Monday, July 13, 2015

This was a year ago. It's only now that I can write about it.

The Procedure

I had always been told that at the age of 50 a person was supposed to get a colonoscopy. Well, I blew by 50 and had no intention of volunteering for that. I had heard Bill's horror stories and was fine laughing at his bungee experiences. Laughing along with him of course, not at him.

 Then, when I was 54, it all changed. A friend and co-worker of mine was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. The recommendation was made by her that everyone get tested. I said that I too, would get tested. I said that prior to understanding that "getting tested" meant having a colonoscopy.  I had assumed that getting tested meant a blood test, or looking down my throat or something. I didn't realize it at the time, but I had committed myself to the dreaded colonoscopy.

 I went to see my family doctor for a physical and everything checked out fine. He did some tests took some blood and looked down my throat. I asked him if that count as a colon cancer exam. He told me no and referred me to a wonderful specialist. Doctor Soandso, DDC.  He told me that Dr. Soandso was a fine Doctor of the Dreaded Colonoscopy. (DDC).

When the appointed day came, I had done all my prerequisites and was ready for my procedure. My son drove me out to the Bungee Center to dropped me off. We laughed all the way and made all the butt jokes we could think of on the way out. It reminded me of being 18 again. This could actually turn out to be fun. My wife was coming out later to drive me home. A person can't drive themselves home after the procedure. The drugs wear off slowly and people typically come in and out of consciousness and have a tendency to forget things and repeat themselves while recovering. I liked the idea of forgetting things, in fact, I was hoping to forget the whole process and just wake up at home.

As I donned nothing but a beautiful white, backless, strapless gown and sat on the gurney with an IV in my arm, the DDC and HER assistant came in to talk with me briefly before going into the procedure room. Yep, the Doctor of the Dreaded Colonoscopy was a woman, and so was her assistant. I wanted to call the whole thing off right there. I don't consider myself a sexist person, female doctors, dentists, and CEOs are fine with me. But a female Bungee Doctor? I wasn't sure I could go through with this. She even showed me the 'scope' they were going to use in all it's grandeur, and length. She told me I would probably be awake during the procedure and could watch on the monitor and ask questions. I said, "Like who won the 1987 NBA championship?  I didn't even get a grin out of her, just a look that said, "I feel sorry for your wife."

One thing I did have going for me, is the fact that drugs effect me strongly and quickly. I did not stay awake during the procedure, I was completely out before it started, I didn't watch on the monitor, and I still don't know who won the 1987 NBA championship.  

My first post procedure memory is waking up and seeing my wife in the recovery room. She had come to pick me up and take me home. She didn't look particularly happy though. I figured she might need some joviality at this time to help relieve the stress of seeing me in this situation. I looked at her in a serious manner and said, "The doctor said they found my head."

She looked at me, even more perturbed, and replied, "That's about the tenth time you've told someone that. It's time to just be quiet so we can get out of here."

The Doc said I don't need to come back for 10 years, but I'm shootin' for 20.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

   First Blood
WARNING:  I’ve hunted most of my life. It involves blood, and sometimes it isn’t pretty.  You may not want your young kids to read this.


Due to poor planning, unforeseen travels, weddings and funerals, I missed out on the rifle hunting season last fall. I just didn’t get a chance to get out. However, there is a late bow hunt for deer and elk in some of the units. Now, I haven’t bow hunted in several years but I used to enjoy it a lot. There was an early hunt in September and the weather was always great. The aspen trees were bright yellow and the pines a deep green. I could hunt the early mornings and late evenings and lay in the sun during the warm afternoons. The late hunt in November and December required more clothes and some planning to stay warm when sitting, and cool when climbing the mountains. Some of my best memories are of these bow hunts.

I dug my old Martin Firecat out of the shed and looked it over. It was in pretty good shape but I needed a new string and a few arrows. The release still looked good and worked well with a little oil on it. The release straps onto your right hand and it has a latch to hold onto the bow string. The latch holds the string tight while drawing the bow back to shoot. On the release there is a trigger mechanism, not unlike a rifle, that you squeeze with your index finger to let loose the string and fire the arrow. The trigger mechanism is smooth and has no drag or movement. It eliminates the problems created when using your fingers directly on the string.  A trip to the bow shop and I had a new string and sight as well as a half dozen aluminum arrows.

There is an archery shooting range close to my office on the north end of town. I had my bow in the truck and I drove over to the range one day at lunch time. I pulled up to the range and noticed several cars already parked there. I looked out at the range and there were 4 or 5 people shooting. There are about ten different shooting lanes so I would probably be fine, but something told me that I should wait.  My first time shooting this season should be just me. I hadn’t shot in a few years and I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of people.  I have a pretty good sense about this type of thing so I decided to wait and shoot another time. The people shooting had fancy new bows and gadgets on them and my bow is probably twelve years old. I watched from the truck for a minute and then went back to work.

A couple days later I went back to the range. Not a soul was around and the wind was calm. I got ready and walk out on the range and picked a 20 yard target to start on. I got my arrows out and snapped one on the string. I locked the release around the string and checked to make sure it held. I hadn’t shot for a while and the older bows require pretty good strength to pull them back. I pointed the bow up in the air a little and began to haul back on the string. About halfway back in my pull, something smashed into my face. It hurt pretty badly and I was seeing stars for a second. I didn’t go down but staggered back a little. It reminded me of getting in a fight when I was a kid and blocking all the punches with my face. I looked out towards the range and saw my arrow coming down out of the sky until it stuck straight up out of the ground, Somehow, with the bow pulled halfway back, I had hit the trigger, the string released, launching the arrow straight up.  My hand slammed into my nose and face. As the stars cleared from my eyes I realized that my nose was bleeding. There was blood running down my face and I tried to stop it with my hands. I soon had blood on both hands, my face and on my shirt. I stood around holding my nose with my head back trying to stifle the bleeding. I walked out and got my arrow and came back to the shooting area. When the blood stopped I was ready to try again. I ended up shooting pretty well that day and got the bow sighted in at 20 and 30 yards. I knew I shouldn’t stay too long because if someone came and saw the blood everywhere they might start asking questions, and how do you explain something like that?  I was also happy that the ol’ warning light had told me not to shoot the first time with other people around. When I do really stupid things, it’s kind of nice to not have an audience gawking and laughing.  Experience is a good thing I guess.  Anyway, I shot a couple more times during the week and did pretty well. Next year, I might even go hunting with that bow.



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ohhh, I’m Tired

                                                                                                                       Sept. 13, 2012

 Have you ever been really tired and worn out, like after a hard day of hunting, hiking, or working? I think we have all probably been there and experienced that feeling. When you realize how tired you are, have you ever let out a big sigh and said “Ohhh, I’m tired!”  If you’ve never done this yourself, I’m sure you have heard someone else do it. Keep the sound of that tired sigh in mind as we travel with Nate and Lindsey to the Adelman Mine.

The Adelman Mine is high up on Lucky Peak mountain east of Boise and was one of the largest producing and longest running mines in the area. People were still mining up there back in the 1970s. There is a mill on site and the building still stands and is pretty interesting to visit.


Is the term ‘Lucky Peak Mountain’ redundant?  Lucky Peak Peak would definitely be redundant. All my life, Lucky Peak has been the reservoir for boating. I never thought of it as a Peak. So Lucky Peak Mountain is the mountain next to Lucky Peak reservoir. I’ll check in with the Department of Redundancy Department to find out before posting this.

 Further Digression:

I remember a hunting trip with Bill in the Smoky Mountains several years ago. We backpacked in about 4 miles and made camp. We ended up shooting a large Bull elk as well as a four point buck. We made 3 trips in and out of the mountains with our camping gear and loads of meat. We figure we covered about 35 miles in 3 days with significant weight. As I was walking out with the last load of meat, something kept bumping my heels as I walked. I was worn out and just tried to keep walking and ignore it. Finally the bumping grew worse and worse. I came out of my stupor, stopped and looked behind me to see what kept banging into my heels, only to realize that it was my butt dragging behind me.
End of Digressions.

Lindsey, her fiancĂ© Nate, Ruby Doo and I drove up to Lucky Peak to make the hike into the Adelman Mine. It’s about a two mile hike to get to the mine, so around 4 miles round trip. Early on in the hike there is a downgrade about a quarter of a mile long which takes you to the Black Hornet mining area. This first mine is just tailings and some equipment but no structures. There are also a couple tunnels back into the hill that have not yet been closed off.  Most mining tunnels and shafts around Idaho have been caved in to keep people from going and getting into trouble.  The trail continues from the Black Hornet area to the Adelman Mine, which is up over a saddle and into the next canyon.


We made the hike in and wandered through the mill and other remaining structures. The mill has three levels to it. The top is where the ore is dumped in, the next level down is the crusher, and the final level has a large table where the crushed ore is shaken and separated. There is still a fair amount of equipment as well as Owl’s nests and signs of other animals living in the mill. We took pictures and poked around for a while just enjoying the sights before heading back to the truck. The hike back seemed longer than the hike in as it was the middle of the afternoon with the sun beating down on us through the smoke of the Trinity fire. When the three of us reached the beginning of the quarter mile climb from Black Hornet to the ridge where the truck was parked, Lindsey was tired of walking and had slowed down.  Nate offered to give her a piggy back ride up the hill for a ways. Lindsey accepted and climbed on. Nate and I headed up the hill at a pretty good pace. Pretty soon we were sweating and breathing hard but her getting close to the top. No one had said anything for a while.


Lindsey then let out a huge tired sigh signaling how tired she was as we neared the end of hike.  She just broke the silence with an “Ohhhhh, I’m tired!”

I finally broke the awkward pause and said to her, “Lindsey, what’s the matter? Are your arms tired from hanging on to Nate as you ride up the steep part? Is making Nate carry you wearing you out?”

 She obviously picked the wrong time and place to let us know how tired she was.  Nate was sweating and breathing hard as he carried her up the mountain, yet Lindsey was the tired one. I’m afraid it’s going to be awhile before we let her live this one down.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Steelhead Fishing 101

                                                                                                                       Sept. 1, 2012

A couple years ago I went Steelhead fishing with Bill in Orofino. He has a jet boat and we fished the Clearwater River. The Clearwater is a big river and a boat is almost a necessity.  I had only been steelhead fishing once before that I know of.  We fished all day long on the boat and we caught a lot of fish. We used Bill’s boat, Bill’s fishing gear and Bill’s experience to make the trip successful.

This spring we decided to go Steelhead fishing along the Little Salmon River. The river is pretty small so it’s all bank fishing.  We went to an area known as Stinky Springs. The weather was great but the fishing was slow. Bill had all the gear and set me all up with a pole and lures and technique. When I broke my line, Bill would fix it up with leader, lures and bait as needed, and then hand me the pole. Bill hooked 2 fish that day while I hooked several stumps and rocks and watched several expensive floats disappear down stream. The first fish Bill hooked was early in the day. He handed me his pole to reel it in. I felt like one of his kids as I fought with that fish. Unfortunately, I lost it and I felt like I was less than one of his kids.  Bill caught one nice fish later in the day and I took it home and ate it for him. Glad I could help in some way.

We planned to go back to the same spot the following week and invite a friend of mine from work. To prepare, I went out and bought some lures and gear so I wouldn’t have to use Bill’s stuff up, plus he was running low. Our second trip out started a little later in the day, due to a breakfast stop at the Pancake House. I didn’t mind this delay at all and began to like fishing more and more.  When we got to our fishing spot, I was able to rig up the pole myself and fix everything when I broke off. I wasn’t catching fish early on but I also wasn’t reliant on Bill for everything. I was feeling like I could do this myself. Later in the day, I saw some fish far across the river in a calm pool. I cast my line across the river and actually hooked a nice Steelhead and got it to shore. Bill grabbed it and got it up on the bank: the first catch of the day. I was feeling pretty good about myself. Bill wandered upstream after that and I stayed and managed to hook 3 other fish and I landed one big one. The other two got off, which is not unusual for Steelhead fishing.  Bill found a nice hole and caught several fish and ended up releasing some as our limit was 3 fish per person. We went home with 7 or 8 fish between the 3 of us. I felt like I was getting the hang of it, was doing well and was mostly independent. Bill had given me some advice and had gotten one fish out of the water for me but that was the extent of it. Not only did I get breakfast at the Pancake House but I could catch fish also.

A few days later I was talking to my daughter Katie and telling her about my fishing experience. I told her proudly how I was no longer Bill’s little boy like the first time out. Now, on this second trip, I was able to rig up and fish independent of Bill.  I could move up and down the river and fish where I wanted to. When I broke off a line, it was my stuff floating down the river, not Bill’s. Not only that, I hooked several fish and landed two of them all by myself.


Katie looked at me and said, “I didn’t know you had a Steelhead rod and reel.”

I looked at her quietly for a moment, swallowed my pride and said to her, “I don’t, I was using Bill’s extra rod and reel.”     

To which Katie said, “Well, you are a big boy aren’t you.”     

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Time, Why Do You Punish Me?
April 1, 2012 No Foolin'

I haven’t written anything in the blog for several months. We did a big remodel on our house and I just couldn’t find anything funny about that. They say time will cure that and that someday I’ll be able to look back and laugh about the remodel experience. We created a new kitchen area by removing a bearing wall, tearing out an old roof, bedroom and bathroom. The new kitchen has been finished for a couple months and it is really nice, but enough time hasn’t passed for me to see any humor in the process at all.

I was out in the back pasture mowing the 3 foot tall weeds that grew last summer and fall due to me neglecting many things around the house while focusing on the remodel project. I marveled at how time has changed me, How my kids were almost all grown up and how I was feeling the aches and pains of age creeping up on me due to my recent back problems. How did I get this way? Two things immediately came to mind. First, I am obsessed with time. I have 3 songs on my IPod named ‘Time’. (Pink Floyd, Alan Parsons, & Hootie & the Blowfish ) plus ‘Time in a Bottle’, Tulsa Time’, ‘100 Years’ , ‘Don’t Blink’ and ‘The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything’. The second thing that came to mind was Bill Schnupp and his emotional experience of selling an insurance product called ‘Time’ and the revealing day he tried to see what a hemorrhoid looked like.

I’ve decided I need to expound on some of my character flaws, or traits that got me to where I’m at this time in life. This new endeavor of mine is going to take up several chapters. I’m going to use my kids as examples of some of the traits they inherited from me, and I’ll mix in a couple of the Bill Schnupp anecdotes to show his kids what they have to look forward to. So here we go.

Chapter 1 - Katie

For some reason I enjoy long brutal hikes, bike rides, hunts, basketball games and such things that would wear me down to utter exhaustion. I wasn’t always like this but I learned to work hard at what I was doing to the point of sometimes wondering what I was doing and why I was doing it. I remember one hunt where Bill and I walked at approximately 32 miles in 3 days
up and down the Smokey Mountains carrying backpacks loaded with tents, sleeping bags, rifles, food, water, and finally an elk, a deer, and a meatball. I was a little leery of passing this trait on to my kids so I had to choose my opportunities carefully.

One late spring day when Katie was about 18, I asked her if she wanted to go on a mountain bike ride. She was still somewhat gullible and asked me where I wanted to go. I expounded about a trail up in the Boise foothills that wound around a big valley and finally came down near the golf course. We grabbed our bikes, helmets and some water and off we went. We parked near the elementary school at the bottom of Bogus Basin Road and pointed our bikes up the paved road. As we rode the 3 miles up the road I could see Katie starting to tire and also starting to wonder what she’d gotten herself into. Uh-oh, I thought to myself, she’s beginning to tire out and she’s starting to question going on this outing with me. I quickly explained that the dirt trail turn off was just ahead of us. She powered up the last of the pavement and seemed a bit relieved for the moment. We reached the dirt and headed out the trail. It took her another few minutes to realize that the dirt trail continued climbing up the mountain and didn’t show any signs of leveling off. I could see her anger build as we kept pedaling up the hill as the sweat poured off of us. Finally, the trail leveled off and wound around a big valley over to a creek running with cold water from the snow melting high above. I hoped the gentle ride around the valley gave her some rest because the trail was about to turn and follow the creek up the canyon, after that we were going to hit the steep part. The ride up the creek bottom was rocky and wet as we got to cross the creek two or three times. Luckily, it was spring and the creek was running high and we got our shoes wet trying to stay upright in the raging current. After a mile or so of pedaling up the creek bottom, I could see the switchback where the trail left the bottom of the canyon and climbed steeply up the canyon wall to where it crossed a pass into the next drainage. “We’re almost to the top”, I cheerily said as she glared at me with disbelief in her eyes after seeing the trail crawling up the canyon wall. After pushing her bike up the last quarter mile of the grade, Katie tossed her bike to side of the trail at the summit. She was sweating profusely and had drunk all the water in sight. She lay in the dirt at the side of the trail, the sand sticking to her sweaty skin. She looked pretty beat with the hot sun glaring on her. I knew I’d better say something quick or she would never want to go on an adventure with me again. She looked at me like I must be crazy but I was breathing so hard I couldn’t speak. After a few minutes curled up on the ground in a fetal position I was able to talk.

“It’s all downhill from here” I lied, hoping that she might
not hate me forever.

Then for a little motivation I added. “Laying here in the
hot sun isn’t gonna get you home”.

Katie stood up, brushed off the sticky sand and got on her bike. I climbed on my bike and we headed down the hill into the next canyon. We rode down some great terrain and through gullies and whoop tee dos. We rounded a ridge and suddenly rode straight into a herd of grazing sheep. There must have been a thousand of them. They were everywhere and we had to slow down and go through them slowly. We saw the sheepherder sitting in the shade of a big sage brush holding a rifle. Katie gave me a look that said, “This better not be private property you’re dragging me through,” after seeing the rifle. We made it through the sheep and past the man with a rifle and headed down the next draw. There was a dribble of water running in it to make things slick. The last stretch was a bit of a rock garden and we zipped down the trail dodging rocks and brush. We made the last stretch wreck free, which is a bit unusual for me, and we popped out on a paved road above the golf course. We zipped down the steep road with the wind drying our sweat and cooling our bodies. We came to the truck and loaded the bikes in and headed for home. I was sweaty, dirty, sunburned, tired, thirsty, and had scratches running up and down my legs. Four hours round trip, almost a record. It had been a good day. I was a bit worried about Katie though. I wondered if she’d ever want to do anything with me again. I’m can’t remember when the last time I’d seen her that mad at me; maybe when I made her go to basketball practice with a broken finger. I taped it up.

As we neared the house she hadn’t said anything to me for a long time. I was relieved when she finally spoke. She said, “I can’t wait to take Lori on that ride”.

That’s my girl.

Chapter 2 - Lindsey

This character trait is not necessarily a good one, but it can be in certain situations. (This isn’t one of them).

Lindsey was about 5 years old when I decided I needed to take the kids fishing for the day. I heard the catfish were biting near the dam on Lake Lowell. We had a couple extra neighborhood kids with us that wanted to go also. It was a hot summer day and we were all wearing shorts and flip flops.

When I was a kid flip flops were referred to as thongs, but time has a way of changing even this. Now, when I tell me kids I’m going to wear my thongs, they refuse to go anywhere with me. I always thought I lookedin thongs.
End of Digression

We parked near the dam and it was a short walk to the reservoir. I had to carry a cooler and fishing poles so the kids had to walk. Brayden was not yet 2 so I also had to stick by him as we walked towards the water. We had to cross a dry weedy area and as I entered it, I could see lots of goat head weeds. They were so thick we couldn’t avoid them and soon our flips flops bottoms were covered with them. They stuck in the soles and wouldn’t come off. We tried dragging out feet to get them off. We made it to the beach and found a good fishing spot and sandy area. We cleaned off the shoes and did some fishing. The kids played in the sand and water. The fishing proved to be decent.
After a few hours, everyone was hot and tired and it was time to go home. We loaded up the cooler and fishing poles and got ready to go. I told Lindsey to put her flip flops on a couple times but she didn’t want to. Her feet were sandy. When we started out for the car she was carrying a flip flop in each hand. I told her to put them on right now, it was time to go. She gave me a look of defiance and said nothing. I recognized a streak of stubbornness in her demeanor. Rather than confront her right then and there, I said she could barefoot until the weeds and then she had to put them on. She gave me her “we’ll see about that” look so I backed down knowing how difficult she could be if I crossed her. We walked a while and approached the weed patch. I said as nicely as I could to her. “OK, it’s time to put your flip flops on Lindsey”. Another look of defiance flashed on her face. What a stubborn kid, I thought to myself. Where’d she get that from. I knew I could take her in a physical altercation (I’d had to do on a few occasions prior to this) and force the flip flops on her feet. It would mean several trips across the weeds for me; once with the cooler and fishing poles, once with Brayden and the other kids, and then once with a screaming, kicking maniac in flip flops. I stood there looking and Lindsey and decided that I wasn’t up to the battle with her that day. I told myself that there are some things in life one learns by doing and maybe this is one of them for Lindsey. I asked if everyone was ready to cross the weeds and we headed out into the patch. Everybody made it across with tons of goat heads stuck to the bottom of their flip flops. Everyone except Lindsey, she was standing almost in the middle of the weeds holding back her tears, and holding a flip flop in each hand. I went out and carefully picked her up and carried her over to the truck. Her feet were bleeding heavily and I pulled several goat heads out of each foot. We then wrapped them in napkins we found in the truck and set her on the seat. The napkins bled through and her blood started dripping on the floor mat. I rewrapped her feet with more napkins and one of the kids held them down tight on her feet until the blood quit dripping. I don’t remember her saying anything or even crying. She just sat there and looked a bit defeated and a bit defiant. We were finally able to leave and we made it home without much being said. During the drive home, I wondered if Lindsey learned anything that day. I wondered if her stubbornness would be lessened by the experience and if she might realize that some of the things she had to do were for her own good. Some people can learn things from the experiences of others and some people have to experience certain for themselves to learn some of life’s lessons. I know she never walked through a patch of goat heads barefoot again, but that daywasn’t the end of the stubborn streak that runs in the family.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Demise of the Blue Grouse and the Extinction of 4-Wheelers

Sue and I bought our first real pick-up truck for our move to Alaska. It was a 1984 Ford F150 4X4 with a single cab and a full sized bed. This was the basic truck back in the mid 1980’s and it even had a manual transmission. There weren’t many extended cabs, double cabs, crew cabs, and maxi-cabs like there are today. Nowadays, it’s a rare thing to see a regular cab pick-up with a full sized bed. We kept this truck for several years and through our first 2 kids. We just piled in and went places.

After a few years in Alaska and Nevada, we returned to Idaho, and one of my favorite things was to load up two 4-wheelers and go Blue grouse hunting on the forest roads of Boise County. Blue Grouse are the kings of the forest grouse because of their large size. However, they are not too bright, and not too fast. The term ‘bird brain’ may spring from the Blue Grouse’s intellect. They sometimes look blue in direct light but mostly they seem to be gray. I felt like I had a lot in common with the Blue Grouse and I always liked trying to match wits with these brainless birds.

My father owned two 4-Wheelers upon our return from Alaska. He was always willing to let me borrow them, as long as I promised not to make him go with me. The smaller of the two 4-Wheelers was a Suzuki 185. Two people could easily lift it into the back of the truck by lifting the front wheels up onto the tailgate and then lifting the rear and pushing it in. One person could do it in a pinch. I would then turn this little 4-wheeler sideways, in the very front of the truck bed. After that, I could lift the second 4-Wheeler into the truck and push it up against the side of the little one. They fit pretty tight and the tailgate would shut behind them so they couldn’t move around at all. No straps, no ramps, no trailers needed. It was a great set up and made the trips into the mountains quick and easy. The infamous brother-in-law Bill often accompanied me on these trips, as his mind matched up well with the Blue Grouse also. He was always willing to show me how strong he was when I would challenge him with phrases such as, “I bet you can’t lift that little 4-Wheeler into the truck by yourself”. He would prove me wrong every time I would say that, which turned out to be pretty often after long days of chasing grouse, chuckar, deer, and elk through the mountains all day. He would lift the front end of the little Suzuki on to the tailgate and then grab the back rack and hoist it up and in the truck. He would then turn and smile at me and brag that his grandfather always told him that he was strong as an ox, and just as smart. He was always real proud of that compliment.

I spent several years with this truck and the two 4-wheelers and I would also take the kids up the trails as often as we could get away. As kids got older and busier, it became harder to do. Eventually my dad sold his 4-Wheelers and I sold the truck and moved on to a mini-van. The mini-van only lasted about a year and a half until I was finally able to convince my wife that a 1992 Ford F350 7.4 Liter Crew Cab Turbo Diesel 4X4 would be much more sensible and practical for our family of 6 than a mini-van could possibly be.Many years have passed by and last fall Bill called me and said that we needed to go Blue Grouse hunting again. I was all in. Bill said he had an ATV that we could take and ride up the old 4-wheeler trail. He said that an ATV is an All Terrain Vehicle and it looked a lot like a 4-wheeler, only better. He explained to me that there is no such thing as a 4-wheeler anymore, they’ve all been replaced with ATVs. These new ATVs are bigger and stronger than the old 4-wheelers. I pondered over the end of 4-wheeler for a while and then reminisced about riding them up and down the mountains and only rolling that little Suzuki twice. I then decided that progress must go on and that these new ATVs must be an improvement or the 4-wheelers wouldn’t have gone extinct. I now had a Toyota Tundra crew cab with a 6.5 foot bed. I figured that would be plenty of room for one of these new ATVs. The day before we were to go grouse hunting, I decided to check the Fish and Game regulations to make sure the Blue Grouse season was still the same, and to check the open units and limits. My digression for the day is below

The Fish and Game regulations used to be a small booklet of 10 or 12 pages and were pretty easy to find the season dates, limits and open areas. The new regs are 80 or 90 pages per booklet, and there are several booklets. There are pages and pages of advertisements, explanations of what weapons can be used, specifications of weapons, bullets, types of scopes, arrows and broadheads. There are tables of shooting hours, sunrises and sunsets, as well as maps, animal descriptions, pictures, and natural habitat research. These regs are also color coded for recent changes, units, zones and special permit hunts. They explain how some hunts are restricted to specific units while others are in certain zones. Zones are made up of parts of 1 or more units. Deer hunts are in units but elk hunts are in zones. There are then long legal descriptions of each unit’s boundaries. Hunters pretty much have to carry the regs with them nowadays and when an animals is sighted, sit down and read the regs to determine where you are, which unit you’re in, which zone you’re in, what’s the date, what time it is, what kind of animal you see, is it male or female, how many antler points does it have, what weapon you are carrying, in order to determine whether you can shoot said animal where it used to be standing.

End of Digression.

I looked through the bird regulations a couple of times but there was no longer a Blue Grouse season listed. I couldn’t believe it, what was going on here? As I looked closer I discovered there was a new grouse season in the same area and at the same time as the old Blue Grouse season. This new grouse season was for a bird called the Dusky Grouse. I had never heard of such a bird. I read about their characteristics and even looked at a picture. Dusky Grouse looked eerily similar to the Blue Grouse. These Dusky Grouse must have slowly moved in and taken over the Blue Grouse range and the Blue Grouse must now be extinct or endangered. When I figured that out, it motivated me to go out and shoot all those pesky Dusky Grouse for ruining our Blue Grouse hunting.

Bill has never been one for reading the regulations, so I called him up and told him that there is no more Blue Grouse hunting in Idaho, and that Blue Grouse appear to be extinct. Bill was overcome with disbelief and anger. I calmed him down by telling him that there is a Dusky Grouse hunt in the same area that is open. He had never heard of a Dusky Grouse either but was immediately interested. He then wondered if we were capable of matching wits with these new fangled birds. Bill asked what Dusky meant, and I told him I wasn’t sure but to me it sounded like the time of day just before it gets Darky. We set our sights on finding some of these Dusky Grouse and thinning them out so maybe the Blue Grouse could make a comeback.I got to Bill’s house early the next day. He was wearing his camo baseball cap that he always likes to wear, he says it keeps people from seeing what he is thinking. I used to be skeptical of this theory until one day I realized that I can never see what he’s thinking, and I know him pretty well. He pulled the ATV around to my truck and I was shocked at how big it was. ATVs were much bigger than 4-wheelers. I didn’t think I’d be able to help lift it into the truck so I started to say to him that I bet he couldn’t lift that into my truck by himself when he stopped me and said that you don’t lift ATVs, you drive them up a ramp. He pulled a big folding ramp out of the garage and set it on the tailgate. He then rode the ATV up the ramp and into the back of the Tundra. Only it didn’t fit. I couldn’t shut the tailgate. This ATV was too long for a 6.5 foot bed! We then had to find some straps to tie it down so it couldn’t fall out. We then had to strap the ramp down too. I kept thinking about how great progress is. We now have huge ATVs, small truck beds, no Blue Grouse and 90 pages of color coded regulations with advertisements. I was beginning to understand why old men are cranky and talk about the good old days. We made it to our hunting spot, drove the ATV down the ramp and headed up the mountain. We had a loop we used to ride that went gradually up one side of a mountain and then came down pretty steep and quick on the other. It was about 12 or 13 miles up and 5 down. We rode the long route up to the top and didn’t see any Blue Grouse, which wasn’t surprising as they were extinct, but we didn’t see any Dusky Grouse either. I remembered that the steeper downhill was usually better hunting. We got off the ATV and walked down the hill a while. After less than a mile, Bill said he was going back to get the ATV and that he would ride it down the way we came up. I asked him why he didn’t just ride it down this steep trail that is shorter. He said that this was an old 4-wheeler trail and an ATV wouldn’t make it down. The 4-wheeler trail has got some narrow places and some bad spots in it, so he had to go down the other way. You sure wouldn’t want to get an ATV stuck, or roll it on an old 4-wheeler trail. I told him I would just walk down the old trail and meet him back at the truck.As I walked the old trail I thought again about how great progress is. How we now have smaller trucks, much larger ATVs, and much more complicated regulations, and how this is so much better now. I waxed a bit nostalgic about the 4-wheeler and the Blue Grouse now being extinct. I ended up shooting 3 or 4 of those Dusky Grouse on my way down the trail and I enjoyed the walk and views. The Dusky Grouse looked just like Blue Grouse. They were slow and not very bright, so we matched up well. In fact, I couldn’t tell the difference between them and the old Blue Grouse. I suppose I could get used to hunting the Dusky Grouse as much as I might miss the Blues. And I suppose progress is a good and necessary thing. I tried to vow to myself that I wouldn’t become a cranky old man and talk about the good old days, but my heart wasn’t in it.

Oh by the way, when my Dad sold his 4-wheelers, I bought the little one. I still have it and it still runs fine. But don’t tell anyone. We kept the Ford F350 for 17 years.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Bear Stand

Recently, I noticed that the string on my bow was broken and needed to be replaced. I took it to Cabela’s and walked back to the archery section. I was amazed at the new technology in bows, the new styles, fancy cams, wheels and cables. My Martin Firecat is a bit over 10 years old, but is way out of date. I also noticed how the price of things has gone way up. I suddenly liked my old bow just fine. My new string cost me $68.00. 15 years ago I could get a dozen arrows, a string, and some other options for that price. As I paced around waiting for my string to be installed, another $25.00, I noticed a tree stand. It was huge. It had ropes, clamps and chains to keep it attached to the tree and leveled. It had a padded chair and backrest, a retractable roof in case of rain or sunburn, and even a safety harness to clip into to keep one from falling out of the tree. The fabric and paint were all matching camo patterns. It also came with metal steps and handles that you screw into the tree to make the climbing easier and safer. It looked like something I might need, although I wondered if I could ever find it again if I put it up in a tree. As I stared at this fancy $1,200 behemoth, my mind wandered back to a simpler time, a time when tree stands were less complex and less expensive.

In the late 1980’s my wife and I moved back to Boise from Alaska. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I started spending more time with her brother Bill. It turned out that Bill and I had much more in common than anyone would have thought. We both liked hunting and fishing, and we played a lot of basketball together. We also found that in our teenage years, we both apprenticed under the same, little known but often followed, Greek philosopher, Dipp LeSchiticus. Bill talks like he was an honor student, but I never worked that hard at it, much like my high school courses.
When each fall rolled around, Bill and I spent a lot of time hunting and fishing together. Much of our hunting involved Garden Mountain. We hiked up and down the mountain a few times as well as riding 4 wheelers up the trail from Zimmer Creek. There was also a drivable road up the backside all the way to the top. We drove this road quite often. Back then, last few miles were a narrow, brushy stretch that scratched up my truck and tore the vent off the top of my camper shell the first time in. We always drove my truck after that because it was already scratched and torn up a bit. We would camp at one of several places on the top of the mountain, among them, the now infamous Dead Cow Camp.

My mind wandered to one particular spring. Bill and I were bored and antsy to get outside. We decided we should get out on the spring bear hunt and look for bears. We also figured that we should build our own tree stand, put out some bait for the bears, and just wait for them to come to visit. We knew there was still snow on Garden Mountain but thought we might be able to get to the top. We loaded up my truck with two 4-wheelers, two wooden pallets, various lengths and sizes of lumber, nails, hammers, saws and various other tools. We also tossed in our first round of bear bait. Old jars of fruit, a couple bags of old grain, and some fish and game meat left in the freezer for too many years. My truck had the Beverly Hillbillies look going on as we left town early one Saturday morning. The road up the mountain was on the North side. There was still some big snow banks in places so the truck didn’t get far off the valley floor before we hit deep snow. We pulled off to the side and unloaded all our equipment and supplies. We bounced the 4-Wheelers off the back of the truck and fired them up. It then took us at least an hour to load the pallets, tools, and food onto the 4-wheelers and strap it all down. I ended up sitting on the pallet’s edge as it was much larger than the 4-wheeler rack. We started up the mountain and made pretty good time in some places. The shady, protected corners were still snow covered and a few times we had to stop and muscle each 4-wheeler through the drifts. The higher we got the deeper the snow became and we were wearing ourselves out fighting uphill through the snow. We finally realized that we were not going to make it to the top, although we had gotten pretty high. We remembered a spot near the top that we had frequently seen game and had even shot a deer there a couple years back. We fought our way to that ridge. We arrived well after noon and unloaded our treasures. We only had to carry them about a hundred yards through the thick snow. We selected a spot about 25 feet high in a big pine tree and went to work. We spent hours climbing up and down the tree, cutting pallets and boards to fit, pounding nails and tying up ropes. Late in the afternoon we were exhausted, but, we had a pretty nice bear stand. It wasn’t quite level, it sloped down a bit towards the ground in the front. There was potential for slivers in the rear end, as I had learned from sitting on the pallet on the ride up, and it teetered back and forth a little bit. But overall it looked pretty good. We had even pounded some boards into the tree for steps. There was no padded chair, safety harness or rain cover, but we didn’t plan to hunt in the rain or fall out of the tree. We laid out the fruit, grain and frozen fish in an area open to the stand. We were pretty darn proud of ourselves as we packed up the empty jars and tools and readied ourselves for the trip down. Driving home we talked about how often we would bring up more bait and how one of us could sit in the stand and the other could hunt higher up the mountain. It was going to be a good spring hunt.

The next time I saw the bear stand was about a year and half later. I was driving up and over the top of the mountain to meet Bill for an elk hunt. I thought of that tree stand while driving that section of road. I stopped and got out. I walked the hundred yards off the road and looked at our stand. I found it easily enough. It was still in pretty good shape and seemed to be holding up fine. I noticed a game trail going by that looked like it had regular use. Some of the grain we left had sprouted and grown and it appeared to be nibbled on by the wildlife. I told myself that someday soon I would come back and sit in this tree stand and wait for the animals to come by.
I realized that it has now been about 15 years since we built that stand and somehow I’ve never actually sat in it and hunted. I’ve only been back there that one time.

I ended my day dream as the Cabela’s guy called to me and said my bow was ready. I retrieved my bow from him and gave the fancy tree stand one last look. Walking out of the store, I vowed to stop and check out the bear stand the next time I drive up the backside of the mountain. I’ll let you know what I find.
February 15, 2011