Saturday, December 30, 2023

Blasting and Casting into a Brand New Year

Gentle Readers:
     The end of 2023 brought us big tides, huge waves, biting fish and a chance to get in a little bit of upland game hunting, or more accurately, hiking with a gun, as we declared an end to the War on Christmas.

     Frolicking winter bathers came into view from Young's Beach Shack, where we munched out on great food while watching some of the biggest sets of the year roll in with the king tides.  Beaches to the north took greater damage, so it was more splendid than terrifying for us softy southerners.
     The fish in the harbor bit for us, as halibut moved in tight to feed right after the morning tide peaked.  Hot bait was the white Zoom on a 1/4 ounce dart head, which Tommy rigged up below.

     Your reporter got to play the role of butt whisperer, as many fish rose to the occasion and gave me my three best days of the year, all in a row. It was like the miracle of Jesus with the loafers and fishes.          Getting to release legal flatfish in front of an audience of  surprised harbor-walkers is always fun and I have mostly cast for nothing but fresh air in the harbor this year.

The spotted bay bass even got into the act, as the action was good for about 40 minutes after each morning high tide peaked.

     On December 29, your reporter  and pointing dog Tashtego were joined by my fellow mid-westerner Patrick Neverlate at Woodlands Pheasant club, which is located just on the lucky side of the Mexican border.  It was our first try at the redbirds in over a year and it seems we were a bit rusty.
Mendel  Woodland has steadily improved the facility, which now boasts a clubhouse decorated with  some really beautiful avian taxidermy to go with enhanced food and beverage amenities and real furniture.

     Tash watched us powder every clay we tried to hit as we gained false confidence practicing with the thrower before going out to miss  many of the birds in the giant field Mendel had reserved for us.  Note the obvious expression of doubt on this dog's face after he watched us blast those discs and then walk away thinking that we were ready.

     One of the nice things about upland game hunting is you get to walk and talk, just like golfing, which is an activity in which I no longer engage.  There is no need for silence or sneaking around when strolling behind a working dog, unlike the wet misery of duck hunting or freezing in a snowdrift ambush for antlered prey.

     Patrick is from Wabash, Indiana, which is famous for making cannonballs and mink farming. He was relieved that the busload of his extended family had at long last headed back east after coming out  to stay with his family the day before Thanksgiving in order to spend Christmas in California. Patrick's family has, for generations, run the largest mink ranch west of Fort Wayne and it is quite a storied enterprise.
     Neverlate Mink Ranch has been around since the famous Indiana grave robbing scandal of 1902.  That caper involved Rufus Cantrell, who many of my readers probably remember best for trying to take advantage of the body shortage in dissection facilities for medical research institutions in the greater Indianapolis area when there was  a lucrative black market for body parts. 
       Neverlate Ranch supplies all of  the raw materials used in manufacturing the mink-pelt mud flaps that are mandated by  Wabash County regulations to be installed on every semi-trailer load of mink meat transported to Chicago through Wabash County. Some folks think this requirement is a scam perpetrated by county aldermen trying to support a strictly local interest through an unfair economic burden on interstate commerce.  Most people from Wabash do not feel that way because people in California have ruined the whole idea of wearing real fur, but road safety is still important to everyone who drives our nation's highways. 
     Neverlate Dairy also has the most sophisticated mink-milk extraction facility south of South Bend.  Patrick's encyclopedic knowledge of  the history and the nuances of the mink industry is extremely impressive. 
     I tried to chime in about the important products of my own home town of Youngstown, Ohio, where they used to make steel and car bombs when I was a kid, but the manufacturing demand for those commodities seems on the decline in America these days. Plus, they're just not as relevant or interesting as what goes on in the world of mink wrangling.
     I learned that milking these crafty critters is a black art, as you cannot just hook them up to teat vacuums like they do with cows. Minks do not have udders, nor do they have any regard for them. Milking a squirming mink requires small hands and a mind capable of conning a  wiley weasel, which is why so many milk ranch employees are ex-carnival workers. 
      The mink-milk advisory board of Indiana is constantly lobbying to curtail the lactose-intolerant California alternatives of almond milk, oat milk and woke milk, none of which should be allowed to identify as a legitimate dairy beverage.  Patrick's visiting relatives from Wabash finally left his house only after getting quite militant about how they felt about the marketing of  "California Seed Juice," as they call it.  Patrick's second cousin Bertha modeled her genuine Neverlate Mammary Lane Mink Ranch coat emblazoned on the back with the company motto (that is really more of a cross-industry challenge) -  "No mammal - No milk."
Tash toiled away in the field, as the Woodland pheasants tend to run fast and fly hard.  Tash was quartering and pointing furiously at birds that erupted at point blank range, but seemed to fly right through our flak like we were in an episode of the A team, which some of you oldsters might remember as a TV show starring George Peppard and
Mr. T cast as members of an elite team who took down feared but zany criminals. It was popular during a time when television was trying to avoid depicting death from gun violence, but knew that the audience wanted gun violence. The series featured  fully automatic gunfights with the most rounds expended per targets hit in the history of American crime shows.  The criminals tended to surrender after everything around them was damaged by spray from assault rifles that did not kill anyone.  Our pheasants were not as cowardly as the foes of the A Team, which was a marginal show, but less so than the uncontrollable margins in my blog format.
With Tash performing the Sysephean chore of locating quick birds in vast cover only to see them leave the field unharmed, Mendel finally had to come out into our field with a samurai sword.  He would point at the flushing pheasants like the Japanese gunnery officers on the doomed carriers in the movie Midway, directing his gunners to try and throw enough steel into the air to stop the dive bombers that had finally arrived in the nick of time to kill them.
     Eventually, we had enough birds to eat and photograph, but not in that order.  We headed back to the clubhouse, where  both man and dog  could find serenity while contemplating the flatness of it all.
While our birds were getting cleaned, Mendel fed us tacos and beverages at a table with more talented hunters who are regulars at the club and really nice, helpful guys with cool dogs.

     The patio dining experience was really a sublime way to bullshit away the end of a fun morning on a day when the  weather was Goldilocks-perfect from start to finish. It will start to warm up earlier in a month or two, so this is the time of the season.
     We hope to get out again, as this place just seems to keep getting better and we have yet to be told that we are not allowed back.
     Until that day of reckoning, we will hope for a Treason-free 2024; try disappointing our dog a little less during the year to come; and always keep in mind the inescapable truth that

These Are The Days

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