Friday, December 7, 2018

Two Dog Nights

Biggie and Sir are BFF’s.  They enjoy being neighbors, taking walks together, and playing together.  But until this week they have never had an overnighter.  Although they are still best friends, a few jealousies have crept into their relationship.

As I have written before, Biggie is my part-time dog.  My wife and I have looked after him on a part-time basis for many years now.  At first it was everyday while his mom was at work, and then after we both moved, it has been visits for a few days to a couple of weeks at a time. 

Sir belongs to one of Biggie’s mom's new neighbors.  Sir is a little white poodle, and Biggie not only likes Sir, but he enjoys being with Sir.  This is the only time Biggie has ever wanted to be with another dog.  But Sir seems to feel the same way about Biggie.

Sir’s mom became ill and had to be hospitalized for over a week, and Biggie's mom took up the reins to oversee the recovery of her neighbor.  Both Sir and Biggie needed a place to stay during this time, so my wife and I turned our home into a two-dog kennel.  I thought keeping up with Biggie was tough enough.  Oh, was I in for a surprise.  Overall it was a good experience, and we were very happy to provide these two doggies a safe haven while their worlds were in turmoil.  But there was a learning curve for all parties involved. 

What we did for one dog had to be done for the other dog.  If one of us picked up Biggie, Sir needed to be picked up.  If one dog went for a walk, both dogs had to go for a walk.  If one got a treat, both had to have a treat.  If one dog got a bath, the other dog disappeared completely.  Baths are the only thing they did not wish to share.

I was surprised to discover they ate the same amounts of the same food each day.  This was purely coincidence, but it made my life a bit easier.  I placed their food in separate dishes and showed them which one was theirs, and they had no problem with this.  They didn’t try to eat each other’s food, but they did check out what and how much the other was getting. 

Biggie is not exactly a snuggly, cuddly, or playful dog, but Sir is.  However, anytime Sir found a lap to snuggle in, Biggie would go into non-stop barking mode.  He still didn’t want to snuggle, Biggie just didn’t like it that Sir was getting something he wasn’t getting.

Everywhere we went, we had two dogs with us.  Everything we did, we had two dogs with us.  Every meal involved two dogs.  Every conversation included two dogs.  Every time mail was delivered, again, two dogs.  Well, for about ten days, my wife and I got absolutely nothing done that didn’t relate to “two dogs.”  We are very busy people, and getting behind in projects creates havoc for us, but I would do this again in a heartbeat--although, I hope it's a long time before it happens again.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Tomatoes


I spent much of my formative years on a working farm.  It was there I learned the basics of raising various crops for food—or so I thought.  It seemed easy when my grandfathers or uncles were in charge of things.  They always knew just what to do when things changed.  And things were always changing.  Rain, wind, hot sun, high humidity, bugs, big bugs, birds, rodents, etc., were always a problem to face.  I just didn’t realize how big the problems were until I planted a few tomatoes last spring.

It seemed easy enough.  I had three frames for shallow raised beds laid out on the ground where the sun would reach them about 8 to 9 hours each day.  I filled them with quality soil and amendments, and covered them with weed cloth and mulch.  I cut holes into the surface and planted eight tomato plants, two tomatillos, and eight pepper plants.  I gave them a good soaking, and sat down to admire my garden of four-inch high green twigs.  After a couple of hours I went into the house.

The following morning I rushed out to check on my new garden.  (Actually I got dressed first, had breakfast, worked on my computer, and did a few other things before I remembered the garden.)  My tomato plants were already a full inch taller than the day before, but the pepper plants were exactly the same.  I was disappointed.  I expected to have tomatoes and peppers by now.  Oh, well. 

It was about two weeks later before I realized the pepper plants were not showing much improvement.  Certainly they were bigger and had more leaves, but the leaves were wrinkled and had holes in them.  I also noticed the tomato plants were showing some leaf stress.  What do I do now?  My grandfathers and uncles are long ago gone from this earth, so I turned to the internet.  Oh Good Grief!!

First I addressed the leaf stress in the tomatoes.  According to the internet the causes were not enough water, too much water, not watering often enough, watering too often, too much sun, not enough sun, too much wind, not enough wind, humidity too high, humidity too low, white flies, lady bugs, honey bees, aphids, birds, squirrels, and noise from having a freeway within five miles.  So I decided to look up the pepper problems.

Apparently (according to the internet) my peppers were stunted from a lack of calcium, they had wrinkled leaves from a lack of calcium, but they had holes in them from too much calcium.  It was time to cry.  When I had regained my composure, I thought a trip to a nearby reputable nursery was in order.

I left the nursery with a car full of amendments and fertilizers, an empty wallet, and a stunned look on my face.  But I did what I was told, and in a few days all of the plants began to show signs of improvement, and after about nine weeks I had tomatoes and peppers forming.  I also had more bugs than I thought possible.  I think an entomologist would have a field day identifying new species in my garden.  I believe there are at least four.  Maybe more.

What was I thinking when I reached back to my farmer days and decided to plant a small garden?  I know I was remembering the taste of vine-ripened tomatoes picked and eaten out of hand in the field.  I know I was remembering the times I picked fresh jalapenos for breakfast.  I seemed to have forgotten the volume of work it takes to bring a crop to the table.  I also forgot that I wasn’t the one making all the decisions necessary to raise a successful crop.  And I forgot about the insects.

Well, a hot spell cooked the tomatoes and peppers.  When the tomatoes and peppers are charred on the vine, it’s just too hot to continue, but the few that ripened were worth all the trouble.  There is no substitute for ripe tomatoes and peppers right off the vine.  Next year I’ll try again, but this time I’m adding some corn to the planters.  I may not be a good farmer, but I can’t deny my roots.

Friday, October 12, 2018

A Biggie Adventure

Biggie is a very attentive dog.  He knows what is going on around him at all times, even if he appears to be sleeping.  For instance, I was in the kitchen doing some dishes and other kitchen maintenances while Biggie was asleep in the living room.  At one point I was wiping down the outside of the refrigerator, rinsing out the cleaning cloth, and continuing to wipe down the refrigerator.  Biggie did nothing.  But the moment I touched the refrigerator door handle, Biggie was under my feet waiting for me to open it.  Somehow he knew when I touched that handle, and he knew I was about to open it.  It didn’t matter that I had been grabbing that handle for the last ten minutes during the cleaning process.  The big difference was that I was about to use that handle to open the refrigerator.  Biggie is like that, and if you have a dog, you know exactly what I mean.

Biggie’s adventures are usually rather benign, but occasionally there is something to write home about.  If I were to tell you that an average day’s adventure consists of sniffing every blade of grass on a walk around the block, or standing in one place sniffing a single spot for fifteen minutes, it would be somewhat boring since this is what all dogs do.  It might be a bit more interesting if we went to the park and he chased a squirrel or two, but again, this is what all dogs do.  Just about anything I could come up with to talk about concerning Biggie is what all dogs do, including his brief encounter with a skunk.  Almost all dogs encounter a skunk at one time or another, but unlike chasing a squirrel up a tree, some of these encounters can be rather memorable.

Last night Biggie walked over to the front door and scraped his back foot.  Then he walked over to where I was sitting and placed his nose against my leg for a moment before walking back to the door.  This is a signal to me he wants to go for a walk, so I decided to take him out (believe me when I say it’s better than deciding not to take him out).  When I opened the door Biggie ran over to my wife signaling he wanted her to join us.  Okay.  So all of us stepped outside together.

Now, usually when Biggie goes outside, he is wearing a harness and leash, but this time I decided to forego the hassle, since he doesn’t run away except to inspect something nearby.  Even then he will come back the moment we call him.  Besides, I was going to make this a quick whiz in the yard.  As we stepped onto the porch, there was a rustling in the bushes along side of the house, and Biggie ran over to inspect.  I saw a flash of something black and white, and my first thought was of the neighbor’s cat that Biggie wanted for a friend, but then I saw it turn around and the tail raise high into the air.  Biggie had just come face to tail with his first skunk.  Biggie froze, the skunk ran away around the corner of the house, and there was no doubt that skunk left something behind.

Although Biggie took the full force of the blast, my wife and I were peripheral casualties.  My wife immediately picked Biggie up and carried him into the house for a bath, and now the entire house has been transformed into a skunk’s den.  Oh well.  I mixed up a batch of anti-skunk-odor dog wash and Biggie got a bath.  My wife got a bath.  I got a bath.  Our clothes are hanging outside in the fresh air, although they may need to be burned.  And our house…  Our house has every window open and every fan on.  And the smell outside the house will insure no solicitor comes to our front door for a while. 

This morning Biggie altered his morning walk to include the infected area around the house where he thoroughly marked his territory.  Again on a second walk, he double marked his territory.  This is Biggie’s house, and skunks aren’t welcome.

What is it about dogs and skunks?  Growing up in farm country, every dog I knew had managed to spend some time in a tomato juice bath in a futile attempt to diminish the effects of the encounter with a skunk.  I have never known a dog to win the battle.  My friend Frank’s dog once thought he had managed to become victorious, but in the end he was the biggest loser of all, along with the entire neighborhood.

Chunk was a solid dog, much like a pit bull, and he was very curious, as many dogs are.  About three or four blocks away from the block where Frank and I lived across the street from each other was a small area of scrub oak trees on a piece of land not yet cleared for new housing.  This was a great place for my friends and I to go and pretend we were hunters or something.  Usually one of the guy's dogs would join us, and on one fateful day it was Chunk who was the chosen one.

Chunk was doing Chunk things when I heard Rick or Mike or someone shout something.  About that time I saw Chunk running down the street towards home holding some object in his mouth.  Behind Chunk were several skunks giving chase.  Behind the skunks was Frank frantically chasing after his dog. 

I know once a skunk releases his stuff, there is very little left for a second shot, although very little goes a long ways.  And the skunk in Chunks mouth had reinforcements not far behind.  I’ve never experienced anything quite like this before or since.  People were coming out of their houses for several blocks and fanning the air as they looked around for the source of the problem.

Chunk ran for several blocks before releasing his captive, and then he went into hiding not fully realizing his location was easy to sniff out.  As quickly as he would find a good spot, someone would chase him away.  The problem was he would leave behind strong evidence that he had been there.  For a couple of days Chunk broadcast his adventure around the neighborhood before returning home.  As for the skunks themselves, it seems they informed the neighborhood for several weeks they were not to be disturbed in the future. 

Well, Biggie’s encounter with the skunk hasn’t really taught him anything, and I do not believe for one second the skunk thinks it is over.  I just hope the house airs out in the near future.  And Biggie will definitely be on a leash from now on.

Friday, September 21, 2018

2018 Wild Game Feed

Well, it’s over, and I almost don’t know what to say.  Almost.  The 50th Annual Wild Game Feed at Irvine Lake was unbelievable to say the least.  We were promised the biggest and best wild game feed possible, and the AWGF members delivered beyond our wildest dreams.

Thank you to everyone that participated either as a member or a guest.  You made this year’s Feed a standard for comparison to any and all other wild game feeds around the country.  And nothing I know of can compare.  The best is simply the best.

Now the plans begin for next year’s Feed, and my plans are to return once again.  I deem it a privilege to be a part of the charitable fundraiser, and I hope you feel the same way.  For me to participate is to have fun, but I cannot forget that for me to participate is to give to others help and opportunities otherwise unavailable. 

Today I will unpack my car and carefully store my things away until tomorrow when I will start the process of preparing for next year’s Feed.  Just because the 50th anniversary bash was the best Feed ever doesn’t mean the next Feed will be less.  In fact, every year improves over the previous Feed, so expect the next one to be ‘over the top’—again.

See you at the Feed!

Meat and Beer!

Friday, September 7, 2018

Annual Wild Game Feed Creed

Two more weeks.  It’s almost here, and I’m ready, but I’ve been ready for almost a year.  This year is the 50th Anniversary of the Feed, and rather than write a few paragraphs about it, I thought something different would be more appropriate.  The Annual Wild Game Feed sends out a copy of their creed most years with their ticket order form, and I decided to reprint it here as a reminder to everyone of what this shindig is about. 
  
Annual Wild Game Feed Creed

“We, the members of the Annual Wild Game Feed, declare that the old traditions of the Western Territories of the United States are alive at this beginning of the twenty-first century.

Since the early 19th century it has been the tradition on this part of the North American Continent that hunters, fishermen, mountain men, and outdoorsmen would once each year gather to trade game, food, furs, provisions and experiences.  Through this gathering, men of high education or of keen business sense formed life long friendships, initiated a sense of community in that vast wilderness and gained respect for this region and for all its wealth.  These conventions were known as the “summer rendezvous.”

Lest such tradition fade completely into memory, the Annual Wild Game Feed is hereby created and dedicated to the preservation of the summer rendezvous and for all that it means to the modern hunters, fishermen and outdoorsmen.  That the community of the West still survives to preserve for the future of our young and old alike, the rights of hunters, fishermen and outdoorsmen, to enjoy and continue to experience the wilderness and wealth that still exists but is perilously close to extinction.

It is for these purposes that the Annual Wild Game Feed is organized and dedicated and resolves to raise funds for donations to such other non-profit and charitable or public benefit organizations similarly situated, either in part or in full, for the preservation of the traditions of the American West outdoorsmen’s experience for all generations to come.

Accordingly, at noon on the third Friday of each September, the Annual Wild Game Feed will hold its annual event, serving game and beverages to its members to celebrate the Western tradition of the summer rendezvous and raise funds for charitable organizations.”

Sounds good to me.

See you at the Feed!

Meat and Beer!

Friday, August 10, 2018

When Life Gives You Lemons

A few days ago my 98-year-old neighbor came bouncing out his front door to catch me in my driveway. 

“David," he shouted, “I’ve got something for you!"  And with that he handed me a big bag of lemons.

Bob had been sitting on his back porch earlier that morning looking at the lemon tree he planted in 1948, seventy years ago just after he built his house.  He said it has produced bushels of lemons every year since 1949, and the only thing he has ever done to the tree since planting it is pick the lemons.  No water, no fertilizer, no pruning, nothing.  Just pick the lemons.  He said he is running out of people to give the lemons to, so it’s up to me to take up the slack.

Well, I like lemons, but this seems to be a bigger job than I wish to deal with; however, for now I’ll use as many lemons as I can.  Let’s see, lemon pound cake, lemon water, lemon iced tea, lemon pie, lemonade, lemon chicken, uh, lemon ice cubes, lemon …  Oh, my!  This brings back into my thoughts a few lemon incidences.

At one time I had a position with a company that required a lot of travel.  My main office was in Chicago, but I was often away, and my assistant James kept things running in my absence.  Needless to say, James knew my schedule, and once when I was slated to return to the office, his wife baked me a lemon pie.

James brought the pie to work and somehow managed to sneak it past the security guard and other employees and into my office without being seen.  Believe me when I say if just just one person had noticed it, the pie would not have made it to its destination.  Rather than leave it on my desk where anyone walking by would have noticed it, James placed the pie in my desk’s chair where I would be certain to see it.  Best laid plans.

I arrived at the office a few minutes later, pulled out my chair, and promptly sat on the pie.  At first I was confused.  My chair didn’t feel right.  Did someone swap chairs with me?  As I stood up, I realized what had happened.  To be honest I really wanted to sample some of the pie parts that appeared to have been left in tact, but I thought better of it.  After all, my bottom had just sat on that pie.  At least I had a couple of extra suits in the travel bags I kept in the office.

Another time lemons impacted my life was again at the same office about a year later.  One of the other department heads had made some limoncello using a recipe from his Italian grandfather.  He managed to get it past the security guards and into my office where he closed the door behind him.  I watched as he pulled out two oversized shot glasses and the bottle of limoncello from his overcoat.  He uncorked the bottle and filled both glasses.  He picked up one of the glasses and knocked it back in one gulp, and then he pointed to the second glass and to me.  I must say it was good.

A second round was poured, and it went down even easier than the first.  Then a third round was poured.  I can remember asking him if I really wanted to do this, but I absolutely do not remember his answer.  Later—much later—he told me I didn’t make it to the fourth round.  It turns out his old Italian grandfather’s recipe started with a bottle of Everclear 190 proof.

So I thanked my neighbor Bob for the bag of lemons, and proceeded into my home to brew up some lemonade and iced tea.  And later out of curiosity I drove over to an adult beverage store to price some Everclear.  Thank goodness it is outlawed where I now live, and I’ll need to find other ways of dealing with life’s lemons.  Maybe I’ll make a pie.  But I won't sit in it.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Irvine Lake 2018 Wild Game Feed

We’re getting close.  Just 10 more weeks and the 50th Annual Wild Game Feed at Irvine Lake will be in full swing.  Friday, September 21, 2018 was marked on my calendar within 5 minutes of purchasing a 2018 calendar.  And I’ve already gathered everything together I’m planning to bring—well, almost.  I’ll wait on the ice until the last minute.  But you get the idea.  I’m ready.

How about you?  Did you order your tickets the day the order forms came out?  I hope so.  I’ve said many times before that to hesitate is to miss the Feed.  And every year I receive many emails from guys who waited only to be turned down when they finally did send in their order forms.  In over twenty years of attending this event, I’ve watched the ticket sell-out date move closer to the form mail-out date.  It used to be a couple of months, if they sold out at all.  Now they will sell out in just a few days.  If you didn’t get a ticket, I will miss you, but hopefully this will be incentive to order your tickets as soon as the form arrives next year.

To illustrate just how quickly your order needs to be placed, last year the order forms were a couple of weeks later than usual arriving, and everyone was in such a panic they ordered immediately.  One person contacted me and stated he waited from the time he received his form on Tuesday until payday on Friday to place his order.  He was too late.  Order forms need to be mailed immediately upon receipt.  I can’t stress this enough.

I’ve been told to expect great things for this year’s Feed, but I expect that every year.  And every year the organizers manage to deliver.  I can’t wait to find out what they were referring to, because it has to be great to top last year’s Feed. 

See you at the Feed!

Meat and Beer!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

50th Annual Wild Game Feed

Fifty years.  Half a century.  Wow!  This is a Big milestone for any organization.  Congratulations Annual Wild Game Feed members for creating the biggest and best wild game feed anywhere!  For a group that started out basically as a backyard barbeque, this has taken on a life and meaning far beyond anyone’s expectations.

I’ve heard rumors of big doings planned by the AWGF members for the Big Five-O.  I don’t know exactly what those plans are, but I do know the Craft Beer Garden will be expanded with more local craft breweries represented, as well as more food items to try.  Also, they are bringing back the whole Alligators! 

The ticket order forms for this year’s Feed are arriving right now.  If you are planning to join the Brotherhood of Carnivores at the 2018 Annual Wild Game Feed on the third Friday in September (September 21, 2018) at Irvine Lake and find out what all those rumors are about, order your tickets NOW!  The tickets will sell out in just a few days, so any hesitation will bring much sorrow, maybe some wailing, certainly some regret.  A couple of years ago one guy forgot to place his order until mid-July.  He was waaaay too late, and he ended up taking out his frustrations with a shovel handle on the side of his truck.  Then he had to have the truck repaired.  Double whammy!

As soon as you have the ticket order form in your hands, fill it out, write a check, and send it in.  I’m not joking about this.  I get emails every year from guys who waited a while to place their order only to discover they were too late.  And last year I started receiving those emails about 2 weeks after the order forms came out.  This year will probably be earlier.  I cannot help you get a ticket after they are sold out.  I buy my own ticket like everyone else, and I don’t have extras.  So, place your order immediately, or plan on waiting another year.

The Annual Wild Game Feed is a big charity fundraiser.  Many worthy organizations (some are listed on your order form) benefit from this event, and I am proud to be allowed to participate.  As always it is a stag event (men only) and 21 years old or older.  No exceptions.  And as always it will be too much fun.  Raffles are for some unbelievable prizes, mounds of meat followed by more mounds of meat, bottomless beer mugs, about 1,500 of your best friends, games, cigars (bring or buy there), and more.  Then they serve dinner.  Absolutely the best wild game feed I’ve ever attended.

So check your mail because the order forms are on the way.  Order your tickets immediately, and prepare for a great time.

See you at the Feed!

Meat and Beer!

Friday, May 4, 2018

First Grade Memories

Do you remember the name of your first grade teacher?  I certainly do.  And over the many years since then I have never been able to diminish a deep hatred for that name.  Anytime I meet anyone who shares her last name, I find I cannot like him or her for any reason.  I know they haven’t done anything wrong to me, but the name brings back memories of being tortured for using my left hand.

I was somewhat ambidextrous as a young child, but for many activities I preferred one hand to the other.  As an adult I still prefer one hand to the other for many things.  For instance, I swing a golf club (on the two or three occasions I’ve played golf) right-handed.  I swing an ax left-handed.  I swing a bat with either hand.  I throw a ball right-handed, but I also prefer to catch a ball in a gloved right hand.  I shoot a shotgun and a pistol right-handed, but a rifle is more comfortable left-handed.  And many other things have a hand preference.

In the first grade “Mrs. Vlad the Impaler” hated left-handed people.  I mean HATED left-handed people.  I was not allowed to do anything with my left hand at any time or for any reason.  I remember picking up my lunch bag with my left hand.  She grabbed it away from me and threw it in the trash, and then slapped me across the face.  I found using a pencil was easier in my left hand than in my right hand, but each time she caught me attempting to write left-handed, she would grab a brick from a pile she kept in the corner, place my hand on a hard surface, place the brick on my hand, and hit it with a hammer until the brick broke into pieces.  Then I had to sit on my mangled left hand for the rest of the day.  My left hand still bears the scars and evidence of broken bones.

My parents questioned me about the condition of my hand, but they didn’t believe me.  When they questioned the evil queen, she said I must have injured it on the playground.  It’s always been strange to me how I must have injured my hand on the playground almost everyday during my first year in school.  The bruises on my face and body from her slaps and hits with a small club were ignored.

Outside the window of my second story classroom was a slide for use as a fire escape, and I discovered I could escape the fires of hell by jumping out the window when my teacher wasn’t looking.  The first time I tried it, I made it home (about a mile away) only to find my mother waiting for me.  “Mrs. Vlad” had called to say I had run away.  For weeks I got a belt across my backside every morning and every night for doing that; however, the belt was better than the abuse from my teacher.

The last time I jumped out the window at school another teacher “Mrs. Genghis Khan” was waiting for me at the bottom of the slide.  That day I went home from school with blood all over my face and shirt.  This time my parents were really upset, but not because of the beating I took from both the teachers, but because of the ruined shirt.  They were told I had fallen on the playground.  There must be something wrong with me, because I keep falling while playing.

I have many other reasons for my outright hatred of this teacher.  She called the police on me for being taller than my classmates.  She told them I was lying about my age, but I was the youngest person in the class.  I had to bring in my birth certificate to prove my age, as well as have my parents appear in court to prove it to the authorities.  Often she found a reason to throw my lunch in the trash.  My coat always disappeared from the coatroom in cold weather.  On one occasion she smeared dog poop on the seat of my desk and had me sit in it.

Our playground time always consisted of walking around the perimeter of the schoolyard.  There were no games or playing allowed.  (So how could I have fallen while playing?)  Walking was supposedly all the non-curricular activity a child needed, but I always had to make the walk barefooted.  The big stickers we called “goat heads” grew everywhere, and I always managed to step on a few of these things.  More than once they broke off in my feet and had to be removed by a doctor.  I was always in trouble from my parents for not wearing my shoes, but “Mrs. Vlad” would remove them from my feet (along with a couple of slaps or hits from her club) if I didn’t take them off fast enough to suit her.

Fortunately for me I survived the first grade, although I don’t know how.  My parents moved, and I was sent to live with my grandparents because their place was only about five miles from a school as opposed to the over 10 miles to a school from my parents’ new home.  It was an eight-grade four-room country school where I was able to be left-handed without consequences.  I still wrote mostly with my right hand because my right hand had had more practice with writing, and because my left hand was too deformed to hold a pencil.  But never again did I experience anything close to my first grade year.

When I was in high school I read of a teacher (name not given) in a neighboring city who was found bound and gagged with both hands smashed, and several broken bricks were nearby.  Apparently she survived, but wouldn’t tell who did it to her, or why.  I can only assume it was some left-handed former student because I am certain I wasn’t the only left-handed student she had in her classes during her many years of teaching.  No one, not even her, deserves this form of punishment, although at the same time a part of me wants to thank the person(s) who did it.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Adults Only

I never really enjoyed being a kid.  Yeah, I had a lot of kid experiences, and from a kid’s perspective, they were fun, but I never felt I belonged in a kid’s world.  The problem was, though, I didn’t know what it was like to be an adult.

I’ve mentioned before that my mother’s mother’s family was extremely large, but so also were the families of all my grandparents.  I basically lived in an adult world when I wasn’t at school.  Of course that wasn’t true all the time, but for the most part I seldom had many friends my own age.

We often visited these family members, and I could only sit and listen to the conversations.  Many were funny, many were informational (although I didn’t realize it until years later), and many were way over my head.  Whenever I asked a question, I would be told the adults were talking, so be quiet and listen.  Regardless, I usually preferred being with the adults than with any young siblings or cousins.  I just didn’t relate to most kids my own age, but most adults didn’t relate to me.

That’s not to say I didn’t have adults to interact with.  My grandparents took an active role in my life, and I learned many lessons, which have had lifelong benefits.  Such as, don’t work on anything electrical without turning it off first.  Even then, some things can retain a charge and zap you anyway.  Another was to squirt the lighter fluid onto the charcoal BEFORE lighting the match.  And a big one was to never place the thumb on top of a nail when hitting it with a hammer.  Believe me, I won’t do that again!

As a teenager, I studied just about everything I saw the adults doing.  Driving cars, doing laundry, fishing, mowing the lawn, everything.  I really wanted to be an adult.  But it took a long time before I was accepted into their world.

The change came about one Saturday afternoon when a number of relatives were gathered at the lake house my Dad’s parents owned.  In just a few yards from their house were the houses of several of my grandmother’s sister’s families, so weekend gatherings were common.  Often the main Saturday afternoon entertainment was a no limit penny-ante poker game.  I had been saving pennies for months and had a small peanut can filled to the brim.  When I asked to join in, everyone looked at my can of pennies with greed in their eyes, and, needless to say, they let me join the game.  No one, not even me, really thought I stood a chance of keeping my money.  But I just wanted to play with the adults.

So the dealing started.  For about an hour I held my own.  I won some, and I lost some, but no one was making fun of me.  The kid was doing okay.  Then it happened.  The game was 5-card draw, and I had the 10, Jack, and King of spades in my hand.  I took two cards just hoping for a couple of more spades or possible a pair or two, but I drew the Queen and Ace of spades.  I had the ultimate royal flush in my hand.  But what surprised me was that everyone else thought they had great hands. 

I just stayed up with each round of bets and raises and let others do the raising.  Basically I just faded into the background while everyone else got caught up in raising the bets.  I always just matched what came my way.  Then my aunt sitting just to my left pushed everything she had to the center of the table.  So did everyone else.  What else could I do?  Everything I had went to the center.  My aunt laid down a nine high straight flush.  Then everyone else started folding.  She cackled loud enough for the neighbors to hear, and she reached to rake in the pot, but I laid down my hand.  Everyone including Father Time froze as she looked at that royal flush.  For about fifteen seconds silence reigned supreme.  No one had thought the kid could pull this off.  Then one of my cousins drew out his wallet and asked if he could buy back some pennies. 

I made about seventeen or eighteen dollars that day.  Big money for a kid in the early ‘sixties.  But I had also been watching the adults for a long time by then, and I made certain to let them win most (but not all) of it back.

From that time forward I was always a part of the poker games.  No one tried to exclude me or tell me I would just be losing my money.  I also discovered when the adults were gathered for any reason no one tried to make me go away or shut up.  I was allowed to participate in conversations.  I was still a kid, about fourteen or fifteen at the time, but they no longer saw me as a kid.  I was now treated as an adult.  It certainly felt good.

Friday, March 23, 2018

These Troubled Times

About this time each year I become somewhat troubled and a bit anxious about the Annual Wild Game Feed at Irvine Lake.  I don’t know what’s going on, no one tells me anything, and I need to know everything is moving forward with the plans for the next event.  This year is number 50 for the AWGF, and while I know it is being handled by the best team possible (they’ve proven this every year for the past 5 decades), I still worry that something will happen without my knowledge.  But who cares other than me?  I have to keep telling myself to just prepare for what is in my opinion the best party a man could ever attend.

Even though I’ve already packed my car twice, adjusted my packing list, counted my cigars, checked over my ‘stuff’ such as chairs, tables, shelters, and ice chests, I still worry I’ve forgotten to do something.  What is missing?  What have I overlooked?  Does my cigar lighter have butane in it?  Where is my bottle opener?  Is there enough gas in the car to get there and back? 

Whew!  It felt good just to get through that last paragraph without a complete anxiety attack.  The fact is we are already halfway through the year.  If your calendar is like mine, it starts on the Saturday following the AWGF and ends on the day of the AWGF.  That means we are 26 weeks away from the Feed.  Half of the waiting is behind us. 

In about 10 weeks (plus or minus a few days) the order forms for the 50th anniversary Feed should be arriving, so start saving your nickels and dimes, because when the order forms arrive, you can’t wait to place your order.  I was recently speaking with a man who has a few dollars diverted from each paycheck into a special savings account just so he won’t be caught short when it’s time to order his ticket.  Not a bad idea.  Every year I get panicked messages from men who didn’t order their tickets immediately.  And by immediately, I mean the day your order form arrives.  I don’t mean ‘next week’ or ‘next payday,’ I mean what I said.  To wait is to be left out.  Not kidding.

I haven’t a clue what the Feed will cost this year.  Last year they had to raise the price a chunk to cover rising costs, so I don’t anticipate much if any change this year, but I won’t know until the ticket order forms arrive.  When I started going to the Feed in the ‘ninety’s’ it was about $50 or $60 as best as I can remember.  Times have changed, and nothing gets cheaper, but this party is worth every nickel and more.  In fact, it is far bigger and better than it was twenty years ago.  I used to sample something of every morsel they served, but now I can’t get around to all the different foods.  And for the last few years, I’ve been too full for dinner.  But I try anyway.

Well, the glass just keeps getting fuller.  The troubles are fading away as the Feed gets closer.  There is nothing like the Annual Wild Game Feed at Irvine Lake.

See you at the Feed!

Meat and Beer!

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Frog Gig

Recently I was in a sporting goods store and I saw something that brought back a flood of memories.  It was a frog gig.  I’m certain it could find many uses other than for catching frogs, so I guess it makes sense for it to be in a store in an area that isn’t exactly known for bullfrogs, but when I see a frog gig, all I can think of is frog hunting.

When I was about six or seven years old I came across some photos from the late 1930’s of my grandfather and his son (my uncle I had never met) showing off the results of a night spent catching bullfrogs.  I asked a few questions about the frogs and why they hunted them, but all I got in return was a sad look and a sigh.  I didn’t understand what it was about, but I didn’t ask any more questions.  (I discovered a few years later my uncle had been a casualty of WWII’s Pacific theater.)

Some time passed and one day my grandfather brought home from somewhere a bunch of frog legs to cook up for me to try.  He showed me how to skin them, and how to cut the tendon between the drumstick and the thigh.  He said if we didn’t cut it, the frog leg would try to jump out of the frying pan.  Okay.  Well, he fried them up like chicken legs and let me try one.  Then I understood why he and my uncle hunted them.  They were good.  Really good.

A couple of years passed and I was now eight or nine, maybe ten, years old.  Papa brought me out to one of the old barns where he had some long bamboo poles with a three-pronged spike tied on each one (sort of like a trident but bent a little differently).  He told me we were going frog gigging in a couple of days.  Actually it would be at night with a flashlight, and I should expect to get muddy.

The evening finally came for the hunt.  I really didn’t know how this worked, but Papa assured me that if I just watched him for a few minutes, I would understand what to do.  We arrived at the big stock tank of one of the nearby ranches about the same time as the sun set, and Papa grabbed a pole and started off towards some reeds along the bank, and I just mimicked what he did.

At the edged of the reeds Papa held up his pole with both hands in a striking position and simply froze in place.  At first I thought something was wrong, but I quickly realized he was waiting for a frog to make his appearance.  Suddenly there was a loud croak, and Papa turned slightly and thrust his pole into the reeds.  Then he backed away pulling out a huge bullfrog.  I caught on quickly.  In about two hours we had a washtub full of frogs.

We drove home where I learned the joys of cleaning frogs.  But the results were a couple of meals of frog legs.  I like frog legs although I rarely find them on any menu.  And I also don’t live where I can easily hunt them, but that’s okay since I wouldn’t be physically able to do it anyway.

Papa and I went frog gigging a couple of more times before he became ill and couldn’t do it anymore.  I tried it on my own a few times, but it just wasn’t any fun by myself, and I couldn’t talk any of my friends into trying it.

Flash forward quite a few years and I began attending an annual event known in SoCal as the Wild Game Feed where frog legs are one of the appetizers served almost every year.  Needless to say, I’m always quick to get in line.  They are served with a couple of other interesting items, and every year I have some fun with someone who hasn’t tried them before.

One year I was in line with a guy who thought some of the items being served were not really as labeled.  I watched as he loaded up with what he called popcorn chicken, chicken drumsticks, and onion rings.  I took a small portion of each and stood nearby to watch as he tried each one.  First was the onion rings.

This guy chewed and chewed and finally swallowed, but he gave the rings a pass for eating any more.  Then he tried the drumsticks.  One bite, a strange look, and one more bite.  That was all.  Then for the popcorn chicken.  As he was chewing on the first bite, I walked up to him and simply said, “They really are labeled correctly.”

The man smiled at me and handed me his serving dish as he rinsed out his mouth with big swallows of beer.  “Please explain,” he choked out.

“Well the signs and labels are accurate.  The onion rings are actually calamari as stated.  Squid.  Very tasty, but not onion rings.  The frog legs really are frog legs, not chicken legs.  And the turkey nuts are actually turkey nuts.  This is a wild game feed, the real thing, not a fake.”

The guy was a bit pale for a few minutes, but he did ask for his dish back.  I encouraged him to sample in moderation, and ask questions if he was unsure.  I’ve seen him return year after year, and now he will try things I won’t. 

Speaking of things I won’t try, I was reading about how the Aztec’s served frog.  Basically they covered it is some kind of dough and wrapped that up in banana leaves.  A few hours of baking, and it was time to eat.  At first I thought it would be interesting until I read the frog was still alive when they wrapped it up.  Hmm…whole frog does not appeal to me.

Well, I stood there at the sporting goods store looking at that frog gig for quite a while reminiscing.  I was noticed by a sales clerk who came over to “help” me with my purchases.  At the moment he arrived I had taken the frog gig off the display hook and was actually considering buying it.

“Mister, that poker you’re holding is the best thing that ever happened to a fisherman.  You just put it on the end of your rod, and when the fish gets near you stick him with it.  Works every time.”

I looked at the clerk for a moment or two, replaced the frog gig on the display hook and left the store.  It just wasn’t worth trying to explain.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Biggie—Year Seven—Through Thick and Thin


Biggie and I have something in common—we both have white hair.  In the first photograph you can see the old white-haired man (me) holding the little white doggie (Biggie) near my home at a place known as White Point (White Point).  You can also see Biggie and I both could use a haircut.

This brings up something I’ve been pondering for a few years.  In the second photograph Biggie has had a haircut and appears much thinner.  In fact when he needs a haircut people always comment to me about how I’m overfeeding him.  He appears to be about 10 to 15 pounds overweight until the haircut happens.  Then people comment to me that I need to feed him because he is too thin.  Why does an extra inch of hair add so much weight to his appearance?  The reality is he has weighed about 18 to 19 pounds all of his adult life.  I’ve been taking note of this for years, and now I’m wondering if I were to get a haircut, would I look too thin as well?  Well that’s probably not going to happen (the haircut, that is), so I may never know the answer to my question. 
Biggie is almost twelve years old now, and we have been through many adventures together.  I can’t say our adventures are anything out of the ordinary, but he seems to be having fun, and that’s what counts as far as I am concerned.  Today’s adventure was a drive over to the groomer’s to get his toenails clipped.  He hates this with a passion, but it is always followed with a treat of some kind.  After the joy of toenail clipping we went to the drive-thru at one of those burger places with the two golden humps out front.  I bought a double hump-burger and took one of the patties out for Biggie (I got the rest of course).  Then we went to a nearby park to eat and go for a walk.  That was it.  But to Biggie it was an adventure.  Oh, and a guy walking by commented that my dog was too fat and needed to go on a diet.  (Tomorrow he gets a haircut.)

I don’t get to see Biggie as much as I desire, and when I do get to keep him for a few days my wife and I end up doing a bunch of his maintenance.  The toenails are just one thing.  Then there are anal glands to be expressed (such fun for both of us), haircuts (for him—not me), and baths (my wife does this for him).  Removing endless burrs is always a pleasure, and face cleanings are perpetual.  But it’s worth it. 

We’ve also had our ups and downs with staying connected.  Biggie belongs to a former neighbor, and we have both moved.  Now his mom is moving again, but she hasn’t figured out where.  However, once again we will work this out.  Biggie is my part time dog, and I will see to it we remain connected.  No matter what it takes.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Big FIVE-O This Year

That’s right.  On September 21, 2018 (the third Friday in September) the Annual Wild Game Feed at Irvine Lake will turn 50 years old.  And I plan to celebrate the birthday big time.  I think I will start with a few cigars (bring or buy there), some cider (I bring my own), a heaping helping of gumbo, quail, wild pig, buffalo ribs, duck sausages, clams, chili, tamales, and salmon.  Then I’ll do it all over again and add anything I missed the first time around such as turkey nuts, calamari, frog legs, chucker, crawfish, and sea bass.  Another cigar, some beer (they provide this), and then I’ll have dinner.  Come to think of it, I do this every year.  That must be because it’s impossible to improve perfection, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the AWGF members actually do improve perfection.  After all, they’ve been doing just that every year since the beginning.

The third Friday in September will see about 1,500 men gather at Irvine Lake to enjoy the Feed.  Food, beer, prizes, games, exhibits, friends—you probably won’t get around to everything, but it is sure fun trying.  Actually, for the last 10 years or so I’ve stayed with the food, beer, and friends.  The prizes are unbelievable (in the past there have been cars, jeeps, motorcycles, big screen TV’s, trucks, camping outfits, rifles, fishing equipment—the list goes on and on), and the games are worthy of any outdoorsman.  The exhibits are fascinating, and the dog demonstration is a hunter’s dream.  (By the way, they usually raffle a hunting dog and training.) 

But the Feed is still 8 months away.  On the plus side, that gives us time to prepare.  And I’m already preparing.  In the past few days, I’ve already begun to check over the few things I bring every year.  Cigars.  Check.  Beer mug.  Check.  Ice chest.  Check.  And so forth.  If anything is missing, I have plenty of time to correct the problem. 

The ticket order forms are usually sent out in late May to early June each year (although last year it was mid-June), and I expect this year it will sell out in just a few days (and I mean ‘in just a few days’).  Don’t hesitate to order your tickets when you get your form, or you may miss out on the Feed this year.  I’ve heard rumors the AWGF members have some special plans for the Birthday Party, but to me it doesn’t matter since it’s already a special party; however, I don’t want to miss out on the fun.  My ticket will be ordered the day I receive the form.  You should do the same.  Just sayin’.

See you at the Feed!

Meat and Beer!