Gnat Wind – from QuillPill

A few years ago, before Twitter got to going, there was a 3rd Party blogging platform, known as the QuillPill (formerly at quillpill.com) that no longer exists.  The interesting thing about QuillPill was the writing format:  140 characters.

QuillPill was designed to be a story-writing platform that was limited to 140 characters.  A challenge to say the least. But one I really enjoyed taking the opportunity to just see if I could write as story in that format.

Over a period of several weeks I wrote a number of short pieces.  But the one I liked, and enjoyed, the most was one called, ‘Gnat Wind’ and told the story of a  Gnat known as Wilden the Gnat.

I had written the story and then sort of forgot about it. I was building and experimenting with so many platforms that I just completely forgot about QuillPill and .. Wilden.

Some months later, I went back to check on QuillPill and found it gone. Lock stock and barrel.  And along with it went Wilden and the rest of my short 140 character story selections.  I was angered at myself for not keeping a copy of Wilden.

I thought about trying to rewrite it, but nothing came. Over the years I just assumed it was gone. Then just a few days ago, I found, Wilden the Gnat and his story.

So here it is … ‘Gnat Wind’, starring Wilden the Gnat in 140 character bursts.

122216_akilo_wilden-gnat01Gnat Wind
The short story of Wilden the Gnat.

The winds of March blew strong, hard and long. But Wilden knew his day had arrived. He would swarm today. Then find food. Then a mate.

Being as small as a gnat has its trials. But it also has its benefits. Being small you’re not easily seen. But the winds are tough!

Finding shelter isn’t hard, but a gnat must be cautious. You never know what lurks just beneath the next leaf: warmth of home or belly!

Gnats don’t need much to eat. A bit of juice. A tidbit of rotting meat. But March is not an easy time to find either. Life has trials.

Fortunately for Wilden, the sun decided to shine on this blustery March day and he found a bit of fruit tossed aside by a human. Bless ’em.

Wilden’s little eye beamed with delight when he picked up the scent of the fruit. He flew straight for the juicy smell. Just as he…

approached the fruit, he noticed a large dark shadow covering him! As fast as his little wings could beat, he made for a crumpled leaf.

No sooner had he ducked in, when the whole leaf crushed down on top of him; pinning him to the cold earth below. He couldn’t move.

Suddenly there was a loud bursting sound and light began to appear in random parts of the leaf. Wilden didn’t know what to make of it?

Afterall, he was only 24 hours old. He’d not been around long enough to learn much yet. But his education was quickly catching up. He was

in grave danger. And somehow he knew he was, too. Wilden tried to squirm free; no use. Four of his six legs were pinned down. He was in

big trouble! The holes of light were multiplying and getting closer to him. Suddenly the area around him exploded and he was tossed up.

Up, up, up … past the beak of a giant black monster with a golden eye that somehow missed Wilden’s blast to freedom. Amazingly his little

wings began to beat and off he went. Just as fast as he could fly, he beelined it for a bush. When he made it he was a mess. Scared and

bruised, Wilden took stock of his condition. Nothing broken – banged up – but not broken. His wings were a bit wrinkled, but hey worked.

He was alive and could tell about it! Hooray! Boy, could he use a bit nibble of that fruit juice. But he wasn’t going in that direction.

As Wilden contemplated his situation, he caught the faint whiff of a sweet aroma. Popped back to reality, he began scanning the area.

The scent was coming from off his right wing.  Though Wilden had over 300 complex eyes, he couldn’t see what made the scent. Maybe he did

but just didn’t recognized what he was looking at.  Wilden was still pretty shaken by his recent brush with becoming a meal himself, so he

was bit leery about venturing across the open space to find the source of that sweet, sweet smell.  But hunger took over and he slowly

crept out toward the edge of the leaf and into the light.  He didn’t see any danger and the odor was making him so very hungry.  As he

neared the edge of the leaf, Wilden began to see color.  White and yellow- though he didn’t know them as such – he recognized them from

deep recess in his tiny clump of neural cells.  Somehow he knew that was food.  Nervously glancing back and forth, ratcheting his next back

back and forth in rapid succession, Wilden scanned the open area for danger.  He didn’t see any.  He was scared beyond his wits – which

meant he didn’t have to go to far to be beyond them. None-the-less, he was scared!  But hunger took over.  Suddenly he was up and flying.

Once again he was buffeted by the cold March wind, but relentlessly, Wilden made for the colors and the smell.  Up and down, back and forth

his course haphazard his little soft body across the opening. Amazingly, he flew right to the colors.  When Wilden finally settled on the

wide green leaf, he was nearly knocked out by the power of the aroma. He just thought about sucking the air; surely that would be enough?

CreXpoCon

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In 2010 I started a project called Creative Exponential Continuum as a platform to engage other artists in collaboration.

The initial venture was with one watercolor artist, Diane Michelin of British Columbia, Canada; a well-known, highly-respected watercolorists.  Diane and I have been ‘Friends’ on Facebook for several years. We shared two major pleasures in life: art and fly-fishing. Our collaborative was inevitable.

For several years I had produced short-stories based upon my eLITHOGRAPH images developed for my art outlet, OOAK DigitalGallery.   So, I just substituted my images with Diane’s.  It was an accidental – but serendipitous – happening.

Diane posted an image on her Facebook page and I was immediately ‘struck with a story’.  I wrote the story and sent it to Diane with the question, “Are you interested in a collaborative adventure?”  She wrote back, “If this is what your speaking of, when do we do the next one?”  I took that as both a YES for the project and a YES for posting my story with her painting as the illustration around which it was written.

Our collaboration continues and will greatly expand over the coming months.  And the collaboration has expanded to include other artists and will grow even bigger as well in the coming months.

CreXpoCon is a lot of fun. And it’s getting ready to become even more interesting.

– CreXpoCon

Literary Connections…

My good friend and fellow aquatic hauntee, George Jacox, posted earlier today about books, specifically fly-fishing books he liked. He elaborated a bit on his main thesis. George’s post drew a rather agreeable comment from our common friend, William (Bill) Schudlich. Bill’s comments got me to thinking. First off I just had to make this comment:

—-

Shoot, y’all just named half my ‘special selections’ library’.

As well as the Maclean books – I re-read each of Middelton’s book’s mentioned by Sir Willie of Schudville .. and I do hope one day to get a copy of Rivers of Memory. I so want to read this book! And – if I my ship stops sinking – MAYBE – a copy of, The Starlight Creek Angling Society! I would love to own this book. But I would just like to actually see, hold and read one!

I also totally agree that Traver (real name: John Voelker) books and stories are must reads; with Trout Madness and Trout Magic list high. Voelker was a personal friend of my good friend and colleague from the Traverse City , MI area, Dave Richey. When you speak with a person who actually had, on-the-water/in-the-woods, intimate knowledge of a legend like Voelker, you get a sense of just how much one can miss by not being in the same arena, venue or age. CARPE DIEM!

Then I got to thinking about other books – besides my shared enjoyment of those mentioned by George and Bill. I started to go over some other books I’ve read – and re-read – over the past few years. So a list began to form. But not just a list. What began to form was a much deeper meaning than just reading good books. There was – and remains – an intimate relationship with the books I read, the people I know, icons I wish to meet, passions I love to pursue.

Especially any of the above fortunate enough to also coincide with just about any value on the subject of FLY FISHING.

It’s not merely about literary interest … it’s vastly more important than that!!

Here’s my addition to the conversation:

1_ Anything by Thomas McGuane .. but especially The Longest Silence. This is a book title one should read, ponder and practice.

2_ Paul Quinnett’s books: Pavlov’s Trout (the quintessential book on Outdoor Ethics!); Darwin’s Bass and Fishing Lessons (should be requisite for anyone taking to the water! Paul is a clinical psychologist and developer of the QPR (Question, Persuade & Refer), Gatekeeper Training for Suicide Prevention program. Paul knows a thing or two about the benefits of fly-fishing!

3_ M.R. Montgomery’s, Many Rivers to Cross .. wonderfully imaginative – yet at times, heart rending – a culinary delight of Western fishing for it’s vanishing native lands, vistas, ecosystems and it’s most desirable, cold-water citizens.

4_ Anything by David James Duncan .. most notably for it’s popularity – The River Why. But, if you’ve not read his book, My Story as Told By Water – you have not found the reason for WHY, Maclean could write, “I am haunted by waters.” Read it and you, too, will find your explanation.

5_ Every word written by John Gierach! PERIOD. The guy is a veritable Pied Piper of Fly Fishing Story. There are few writers – from any genre – whom I can read and re-read their work – on any page, at any time – for any length of time … and enjoy it every time. This magical aura surrounding Gierach’s writing never ceases to amaze me. He’s constant in his ability to addict the reader.

6_ And – not because this book is a piece of literary wonder, but because it keeps me in remembrance of a fine man, whom I miss very much: Tight Lines, Bright Water Water- by Dave Engerbretson. It’s a good read about a man who loved, life and enjoyed helping others do the same: in all aspects possible in the grand outdoors: freshly mowed backyard or deep wilderness. There are still times- when I find it hard to believe I cannot just email or call this jolly fellow – my good friend – of such incredible aquatic pursuance knowledge. So, I annually re-read this book… and regularly scan it for tidbits of remembrance. It’s a good habit that I shall continue to nurture.

If there’s a special outdoors/fishing/fly-fishing/hunting or whatever person, who has impacted your life; who is no longer living: if they’ve written a book – or if only a card, letter or left you with a recording or a simple phone message: revisit it: often. Recall their ‘voice’; that energy that made them special in your life; to your life. Keep their flame alive for you. Then, Pass It On, to light the way for others. Pass On… their remembrance to others, so they too, can get to know your special people. Everyone needs to get to know special people. This is a priceless gift to the future.

Carpe Diem ! Seize every moment, every minute of every day – do so with gusto – and renew the definition of:

WHY? …

“…fly-fishing is such a magical place, with magical moments, made more wonderful, daily… by the magical relationships… between, man, water, fish, feather and fur.” – Sam Stovepipe, Sage of Gar Island

Keep the passion going. Read. Remember. Restore.

My Life As Told By Water, by David James Duncan

My Life As Told By Water, by David James Duncan

 

The River Why, by David James Duncan

The River Why, by David James Duncan

Trout Bum, by John Geirach

Trout Bum, by John Geirach

Pavolov’s Trout, by Paul Quinnett

Pavolov’s Trout, by Paul Quinnett

Darwin’s Bass, by Paul Quinnett

Darwin’s Bass, by Paul Quinnett

Fishing Lessons, by Paul Quinnett

Fishing Lessons, by Paul Quinnett

The Longest Silence, by Thomas McGuane

The Longest Silence, by Thomas McGuane

Many Rivers To Cross, by M. R. Montgomery

Many Rivers To Cross, by M. R. Montgomery

Tight Lines, Bright Waters, by Dave Engerbretson

Tight Lines, Bright Waters, by Dave Engerbretson

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Next Season

All season long, every day looked promising. He was so elusive, but you were sure the Buck would finally walk into your sights.

But it didn’t happen.

You could feel that big buck just writhe with glee – if that is possible for a deer – when he dropped another can of ‘deer season whoop-ass’ on you again.

Why, you even got a bit of a chuckle.  “Dang! That deer is schooling me hard. Givin’ me a complex you are Big Boy. A regular complex!  Next year. That’s MY year. You wait and see who’s laughing then. Yeah!”

Alas this season ended on the same note as the previous 3. Despite your confidence filled pronouncement, you got your butt kicked again:

Hunter 0  …  Buck 7.

Seven times you’d come to the hunting ground.  Seven times, in hand, a perfectly engineered planned.  Seven times YOU went home seeing nothing more than beautiful sunrises, memorable sunsets, dozens of birds and small animals.  You observed as nature used the shade creatures, formed as the clouds, dancing across the sky to trace the passage of time for all in attendance; you included.

Each day that passed, you left the woods later and later.  Sure the hot coffee, soup and a very welcome, 3 fingers of Scotch, were always a luring siren.  But a stronger pull; even stronger than the urge to hang the Buck on the cross-beam, was keeping you in the woods.

In the early days when you first started hunting you didn’t understand.  It just didn’t figure! Dingle-crackers!… it was cold, wet, tiring, cramped, windy … it was down-right miserable at times.  But so many times, you didn’t even notice it.  You even began enjoying it.

That’s it.  You stayed longer because you just plain liked being in the woods.

After a time, you began to realize that finally, you had begun to act natural.

Everyone who is veteran hunter of a few years, knows that no one needs to head out to their stand at 4am in the morning.  Only a masochist or a neophyte would do this.  Right?

Well, yes.  For the first few years.

Then you would just keep on doing it, because you realize there’s no better place to get your morning shut-eye, wake-up to warm coffee and a roll, see the sun rise, hear the birds wake-up ritual and watch the entire woods world come to life.

Any questions?

Naturally you did your fair share of eyelid surveys. Most likely this was when the Buck got His chance to see you as well. Yeah.  if you hadn’t been having such a good time you might just have taken that ‘big bad boy’ home this year.  Eh?

But you never laid so much as an eye-twitch on the Buck. Yeah. That’s true. That’s OK. There’s next year.

To keep in pattern with the previous years, you religiously went back to the scene of your miserable failure to revel in it’s success.

Because you knew he still roamed the hills, woods, creeks and swampy bottoms.  He was still there; whether you were or not.

The wind would drop and the frost clinging to the trees, glistening like diamond dust with the first rays of the sun would shimmer in place; or the high-noon shadows pouring through the leafless canopy would suddenly go mime; or the misty glow of the forming evening fog would provide a sanctuary backdrop for the moment you’d see him.

Ah, but not before He had slipped silently out of his bed. Never quite revealing his ‘serta-in-the-grove’, stealing his way to a splendid spot, befitting of his regal offering: your annual chance to see Him. Then He would offer his annual greeting snort. On cue, as choreographed as a Shakespearean actor, you look up!

There HE is.

Wow!  He’s grown so much.  His rack has become huge; intoxicating.  His massive shoulders and neck still showing the muscle and blood engorgement of the rutting and mating ritual and exercise.

What a sight He is.

What an opportunity. Yeah, you think, “OH! If only it as still ‘in season’! If only I had my bow! If only …”, but this fades and gives way, to just .. “Wow. He is beautiful. I know he’ll spook and be gone for another year. Wouldn’t I love to capture this image to look at any time of year?” And that’s when you raise the camera and take the 3 photos you get before He is out-of-sight.

Make no mistake about it … this IS His domain.

You know it.

He knows it.

So do all the other animals in the woods.

“Yes.”, you say to yourself.  The the ephemeral wisp of the moment takes on a Brigadoonesque atmosphere.  Time just seemed to stand-still while He stood there.

Surrounded by the royal walls of his riparian realm.  Each woodland surface draped in the muted glow of the diamond dust of late fall frost.  Winter is soon to appear.  His rack will once again fall, feed the mice of the woods and possibly tantalize a woodsman seeking the fallen coronets.

The ice fog hangs thick across the winter wheat field in the distance. “My, Oh, My!” You repeat to yourself as you remember how it provided the ermine backdrop so fitting this royal creature.

The fog begins sending drizzles. skittering down through the branches now as you make you way back to the truck.

One last time you turn and look at the opening where He, The Buck, stood, showing Himself to you. A shiver runs through your system.  No, it’s not the cold.  It’s the anticipation.

You’re already planning the Next Season.

Sankalai

Nothing moved.

Not sound. Not time. Not my mind.

Everything was in lock-step frame.

Only my eyes were in motion. But not real motion; scanning, perceiving, transmitting. They were only in a primal recording mode.

Time – and everything in its being – was on hold.

Three months earlier I had set out across the vast array of preserves spanning the wild back country of Botswana. I was in pursuit to find and locate the perfect bull elephant for my wall.

No. Not pursuing a dead head, with lead, but an image of pixels.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a hunter and I don’t have a problem with pulling the trigger and delivering lead to a target. However, I reserve that option for animals I will personally consume. Elephant is not on my dietary list. Therefore, I personally don’t shoot them to kill them.

I neither condemn, nor condone the actions of those who do kill these beasts.

In some instances the killing of the giant beasts becomes a necessity. An unpleasant reality in our over-crowded and resource strapped world, it has become a necessary, if not unpleasant business.

Managed kills are accomplished, in many instances, by sport hunters with large wallets and a lucky draw. The economics are sound. The fees paid do bring beneficial stimulation to strapped economies and to provide funding of protective forces; Game Wardens; for numerous species occupying the killing fields.

For me, though, there is neither pleasure or purpose in killing these amazing beasts. Thus I would not participate in the killing – outside of self-defense.

My preferred wild life capture technique is through the lens of a camera. The end uses for my efforts, find themselves as varied as the subjects themselves. Mostly though, they are a record of my life experiences while leaving only historical preservation as any trace of my being there.

Whether animal or vista, each is chosen for visual consumption in the same manner. I venture into the grounds, I pursue quietly and unobtrusively. I observe and note particular habits and quirks of each environment as well as the season. All of this is done long before I partake of its riches. In the truest essence of the word, I am hunting whether it be animal or location.

Whether for myself or for my clients, I choose the hunt carefully. The KEY word here is …choose.

Two months, 26 days, 12 hours and 14 minutes later; after 12,000 plus kilometers had been tallied on the Land Rover’s odometer; and numerous blistered seat-rashes had been recorded on my butt; I was still without the photographic goal.

Oh, there were photos. By the gigabyte. They would be filling my larder of visually stimulating projects for years to come.

But, the trophy bull elephant image, was still only a dream.

That is – until 5 minutes ago.

The morning had opened with the customarily expected noise of the bush. A slight breeze and the ubiquitous hum of the insect life: good, bad and the ugly. A chined offering, conjured a raspy pied-piper allusion, floating on the breeze with the chatty voices of the birds. This day had begun like any other.

But there was a different air about it.

I sensed a moment coming. The only question was, would I be ready for – IT?

Captured moments don’t just happen. They are the result of planning and execution.

Yet, regardless of the effort put into getting into that moment, the exact timing -when it happens- is never a known commodity.

The three axioms of Moment Experience Planning are:

  • You are in charge of preparing for the execution.
  • You have a shot at being at or in the execution.
  • But, you have no control over the timing of the execution.

Thus, in reality we are never really in control, of anything: at any time. We are only along for the ride. Learning to ride the wave of the unknown, toward -hopefully- an exhilarating conclusion we can survive.

That’s the rush. The excitement. The draw of it all.

Of course anyone can experience a moment by accident. It’s what we call, luck. Such encounters more often result in lost, rather than in captured, opportunity.

To hedge one’s odds for realizing the full impact of any potential moment, work. Every element must be brought as far as conceivably possible, toward a successful conclusion – fully expecting the moment hoped for – to execute. This is the ultimate thrill, in a moment experience.

Preparing for the moment and getting into it, is the very heart and soul of HUNTING.

Hunting, contrary to the vacuous opinions of the uneducated, is not about killing. Hunting is about properly executing on a vast array of knowledge. Any part of which, found out of order, could spell failure with little to no hope for a mulligan. All of this is necessary before any consummating opportunity to kill is presented.

It is therefore, quite possible to hunt and never kill and still have a great hunt. But, equally true, the hunter can never know the true power within the hunt, without consummating the hunt with a kill.

Misunderstood by many:

Not every hunt must end in a kill to make it a good hunt. But equally true – a human must experience the mental and spiritual challenge that is found only in the kill – at least once – to fully appreciate the value and power found in the responsibility that rests with the choiceto kill or not to kill. This is not a lesson learned intellectually.

The scene that unfolded before me, in that split-second of time, was as unplanned as any in all my life.

I had no control of – or over – the moment.

I did have control of the use in that moment.

The camera found footing on the monopod.

The lens drew its focus.

The synapse began firing in reflex mode and the hold was as smooth as any trigger hold ever executed. As in anything in life that exudes success, timing is everything. And this moment was all about timing.

When the shutter stopped firing, 14 frames of one of my most memorable experiences in life had been captured. The span of that moment-in-time, was less than 24 seconds.

The bulk of life is truly the Journey and not the Destination.

But it is the Destination, to which we look, for Journey justification and the dream of a return.

I will return.

Thus, two months, 26 days, 12 hours, 14 minutes… and 23.7 seconds later… I had my bull elephant trophy.

And so do you.

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Ruff Double Memory

What hit me first – even before the crawling chill making its way through the clothing layers since stopping, hit me – was the distinct memory: “I’ve been here before.”

Déjà vu? No, not at all.

I had been there. In the exact spot. It was December 1958 and in a light snow, with a very crisp chill in the air. Only then my feet were a size 6 boys and freezing like exposed chicken knuckles! At least now, my feet weren’t freezing. But the blood laced adrenalin jitters were still there. And I loved it.

As I look down at the single ruffed grouse posing in ‘la mort avec l’honneur’ alongside my dad’s old double-barrel shotgun, resting in the skiff of snow, I am launched back in time to my first grouse hunt on that cold December day in ’58.

Dad came into my room well before light to wake me. But he didn’t need to, I’d hardly slept all night. He barely got the door opened with I popped out of bed like the 20 gauge shells from dads old side-by-side. “Well, aren’t we perky?” He said with a big grin forming around the deep cleft in his chin. “Breakfast in 15. See you in the kitchen.” “Yes sir. Be right there.”, I replied, while jumping into my clothes.

A few splashes of water on my face, brushed teeth and a token stroke of the comb and I was good-to-go.

Mom was just finishing the pancakes, oatmeal, cold raw milk and coffee when I slid into my chair.

“Say bud. ‘Spose we could get this ‘early rise and ready quick action to become a regular part of your morning ritual? Hmm?”, she said, smiling in front the more serious suggestion.

I knew I was busted. So I tossed back a bit of humor hoping to get unhooked. “Well, I guess I could, if there was a hunting or fishing trip connected.” I attempted to slide that slick sales job by with a ‘cute kid grin’. I lost. Oh, well, who cared. I was heading out to hunt with dad.

Breakfast is never better than those taken just before you head out afield or to the water with dad. Odd, the viewfinder on the camera fogged up just as I remembered that bit of history. As I waited for the fog to clear, I remembered the few moments before that first grouse bust out of the cover.

When I went with dad in the field and there was a gun present, I quartered dad on his left side like a shadow. Dad stood between 6’1″ and 6’2″ tall in a lean 175 lb. frame of all muscle and sinew. Grandpa, his dad, always told him – and me and my brother – that what we needed most was…’seasoning’. This was Grandpa’s way of telling you to get back to work and toughen up. I don’t believe Grandpa was much into fun. He was too busy being a drill sargent in practice. As a result of many years of conditioning, dad was not easy to keep up with. But when we hunted in the woods, he was a lot easier to shadow. I was eager and he slowed down a bit. He enjoyed being in the woods and didn’t want to loose any time of it. A great combo that worked to keep me from a constant, “Hey, keep up!” reminder.

I really enjoyed those times. Even more so now the older I get. Well, of all things, that eyepiece keeps fogging up. Gotta wait for it to clear again.

Old Suzi, dad’s 10 year old Brittany spaniel, pushed ahead of us at a comfortable distance with her nose to the ground and one eye in the trees. She knew those birds sat in trees and she wasn’t about to let one get by her. It didn’t happen often either.

I was a chatter box as a kid, but I knew to keep my comments, questions and musings to myself once we hit the trail. If I had a serious question, when I could get dad’s attention, he’d gladly answer it. But I just knew that I really didn’t want to over-use my ‘field access’. So I learned to compartmentalize the questions and formulate them into as few as I could later on. A valuable lesson as I learned later on in life.

As I was doing some of this ‘formulation’, meaning I wasn’t paying attention, dad pulled up in an abrupt stop. Yep! I ran right into his left hip pocket. He didn’t move but I bounced off. Dad looked over his shoulder with his finger to his lips, then reached down an helped me up. We had no sooner gotten regrouped when the grouse blasted from the bushes!

That bird scared the holy bejeebers outta me! That’s for sure. But dad, he just went into one of the prettiest ballet’s I’d ever witnessed to then … and possibly since.

The grouse quartered left, dad was in full sight, swing and follow-through when he squeezed off the left barrel. I just happened to be in the perfect line to see the entire scene. Dad, in swing, squeeze of trigger, flight and crumple of the grouse and Suzi in her trademark, hindleg hop-n-point! Just before dad would shoot, she’d look more like Trigger under Roy Rogers than a Brittany on point.

Like it all happened seconds ago, I can still hear the sounds of the rustling leaves, the drum of the grouse’s wings, dads wool clothing rotating on his body, his feet making a bit of a rotation-friction squeak, then the click of the hammer – then the entire world was encompassed in the blast! Man! for a 20 gauge shotgun, that gun could really make noise.

Well dogged! The viewfinder fogged up again. At this rate, I’ll never get this thing photographed.

You know, I was surprised, when even through the racket, I never took my eye off that grouse. In mid flight, one moment it was heading out of sight, then it just crumpled and fell in a rocketing arc, hit the ground and scooted in and under the leaves. Before we could flinch, Suzi was already on the bird, mouthed it and was in return. I remember it was smaller than I’d thought. Beautiful. Soft. Limp. No longer flying. It was dead.

I had a sudden pang of conscience. I looked up at dad and asked, “Did we have to kill it?”

Dad looked back, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “No son, we didn’t have to kill it. But we chose to. That one idea is the most important thing to learn about hunting. When you decide to take an animal’s life, that decision will be a permanent choice. One that you can’t undo. You cannot take back that decision. It is a natural part of life; taking an animal’s life. But we must always do so being fully aware of the results of our decision. Something will die because of our choice. Never take that responsibility lightly. That’s a big lesson for a little guy. But I believe you’ll understand. If not now, then in time. Are you OK?”

I looked at him and then at the dead bird on the ground at his feet. It sure was pretty. I looked back up at him to say something about how ‘pretty’ the bird was. I remember noticing his eyes looked… ‘moist’. I started to ask him, but he just smiled that wonderful smile that only my dad could give and said, “After all these years, I still take the responsibility seriously. Always remember that.”

The camera lens fogged up again. Must be the cold.

Memories are like that. I’ve never forgotten it. I pray I never do.


View the print, Ruff Double Memory and the details for ordering a print.


Background on: Cotton Humid

First off, it’s true! I really don’t like humidity. And I’ve worked at hard, backbreaking labor in hot, sticky humid weather. So, when I speak of a ‘dislike’ for humidity… I did not need to ‘get into character’ to write about it!

Secondly, I really enjoyed this print and the story that flowed from it’s imaginary wordsmithing machine. Cotton Humid, by Les Booth; eLithographic print

Most of my eLithographs come from multiple photographic sources. But no so with Cotton Humid. I took the original photo not 2 miles from my brother’s house near Adel, Georgia, in September 2007. My wife and I were driving back to their horse farm when I saw the flock of cattle egrets in the odd stand of grass. The massive thunderheads leering over the cotton patch and those white birds gleaning for bugs and critters in the grass made a compelling image. I took several shots hoping one or a composite would make a nice photograph.

When I rendered the RAW image files into JPEG format, I was – at first – disappointed in them. The seemed just too busy and lack luster; too ‘plain-jane’.  So, I put them aside.

Then one day in early November 2007 I took a look at them again as I was sorting through images from that trip.  I looked a several of them – wondering what I could do with them – when suddenly I saw it.  I zoomed into the image to see how ‘sharp’ the egrets were in the photo. They weren’t of the quality I’d hoped, but what I did fine was a wonderous scene. In fact – almost entirely what you see in the print, Cotton Humid.

A few cloud rearrangements and an occassional errant weed covering a desired image reworked … and it was ready for the special ODG eLithographic treatment. When the image was fully rendered I was amazed at how all the dynamics of it was retained and emphasized. This was especially amazing considering just how small a part of the photograph it really represents!

Then when I began to write the story … well, let’s just way the words flowed quickly. I had a good time in it. And I really enjoyed ‘getting into’ the character who is the ‘voice’ of the story. I could stay there for a while… and I just might do it !!

Yes, rattlesnakes and water moccasins really do take shade in cotton patches… and they do provide a bit of a challegne at times for the field worker; though now, most cotton in the south is harvested by machines. So, the amount of actual human-snake encounter has really been reduced.

Cattle egret and herons are called, pond skoggins, too. Where that name comes from … well, I can’t really find anyone who lives in the Wiregrass Territory that knows the definitive answer to that question, but I have heard a number of iterations on the theme, “Well, peers to me I remember my grandpa sayin’ somethin’ ’bout ….” .   A mystery within a mystery shrouded by a colloquial pathwork of oral tradition.  I love it!  And like I said, it’s not a term of indearment for the bird – or the occasional reference to a human – either!

And that’s the scoop on the print, Cotton Humid and short-story, Humid in Cotton Country.

akilologos