Saturday, August 30, 2008

Another award, pat me on the back!

I was feeling down and out and had to escape to the beach (ie, the big lake or Lake Michigan) for a few days to recuperate. It was just too much to bear, overhearing Murf berating her dog for being older (in dog years) than me. So I took some time to get in tune with what’s important… Now I’m back, things are really looking up. Read what Kiva, a youthful grandma from California, said about me when she nominated me for this award:

Sage is a young man with many adventures and opinions. He posted about the Virginia & Truckee Railroad not long ago. His writing and pictures of his travels and nature are remarkable.

How can I not accept this award, especially when I see that Kiva loves to take the train and has nominated other train lovers along with me? I’m humbled. Now, all I have to do is come up with a bunch of other bloggers to nominate (I haven’t done this in some time). Here’s my eccentric mix…

Pat, Pat hasn’t been around much this summer as he’s launched a new business. In a very literal sense, with his floatable honey wagon (the S.S. Crapper?), he’s dealing with shit. But you got to admire a guy who writes a poem about single-ply toilet paper.

Mother Hen, This woman amazes me. I’ve enjoyed viewing her hiking/kayaking photos from Oregon, and then am surprised to read about her humanitarian travels to Nepal. She’s also funny.

Traveling Chica or TC for short. TC is spunky or crazy or maybe both. When I read about her road trip on the Dalton Highway, well above the Arctic Circle, in a 1996 Cavalier and without extra tires or gas, I was amazed and knew she deserved recognition.

Randall Sherman at Musing from the Hitherlands. Randall or Sherman as I refer to him, is a hiker. He’s also an attorney, but don’t hold that against him. He’s got me googling maps and trying to figure out how to work in trips into West Texas and the Dakotas…

Mistress of the Night. This woman is an encyclopedia when it comes to music. Every Friday, you learn about new and old musicians as she lists her five albums for the weekend. She’s opinionated, but then she’s from Pittsburgh.

Cyclopseven, This guy has several blogs; the one I’ve linked to is mostly poetry, often with a photo from nature. As far as I know, he’s my only reader from Malaysia. Good poems about everyday life and in his other blogs are wonderful photos.

Swiss Miss, I have no idea who she is! I thought Swiss Miss came in a package and you added boiling water… Actually, I did the “next blog” thing at the top of my page. Okay, I did it three times. The first time it was some kid’s lego blog and I wasn’t going to nominate that one. Then it was some blog in a foreign language that I couldn’t understand (we’ll I was able to get the jest of it, but wasn’t going to nominate that one!) On my third try, I hit pay dirt. She’s studies African politics in Minnesota but is currently running around Europe. Maybe, by highlighting her blog, I’ll learn her opinion of my upcoming review of Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town. Or maybe not.

Now, for those of you who want to accept your reward and all the benefits therein, here are your directions:

1) Put the logo on your blog
2) Add a link to the person who awarded you
3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs
4) Add links to those blogs on yours
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs
6) And if you don’t want to do it, it ain’t no skin off my back… (I added that rule)

Congratulations to all the winners and also to all the rest of you who also deserved to win either a blog award or the consolation prize, the nomination for the Vice Presidency.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Evolution of Sage

Ever wonder what you’d look like at various times in history? Apparently a lot of folks have and thanks to, there’s a remedy to this problem as well as a new way to reduce productivity in the office or, in my case, to keep you up late at night. All you have to do is place a photo of yourself into their program and hit a button and the time machine goes to work. You can see what you’d look like back in the 50s or even 80s, and there’s even a link to sites where you can buy some of those fashionable clothes of yesteryear. I thank Murf for introducing me to this site, and not to be outdone by her, I decided to contrast photo with an actual shot of Sage at that point in history. So now you can watch Sage evolve (or, if you don’t buy evolution, progress)… And since scrapbooking is the in-thing right now, I thought I’d touch base with my feminine side and do a little of my own via powerpoint (it’s a lot cheaper that way). Please enjoy my indulgence into narcissism!

And finally, the real me in a photo taken last winter. I'm going to have to dig out some more photos of the past, especially some I remember from 1976, when I had real long and bushy hair that was afro-like. Somewhere, I have a photo of me wearing an train engineer's hat and the hair all bunched up around it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Quetico, Day 2

Sunrise north of Rebecca Falls

I have nearly 25 handwritten pages in my journal and over 400 photos (a lot are due to bracketing shots that I really wanted) from the Quetico trip. I’ll try to ration them out and maybe write about something else in between entries. Today’s entry is on our second day in the Quetico. Next, I’ll look at our third day as we move from Rebecca Falls to Darky Lake, a long day of paddling and portaging in the rain. Then I’ll do a post on our three nights at Darky Lake, which included side trips into other lakes. Then I’ll do a final post on our trip out on the Darky River and our last night on Minn Lake before being picked up by the outfitter at Black Robe Portage. Enjoy.
Cautiously, I step out onto a rock and cast sidearm, dropping the jig just behind a car-sized boulder in the middle of the current. I give it a few seconds to sink, and then flick my wrist to draw the jig up into the waters of the eddy. A strike. I yank the rod to set the hook and the chase is on. The fish jumps and then dives, pulling line off the reel as he runs. I keep the line taut and whenever the fish tires, I reel the line back in, only to have him run with it again, at times pulling so hard that my rod is bent into an inverted “U.” After a few minutes, my fish is tired enough that I began to make progress on getting him to the shore. But then, when he’s less than ten feet away, he must see me because he jumps again. It appears he comes out of the water three feet, with his body shaking the line. “I lost him,” I think to myself as I see the yellow grub that was attached to the jig fly up over my head. But he’s still on the line and he runs again, but this time not so far and soon I’m able to bring him ashore. He’s a nice smallmouth, a good 18 or 19 inches in length. In a shallow pool, I release the hook and let him go. He wastes no time darting off into the deep waters.

TM fishing below the falls at daybreak.

It’s late morning of our first full day of fishing and I’ve already caught a dozen or so fish. All but one has been smallmouth bass, the exception being a walleye. We’re fishing in the shoals below Curtain Falls, on the north or the Canadian side. Just across the water is Minnesota, but our fishing licenses won’t let us go there.

I’d gotten up early this morning, well before sunrise. No one else appeared to be up, so I grab a rod, my gear and my camera and headed down to the lower part of Rebecca Falls. I needed to redeem myself after being shunked the evening before. I cast a jig into the fast water, I’d let it sink and the retrieve it slowly, yanking it up from the bottom and allowing it to sink again. On my second cast, a fish bites. He jumps, dancing in air, but when I get him up to shore, he shakes off the hook. Regulation requires that we crimp our barbs in the Quetico and without the barb, if the line goes a bit slack, the fish can easily throw the hook. A few minutes later, another fish takes my line and runs into the faster water. I keep the line taut and slowly bring him on shore. He’s small, maybe 12 inches in length. I let him go and continue to fish. There’s not really a sunrise, the sky is mostly gray, but the clouds take on a golden color as a veiled sun rises. As the sky becomes lighter, I work my way further down the island and am surprised to see JB already fishing. It turns out I wasn’t the first up. Soon, I’m joined by TM and the three of us fish together for a few minutes.

I don’t catch anymore, so I go back to the top of the falls and fish the rocks there. I catch two more smallmouths, both about 12 inches long. Here, along the banks, I find some blueberries and I pick a few for my morning pancakes. There’s not many, but I get a dozen or so. We’re having pancakes this morning. Doc loves pancakes and insisted we have them at least two mornings. When I get back into camp, he’s already at the stove, cooking up a couple cakes. When it’s time for mine to go onto the frying pan, I add my berries.

Four of the group exploring the bank below Curtain Falls

We’re going to camp at Rebecca Falls for two nights. After everything is cleaned up from breakfast, we get into canoes and paddle a few miles to the west, heading for Curtain Falls. Along the way, the rain begins and for most of the morning and early afternoon, we’re in a drizzle. We head up to the falls and find the eddy on the northside, just below the falls, turns out to be the best hole and I pull out eight smallmouths and a walleye from it. Downstream, other smaller eddies are also productive and good for a couple of fish. In one eddy, I tie into a northern pike, bringing him within three of me when he turns and runs. Without a wire leader, he easily breaks my line.
HM with a small northern pike, below the falls.

Curtain falls

As TM and I wait in the rain for the other canoes to catch up, I put on a v-shaped spinner and begin to fish along the banks of an island, catching yet another nice sized smallmouth. After they catch up, we paddle on to the camp, arriving safely and in time to get under the shelter of a tarp about the time the rain stops. TM breaks out his stash of cognac and all of us, except Doc, enjoy a drink. Later in the afternoon, JB and TM portage a canoe down below the falls. Using a makeshift anchor, they jig off the bottom of the fast headwaters of the lake below, dropping a ¼ ounce jighead, with a grub on it, to the bottom and occasionally raising the jig about a foot and letting it fall again to the bottom. A little bit later, I portage another canoe down and join them. They’ve gotten 2 walleyes. At first, I enjoy playing in the water, allowing the canoe to ride up into the falls in an eddy and then swinging it around in the fast water and enjoying the waves as I ride out into the lake. Then I try my hand at jigging. Instead of anchoring, I allow the boat to drift in the fast water, jigging the bottom as I’m drawn out into the lake. I find that as I get to the end of the turbulence, I’m most likely to have a hit. I quickly pick up two walleye and a smallmouth. Later, BV joins me and within an hour, we’ve picked up another five or six walleyes. With more than enough for dinner, we begin to release them. Later in the evening, we eat our fill of fried walleye, rice, and banana pudding (the instant variety).
The sky is still gray and there isn’t much of a sunset, just a slow draining of light. A breeze comes up, keeping the mosquitoes at bay. Shortly after dark, having cleaned up from dinner and will full stomachs, we turn in early. The outfitter had warned us about this campsite, saying many people have complained about the sound of the rapids, but to me they’re soothing and I’m quickly asleep.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Adventure Begins: Getting to the Quetico

Loon at Bottle Rapids Portage

Marv was running the meeting. Don was there. So was Carolyn and a few others, all gathered around a table in the conference room discussing several situations in need of attention. I volunteered to write two letters, but hadn’t made any notes. As we broke up, I had to get the addresses from Marv and asked Don if I could run the letters by him before mailing them. He agreed and we walked out of the building. Once outside, we were no longer in Salt Lake City, but Africa. We got into an old 2 ton truck. It was hot and I didn’t want to be squished into the cab, so I volunteered to ride in the back with several Africans. I could hear the radio and all the talk was about calls for Musharraf to resign. We drove out of the parking lot and down a dirt road and out into the bush, passing several checkpoints. Soldiers with guns were lining people up. One of the African men told me he was glad to be riding with us, that most of those who were being lined up would be killed, but he’d be okay with us because we were white. But at the next checkpoint, we were all ordered out of the truck and lined up at gunpoint. I was scared; I kept hearing in my head the man’s comments about those lined up being shot. Then a fat African woman came out and started leading us in stretching exercises, supposedly to see if we were carrying anything concealed. Then the stretches became aerobics and my alarm rang. It was time to get up and I had things to do before leaving for the Quetico.

We meet at noon, which allowed us all time for church in the morning. There were six of us (Doc, JB, HM, BV, TM and me), riding together in a 10 passenger Dodge diesel van that HM had rented from a friend of his who is a Dodge dealer. For $200, this can’t be beat. The van is large enough that we can stand up. It allows us all to travel together with our gear, keeping us from having to take two vehicles. I crawl in the back. I’ve brought along for reading Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari. I’ve had this for two years, but haven’t gotten around to reading it. 100 pages into the book, I read about a trip on the “longest road in Africa, from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Nairobi, Kenya. It’s as if I’m reliving my morning dream… Where did that dream come from anyway? All those folks from Utah, but Marv and Don weren’t there at the same time and interestingly, none of us are there now. And when did Musharraf move from Pakistan to Africa? Obviously, I’m still under stress. I’ve been looking forward to this trip for sometime, to be away from computers and cell phones. For the next ten hours, we talk, read and sleep as we make our way around the southern part of Lake Michigan, through Chicago (where there’s a traffic jam on Sunday afternoon), and north into Wisconsin. We stop in Rice Lake, spending a short night in a Microtel, before loading back up and driving on to Crane Lake, MN, arriving at 10:30 AM.

Leaving Canadian Customs

We are met at Crane Lake by Brad, who works for Zup’s Outfitters. We haul our gear onto his boat, park the van and in no time are on our way north into Canada. At the custom office, which is a remote post on a lake, we’re asked if we have weapons or anything to declare. He looks at our passports, but doesn’t stamp them.

Railroad Portage
In five minutes, we’re back onto the boat and heading toward Zup’s. The trip is exciting, as there are two portages for this large boat, where it is dragged over the height of the land on rails, in a cart pulled by cables. When we finally get to Zup’s basecamp, located on Lac La Croix, we obtain permits and fishing licenses and pick up three 18 foot long Kevlar Canoes, which are loaded onto the boat.

We’re driven by boat another 18 miles, to Bottle Rapid Portage. The 20-some foot boat, powered by a four stroke 220 horsepower Yamaha, makes quick time of the trip. Things slow down once we get to Bottle Rapids. The 120 rod portage (about a 1/3 of a mile) takes us from the lands of motors into the wilderness of the Quetico, where motors are not allowed. Because of shallow water, the boat drops us 100 yards from the portage. We throw our gear into the canoe and begin to paddle the short distance, stopping to observe a loon fishing. I’ve seen loons up close, but it’s a real treat to see the bird swim 10 or 15 feet underwater, in search of its prey.

At the entrance to the portage, we meet two biologists heading into the Quetico. These two women are studying the recovery of burned areas and are heading to a site that had been burned four years earlier. The talkative one, Brand, is from Wales. They work well together as a team. We get our boats and gear overland about the same time, but they are much quicker loading their canoe. They say goodbye and paddle away, each one quickly digging their paddles into the water in rhythm. They’re obviously become well seasoned with working in the backcountry, in this land where access, even the rangers and scientists, are limited to canoes and paddles. By the time we have our gear secured and are ready to begin paddling, the two women are out of sight.
Campsite at Rebecca Falls

East side of Rebecca Falls
Our first day's paddle is only three or so miles and we make good time. We stop to camp at the top of Rebecca Falls. After setting up camp, we take a few minutes to fish before starting dinner. HM is the only one to catch a fish large enough to keep, a 16 inch smallmouth bass. It’s filleted and skinned and dropped into water with the noodles for our mac and cheese. After dinner, I explore the island that sits in the middle of Rebecca Falls and try my hand at fishing. I have a few strikes, but miss them all. I’m skunked; tomorrow will be a new day. As the sun goes down, the sky turns purple and the mosquitoes come out. Soon, we retreat into our tents. We’re tired, but mostly we want to get out of the bugs. The temperature has dropped. I read a few more pages of Theroux’s journey, and then fall asleep. I wake up several times in the night. The stars have disappeared behind clouds. Early in the morning, I look out and notice that the stars have disappeared behind clouds. This was supposed to be the best night for viewing the Perseid’s, but not here. Instead, I fall back asleep and am a POW in the Civil War. But this isn’t a nightmare as there’s lots of laughs and jokes and pranks. The dream seems like an episode of Hogan’s Heroes, only in a different war.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I'm back!

I’m back, so you don’t have call out the Mounties out to look for me. I hope to catch up with all your blogs over the next couple of days. The Canadian canoe trip was great. I saw at least one bald eagle every day but one. I sent to bed at night to the sound loons. I caught enough fish, but could have caught a few more walleye (I got seven, all in one afternoon). I didn’t see any moose (except for one in Northern Wisconsin while driving up there). And the sunrises, sunsets, moonrises and moonsets were incredible. Unfortunately, it rained when we should have been enjoying the Perseid Meteor Showers. We arrived back at Crane Lake, MN yesterday afternoon and, after lots of driving, back in Michigan this afternoon. Over the next several weeks, I’ll write a number of stories and post numerous photos. For now, you’ll get this teaser. It's me watching the sunset across Darky Lake in the Quetico.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Packing Up

Six of us, riding in an overstuffed van, will leave our homes tomorrow for Crane Lake, MN. On Monday morning, in Crane Lake, we’ll meet an outfitter who’ll take us and our gear across a lake and over into Canada, where we’ll pick up three canoes. From there, we’ll head into the wilderness of Quetico Provincial Park for seven days of exploring, fishing, watching loons and moose and, most importantly, pigging out on walleye. I thought it would be fun to show you what I’ll carry on a trip like this and, as I gathered my gear, I snapped photos. First, I should say that since the longest portage we have is 200 rods (roughly a ½ mile), I am going heavier than I would normally do for a backpacking trip. Our portages will require at least three of us to make 2 trips. Believe it or not, I was able to get all my gear (with clothes and sleeping bag in dry bags) into a large backpack. In addition, I will hand carry the ammo can (which is waterproof and adapted as a camera case) and also a fanny pack strapped to the top of the back that will serve as my tackle box. (click on any photo to enlarge) Years ago I painted this ammo can white in order to reflect the sun. It’s the perfect camera case (if you use one, make sure you have a good seal!). In the hot sun of the Southwest, the white color helps to keep the camera from cooking inside the box. That won’t be a problem in Canada. I’ll put everything you see here, except my small tripod (I don’t care if that gets wet), into the ammo box. In addition to what you see will be my camera (which I’m using to snap this picture) and a book (I’ve not yet decided which book). Seen here is a 200 mm lens (my camera will have a 28-55 mm lens), a polarizer filter, an extra battery and memory cards for the camera, lens cleaning cloth, a pocket Bible, a leather journal, a pen and a passport (we’re going into Canada and you now either have to have a passport or a birth certificate).
The yellow dry bag will contain many of the critical things in my pack; things I wouldn’t want to get wet (like my sleeping bag). Here you see my sleeping bag, a very thick sleeping pad, a bivy tent, a lightweight tarp with ropes, a hammock and a second pad (green one in the back which is for sitting on in camp or kneeling on when paddling the canoe). If I was backpacking, I’d not take that big heavy pad. I have a ¾ length, ultralight pad that weighs maybe a pound and is only ½ thick… this pad is 2 inches thick and weighs several pounds. It is also long enough that even my toes are able to rest softly at night.
My clothes (which also go into a dry bag), will include nylon zip off pants (zipped off, they make a swim suit), sleeveless t-shirts, long sleeve fishing shirts, rain jacket and pants, a fleece jacket and my famous hat. I will wear a pair of water sandals and will also have a pair of walking shoes in the bag, along with socks, some underwear, and a bug net! The fleece jacket also serves as my pillow.
Eating is important. Here is my food bag (notice where a mouse ate into this bag some 20 years ago; I tend not to throw stuff away as long as it still works and everything in the food bag gets stored inside a ziplock bags). In addition, I have my stove (a second fuel bottle is not in the picture), cooking pans (in blue), a basket to grill fish, Sierra Club cup, cleaning pad (soap is with my toilet paper), and a plastic insulated cup to keep my coffee warm longer in the mornings. Oh yeah, there’s a bottle of some liquid corn from Kentucky. It looks like I’ve already been nipping, but the truth is I need to run to the store so I can top it off!
Fishing is also important, especially if we want to feast in the evenings (otherwise, it’ll be rice and more rice). I have two rods; one set up for walleyes, the other is my faithful Eagle Claw pack rod that doubles as a spinning rod and short 6 ½ foot fly rod (I have both an ultralight reel and a fly reel for it). I have a combination of lures, spinners, jigs and hooks for rubber worms and grubs, a handful of wire leaders, a fly box (with flies, small spiders and popping bugs), and a few tools (hook sharpener, small leatherman pliers, tweezers, clippers). Now, I see I need to get my fillet knife (the Swiss army knife that’s in my pocket would butcher a walleye fillet.
Here’s some of the miscellaneous stuff in my pack: A water bottle with a built in filter, a second water bottle, water purification tablets, bug dope and sunscreen, bandanas and towels, compass (I hope my canoeing partner remembers that he has the map!), head light, first aid supplies (that big bag of junk in the back), toilet paper (soap inside), toothbrush and accessories… In addition, even though we will be supplied they by the outfitter, I’ll tote along my own paddle and life jacket.
Ya’ll have fun while I’m gone. I hope to bring back some good stories and great pictures. If I’m not back by September, send the Canadian Mounties out after me!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Wild Card Quilt (a book review) along with "the state of the mule"

Janisse Ray, Wild Card Quilt: The Ecology of Home (Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed, 2003), 308 pages, a few black & white photos

I enjoyed Ray’s “Ecology of a Childhood Cracker” so much I sought out more of her books. She ends her first book with having left home for college in the Georgia highlands. Now, seventeen years later, Ray returns, moving into her deceased Grandmother’s “heart pine” home, a place that might fall in had not the termites been holding hands (19). She’s a single parent with a young son. She has a Master’s Degree and has lived in Montana and Florida. Through essays, Ray gives us a glimpse of her life as she tries to prove Thomas Wolfe wrong and show that one can come home again. But it’s not an easy trip and at times Ray is ready to throw in the towel and strike out for more promising lands.

This book is multi-faceted. On the one hand, it’s about the role “place” plays in our lives and stories. I love her idea of how we learn place from light (275) and how she describes the passing of time by the shadows and the rising and setting of the sun (160f). Reading this, I recalled winters in the longleaf forest that use to be behind the home where I grew up and how the trees would casts such long shadows. The book is also about relationships and Ray writes honestly about her relationship with her parents, her deceased grandmother, Uncle Percy, her son, and a sister who is estranged from her family but who is reunited with them at Janisse’s wedding. The book is also about longing for relationships as Ray mentions going out with another single woman in search of a man (80f), and how she finally found her “man” reading a book at a folk music festival (287f). Some of the stories are a little sappy for my taste, almost like chick-lit, but I enjoyed them anyway. Throughout the book, one learns of the loss the rural south and what it means for the ecosystem. I hope she keeps writing, we need more voices that understand the interconnectedness between the human race and nature.

One senses grace in Ray’s life. I love her story of judging a pork cooking contest. She had not eaten pork in 20 years, but finally agreed to be a judge. A pot of Brunswick stew took first place. (The link is to my recipe for Brunswick Stew. I was using chicken, but pork is also commonly used.) Concluding the essay, she writes:
From the pork-cooking contest I learned that many things are above dogma. Respect, for example. Love. The requirements of our place in a community may land us in the middle of odd, funny stories we never schemed for ourselves. What we are asked to contribute may lie outside the lines of what we imagine. Some of our participation we can’t design. (273)
Many of these essays elicit a personal response from me. I felt a tinge of guilt when she laments over those Southerners who love the wild having fled the South (189). I’m one of them (although I’ve been adopted by the intermountain west). Thinking back, I was most involved with the Sierra Club when I lived in the South, at a time when the group wasn’t popular, but it seemed to me that they were the only ones in the late 70s talking about the need to preserve ecosystems. I also became nostalgic reading about wire grass and long leaf pines, two species that played an important role in the worlds in which Ray and I had been “raised up.” She speaks of coming into a longleaf forest that “stood out like the Kingdom of Heaven, suddenly tall and very green, praising the sky” (116). Finally, melancholy swept over me when I learned that she discovers her “soul-mate” while he’s reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I’ve read that book several times, the first being back in the 70s and never found a nature loving woman with a southern drawl that was interested in the book. If one said anything about me reading the book, it was probably about how motorcycles are dangerous or that Zen is some kind of pagan religion.

Now, for the state of the mule. The mule is fine! Page 43. There is a reason, I’m going off on this silly tangent, I’m entering one of Maggie’s contest! Nothing happened to the mule except that he got wet in a thunderstorm when one of the Tillman boys left him out in front of the church in which he was seeking shelter from the storm. Of course, the mule’s back may have also gotten a little sore. In the darkness, as the boy climbed up on the porch, he thought he saw the devil’s face in the church’s window. He jumped back on the mule and rode home as fast as he could. It turns out a goat was also taking refuge from the storm in the country church whose doors didn’t completely shut. This was one of the “Ray’s” family stories from the past and is found on page 43.
For other book reviews by Sage, click here.
For Semicolon's Saturday's list of book reviews in blogs, click here.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Peeking at Queen Anne's Lace (Oh, you dirty boy) and Ranting on Local Politics

Although I generally prefer winter to summer, I do enjoy the watching the fields of Queen Anne’s Lace dancing in the breeze. I saw this barn last Thursday and pulled over to photograph the barn as a backdrop for a field of the flowers.

Today is Election Day here. One of the hotly contended races is for “Drain Commissioner.” There are eight candidates for the job and, when they were interviewed by the paper, none of them answered in the right way the one question that would have made me want to vote for them. When asked if they thought the position of drain commission should be an elected or an appointed position, they all felt it should be an elected position. WHAT? I’m not even sure some of these candidates are qualified to clean out the “S-trap” under a sink. Only a few of them are claiming training or experience in hydrology. But most of them, the exception being the one person with a degree in a relative field, have had professional portraits done so they could plaster their mug shot on poster boards. For an elected position, the drain commissioner job pays well.

Another hotly contended race is for Sheriff. I don’t care for Barney Fife, our current Sheriff, and I’m glad the local police chief is running against him. Twice I’ve heard this guy speak at gatherings and he’s made me mad enough that I would like to have walked out on him… One of those times I couldn’t have walked out if I had wanted to because it was in the jail. He served us regular jail food and bragged about how well he treated the prisoners while saving the county money. The jail is a dump and feeding prisoners large helpings of starchy mac and cheese, a fatty pork chop, over cooked green beans (which I hate) and a slice of white bread isn’t exactly treating them well. Most anywhere there is a sign for our current Sherriff, you also see one for our current Prosecutor as if they’re running on a team ticket. The real reason Barney Fife saves money at the jail is the Prosecutor. This guy can’t get a conviction! Unless something happened recently that I’m not aware of, he’s lost ever case that he’s tried in front of a jury (but he brags he’s against plea-bargaining). Getting a new Prosecutor might mean that the defense lawyers around the court house will actually have to start earning their daily bread.

Finally, I’ll be glad for the election to be over so everyone can get all those signs out of their yards. It seems most everyone has two or three signs planted in their front yard. Those in the sign businesses must love this, I think it makes us look like the whole town is for sale.
This will be a busy week as I’m getting ready to take off again. Next Sunday afternoon I leave for Western Ontario and a week in the wilderness.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Last night on the lake

I just got back from spending a week on a lake an hour to the north. He’s an account of my last night on the lake. The first photo was taken my last morning on the lake. I didn’t take any photos the night I wrote about. The water lily was shot a few days early, at midday, when the lilies are open.

I’m on my fifth summer and still can’t get use to it being this light this late in the evening. I push my canoe into the water a little after 9 P.M. and the sky is still red. A month ago the sun would have even been up. The afternoon breeze, which made sailing so delightful, has died and the water is as smooth as glass, the only ripples come from a few fish rising to the surface. I step in the boat and kneel against a thwart, digging my paddle into the sand to push the boat out onto the lake. I paddle along the shoreline. Instead of starting with a fly rod, I’ve brought along a new rod to try. I purchased this one last week to take to Canada to use for Walleyes, but tonight I hope to catch a Smallmouth or, even better, a Northern Pike. Normally, I like one of my ultra-lights, a flexible rod with 4 pound test line. This new rod is much stiffer and the reel has two spools; tonight I’m using 6 pound line but I have another reel with 8 pound test. I cast a large doubled bladed toward the lily pads, dropping the line just inches from the pads. After maybe a half-dozen casts, I get a hit. I yank the rod to set the hook and almost propel the fish out of the water and into the boat. It’s a small bass, maybe 10 inches, way under the size limit. He doesn’t even bend the rod as I reel him in. I let him go and make a few more casts. I’ve not caught anything of size all week, having loss the only good bass next to the boat, not having with me at the time a net to land him. Mostly, my fish have been limited to bluegills that I’ve picked up with a fly rod. After a few more casts without hits, I store the spinning rod in the bottom of the canoe and pull out a 9 foot fly rod. In no time, fish are rising to the small spider that I drop at various locations around the lily pads. The bluegills aren’t real anxious and I miss as many as I catch. They’re all small. If I really wanted to catch a big bass, I’d hook one of these small bluegills to a large treble hook that I’d dangle a few feet under a large cork and want till the flailing fish attracts a much larger bass. But that’d be too much work. I can catch a big one at another time. Instead, I enjoy sitting on the water watching the light drain from the sky, while swatting mosquitoes and tormenting bluegills. As the light completely drains away, I’m no longer able to see the end of the line. I reel it in and stow the fly rod. Jupiter, which has been visible for sometime, is a bright star just above the trees on the eastern shore. The planet seems to call out to me and I dig my paddle into the water and head eastward. The stars in Scorpios, where Jupiter resides, slowly become visible. There’s only one other boat on the lake, at the south end; they’re having a party and their sound carries across the water. It’s probably a half mile across and by the time I reach the other shore, the party boat is heading end. I paddle back across the lake in quiet peace, serenaded by insects. Slowly more stars appear. I gaze at the lighted cabin ringing the lake, there lights reflecting off the water. When I reach Hayes Point, back on the western shore, I pull the canoe out of the water; I pick up my rods and climb the hill to the cabin. It’s 10:30 PM. I fix a cup of tea and pull out a book. I’ll read for a bit, and then turn in for the night. Tomorrow will be my last day on the lake.