound for San Diego where I would transfer to a flight to Chicago.  Best Hawaiian trip I ever had.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Hump Day

Today is Hump Day.  We are half the way there.  Okay, it’s Friday, but I’m not talking about getting through the week, I’m talking about getting through the year.  No this is not June 21st, it’s the Third Friday in March.  That means we are halfway through the year to the Third Friday in September—the 47th Annual Wild Game Feed at Irvine Lake.

 A full year is an extremely long time to wait for the Wild Game Feed.  Really long.  Lo-o-o-o-o-ng!  And the closer it get, the longer it seems we have to wait.  When it finally arrives, it’s over wa-a-a-a-a-ay too fast.  Then we have to wait again.

I like the anticipation of the Feed’s arrival.  Throughout the year I set aside time to examine the various items I plan to bring and to make certain all is ready for the big day.  That means examining the cigar supply, checking on the pickled quail eggs, re-supplying my box of ‘stuff’ (things I bring along just because), and looking over the condition of my pop-up shelter.  I don’t do this every week, just once or twice a month.

Last year someone asked me if I spend all my time thinking about the Feed, and the answer is ‘No.’ I do think about it a lot, but not for the reasons one may assume.  Yes, it is a lot of unique fun.  The food is great, the games are great, the exhibits are great.  What I really miss though are the friends I have made over the years.  While I enjoy everything about the Feed, if I had to pick my favorite part, it’s the friendship of this group of men.

I wouldn’t mind doing this two or three times during the year, but I think the organizers would balk.  After all, they are the ones who do all the work and have to think about it every day.  To me they are heros.  An event of this size is no small feat.  So I guess I’ll settle for just once a year, and I’ll be glad to wait while they create the best Wild Game Feed anywhere.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Biggie—Year Four

There is nothing like owning a dog, except maybe taking care of someone else’s dog.  Nothing in life prepared me for having a part-time dog, or for the bonding I could have with an animal that isn’t mine to keep.  But there he is.  Right now he is asleep on his bed just beside my chair.  I’m looking down at him and thinking, “He needs a haircut.”

Oh, boy.  When it comes time to groom Biggie, it always begins with a major struggle and ends with a happy dog.  I believe many dog owners know what I am talking about.  For Biggie there is a fear of water, and consequently a fear of a bath.  Somehow, someway, he knows when he is going to get a bath, and he immediately bolts under the bed at the very center near the headboard where he can’t be reached from either side.  And almost nothing will coax him out from there.

For a long time trickery was our greatest asset.  Biggie likes to get treats, and he responds to the rustle of a bag in the kitchen instantly.  Just open the refrigerator door and he is there.  Open a pantry door and he appears underfoot as if by magic.  All of these were used effectively to lure him from under the bed at bath time, until recently.  Now if he suspects a bath is in order, not even a meaty beef rib bone will draw him out.  

Once he is in the bath, he enjoys getting attention and a massage.  And afterward he loves the blowdryer.  When everything is done, he runs up to anyone around to show off how fluffy and soft he is.  And soft he is.  Like a cloud.  Needless to say, this gets him a lot of petting, and he is one very happy dog.

The haircut is a different story.  He just doesn’t like a haircut no matter how you slice it.  It takes both Rachael and me to control most of him during the process.  The rest is done by use of a muzzle.  I really don’t like muzzling Biggie, but I really don’t like getting bit either.  Little dog, big bite.  He will tolerate trimming his body hair to some degree, but legs are a different story—and paws are a book of their own.  (We’re not even going into the art and science of nail trimming.)  When it comes to trimming his face, the muzzle has to come off, and then only my wife can get the job done.  Let me tell you, I hate giving him a haircut more than he hates receiving it.  When it comes to haircut time, I want to crawl under the bed.  If I could manage that, not even a meaty beef rib bone could draw me out.

I like having a dog, and having a part-time dog is perfect for me.  Sometimes I feel as though he is over here a bit too much, but when he is with his owner, I miss him—usually.  The advantage to sharing a dog is being able to go somewhere without worrying if he is okay—usually.

I just looked back down at Biggie sleeping beside me, and again I thought, “He needs a haircut.”  Maybe we will go for a ride in the car instead.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX

Last week was the Annual Super Bowl Gathering at the Long Beach Casting Club.  I look forward to it every year, but not for the game.  I’m not much of a football person, but I do enjoy trying to figure it out each year.  I’m told there is strategy involved, but all I see is a bunch of men pounding each other over a fat cigar shaped ball.  My main reason for participating in the gathering is the food.  These men really know their way around a kitchen.  The measurement of a Super Bowl party is not the game being played, but the food on the table.  That’s the real superbowl.

Each year we get together about an hour or two before the game and watch some golf tournament.  None of us play golf, but none of us are interested in the pre-game stuff either.  Actually we don’t even watch the golf.  All we do is talk about fishing.  After all, that is what our club is about.  We are fly-fishermen, and that is what we do.  Even during the game our attention is more focused on fishing or food instead of who has the ball and what they are doing with it.

This year, I must admit, I found the last few minutes of the game quite interesting.  Ecstasy, agony, ecstasy, agony.  Winning, losing, winning, losing.  Quite an ending.  I just wish I understood what happened.

Oh, well.  Maybe I’ll bother to learn the game before next year, but I don’t know if I’ll have the time.  There is much fishing to be accomplished.