I will occasionally profile state parks and other public use areas for USA Today. Here’s a glimpse of a hidden jewel: Kentucky’s Columbus-Belmont State Park. https://usat.ly/2oekF5p
One of the perks of my job is testing new gear. A Genesis Base Camp Cooking System recently arrived. I immediately set it up on the tailgate of my F-150 for a brief test run.
The Genesis stove is a two-burner system. High tech, high heat output and simple to use. Boiling water on the tailgate is hardly a thorough field test. That will come later. I simply heated water and made a cup of tea to see how the stove worked, which was very well. The quality of construction is evident. The base camp system includes a 10-inch frying pan and 5-liter pot and wind shield, all of which nest together in a handy, easy-to-handle soft carrying case. The Genesis stove can be purchased without the pots. A HalfGen (one burner) model is also available.
And my thanks to Sam Petri at www.dennyink.com for helping with this project.
While visiting with my brother during the holidays we spend a couple of hours Christmas afternoon digging through a cedar chest that had been in our parent’s house. It has been years since either of us had delved into the battered old chest.
It contained the usual assortment and family knickknacks and junk meaningless to anyone with a different last name: decades old receipts; yellowed and faded snapshots; a folded packet of W-2 forms chronicling our father’s yearly income for nearly two decades beginning in 1949. A note written in our mother’s round, flowing script. A baton my brother had twirled in school. An antique, black-handled .38 revolver and a German-made .22 single action – both damaged and probably beyond the powers of the most skilled gunsmith.
My eye caught a flash of greenish bronze. “What’s that,” I asked. My brother removed a box and unwrapped a powder horn; about six inches long, the butt end larger than a golf ball but not quite baseball size. The stopper was missing and there was no strap but a roughly made catch was evidence that one had once been attached. It was thin as bone china.
Neither of us could remember our father , a hunter, ever owning, shooting, or having any interest in a black powder firearm. We determined the horn must have belonged to our grandfather, William Zachary, our mother’s father, and a man of whom I have no memory. He died before my birth. My brother, who is nine years my senior, has vague memories of him.
I turned the old piece over in my hands. It was intact save for the missing stopper. A tiny pinhole marked the only flaw in the horn. It smelled faintly of powder. I handed it to my brother who took a whiff and shook his head. I then decided the unmistakable scent of black powder must have been generated from memory. If we were correct about the ownership it hadn’t seen action in nearly seven decades.
“You shoot a black powder gun, don’t you?” my brother asked.
“I do,” I said, still holding the old horn, which felt both fragile and indestructible.
“Maybe we could shoot your black powder gun and use this sometime,” he said.
Maybe. But for now it went back in the chest. Some things shouldn’t be disturbed.
I normally pay scant attention to News Year’s Eve and the following January 1. They are simply days on the calendar marked for sharing with family and friends but otherwise of no significance.
Not this year. I am glad to see 2017 go. I am also confident 2018 will be tremendous by every measure.
If you are a New Year’s Eve celebrant, do so safely.
I’d like to launch 2018 by catching the first fish of the New Year tomorrow but with temperatures predicted to barely nip the teens that might be a challenge. But when is it not?
A Happy and Safe New Year to all.
Christmas has largely gotten swamped by gifts and lights and candy and trees and tinsel and endless, tiresome and somewhat insulting commercials; by decorations and shopping and overspending and bad movies and Santas wearing ill-fitting suits trying to plug into a strange though somewhat enjoyable and generally harmless ritual. A few days ago I was strolling through a local shopping mall with my wife. We passed the centerpiece get-your-picture-taken-with-Santa display. Santa had stepped away from his sleigh and was standing near the rope barrier, greeting the occasional adult who walked by. We shook hands. I noticed Mr. Claus was missing his traditional waistline heft. “You’re looking a little thin, Santa,” I offered. “Need to have a few more reindeer steaks.” He wagged a gloved finger. “You’re on the naughty list this year.”
I enjoy the candy and cookies and egg nog and lights and food and songs and Santas as much as anyone. But don’t miss the real Christmas story. It’s better than anything you’ll find at Wal-Mart or Target or Macy’s or Amazon.
A few Christmas-related facts:
Angels have names (Luke 1:19). Politicians have always been sketchy (Luke 2:7-8); sometimes criminal (Matthew 2:16). Angels converse with humans (Luke 1:18-20; 32-38). Shepherds work at night (Luke 2:8). There were at least two but no specific mention of three Magi (Matthew 2:7-8). They almost certainly were not kings. There were at least three gifts (Matthew 2:11). The Christ was born into humble surroundings (Luke 2:11-12). It was almost certainly not on December 25. Refugees seeking to escape from tyrants aren’t new (Luke 2:13-14).
Read it for yourself. The story is in the New Testament letters of Matthew and Luke. There’s nothing else like it. Here’s a snippet:
“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” . . . “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she give birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
I wish you and yours a safe and Happy Christmas. But don’t forget to look around. Sadness, strife, heartache, pain and need surrounds us. Someone needs a kind word; a helping hand. Someone you know. Someone close. Offer one.
Packing under a bright moonlit night for a few days in North Dakota along the Missouri River in the shadow of Lewis and Clark.
A report from these travels will appear in USA Today www.USAToday.com/travel/destinations/ in a few weeks. Until then, I’ll try to post a few things here during the next few days. #upthemissouri. #northdakotabound.
Catfish: Angling’s lovable underdog
Outdoor adventures, family fun: Why America loves camping
Access to a creek I like to fish is via a county bridge. A small parking area is on the south side of the bridge, from which a rutted lane follows the creek upstream for about a quarter-mile. This path was recently gated but it’s generally known that fishermen are welcome if they park out of the way, close the gate and clean up after themselves. The downstream side is well-marked with “No Trespassing” and other notices. I’ve been repeatedly warned that the property owner is not friendly toward fishermen. I’ve been fishing this spot regularly for a decade and always honored the signs and never had any trouble. I’ve also never encountered the downstream landowner, who is reportedly willing to wave a shotgun to help get his point across.
The creek has a gravel and sand bed that shifts regularly after a day or two of rain so each time you fish the stream it’s a little different from the last time you fished it. The last gully washer had pushed a gravel tongue about 20 yards downstream from the bridge, where it opened to a patch of water too deep to wade comfortably. Bank access is limited: one side is fenced and one side is posted. It was near the point of this gravel tongue from which I was fishing; trying vainly to roll cast a black wooly bugger under a low hanging branch, when a voice – startling in its shrillness, volume and clarity – came from above.
“Hey. What the hell are you doing? You’re trespassing. Didn’t you see the signs.”I had seen the signs. All three of them. “POSTED,” “NO TRESPASSING” and “KEEP OUT.”
I craned my neck and looked up to see tall man dressed in work cloths and wearing a wide-brimmed hat. He was about my age; maybe a little older. “Yes sir. I saw the signs,” I said in the most friendly tone I could muster. “But I’m not trespassing. I’m standing in the middle of the creek.”
“By God, you are trespassing, too,” he shouted. “I don’t allow it. You’ll have to leave.”
The current had pulled the line away from the bank and into the center of the stream. At that instant I had a strike and from reflex set the hook. It was a rainbow trout, which are stocked here. Short but chunky and surprisingly colorful. Not a fresh stocker.
Strictly speaking, I may have been trespassing. In my home state the waterways are public property but the stream bed over which the water flows belongs to the property owner. It’s a ridiculous statute and one state game officials say has never been legally tested. But if you’re floating through private property you are legally sound. If you step onto the stream bed without the owner’s permission, you’re technically trespassing. The property owner on the other side of the creek does not post his land and doesn’t mind fishermen but the fence largely blocks access.
I decided to repeat my apology but point out that I was not and would not be in the man’s field. But when I turned my attention back to the shoreline above me the enraged property owner was gone. I was about to make another cast then I heard a truck door slam. Then, in about the time it would have taken to pull a 12-gauge from the seat cover sleeve, I heard the door again slam.
The fishing upstream, I quickly decided, would be just fine.