Monday, May 31, 2010

Turkey Season 2010: Taking Stock

I shot me a big ol' Tom this spring. Called him in from 200 yards away. Ten inch beard, one-inch spurs, and dropped him like a sack of 'taters with a single 60-yard shot from a retina-detaching Thompson Center Encore. This on a trip where the turkeys skunked a handful of hunters much more skilled than I. So by that assessment, my season should go down as a resounding, rousing success.

Yet it still feels a bit unfulfilled. Allow me to explain.

2010 was the first season that I took my son turkey hunting. At nine (almost 10) years old, I judged him to be big enough, strong enough, and patient enough to be the triggerman on a bird that I'd call in for him. The notion was a bit romantic, but not without precedent. Perhaps 10 years earlier, I was fortunate enough to call in a beautiful Merriam's bird for my dad along Nebraska's turkey-rich Niobrara River. That feeling of pride and accomplishment sticks with me today as one of my fondest hunting memories. So I'd replicate that feeling for me -- and for him -- by bringing a bird within gun range.

Thankfully, I had access to a small 40-acre plot not far from home that held a decent flock of birds. My good buddy Dan and his son came down from Minnesota and we spent the first weekend in May lying in wait for a Tom to be fooled by our calls. We chose to hunt out of blinds, since it'd be hard to conceal the movement of two people (especially two young boys). So Dan and Josh set up along a natural gasline right-of-way, and Jack and I opted for a spot along the fenceline on the other side of the property.

It downpoured our first morning. And for the first hour of the day, the thunder played harmony to Jack's own snoring. But once the rain subsided and Jack stirred, we both agreed that it was nice to see the world wake up around us. No turkeys, but we had another day or two.

The second morning brought kinder weather and a noisy Tom 150 yards away that began sounding off almost immediately after we got situated in our blind. I gave him a couple of my best sleepy yelps, and the gobbler started closing in. We got the gun situated on the monopod and waited. "Dad, I'm nervous," Jack whispered. I nodded and smiled knowingly, feeling that same nervousness. It's a feeling familiar to any hunter, and the feeling I always get whether waiting for a turkey, a deer, or a covey flush. The day I lose that feeling is the day I quit hunting. And now, I had the honor of introducing that incomparable feeling to my son. But that was the last we'd hear of the tom that day. Dan and Josh had a similar experience, and we said goodbye to them without any of us filling our tags.

A good friend recently commented that "there's no such thing as a casual turkey hunter," and he's exactly right. Matching wits with a big Tom turkey can border on obsessive. So in the days leading up to my mid-May birthday, I told Jack that best gift I could receive for my birthday was to call him in a gobbler -- and I meant it. Jack told his mom what I had said, and as she recounted it to me, I started worrying that he had interpreted my comment as "I'll ruin Dad's birthday if I don't shoot a bird."

Driving to our property the next day, I assured him that I was just thrilled to be sharing the time with him, whispering jokes to one another and watching the woods around us. And he genuinely seemed to agree with me -- phew, crisis averted! We still had plenty of days in the season to tag our Tom.

We spent the rest of the season listening to distant gobblers, watching whitetails grazing, playing with a box turtle, and sitting motionless as henbirds walked within arms' reach of our blind. But no gobbler. It ate me up a bit. I wanted this bird for him. I wanted it for ME.

Last night after dinner I told him that our turkey season was probably over. The hens were all bred, the undergrowth was too tall to see (let alone make a shot of any distance), and the bugs were swarming.

"That's fine dad. It was still fun, even though we didn't get him." His attention turned back to the Wii and he resumed playing Lego Batman. Five seconds later, he paused the game and turned to look at me.

"But next spring he's dead, Dad."

It was a very successful season after all.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lagniappe Isn't What It Used To Be

Over the weekend, my lovely bride and I were catching up on DVR'd episodes the tremendous miniseries Treme on HBO.  For those unaware, it's HBO's latest original series, this one based on post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.  The writing, the acting, the music, the whole scene -- is terrific.  It's original programming like this that keeps me from canceling HBO -- hell, from axing all of pay TV.

I've always had a soft spot for the Crescent City... the first time I met her, was on an overnight bus trip back in college with my fraternity.  I had passed out on the trip from San Antonio (not entirely because of sleep deprivation) and my first sight of the Big Easy was a very unsettling above-ground cemetery.  I've loved -- and dreaded, in a lovely sort of way -- the town ever since.  So while many are "Vegas" people, I'm a New Orleans guy.  I'll take real, historical, authentic 1700s-era glory, decadance and depravity -- for Steve Wynn's version anyday.

But that's neither here nor there.  In Treme, John Goodman, fat bastard and raconteur extroidanaire, said, "Lagniappe isn't what it used to be."  I belly laughed, as I often do - Treme is one of those shows that anyone can relate to, but to natives -- and the more that you've been there -- well, you just see it in a different, richer way.  Don't take my word for it -- Goodman is priceless:

My wife had no clue wat lagniappe was though - and I'll bet there are plenty of you who join her.  "LAN-yap" is simply a little something extra - a free gesture, or a bit of swag, if you will.  I learned it the first time I was in New Orleans (not far from Treme, just off Congo Square), when a bartender graciously gave a cluster of us frat boys a Sazerac on the house one afternoon.  Thankfully, I was sober enough to remember it and use it once in awhile in conversation.

I think you should too. And while you're at it, give a little lagniappe, will y'all?  God knows this world could use some.  It has a way of returning the favor.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Contemplating 1, 10, and 41

May 14 oughta be a national holiday around here. 

For one, it marks the first anniversary of this little mishmash of thoughts known as 8 More Miles.  A little over a year ago, I promised myself that I'd carve out a little space (and time) for me to write about whatever the hell I wanted to write about, and do it somewhat consistently.  By that standard, I think I've succeeded.

Crazy and addicting things, these blogs are.  They are no doubt narcissistic -- a wonderful place to contemplate the glory of me.  But as much as writing my own posts, I love checking in on an almost daily occurrence to see what others -- yeah, those guys (and gals) to the right -- have on their minds. 

And the comments... well, they're what keep me doing this.  So thanks to those who have read and actively participated in this little endeavor.

The second 5/14 observance around here is Dottie's 10-year-old birthday (yes, I remember her exact birthdate, for reasons you'll soon learn).  She's about the best bird dog and companion that a guy could ever hope for, and traipsing this big country with her in search of birds has been more enjoyable than I could ever imagine.  Is she a "finished" bird dog?  It depends on your meaning of finished.  She's rock-solid on point, but once the gun goes off, she's in search of the next covey.  That's not her fault -- I'm no more steady to wing and shot than she is.

And I'm pretty certain she's got a couple more field years left in her, too.  She's still got the same drive she's always had -- but her lemon markings are whiting out and her eyes are slowly getting milky and starting to betray her youth.  Of course, that's much easier to notice when there's a 15-week-old mini-Dot chomped down on her ear.  I know that this fall, she'll provide tranquility in the chaotic midst of breaking in a new pup.

Finally, I'm 41 today (there's that narcissism again).  While last year's birthday was a two-day to-do with Reckless Kelly, I'm taking it easy this year.  There's not a damn thing I need -- I'm blessed with a fine family, close friends, an incredible job, a free country, and an abiding faith. 

So I think I'll just take the afternoon off, pick up my son from school, and hopefully he can shoot the Tom Turkey that's been teasing us all season.  Wish us luck.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What I'm Listening To: Spring 2010

Here's a quick recap of some of the tunes in heavy rotation at Casa Scampwalker, in no particular order.  Please give them a listen, and support the artists if their songs move you.  And better yet, go out and get you some live music!

Jason Boland And The Stragglers - High In The Rockies.  Just a great, straightforward live country CD.  It's a bit suspect that they released aptly-named disc on 4/20 and got busted for herb possession just a couple days prior, but these (other) boys from Oklahoma know how to work a crowd through a damn fun live set.

Hold Steady - Heaven Is Whenever.  These guys are the 21st century reincarnation of Husker Du.  Minneapolis genes, brilliant and complicated lyrical storytelling, and the amalgamated snarl of Bob Mould and Grant Hart -- (sorta) grown up, (kinda) grasping spirituality, and (a little) less pissed off than they used to be.  Just like me!

Backyard Tire Fire - Good To Be.  These cats oughta be bigger than they are.  I discovered them a few years ago on emusic, during their (sorta) breakout album Bar Room Semantics.  On this effort, they rip it on the first couple of tracks -- it frankly sounds different than the rest of the disc.  The rest slips into a Chuck Prophet/Wilco on Zoloft springtime groove.  Which is just about perfect, because it's, um, spring.

Willie Nelson - Country Music.  It's a bit ironic that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit of country music has to label his latest disc as he does, but with all the crazy shit that Willie's involved in, you can kind of sympathize.  They're old country standards, done in an old-timey manner.  Not brilliant, but classic, wholesome Willie.  I've been whistling Drinking Champagne for four days now.

Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street.  I never said these had to be new offerings, did I?  The. Best. Stones. Album. Ever.  In fact, this effort by Mick & Co. is as good as rock and roll gets.  And it's being re-released, with an undoubted bunch of filler and fluff, on May 18.  This is a must-have for self-respecting music fan.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I Am A Gardener.

It's been raining here in Kansas City pretty much all day today. Normally, I'm not a big fan of dreary days. But today -- like the tens of thousands of farmers across the fruited plain, I'm grateful for a good soaking by Mother Nature.

Ok, so I'm hardly a career ag man. But this spring, for the first time ever, the Scampwalker family has a real, honest-to-goodness garden. Our church, in conjunction with the neighborhood grade school, tilled up part of the schoolyard for a "community garden." Ours is a 20x20 square plot -- we're responsible for the planting and upkeep, and in turn we're free to eat or donate as much produce as we want.

I've quickly learned that a twenty-foot square of black earth is a significant amount of ground. Being the tech dweeb that I am, I found a nifty online garden planner at, and you can see my layout below. Everything is in the ground now and doing well, minus the pimientos de padron, which are still tender seedlings being nurtured at home.

There have been a few early setbacks -- something ate our okra and bush bean sprouts, so my son and I recently encircled the Scampwalker Plantation with chicken wire (or the "Bunny-B-Gone 2010," as the kids call it). Personally, I'd rather snipe the critters with my pellet rifle, but something tells me school administrators and the local P.D. might frown on such activity, no matter the time of day.

I've never styled myself as much of a gardener, but neither am I completely inept. I certainly come from good vegetable gardener stock -- growing up, my Dad grew some of the finest tasting tomatoes anywhere.  We're keeping copious notes and doing plenty of reading to hopefully ensure success.  It should be an interesting summer and a learning experience for all of us.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Road Photo Friday: Ride 'Em Cowboy

Taken several years ago in western Kansas.  Anyone else have a devil-may-care hunting buddy like this? (Who shall remain nameless)