Witt’s End

It's Not About Stories People Tell, It's About …

(This blog was originally posted 2 October 2008, however, it seems appropriate today.)

Actually, the buck stops any place he damn well chooses in October. For example, I was hiking down the northeastern loop of the Carriage Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park this morning, just minding my own business, and that of any other creature I happened to see.

I stopped to watch a Pileated Woodpecker destroy a fallen tree. He had the chips flying like he was getting paid for the job. I heard leaves rustle behind me. Over my shoulder I  saw two does walking, cautiously, in my direction. Around here, whitetail deer are as plentiful as, well, as whitetail deer. It’s not uncommon in a four-mile hike to see a dozen or more deer, grazing or doing whatever deer do when they think no one is watching.

“’Morning ladies,” I said.

They halted, looked at each other, back at me, then to their right.

There stood a huge buck. Through my binoculars I counted eight points on each antler. I’m not sure how they count points when hunters talk about an X-point buck–this dude had a rack! I don’t want to get too deep into personification here, however, I had the distinct feeling this guy was looking at me as if I was looking at his lady friends with something other than a naturalist’s curiosity.

My 2k brain was running the options available to me in case this guy wanted to make a point—or two. Climbing a tree seemed the only thing available. I opted for a stare-down. I’ve read that staring at a wild animal is not the best plan of attack. But heck, it worked with squirrels and chipmunks, why not this guy?

He snorted a couple times and the does changed their trajectory to pass by farther to the left. The big guy watched them move on up into the trees, frequently turning to see what I was going to do. Since he looked away first I declared myself the winner of the stare-down and wished him a tolerable day as I walked on down the path.

It’s that time of the year when bucks stop here and there and everywhere.

Around our house, Susan and I still get the occasional printed version of the local newspaper. Lots of unanswered, or unexplained words in that sentence, I suppose.

First, we enjoy sitting around reading the paper, giving each other spoiler alerts about stories the other has not read, or making comment on the latest political stupidity to be found far and near. And I say “occasional” because the paper is home-delivered only four times per week, now. There are the too-numerous times when the delivery guy does not deliver, or tosses the paper under the car, or drops it in the middle of the road and it get trampled by elephants or something.

Having survived 40 years in the journalism trade I’ve earned the right to bitch about the quality, or lack thereof, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer (aka Plain Squealer) these days. That, however, is not today’s rant. Today we’ll talk about story juxtaposition. I know, advertising keeps the lights on. During major political campaigns, the lights burn even brighter. Mostly, these days, it appears automobile ads are about the only kinds of advertising there is—other than the pile of slicks that attend the Sunday paper—with increasing frequency as we head toward that now National Holiday—Black Friday.

We’re still fortunate to get a bit of news about the environment in Sunday’s paper. For some, like us, stories about rectangular-shaped icebergs are cool. We like it. Stories about starving polar bears not so much. This Sunday I noticed the environmental news was wrapped in nothing but ads for automobiles. Not electric cars or even hybrids. It was 90 percent gas guzzlers.

But then, I suspect the newspaper is most likely put together (we used to call it being laid out) by computer algorithms. We can’t expect the computer to know the difference between an avalanche in the Swiss Alps from an Avalanche from General Motors.

(This blog was originally posted August 2012)

Fishing the contemplative waters of the Little Manistee River in West Michigan this past week, I thought about my dad—as I often do while fishing. This would have been his 109thbirthday. It was he who sentenced me to this life-long pursuit, starting with a cane pole and bluegills when FDR was president. Now, the activity has evolved to high-tech fly fishing tackle and what might seem to others a near-impossible way to catch fish.

Long after dad was dead, I discovered he’d been a fly fisher. He gave up this more complex way of catching fish in favor of teaching me and my three brothers how to bait a hook with a red worm.

So, as I shivered in the challenging Little Manistee trout stream last week, I thought about how much has remained the same in this spot over the past 100 years and what a different world it is from when dad probably fished here.

I think he might have gotten excited about things like the Mars rovers; even appreciated the Internet. (Though he probably would have thought both a waste of money–like power windows in a car.)

One thing I’m sure he would never have abided was tournament fishing. To dad, the concept of chasing about in glittery speed boats in pursuit of bass or trout would have been as inconceivable as voting for a Republican.

For dad, fishing was a quiet, contemplative diversion; something to savor if only for two weeks out of a year otherwise filled with two or three full-time jobs necessary to feed his family. Our annual vacation/fishing trips always marked a significant period in dad’s year, not one fixed on the calendar like Christmas, but a point more filled with meaning; marking the beginning of our summer exile; a time to recall past exiles–for better or worse.

As a kid, fishing for me was a numbers game. As an adult, my thinking has evolved to the point where I’m not sure catching is all that crucial–which was probably what dad probably thought.

Fishing the Manistee

Photo by Susan Jones

(This blog originally post September 2010)

This summer, Susan and I developed a taste for getting off the interstate highways during our travels. Among our discoveries have been Lucas, Kansas, the Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas, with its Garden of Eden and other assorted oddities. But that’s another story. Recently we found ourselves (geographically speaking) in Rabbit Hash, Kentucky. This (really) tiny town is best known for its name and not much else. Well, it is known for having elected a dog as it’s mayor—twice.

Rabbit Hash’s population varies from four to 40 people, depending on how the city boundaries are drawn. There are only a couple of antique stores and two, and I use the term loosely, cafes. The most intriguing store is the General Store (where one of the dog-mayors was banned from entering by the health department). Because of flooding (the town is literally on the banks of the Ohio River) there’s not an un-warped board in the building. I think there is probably one example of everything ever built in the world jammed into the building. There’s so much stuff, floor to ceiling, that there’s no room for anything. The nostalgic aroma of sandalwood incense permeates the place, a feature I’m sure, missing when the first settlers washed up on this south bank of the river in the mid-1700s.

What piqued my curiosity was that, without spending a penny, we had a fun hour or so poking around in history—indoors and out. While across the river, in Rising Sun, Indiana, was anchored the Grand Victoria riverboat casino. I wondered if the folks on the boat were looking across the river and enjoying their experience as much as we.