A Scotch and Drambuie Kind Of Thanksgiving……

In 1962, my family lived on the island of Okinawa, now a part of Japan. The US Military still occupied this sliver of Pacific coral, having paid for it with the blood of 12,000 dead sailors, soldiers and marines in June of 1945. In 1962 it was still home to a large contingent of US military personnel, with a sizable garrison of Special Operations troops and Air Force folks. Dad, an Airborne officer, shuttled back and forth between the the newly formed 173rd Airborne Brigade and 1st Special Forces, units he loved. I was a 12 year old kid, trying to grow up in the unique environment of military dependency. Thanksgiving in the Armed Forces is always a big deal and November 22, 1962 was true to form, a Thanksgiving I will never forget.

As was the custom in military units back in the day, the officers and senior cadre were permitted to bring their families to a military mess for Thanksgiving dinner. As I recall, all dependents were welcomed, but few enlisted folk’s families were on the island. We lived in military quarters in an area named Kishaba Terrace in the Sukiran sector on the island. The quarters were of concrete slab construction to fend off the typhoons that frequented this region. Dad was a Battalion Commander back then, and dinner with the troops was an automatic for our family. We dressed accordingly, which for me meant a bow tie, creased trousers and a whitewall haircut. Life was good, however; I had no idea what was in store for me on this holiday.

Seasoned combat veterans are usually no strangers to strong drink. Dad did not, as I recall, have a drinking problem, but I can assure you he did drink and could hold his liquor with the best of them. On this Thanksgiving, several of the officers and the Battalion Sergeant Major had begun the festivities at our quarters where dad polished off a couple of, number unknown, drinks called a Rusty Nail. The Nail was comprised of scotch whisky and a liquor named Drambuie, a heather honey infused scotch whiskey jazzed up with spices and herbs. We were driven to the big, appropriately decorated, mess hall and seated at the head table with the other officers. It is also customary for a unit Chaplain to deliver the blessing, but our Chaplain was not present, for reasons that escape me. It was up to the Colonel to deliver the blessing and dad stood, slightly out of kilter and brought the several hundred troops to their feet. Mom and I exchanged knowing looks, as dad had not entirely bought into Christianity, as a result of his combat experience. The troops were silent and dad was trapped between scotch whiskey and a lack of preparation. In a style befitting a man used to dealing with trying circumstances, dad turned and passed the honor of blessing the meal to his son……..me.

The Colonel and his Rusty Nail

When I, in turn, looked at dad, he was smiling. I am not sure if it was the scotch or his confidence in my ability to pull off my first public speaking event. Strangely, there was no panic. I had a few seconds to organize my thoughts, bowed folks heads and gave thanks for the following things. Our President, John Kennedy, who I knew that dad adored, the “soldiers” all around the world who kept us safe, our families, military family and finally the food we were about to enjoy. It was far from a barn burner, but I had made it without passing out.

After the meal, the Sergeant Major shook my hand and suggested I had done well and had just made a life long memory. I have not nor will I ever forget. So it is that I thank God for our country, the military and anyone who wears a uniform in the name of peace and prosperity. Blessings at Thanksgiving are not simply a part of the ritual, they are an opportunity to thank the Almighty for what we have and for those who lay it all on the line for the common good. Dad and Christianity? Later in his short life, he got it together. If anyone deserved the opportunity to make amends, he did. Thanks, dad.

Happy Thanksgiving, and God Bless you and your families.

SR

Softly Walking With A Big Stick…..

A damned good, retired, Highway Patrolman died a little over a week ago, his passing as unobtrusive as he lived, a gentleman hailing from the river country of southwest Missouri. Howard “Bub” Mease was a fine officer who left a legacy of kindness cloaked in a gentle veneer that one would be advised to respect. Bub was 79 years old when he died, a nuclear submarine veteran and career officer. I am at that age when folks who I worked with are slipping away, leaving ever smaller gatherings to celebrate their lives and work on earth. Sgt. Mease graced our presence from May 14, 1943 to November 8, 2022.

Missouri Highway Patrol Sergeant Howard “Bub” Mease

I met Bub while attending the Highway Patrol’s supervision school back in the early 80’s. Bub was quiet in class but quickly assumed the role of a spiritual leader with his disarming style and ability to read people. In 1989, I was assigned to Springfield, and made the move from the Kansas City area to southwest Missouri. Troopers, especially those from other areas of the state, naturally illicit caution among the established officers when they are transplanted among them. Patrol officers form their own judgements, part of the “Show Me” thing with Missourians. Bub made his presence known on the first day of my Springfield assignment, stopping in headquarters to invite me to lunch at his parents home in Reed Springs, down in the deep hollows, where I was treated to a wild game and fish lunch topped off with one of the best gooseberry cobblers I have ever eaten. Bub wanted me to know that I was welcome in the new Troop and I never forgot his kindness. I still have a home made gooseberry picker that was gifted to me by Bub’s father, a White River guide for the legendary Owen Guide Company. Bub came about his love of the outdoors honestly.

Bub was a terrific officer. He was unflappable, reliable and a superior supervisor earning the respect of both his fellow senior officers and the newer troops. We shared a deep appreciation for hunting and fishing, and spent many days on Table Rock Lake, taking advantage of his knowledge of the lake. Bub was also an excellent float fisherman and we spent numerous days on the James and Finley rivers where I gained an appreciation for both his skill with a rod and vast knowledge of river lore. Bub was a tall guy and his tales of life in the North Atlantic, in a cramped US Navy submarine, were hilarious. It was a wonder he could still stand upright.

Bub Mease was not overly complicated. He was perfectly content to take care of his officers, drive an old Chevy pickup and drink a cold beer while standing over a gallon or two of hot peanut oil frying crappie for his friends. He was a joker, strong as an ox and blessed with those big hands that accomplished pistoleros all seem to have. He was a trooper’s trooper, the highest praise you can receive as a patrolman. He was a enduring part of the Patrol’s legacy in southwest Missouri.

While fishing with Bub late one evening, I personally watched him smoke a cigarette, hold a can of Coors, pee over the side of the boat and still manage to set the hook on a fish…..all at the same time. The Lord called home a good one and I could not be prouder of our association. You left a wake Bub, on the water and in life. God bless you.

Have a good week!

SR

A View From The Street……..

It has been an enlightening week, politically speaking. Our pollsters have again failed to grasp the realities of group think and America is once again living with razor thin political majorities as we finish choosing our leadership for the next two years. This writing is intended to capture the view from the street as seen by an old trooper who relied on pragmatism to guide his response to the many challenges of lending dignity to the chaos that represents human behavior. I usually avoid entering the political arena in my weekly missives, but I have seen enough. The chicanery that is the backbone of the Biden administration is beyond the pale and I am tired of being treated by his mob as if I am a weak lemming, defenseless as I march to the sea.

First up is the motive behind the current Democratic political ambition. I could end here by simply suggesting a one word summary, “power”. Power is job one. It is their way or hit the street. When queried about his response to the current finding that 70% of America thinks we are on the wrong track, Biden says he intends to change nothing as he goes forward. He does not care what America thinks, he believes he is right and the vast majority of Americans can go to hell.

Why should I give a tinker’s damn what you think?

The current strategy on our southern border is simple. Under Biden’s laughable border strategy, at least a half million illegals have dispersed into our country. With congressional political races being decided by mere hundreds of votes, these folks represent a critical voting bloc that can be expected to vote for the individual and political party that has welcomed them in, illegally. He is relying on executive orders to shape majorities in any number of close races which determine the balance of power in DC. Along with their votes these folks are contributing to the 134% increase in Fentanyl seizures in FY 2021. In their quest for power, a few deaths as a result of this scourge is a small price to pay. Our Border patrol made over 1.6 million arrests in FY2021 alone, and the number has since increased dramatically. Great job, Joe. Form your very own pool of dedicated voters.

When you look at the distribution of political power in America, it becomes apparent that major east and west coast cities are providing tremendous electoral clout. They tend to be lawless enclaves protected by woke prosecutors who refuse to hold the miscreants accountable. Biden’s temporarily halted scheme to pay off huge student loan depths constitutes a power grab by promising the proverbial “chicken in every pot” of days past. His scheme is contrary to the separation of powers as enumerated by the constitution. He knows this, but also knows the mere suggestion is welcomed by the millions of folks who have encumbered their educations and welcome the handout, irrespective of the fairness of doing. So, to hell with the millions who have covered their debt and/or sought another educational venue to prepare for their life’s work. The Democratic majority has bankrolled his magnificent schemes to redistribute the wealth of working America to those who are lazy and unmotivated. Another guaranteed voting bloc to help ensure the success of the party’s stranglehold on control of Congress.

There are three political parties in America. They are the Democratic Party, the Republican Party and the Media. For reasons that are not entirely clear, the media is hell bent on crushing every conservative aspect of our country. They are as dishonest as the masters they serve, the current administration. They refuse to acknowledge the inherent dishonesty of the Biden cartel, and are as skillful in manipulating the message as Joe and his crew. Only the people can straighten out this mess as the media enjoys the protections the freedom of the press guarantees. They are not to be trusted, however; could care less what we think.

Then, there is the matter of personal accountability. Joe Biden has none. His adoring press is careful to label his lying as “gaffes”. A gaffe is what happens when a dear, old, dementia ridden uncle distorts the truth without a hint of malice, eliciting knowing looks of compassion from the rest of the family. Joe Biden is a liar, has an agenda and has proven skillful at the use of executive order to guarantee his success at furthering his twisted goals. He hates conservative America with a passion and will stop at nothing to relegate us to a footnote in history. He may be an addled old man, but is the perfect foil for an administration determined to have their way or no way.

A final consideration is electoral accountability. The incredible inability of certain key jurisdictions to tally and report the vote is a national embarrassment. I suspect that both sides of the aisle are fed up with the current state of affairs here. The nonsense about so called “voter suppression” is just that, nonsense. When a conservative attempts to streamline the process they are racists, a label that is hard to shake irrespective of the integrity of the person accused.

I executed my professional responsibilities in a vacuum back in the day. I doubt that I could cleanly define conservatism or liberalism. I approached things right down the middle with the advantage always going to the people I dealt with. That is, I believe what the citizens wanted. I’ll be damned if I understand what they want today, but I know what they are getting. Lot’s of free stuff……until the money runs out.

Have a great week!

SR

SR

Puppies And Politics, Polar Opposites…….

We are about to make it. This week will mark the end of the current intense political season and most Americans can breathe a little easier. The lying, distortion, and threats will wane a bit, although we are now in an era of perpetual politics. In a moment of reflection, I considered what might be described as the opposite of American politics, something innocent, honest, beautiful to behold, a true gift from God. As close as I could get is a litter of puppies. Here is how I came to this conclusion.

Money, the greatest corrupter of all that is right, lies at the epicenter of politics. If you have tipped your hand in regard to your political persuasion, your mailbox has been stuffed with any and all manner of coercive pleas for money. You have been led to believe the world will end on Election Day if you do not pick up your checkbook and send as much as you can to a candidate who is going to single handedly save our Democracy. Puppies, on the other hand, only want a warm place to cuddle with their litter mates and momma.

Innocence…….

Were you aware that 90% of congressional seat races are won by the candidate who raises and spends the most money? Would it surprise you to learn that a paltry .25% of Americans will donate 200.00+ on a campaign this year? Recent races have seen creative begging, you know, your dollar is going to be matched by an anonymous donor 25x or maybe 100x over. Are these real? The answer is sort of. Mega donors and super pacs are controlling the money flow these days, now outspending national party groups dramatically. This, arguably is match money. Families like the Adelsons, who contributed 123M, the Bloombergs who contributed 90M and Tom Steyer who contributed 70M, all in 2018, are your matches. Puppies, busy whimpering and squirming about in a brood box with their brothers and sisters could care less who worries over them, as long as a well fed momma is there to assure them with nothing more than a drink and cuddle.

Who sanctioned this runaway system of big money, effectively relegating political power to the wealthy? The Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision, Citizens vs. Federal Election Commission, said groups, unions, corporations, etc. have a constitutional right to express their political preferences with……you guessed it, money. Does all this money buy influence? You would have to be very slow on the uptake to not recognize the tremendous impact money has on legislation. Very slow. Puppies don’t worry about corruption and social strata. They care about kindness, momma and their litter mates. Who cannot look at them and smile, and forget, just for a moment, the meanness in our world led by our political leaders?

Here is my point. It is reliably estimated the mid-term elections this year are going to consume some 9.3 billion dollars. Remember my admonition? Money is both necessary and corrupting. When you want to forget the nasty, sometimes vicious dishonesty inherent to the end of a political season, consider a new puppy. Watch the baby as it responds to the touch of it’s litter mates and momma. Smile at the little noises and total contentment the little guy exhibits as it relates to it’s new surroundings outside the womb.

As a final thought. The only thing that reliably challenges money in an election year is more money, or, more precisely, a lack of money. By most estimations, we are not having a good time economically. The big boys and girls, with their deep checkbooks are not as influential as millions of Americans seeing their economic outlook through the prism of reality. We’ll soon see…….

Have a great week!

A Fascination With Forbidden Fruit…….

We can’t be sure, but it is thought the apple goes back to 6500 BC, a fruit that was forbidden by God Almighty, whose explicit orders were ignored by Adam in the Garden of Eden after a snake talked the hapless Eve into taking the first bite. She persuaded Adam to take a bite and all hell broke loose. Christians believe the persuasive traits of a woman and the weakness of a man are the genesis of today’s state of affairs in the world of Christianity. I wish the Lord would have chosen another fruit, as the apple deserves better. Here is my take……

I have always loved apple anything, pie, cobbler, stewed, crisp or a beautiful Jonathan in hand. How fortuitous that I was initially stationed in Lafayette County with the loess hills of the Missouri River forming it’s northern boundary. A small town on US 24, Waverly, is home to a good number of apple orchards that sold their apples in a variety of roadside markets along the highway. Apple season found then Trooper Mike Mulholland and I haunting the highways in this region, where we delighted in stopping in a orchard stand where the owner’s daughters would always have an apple or two for us, carefully selected from their stock for sale. These beautiful country girls, proffering an apple for the troopers, goes a long way in explaining Adam’s dilemma when Eve coaxed him into sin.

They grow ‘em well around Waverly, Mo.

The ancient Greeks and Romans, folks who lived large, loved apples as did the mighty Norse tribes that were noted for their ribaldry and fierceness. Deep analytical science did not exist in those days, but it was accepted that apples, in addition to their wonderful flavor and texture, contributed to a sense of well being and good health. These folks would not have known a polyphenol from a anthocyanin or a broad axe for that matter, but knew they were crunchy and delicious. Somehow they also recognized that apple skins were the source of most of the nutrients and eschewed peeling before eating. I must have Nordic blood (actually, I do) as an apple pie or crisp is complete for me when the skin is left on the fruit.

When a comely little lady at one of our orchards handed Mike and I an apple, the nutritional value of the fruit was lost in the moment. Apples are “nutritional powerhouses” sayeth today’s scientists, who tout the positive impact on red blood cells and nervous systems as well as digestive tract. A list of ailments that apples impact includes arthritis, obesity, gallstones, bronchial asthma, tuberculosis, anemia, insomnia, neuritis and halitosis. Apples promote hair growth and when chemically altered are helpful in treating dandruff. The farmer’s daughters that proffered the apples could have tempted us into eating rocks back in the day, a holdover from Eve, I am sure, and we really didn’t consider the health benefits. When you get older, the health benefits come into focus……..

A whole lot off temptation in Adam’s day……..

Let’s wrap this up. It is apple season, and our retail establishments have any number of varieties to tempt us. Green, red, pink and yellow. The Japanese, in particular, delight in grafting apple trees to produce the latest, greatest variety of apples. I am old school. Give me a bag of fresh Jonathans and I will pass on the other varieties save a plump Granny Smith, dipped into Sharon’s magic cream cheese and marshmallow concoction. It is apple season. While the apple was critical in outing the original sin, I think the Lord has moved on to the bigger problems of today. We just bought a sack of Jonathans from Peter’s Orchard in Waverly and I have been savoring their tart sweetness daily.

Being a trooper on US 24 in apple country was a wonderful experience, strongly imbedded in my memory. Fifty years of living since then has not diminished the beauty of life in those days. Thank you Lord, for the memories and the ubiquitous apple….

Have a great week!

SR

When Hunting Turns To Killing…….

Last week, in the first of a two part series, I talked about the evolution of fishing, a pastime that is rapidly becoming the province of the computer age. I am blessed to participate in this transformation from the days of skill and experience to the days of enhanced catch probability relying on computerization and electronic wizardry to gain an advantage over the fish. Hunting has seen a similar evolution brought about by the age of electronics. Let’s have a look at the hunting landscape today as opposed to 50 years ago.

In Colonial America, we hunted in the name of survival. Virtually every part of a game animal was used in some form or another, from the skins to keep us warm to the meat to keep us alive. My how things have changed. Many folks legally go forth for the thrill of matching wits with an animal and killing it. Programs such as “Share the Harvest” provide a use for the flesh of the animals that sport hunters hunt who are simply in search of a trophy or kill. I am not being critical here, sharing perfectly palatable wild game as table fare with less fortunate folks is an honorable disposition of the critters we kill. That being said, it becomes the killing that takes center stage as opposed to the art of the stalk with a keen eye or time in a stand enjoying nature. (The evolution in stands alone is incredible, some with the comforts of home built in.)

The methodology is remarkably advanced from years past when a woodsman spent hours patterning the movement of game, relying on rubs, cuttings, scrapes and tracks to match wits with a big game animal. We religiously studied paper maps and the terrain to establish likely ambush locations to set up. While small game is still pretty much pursued along the same lines as the colonists relied on, big game hunting has roared ahead in the age of technology. Consider the advancements in weather forecasting, satellite imagery and very precise topological mapping, unheard of a half century ago. We now have various tables to predict feeding and high movement periods within a given day. These advancements are impressive, but pale in comparison to the use of game cameras to establish where the game is, when it moves and the density levels. Just as sonar greatly enhances the odds of locating fish, todays sophisticated cameras exponentially enhance the awareness of the movement of desirable big game species.

The Quarry………

Today’s camera technology is such that you can monitor your cameras through blue tooth applications, record activity for later analysis and monitor such movement on a 24 hour cycle. Sure, it takes a basic knowledge of the hunted species to know in which general area to set your cameras, such as funnels, saddles, crossings, breaks and elevations, however; the camera nails down game location with precision. Today’s cameras greatly facilitate the killing of trophy animals, an irrefutable fact.

Optic evolution

Next up is weaponry. Today’s rifles have evolved into precision shooting instruments, with superior ballistics and virtually weatherproof reliability in the field. The optics currently in use are vastly superior to years past, with ballistic tables and reticles built in, to include caliber specific reticles taking the “Kentucky Windage” aspect out of shooting accurately. Magnifications are light years ahead of just a few years ago when settings varied only marginally. Todays range finders will provide unbelievably accurate measuring to help guarantee shot placement and are fog and rain proof. The evolution in “primitive” weapons, particularly bows and so called black powder firearms is palpable. Today’s legal “muzzle loading” rifles are capable of center fire accuracy and superior ballistics with conical bullets and smokeless powders. Scent lock technology (clothing) certainly mitigates the likelihood of being scented by a deer that is working into range of your weaponry preference. Bows today, with cam technology are much easier to draw, hold and deliver precision arrows with unbelievable accuracy and speed. The cutting surfaces of today’s broad heads are surgical in nature.

Advantage shifting technology

I am a hunter, but an honest one. I acknowledge the shift in advantage from the deer to the hunter and accept this inevitable circumstance. Perhaps it is why I still enjoy a quiet stalk with a .22 after a limit of squirrels for the crockpot, or the howl of a beagle on a hot rabbit track. I still enjoy a light 20, a good German Shorthair, and a fence row with the promise of a late covey scattering in bean stubble. I carry a fine Finnish deer rifle, with the best optics in the world, but enjoy the peace and awakening deer woods as much as the pursuit of a deer. I can honestly say that I have thanked every deer that I have killed (I have killed many) for the hunt and the blessing they provide on the table, but today I pass on far more opportunities than I take when hunting these noble creatures.

Game cams…….

The game has changed. More than ever “hunting” has become “killing” and I thank God I was raised when it was the other way around and hunting took center stage. I guess it is an age thing…….but I make no apologies. The pursuit of fish and game is the noblest of all pastimes.

Have a great week!

SR

When Fishing Turns To Catching……..

As long as I can remember, I have religiously listed fishing and hunting as my hobbies. Along the way, I have added motorcycling, RV’ing and a flirtation with flying to my list of interests. Avid cycling and flying came along late in life when annoying age related inconveniences tend to erupt, reminding us of who is in charge. I have been away from fishing for several years, the result of arthritis in my hands, and have failed to keep up with the melding of technology and skill, which is a game changer today. In a two part series about the state of fishing and hunting these days, I talk about the changes to our sports, beginning this week with fishing.

One aspect of fishing has not changed over the centuries. Fishing, at the base level, is comprised of first locating fish and then catching them. I learned to fish without electronics of any kind, owning my first flasher, suitable for establishing depth and not much else, in the early ‘70’s. Locating fish in any given body of water was a visual art developed through experience, reading current, depth, structure, water clarity and temperature relying on a hand dipped into the water for the latter. A good fisherman developed a seasonal response to locating the fish, to include barometric pressure, fronts, cloud cover and memory. We “patterned” fish based on years of experience and a basic knowledge of the species we were seeking. This skill set is what a good fisherman relied upon to jerk a limit of fat crappie from the bank or the depths of a lake year around. Locating fish today is easier than it has ever been. A few minutes this past weekend at a large bass tourney on Grand Lake of the Cherokees in Oklahoma opened my eyes to the nuances of locating fish with todays many types of sonar and displays that adorn a modern bass boat. Incredible sums it up. There is down view, side scan and CHIRP technology, permitting the angler to see where the fish are, their depth and dispersal in living color. These same graphs and monitors will tell you what kind of bottom you are over or near, water temperatures and the thermoclines (temperature variances) of the water. Locating fish is easy. All you need to be competitive is a $100 K bass boat and about $15K in electronics fueled by 4 big batteries. In my day, you relied on your experience, as chronicled above, to toss what seemed like the appropriate bait at structure or off a point. Today’s capabilities make the “Hunt for Red October” seem like child’s play!

A basic outlay…with two more screens on the console!

The second aspect of fishing is still a bit skill dependent. Choosing a bait from a wild array of lifelike selections still requires a nuanced presentation and the ability to feel what is happening where your bait is. In spite of these skills and the modern, expensive and tremendously reliable tackle that is currently on the market…..you can’t make a fish bite. (Although you can haul a crank bait by a suspended fish enough times to provoke him into a bite…….all watched on your monitor.) At a terrific sporting goods store in Oklahoma, the owner gave me great advice. Hire a guide who is computer literate, preferably one raised in the computer age of gaming, etc., as opposed to a grizzled old veteran who keeps his terminal tackle in little brown bags scattered about the deck. The kid who can use the computers will get you on fish, where you can then apply your experience to closing the deal. He is right of course…..except I no longer competitively fish as I thoroughly enjoy leisure while on the water. Put me on the water and I’ll figure out the pattern, but it make take time. Today you push a button. It is not just about catching……it is the total experience. I feel sorry for our kids and grandkids…….

There you have it. Fishing is on the cusp of being renamed catching with little premium attached to being an old veteran who begins scanning the water, relying on years of experience to find and catch fish on a bank that instinct tells you is a good place to start. I began, many years ago, with a cane pole and a cage of crickets at Gaddy’s Mill Pond in rural South Carolina, jerking fat blue gill and red-breast sunfish out of the tannin colored waters under a overhanging tree. Little did I know what the future held….

Next week, I talk about hunting in the age of electronics and technology, “When Hunting Turns To Killing”.

Have a great week!

SR

Marijuana, A Cash Cow……….

Back in 2737 BC, a Chinese Emperor named Shen Nung discovered that marijuana could deliver relief from the incessant turmoil of managing a dynasty. Old Shen was so impressed that he recommended the stuff to help with gout, malaria and, get this, absent mindedness. Slowly, the herb worked it’s way across India and then found favor in Europe. When you are stoned, there is little doubt that many of your ailments, real and perceived, take a back seat to the mellow hallucinogenic euphoria that accompanies the ingestion of this ever more powerful drug. Why are we in a hurry to embrace this mind altering weed? Money……..Mildred………and lot’s of it.

Back in the 80’s, an engaging patrol Criminal Investigator, David LePage and I were tasked with developing a program to introduce every trooper in the state to the art of drug interdiction on our highways. Our presentation was well received and a good number of enterprising officers used the techniques to remove millions of dollars worth of marijuana and other street drugs from circulation. We were stunned at the quantities and profitability back then……..and those of us who were in that struggle are now well beyond stunned. The money circulating around the recreational use of marijuana is astounding. It is what is driving the rapid push to legalize the stuff for recreational use…….a concept soon to be law in Missouri and Arkansas.

A recent study by a credible think tank (Arkansas Economic Development Institute) estimates that recreational marijuana could easily add $2.4 billion to Arkansas’s economy and add 6,400 jobs by 2027. Their studies are predicated on the experiences of other states who have moved from the hilarious “medicinal” use of the drug to the recreational use. There is absolutely no reason to expect Missouri’s experience to not mirror Arkansas’s projections, if not soundly exceed them. The stoners are on the edge of total success, having relied on the escalation of marijuana use by way of the medical use portal. Money, folks, is the icing on the cake. By the way, taxing the stuff is going to be difficult, as anyone with a grow light and potting soil can cultivate his or her own stash. Home based grow operations, along with your electric iron horse are really going to tax Mr. Biden’s energy vision for the future.

America has a fixation on staying calm and mellowing out. What have we learned from the recreational use of alcohol? Not much, really. It is reliably estimated (CDC) that alcohol consumption in this country results in an annual loss of $28 billion in healthcare, $179 billion in work force productivity, $13 billion in collisions and $25 billion in criminal justice expense. Hold on, the new numbers, courtesy of marijuana are going to be mystifying

So there you have it. Budweiser, Coors, Angry Apple and Miller Light will be set aside in favor of an ounce or two of Hindu Kush, Purple Kush, Acapulco Gold, Afghan Kush or Maui Wowie. Pictures of the grandkids on the mantle will be replaced with the latest in soothing water bowls. Folks will be sporting the latest smoking paraphernalia, beauties like the Hitoshi Trident or Power Hitter will replace the coozy and flask. You can bet on it!

I wish it were not so. Our children and grandchildren deserve better.

Have a great week!

SR

A stoner’s delight, Afghan Kush

A Hour With A Master…….

This past week the weather has been brutal, more so for fishermen who tend to stand in one place with cool spring water slipping by them as they attempt to fool a fish that gets little respect in our part of the country. Of course I am talking about trout in one of our beautiful trout fisheries, Bennet Spring, where your legs are refreshingly cool while your upper body is baking in a brutal late summer day. Missouri is home to a plethora of fish native to our waters sporting colorful monikers like goggle eye, linesides, and calicos. While trout are not native, they thrive well in our cold big lake tailwaters and many spring branches around the southern part of our state. They are also wary, finicky, in a funny sort of way, and fun to mess with. We eat them, but I would not go so far as to say they are in a class with a mess of walleye or crappie out of hot peanut oil. Remember, some people also eat snails.

Trout, unfortunately, can be caught on just about anything. Their gastronomic preferences are probably the result of mostly being raised in concrete runs and fed a diet of fish food. You can catch them on a variety of natural baits, but also on stuff like power bait (a brightly colored concoction out of a jar with the eerie consistency of silly putty) dough bait and cheese. Not even an old channel cat, known for eating soap and disgusting, dead smelling stuff out of a jar (that must never be opened inside) eats as broad a variety of stuff as a trout. Thankfully, they also eat a variety of bugs and “normal” stuff like minnows and worms. So now, armed with what they eat, let’s talk about how to get them on a hook.

Why fool with trout in a rich fishery where you can tie into a mean large mouth bass or a string of delicious crappie instead? It is because when on the hook, a trout goes berserk. All fish resist being caught to varying degrees, but a trout goes all Beth Dutton when he feels the steel. This is especially true when you are using a fly rod and a 2# tippet or tapered leader and tossing a bug imitation the size of an overweight mosquito. Fly fishing is the stuff of legendary fishermen and purists who scoff at our heavy handed tactics involving native fish. You see, Ozarkians fish so they may enjoy a cooker filled with suckers or crappie, corn bread and a few taters to balance the plate. Trout fishermen, especially the purists, fish so they can end the day with a snifter of brandy or aged scotch while talking about baits such as “crackle backs” or “blue duns”. Ozarkians don’t spend a lot of time talking about bait and we tend to end the day drinking beer around the back of a pickup truck.

An experienced amateur teaching an inexperienced amateur

The truth is I am a fisherman who occasionally uses a fly rod as opposed to a true fly fisherman, with the latest Orvis or G. Loomis rod adorning the little gizmos on the hood of their truck designed to showcase their thousand dollar rods. That being said, I love to fly fish. I readily accept the disdain from the purists who likely share stories every evening about the hillbilly with the fly rod who was down the creek obviously better suited to a trot-line or crappie rod, than fly rod. Enter my son-in-law, Tom, who asked me to teach him to fly fish. I put on my best game face, grabbed a couple of fly rods and got him started with a two basic casts and a few of the nuances of fly fishing . I also took him to the lair of one of the best fly fishermen in the world, Charlie Reading, of Reading’s Fly Shop near Bennet Spring who has been fooling trout, literally, all over the world with the smoothness of a practiced surgeon. Charlie is a master of all things involving the manipulation of a fly rod. Seriously, he is the Tiger Woods of fly fishing and an hour with him still leaves me in awe. This was a risky move on my part, as Tom has only me to compare with the great Charlie Reading. Reading isn’t one dimensional…..he is also a salesman. Tom left with a great basic outlay for this pastime. Sorry Tom, I made the introduction……the rest is on you.

The master, Charlie Reading, at work.

You have to be at least 70 and lived in the sometimes violent world of Law Enforcement to appreciate the serenity that is a part of fly fishing, hooking up with a trout and turning the exhausted fish back to fight another day. If it brings a fraction of the peace this has provided me over the years to Tom, I will have added years to Tom’s life. To top it off, he has been coached by one of the best in the world……..and a duffer who made the introduction.

Have a great week.

SR

Old Dogs, Old Men And The Sun……

After a good swim in the Niangua River, Tazzy and I are relaxing in the slowly fading shade of the RV at the Hidden Valley Campground located across the road from Bennet Spring. This a nice, but dusty, campground with level pads, great utilities and a short jaunt to the river. This morning it is quiet and the low water conditions are keeping many folks off the river. It is a perfect morning to think about what got us here and what we are going to do about it.

Watching the shade fade…….

Constant employment beginning at age 15 and ending at age 60 got me here. Being perfectly suited to resting on the front porch with a cup of coffee and an old dog, somewhere near a Missouri float stream has always been my ambition. A career in law enforcement introduced me to a frenetic, sometimes violent and confrontational lifestyle that I am finally beginning to outrun. Ending my career between a tremendously profitable business and the politicians who are always interested in money (the gambling industry) was about all it took to make me appreciate the charming existence of an Ozarkian depicted in various caricatures wearing a pair of coveralls, barefoot and a corncob pipe clenched in his teeth.

This morning, after accompanying Tazzy to the river, we sauntered back to the shade of the RV, where he and I watched the shade disappear and the cool morning transition to another hellishly hot September afternoon. A load of kayaks showed up just as we were leaving and the livery operator assured me that a float today would kick your rear end as the water is low and the shoals plentiful from here down. I can handle the paddle, but am not ready to drag the canoe over the shoals relying on a shoulder that is just starting to forgive my age adjusted lack of dexterity. We can float later, today we just sit and think a bit.

Swimming and walking ain’t easy on old guys

As for what I am going to do about my current situation, the answer is easy. Not much. Taz and I understand that folks don’t expect much from either one of us, and we have no intention of disappointing them. We’ll likely rely on the beautiful fall weather in Missouri to deliver more time “on the porch”. Neither one of us has any intention of doing one damned thing we don’t want to to do nor existing anywhere we don’t want to be. We have paid our dues and been just thrifty enough to finance the lifestyle we enjoy. I am married to a woman who moves at a faster pace than I do these days, but she is good about letting us catch up when we fall behind. A day or two on the Big Piney, Niangua or Gasconade is better medicine than you’ll find in any drug store, and when the water is right, the Huzzah or Courtois is soothing to the soul.

Have a good week!

SR