Archive for October, 2018

  • Blog
  • October 25th, 2018

SECOND TIME AROUND

By Joel M. Vance

Ah, Joel Vance, the vaunted outdoors writer–and credentialed as such!–who shamed himself by arguing against the Second Amendment. Now Joel M. Vance argues the Communist cause in the vein of Bernie Sanders and what’s-her-name Ocasio Cortes. Pity, Joel M. Vance, that you have not learned anything in your many years on this planet. You were apparently indoctrinated early on by FDR’s socialist contingent and were never aware or “wake” enough to make up your own mind. Sorry, but your writings are meaningless “useful idiot” mumblings of the 1930’s. You deny natural law. So there were 32 tax-paying fools to finance one destitute widow in the 1930’s, who should have been supported by the churches of the time. Now there are 4 to pay every malcontent fatso in an electrified chair, and you think that’s cool? Sorry, dude, you’re a moron. #VOTEREPUBLICAN

Above is the only negative response I got to my last post which I am repeating in this blog but with some additional comments as a preface. I’m posting the comment above to let the rhetoric speak for itself. Actually I’ve been called worse by better people and you know the old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” Enough said.

As I write, the news is filled with developments about seven apparent pipe bombs mailed to prominent Democrat critics of Donald Trump. That’s what we’ve come to, folks, a national divisiveness so virulent that some think a viable solution is to blow up the other side. Let’s just take a moment and examine where this dangerous trend originates.

Generally the impetus toward violence originates with someone throwing gasoline on a fire—the fire being the right wing anger toward the left. And who is throwing gasoline?
At least twice in my home state, Missouri, Donald Trump has encouraged the crowd to “beat the crap” out of protesters. Repeatedly over the last two years, on the campaign trail, and as president, he has encouraged violence. As our Missouri president Harry Truman once famously said about his own responsibility for unpopular decisions, “the buck stops here.” Not that Donald J Trump himself has been mailing pipe bombs to his detractors. In fact, both he and First Lady Melania issued quick condemnation of violent acts against anyone.
Still, one of the pipe bombs was mailed to CNN headquarters and it is worth noting that Trump repeatedly has called the media “the enemy of the people.” And, in a couple of weeks ago in Montana, Trump praised Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte for body slamming a reporter saying, “any guy that can do a body slam— he’s my kind of guy.” And Trump’s response to the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, apparently by a Saudi Arabian hit squad, has been confused and inconsistent at best.
His latest summation of the horrific incident was this “They had a very bad original concept, it was carried out poorly, and the cover-up was the worst in the history of cover-ups.” That sounds mostly like someone griping more about a screwed up murder plot then about the murder itself. So— advice from our president— if you’re going to kill someone at least do it right. His first comment to his loyal base at a Wisconsin rally was, to best describe it, smug. “Let’s get along. By the way you see how nice I’m behaving tonight? Have you ever seen this?”

At last count, there had been seven pipe bombs detected and possibly there are more. Predictably, the right wing talk show blatherers, led by Rush Limbaugh, quickly blamed the Democrats for the pipe bombs, claiming that it’s all a hoax designed to gather sympathy for the Democrats before the election.
So, in case you missed it the first time around, here is what I posted last and feel free to comment pro or con, but especially feel free to pass the plea for voters to go to the polls to everyone you know. Let’s practice democracy for a change instead of acrimony.

On to the repeat of the last blog:

 

Remember? No of course you don’t—you weren’t even born in those days when we stayed up half the night to hear the latest returns. It was election night and the radio was tuned to whatever station was broadcasting the up-to-the-minute results.

They didn’t call races in those days almost before the polls closed. There was no television or at least it was so rudimentary that not even Huntley and Brinkley had appeared to speak like gods from Mount Olympus. Television, if any, was black and white and it was grainy, often filtered through what appeared to be a Dakota blizzard.

But we all cared deeply about elections in those days. The only thing that approached the intense anticipation of a national election was a heavyweight boxing bout or the World Series. I was a little kid in maybe the sixth grade when I heard Brooklyn Dodger Al Gionfriddo rob Joe DiMaggio of what would’ve been a game-tying double to force a game seven in the 1947 World Series by racing to the bullpen gate some 415 feet from home plate to make an incredible catch.

I don’t remember the name of the teacher who must have been a baseball fan and who let us listen to the radio in the classroom, but I do remember that catch and the hysterical announcer shrieking about it (he must have been a Dodger fan).

In the next year we moved to Missouri from Chicago and I remember Bobby Thompson’s three run home run off Ralph Branca four years later to give the New York Giants a playoff victory against those same Brooklyn Dodgers. Time having moved along, I watched that game through the ever present Dakota blizzard on Mr. Sadler’s television set in Keytesville, Missouri , where I was, by then, imprisoned in high school. It wasn’t very good television, but it was all we had— possibly Mr. Sadler had the only TV set in Keytesville at the time. Mr. Sadler, who happened to be the school superintendent and, unlike that Chicago elementary school teacher, did not let us watch the series in a classroom.  But we sneaked off during school hours to his house while he was busy administering paddling to delinquent boys (his son, Foster, was my best friend but probably would’ve been among the paddlees if his daddy had known he was cutting class to watch a playoff game at home).

And I used to listen to heavyweight boxing matches on our old upright Zenith radio between Joe Louis and everyone he knocked out and later Rocky Marciano doing the same. There was excitement riding the airwaves in those days and the entire country was riveted in a way that seems to have gone, as have all those dynamic moments of yesteryear— boxing, baseball, and politics.

There is an election upcoming in a few days that may be the most important in the nation’s history, far beyond anything I heard through the static on the Zenith or watched on a grainy RCA television set. It’s an off year election, an event which usually is defined mostly by apathy. And apathy is the biggest danger facing the country.

Good citizens often say, “there is no excuse for not voting.” That’s not quite accurate because thousands of people do have an excuse for not voting—they are not being allowed to thanks to discriminatory regulations which prevent them from going to the polls. In Georgia the Secretary of State who is also running for governor as a Republican and who is in charge of voter legitimacy is sitting on more than 50,000 voter registrations, mostly African Americans who tend to vote Democrat, and has over the past several years disallowed thousands of other registrations, again mostly African Americans, who vote Democrat—probably because they can’t stand the politics of the Republicans in power.

And how about North Dakota where Native Americans are being disenfranchised because of a Republican established law demanding that voter registration contain a street address without which a person cannot vote. Thousands of Native Americans on reservations have only a post office box, but that ain’t good enough for the Republicans who suspect, with good cause, that Native Americans in a bloc will vote for Heidi Heitkamp the Democrat candidate for the Senate.

Those egregious examples of voter suppression aside, if women, minorities, and young people, don’t get off their all too often indifferent rear ends and go to the polls, we are in grave danger of at least another two years of the most destructive government in the history of the nation. The Donald Trump regime has managed to dismantle more progressive legislation than was done by inept and incompetent politicians in the previous 200-plus years. Give them another two years and we are likely to see such vital programs as Social Security and Medicare vanish or be rendered impotent.

Mitch McConnell, the chinless wonder, already is promising to cut Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid to pay for the $1.5 trillion tax cuts the Republicans forced through Congress and which have had the result of ballooning the national debt while padding the bank accounts of the nation’s richest 1%. “It’s disappointing but it’s not a Republican problem,” said the Senate majority leader.  What he means is that it is not his problem— it is the enormous problem of the American people who will suffer because of his odious legislation.

His toady, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, said “you have got to generate economic growth because growth generates revenue. But you also have to bring spending under control. The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries.”  No, Marco, the driver of our debt is you and your fellow Republicans who owe more to your rich donors than you do to anyone who relies on Social Security and Medicare to keep them from poverty and the graveyard.

Think beneficiaries president future, of the disintegration of Medicare and Social Security. Especially, think about it when you go to the polls to vote on the people who are promising to take away these vital benefits.

As a grateful recipient of both programs, without which I would be destitute or probably dead, I dread the consequences of more Trumpism. The world so far has survived such isms as Nazi-ism, fascism, and communism, but I’m not so sure we can make it through Trump-ism without the ship of state sinking. We don’t need a political Titanic-we need a political ship of mercy filled with the promise of enduring benevolent government.

Election night anticipation , which once was looked forward to with eagerness, no matter which party you were supporting, has, given the results of the last few elections, been more like waiting for the results of the x-rays. Even when Barack Obama was my candidate I felt more like curling into the fetal position and covering my ears on election night. He won twice and I exulted, but it was more like being a diehard fan of one of our hapless local football teams (whose name I will, out of sympathy, keep anonymous since they haven’t won a game all season) because I knew that an antagonistic Republican Congress would make Mr. Obama’s life a living hell— which it did.

Sandwiched as it was between the Bush and Trump eras, it was a temporary triumph of good over evil, but hardly representative of democratic values.  I went to three election night parties, two when Bush won and one when Trump won, and what began each time as a festive event featuring gourmet chili and beer turned into a funeral. In this age of instant communication, Huntley and Brinkley would be as superfluous as Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny.

Doomsaying scientists warn us that global warming is a dire threat to the planet but of course Trump’s drooling sycophants don’t believe it, or choose not to, and I suspect that before rising temperatures force the oceans to overtop low-lying countries, create droughts and other horrific weather conditions, this country will be submerged by a storm surge of political catastrophes that will turn us into a reprise of what has happened to so many wannabe democracies around the world. Mob rule— led by self-serving autocrats, dictators, plutocrats or whatever you want to call them who are interested only in their own ends not those of the common good.

There was a great vision for government in the late 1700s by men of intellect, foresight, and dedication to the betterment not only of their fledgling country, but of mankind in general. Now we have a bloated dictatorial sociopath who has the unfortunate ability to rally the mob behind him, as well as fatcat money interests to finance him and his evil intent and to elect those who slavishly do his bidding.

In the run-up to the election Trump and his despicable toadies have flooded television with lies and defamation, counting on the credulity of the electorate to believe the wildest stories imaginable about  Democrats running to unseat the entrenched Republicans. There is little doubt that computer hacking by foreign interests—certainly Russia, probably China, Iran, North Korea or, for all I know, aliens from outer space— are helping confuse the democratic process. Any thinking person would discount 90% or more of the crap that flows from the television sets, realizing that it no longer is intelligent thought and careful consideration that wins elections, but actually is the amount of money poured into any given candidate’s campaign. It’s a sorry state of affairs when democracy becomes a matter of who has the biggest pocketbook.

And that accusation applies equally to Democrats as well as Republicans. Any voter who is swayed by paid for advertising rather than by intelligent thought deserves what he or she gets and if that is at least two more years of Trumpism I fear for the country and for the future of our form of government. Don’t forget that the German electorate voted for Adolf Hitler, and other dictators of the past. Hitler appealed to the basest instincts of the masses and that is precisely what Donald Trump does today. He incites; he does not lead.

That’s why election night has become more of waiting for the other shoe to fall than it has to celebrate the triumph of democracy.  There is, of course, a remedy— it is for every able-bodied citizen to cast a vote and hope that the country still contains a majority of voters dedicated to the principles the United States adopted more than 200 years ago.

 

VOTE!!!

 

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  • Blog
  • October 23rd, 2018

OUR WORLD HANGS IN THE BALANCE

By Joel M. Vance

Remember? No of course you don’t—you weren’t even born in those days when we stayed up half the night to hear the latest returns. It was election night and the radio was tuned to whatever station was broadcasting the up-to-the-minute results.

They didn’t call races in those days almost before the polls closed. There was no television or at least it was so rudimentary that not even Huntley and Brinkley had appeared to speak like gods from Mount Olympus. Television, if any, was black and white and it was grainy, often filtered through what appeared to be a Dakota blizzard.

But we all cared deeply about elections in those days. The only thing that approached the intense anticipation of a national election was a heavyweight boxing bout or the World Series. I was a little kid in maybe the sixth grade when I heard Brooklyn Dodger Al Gionfriddo rob Joe DiMaggio of what would’ve been a game-tying double to force a game seven in the 1947 World Series by racing to the bullpen gate some 415 feet from home plate to make an incredible catch.

I don’t remember the name of the teacher who must have been a baseball fan and who let us listen to the radio in the classroom, but I do remember that catch and the hysterical announcer shrieking about it (he must have been a Dodger fan).

In the next year we moved to Missouri from Chicago and I remember Bobby Thompson’s three run home run off Ralph Branca four years later to give the New York Giants a playoff victory against those same Brooklyn Dodgers. Time having moved along, I watched that game through the ever present Dakota blizzard on Mr. Sadler’s television set in Keytesville, Missouri , where I was, by then, imprisoned in high school. It wasn’t very good television, but it was all we had— possibly Mr. Sadler had the only TV set in Keytesville at the time. Mr. Sadler, who happened to be the school superintendent and, unlike that Chicago elementary school teacher, did not let us watch the series in a classroom. But we sneaked off during school hours to his house while he was busy administering paddling to delinquent boys (his son, Foster, was my best friend but probably would’ve been among the paddlees if his daddy had known he was cutting class to watch a World Series game at home).

And I used to listen to heavyweight boxing matches on our old upright Zenith radio between Joe Louis and everyone he knocked out and later Rocky Marciano doing the same. There was excitement riding the airwaves in those days and the entire country was riveted in a way that seems to have gone, as have all those dynamic moments of yesteryear— boxing, baseball, and politics.

There is an election upcoming in a few days that may be the most important in the nation’s history, far beyond anything I heard through the static on the Zenith or watched on a grainy RCA television set. It’s an off year election, an event which usually is defined mostly by apathy. And apathy is the biggest danger facing the country.

Good citizens often say, “there is no excuse for not voting.” That’s not quite accurate because thousands of people do have an excuse for not voting—they are not being allowed to thanks to discriminatory regulations which prevent them from going to the polls. In Georgia the Secretary of State who is also running for governor as a Republican and who is in charge of voter legitimacy is sitting on more than 50,000 voter registrations, mostly African Americans who tend to vote Democrat, and has over the past several years disallowed thousands of other registrations, again mostly African Americans, who vote Democrat—probably because they can’t stand the politics of the Republicans in power.

And how about North Dakota where Native Americans are being disenfranchised because of a Republican established law demanding that voter registration contain a street address without which a person cannot vote. Thousands of Native Americans on reservations have only a post office box, but that ain’t good enough for the Republicans who suspect, with good cause, that Native Americans in a bloc will vote for Heidi Heitkamp the Democrat candidate for the Senate.

Those egregious examples of voter suppression aside, if women, minorities, and young people, don’t get off their all too often indifferent rear ends and go to the polls, we are in grave danger of at least another two years of the most destructive government in the history of the nation. The Donald Trump regime has managed to dismantle more progressive legislation than was done by inept and incompetent politicians in the previous 200-plus years. Give them another two years and we are likely to see such vital programs as Social Security and Medicare vanish or be rendered impotent.

Mitch McConnell, the chinless wonder, already is promising to cut Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid to pay for the $1.5 trillion tax cuts the Republicans forced through Congress and which have had the result of ballooning the national debt while padding the bank accounts of the nation’s richest 1%. “It’s disappointing but it’s not a Republican problem,” said the Senate majority leader. What he means is that it is not his problem— it is the enormous problem of the American people who will suffer because of his odious legislation.

His toady, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, said “you have got to generate economic growth because growth generates revenue. But you also have to bring spending under control. The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries.” No, Marco, the driver of our debt is you and your fellow Republicans who owe more to your rich donors than you do to anyone who relies on Social Security and Medicare to keep them from poverty and the graveyard.

Think beneficiaries president future, of the disintegration of Medicare and Social Security. Especially, think about it when you go to the polls to vote on the people who are promising to take away these vital benefits.

As a grateful recipient of both programs, without which I would be destitute or probably dead, I dread the consequences of more Trumpism. The world so far has survived such isms as Nazi-ism, fascism, and communism, but I’m not so sure we can make it through Trump-ism without the ship of state sinking. We don’t need a political Titanic-we need a political ship of mercy filled with the promise of enduring benevolent government.

Election night anticipation , which once was looked forward to with eagerness, no matter which party you were supporting, has, given the results of the last few elections, been more like waiting for the results of the x-rays. Even when Barack Obama was my candidate I felt more like curling into the fetal position and covering my ears on election night. He won twice and I exulted, but it was more like being a diehard fan of one of our hapless local football teams (whose name I will, out of sympathy, keep anonymous since they haven’t won a game all season) because I knew that an antagonistic Republican Congress would make Mr. Obama’s life a living hell— which it did.

Sandwiched as it was between the Bush and Trump eras, it was a temporary triumph of good over evil, but hardly representative of democratic values. I went to three election night parties, two when Bush won and one when Trump won, and what began each time as a festive event featuring gourmet chili and beer turned into a funeral. In this age of instant communication, Huntley and Brinkley would be as superfluous as Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny.

Doomsaying scientists warn us that global warming is a dire threat to the planet but of course Trump’s drooling sycophants don’t believe it, or choose not to, and I suspect that before rising temperatures force the oceans to overtop low-lying countries, create droughts and other horrific weather conditions, this country will be submerged by a storm surge of political catastrophes that will turn us into a reprise of what has happened to so many wannabe democracies around the world. Mob rule— led by self-serving autocrats, dictators, plutocrats or whatever you want to call them who are interested only in their own ends not those of the common good.

There was a great vision for government in the late 1700s by men of intellect, foresight, and dedication to the betterment not only of their fledgling country, but of mankind in general. Now we have a bloated dictatorial sociopath who has the unfortunate ability to rally the mob behind him, as well as fatcat money interests to finance him and his evil intent and to elect those who slavishly do his bidding.

In the run-up to the election Trump and his despicable toadies have flooded television with lies and defamation, counting on the credulity of the electorate to believe the wildest stories imaginable about Democrats running to unseat the entrenched Republicans. There is little doubt that computer hacking by foreign interests—certainly Russia, probably China, Iran, North Korea or, for all I know, aliens from outer space— are helping confuse the democratic process. Any thinking person would discount 90% or more of the crap that flows from the television sets, realizing that it no longer is intelligent thought and careful consideration that wins elections, but actually is the amount of money poured into any given candidate’s campaign. It’s a sorry state of affairs when democracy becomes a matter of who has the biggest pocketbook.

And that accusation applies equally to Democrats as well as Republicans. Any voter who is swayed by paid for advertising rather than by intelligent thought deserves what he or she gets and if that is at least two more years of Trumpism I fear for the country and for the future of our form of government. Don’t forget that the German electorate voted for Adolf Hitler, and other dictators of the past. Hitler appealed to the basest instincts of the masses and that is precisely what Donald Trump does today. He incites; he does not lead.

That’s why election night has become more of waiting for the other shoe to fall than it has to celebrate the triumph of democracy. There is, of course, a remedy— it is for every able-bodied citizen to cast a vote and hope that the country still contains a majority of voters dedicated to the principles the United States adopted more than 200 years ago.

VOTE!!!

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  • Blog
  • October 19th, 2018

THE GHOSTLY RIDGE

By Joel M. Vance

Everybody thought of Harry Jenkins as “sensible” and they said it as if it were a handicap, as if Harry had suffered an accident and lost a vital part of himself. Harry plodded through life with the resolute steadfastness of a coon hound never baying a fancy, nor tracking a whim.

“He’s the most no-nonsense guy I know,” said his boss.

“Harry?” Said his wife, with a hard laugh verging on bitter (she was a romantic who’d thought to marry a prince and instead had gotten a bean counter). “He’s practical.”

“Imagination of a buffalo in a herd,” said his best friend. So, when Harry found himself in the middle of an abandoned cemetery at the time of night they call the hour of dying, he didn’t succumb to childish fears, nor even feel a prickle of apprehension. He merely grunted and backed away from the tall monument he had run into in the dark, slipped on his tiny flashlight and read the inscription: “Cpl. Andrew Parker, killed in action April 25, 1863. Here lies a good Union soldier.”

“R.I.P, Andy,” Harry said. “Sorry to disturb you.” Harry was turkey hunting and had no time for romanticizing Civil War cemeteries, at night or at any other time. He needed to get himself set up before roosted gobblers roused enough to be alerted by movement through the woods. He wanted to be in place long before the first sleepy morning yelps came from the trees.

The night silence gathered around him as he moved along the ridge, away from the cemetery. He heard the murmur of the river below as it worried at a snag. A whippoorwill began its endless repetition, sharply trying to shout away the night. The moon floated ahead in and out of thick clouds. Harry was far from the road, far beyond the granola bar wrappers and other detritus of the fair weather hunters.

He began to look for a place to wait for sunrise. He found an ideal setup: a broad tree slanting to make a comfortable back rest, soft mossy earth at its base. Like a television recliner he thought. Have to concentrate not to go to sleep. Moonlight filtered through the scattered clouds showing him a sparse stand of big trees, with little underbrush, a natural arena. The bluff dropped steeply to the river to his left, which reduced the possible directions from which a gobbler could approach him.

He settled back against the tree and felt something prodding him. He dug beneath his seat pad and removed a sharp bit of flint, flipping it into the dark and heard it strike with a muffled sound. He rearranged the seat and leaned against the tree. Perfect. He dug his heels into the leaf mold, creating rests for his feet. The old Model 12 pump lay across his knees, loaded with three Super-X double X shot shells.

The number six shot would drop a gobbler in its tracks at 20 yards. There should be no need for a second or third shot (and certainly not for the fourth and fifth the gun would hold if he fully loaded it). “If you can’t kill ‘em with one shot, you shouldn’t be hunting ‘em,” Harry often said. Besides, a practical man doesn’t waste expensive ammunition.

Harry waited for first light, first activity. Usually he never worried about falling asleep and missing anything. He didn’t do that. Falling asleep on stand was impractical. But there were sounds in the night that distracted him. Maybe they weren’t even sounds. They were like the feeling you get when another person is breathing in a dark room. You don’t know if you really hear the breathing or just feel the presence of someone. But Harry wasted no time on imagining things in the night. He knew what should be in the woods and that was good enough for him.

Except he was experiencing a feeling he never had before, an uneasiness as if another hunter were slipping up on him, just stealthily enough to be noticed. But there were no other hunters. Not that far back and not this early. He’d bet the farm on that. So what was it? Who gives a rats? Harry thought. Get a grip.

Maybe he fell asleep. After all, it was comfortable and it was plenty early. People do fall asleep and anything can happen in dreams. But sometime later—he didn’t know how long— he heard a strange muffled jingling sound, like bits of chain gently disturbed.

He saw the shadowy figures of horsemen making their way across the night shrouded clearing in the moonlight. There were perhaps a dozen of them, silent save for the creak of their saddles and the muted whisper of their horses’ breathing. Despite himself, Harry felt a skitter of goose bumps chill his legs and back. “The hell?” he muttered. The riders passed 20 feet in front of him. The leader was caped and a couple of the riders wore dusters. Their caps were distinctively short billed with flat tops crushed forward. He’d seen such uniforms all his life, but only in the grim gray photographs of Matthew Brady.

They were dressed as soldiers from the Civil War. His first thought, being a practical person, was that it was a group of history buffs en route to a recreation of some forgotten skirmish. That perception lasted only an instant. It was not likely, in the middle of the night! Get serious!

The riders passed, almost close enough to touch, though by now he would not have reached out to touch one for any amount of money. Dread was a stranger to Harry— he had never awakened in the night with a panic attack, nor spent his waking hours worrying about cancer or tax audits. Harry worried about what he could see and feel, not conjures in the night. Although he could see this— but not, under any circumstances, feel it.

This was something he could see and he was suddenly afraid that if he touched it, there would be a result he didn’t want to think about— or know how to think about. So, Harry’s heart thudded and his mouth turned dry. It is unpleasant for unimaginative people when they are confronted with creatures that must be of their imagination.

Harry deeply wanted daylight, though he knew sunrise still was some minutes away. Inexplicable things wash out in the strong light of day. The slight sound of the riders vanished in the night, leaving only the demanding call of the whippoorwill. Harry tried to make sense of what he’d seen. Finally, he could only conclude that he had drifted off for a moment and had experienced an unsettling dream. He rarely dreamed of anything, but never had concocted a dream as vivid and disturbing as this one. But a dream it had to be.

Why Civil War riders in the night? That damn cemetery he thought. Hanging around in my subconscious. Just a dream, that’s all. Fell asleep there for a minute. Should have had more coffee. Acting like a damn scared kid in the night. It was a rational explanation and Harry gratefully accepted it.

Relieved, he put the incident out of his mind and thought it had to the turkey hunt, not imaginary fancies. Turkey hunting was real; ghost riders in the night were so much imaginative smoke, time wasters. More sleep and fewer cemeteries, Harry thought.

Thick darkness was draining from the night. He now could see his feet and hands and the silhouettes of the trees were sharper toward the east. The tentative hoot of a great horned owl sounded behind him, and as if in sharp challenge, a barred owl defied the stillness with its strident interrogation. A tree gobble rattled through the forest and Harry’s breath came quicker. This was a brassy old ridge boss challenging any other critter’s right to signify. It was, it announced, the most virile animal in the spring woods.

With exquisite caution, as if the bird could hear his very pulse beating, Harry withdrew a little container from his breast pocket and carefully fished out a mouth caller, which he installed against his palate. He liked to soak and soften the calls before using them. The faint taste of Scope brightened his sour early morning mouth. He always soaked callers in the mouthwash to freshen them. Harry felt in another pocket for a headnet and carefully slipped it on and adjusted the eye frames. He pulled on mesh camouflage gloves and shifted the model 12 slightly in his lap.

He was ready.

The turkey began to gobble every several minutes, a harsh, single-minded petition. Harry took a deep breath, let out half as if he were target shooting and clucked softly just one time. Instantly, the gobbler answered, its attention captured, its keen hearing fixing Harry’s location as accurately as an electronic rangefinder.

This seduction lasted nearly an hour. At first Harry answered each gobble with a sleepy cluck or two. Then he mixed a few soft tree yelps, as if a hen were rousing from sleep to find herself sexually aroused and receptive. The gobbler paced impatiently along a lofty branch with much of its innate caution seared away by passion. It no longer was a creature that no predator could approach by guile. It was addled by lust.

The turkey double gobbled and Harry interrupted with answering yelps, further inciting the bird. There was nearly full light now. A cardinal whickered and distant crows called. Small, drab birds flitted through the undergrowth and a gray squirrel pounced through the dry leaves with muted rustling. Harry heard the bird fly down—the sound of someone beating a carpet, then a thump and silence. Harry was taut, with the focused attention of the predator.

His eyes caught a flicker of motion through the trees and he saw the dark shape of the bird. The gobbler with the slow majesty of a schooner under full sail, wings dragging, tail fanned, head tucked tight to its puffed chest. Harry couldn’t resist a trio of yelps, even though it probably wasn’t necessary. The bird’s head shot forward and it gobbled, as loud as thunder.

There is noble ceremony in the measured approach of a gobbler. Everything seemed slowed, including time. Harry heard nothing but the spitting and drumming of the great bird. It seemed to take a lifetime for the gobbler to cross the fifty yards between them.

The morning sunlight reflected from the back of the gobbler, revealing a coppery sheen. The bird’s sharp eye seemed to cut through the camouflage to the hunter beneath. They looked, one into the other, the hunter and the undaunted prey. It was as if the turkey could see right down into his soul and take its measure. Harry had killed turkeys before, without a thought and with no flights of fancy about soul measuring, but this one was different.

The bird was 30 yards away and Harry leaned slightly forward, sighting along the barrel of the Model 12 propped on his knee. He moved his leg just slightly and the bead of the shotgun settled on the turkey’s head. Harry’s finger tightened on the trigger.

And then the gobbler wavered and shimmered as if it were a mirror image just at the instant before the mirror would shatter. The image blurred and became vaporous. In place of the gobbler there was a strange fog. The vapor flowed into the ground, then materialized as a second gobbler, wavering but distinct. The hazy apparition gobbled but there was no sound. It fanned and strutted, colorless in the morning light, a gray specter that paraded the ridge and drained the life from it.

Harry sensed motion to his right, but could not move. He was paralyzed, locked in time suspended. The motion resolved as a man, crawling with infinite caution toward a nearby log. The man’s clothing was wrinkled and torn and the man himself unshaven and haggard. The clothing was the uniform of a Union soldier. The soldier cradled a battered musket as he inched forward on his elbows. The soldier reached the log and cautiously peered over it. The ghost turkey fanned once again and as it pirouetted away, the soldier lifted the gun and aimed.

The turkey spun back toward the soldier, saw the gun, instantly dropped its fan and feathers and raised his head as if to flee. There was no sound but the soldier jerked with the recoil of his gun and there was a belch of silent fire and smoke from the muzzle. The turkey tumbled backward, flopping.

The soldier struggled to his feet and Harry saw how emaciated and weary he was, eyes dark with fatigue. But his shoulder straightened and he ran awkwardly to the thrashing bird and grabbed it by the neck, hoisted it shoulder high. His ghost patrol would dine well that night.

Then the soldier lurched backward as if hit by an invisible hammer, dropped the turkey and clutched at his breast. Slowly he crumpled to the ground, rolled onto his back and was still. The dead turkey lay beside him. A second military phantasm walked soundlessly to the fallen Union soldier, his bayoneted gun at the ready. His uniform was a ragtag assortment, but the butternut britches identified him. He, too, was tattered and worn and obviously felt no satisfaction in what he had done. He prodded the body with the tip of the bayonet, then, sure that his foe was dead….again, picked up the turkey and shambled toward the morning light. He blurred and then vanished.

The soldier on the ground faded slowly until he could’ve been nothing more than lingering ground fog. Time returned to the clearing. The real gobbler in front of Harry tensed, aware that something was wrong with his world.

The gobbler’s keen eye fixed on Harry and the bird poised to bolt. It would spook in the next instant and be lost if he didn’t squeeze the trigger. Instead, Harry exhaled explosively and sat up straight. The gobbler leaped into the air with powerful wing beats and flew straight up through the trees and into the sunlight.

Harry Jenkins, the man with no imagination, laid his model 12 on the ground and got to his feet, feeling 1000 years old. He walked to where the gobbler had been and found a single wing feather on the ground. He picked it up and went back to retrieve his gun. He paused a moment to rub his bristly face and dig at gritty eyes. He had never been more tired.

Harry passed through the old cemetery on his way back to the car. He stopped at the monument to Cpl. Parker and laid the feather on the weed choked grave in front of the marker. “Was that you, Andy?” He said aloud. “Do you have to come back and play it out again and again?”

Harry stood before the marker, feeling the heat of the spring sun. A squirrel barked at him from a nearby white oak. A blue jay shouted. A bumblebee landed on a spray of honeysuckle and swayed there. “Is this your Hell or your Heaven?” Harry asked the silent marker. There was no answer and there never would be one.

Harry’s wife was stunned when he came home not with a nice gobbler but instead with a spray of roses. “Let’s make today memorable,” he said. “We might have to relive it.” She stared at him with her mouth open. Had someone stolen her husband?

“Is that you, Harry?” She said. Perhaps he had caught some kind of virus. She watched as he moved through the house, touching old possessions as if he’d never seen them before— as if they gave him great pleasure and were not just old things. “Are you all right?” She asked half in fear, half in hope. He nodded.

She met her best friend the next day for coffee and fiddled with the cup while the brew cooled. “Well,” she said slowly, “whatever it is, I hope it lasts a long time.” She shook her head.

“Something weird happened to him out there in those woods,” she said. “I can’t imagine what— and I thought I was the one in the family with all the imagination.”

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  • Blog
  • October 12th, 2018

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH

By Joel M. Vance

Every Sunday evening at 7 PM I open a time capsule now more than 40 years old. I do this by turning on the television set to a rerun of Hee Haw from the 1970s, where I can see in living color performances by legendary country entertainers, now mostly pages in history.

An enduring feature of Hee Haw was a segment called Pickin’ and Grinnin’ where cohosts Roy Clark and Buck Owens trade corny jokes interspersed with Clark playing an instrumental break, with the assembled group singing the chorus:

“Going up Cripple Creek, gonna have a little fun”

I never gave much thought to Cripple Creek, although I vaguely knew it was a town somewhere in Colorado, where once miners flocked, high in the Rocky Mountains hoping to strike it rich digging for gold. The town lies at nearly 9500 feet in a broad valley where in 1890 gold was discovered and a gold rush ensued that attracted 10,000 prospectors following their glittering dream. They dug $500 million worth of gold before the riches ran out and the town dwindled to a population of about 100 and became one of Colorado’s many ghost towns. It attracted the hardy few who could stand the altitude for a chance to peek into mining history.

30 years ago it was a crumbling assortment of mostly deserted buildings approaching a century old. There still is an operating gold mine in the area, but now the more than 1000 inhabitants mine their gold from the pocketbooks of tourists who flock to what has become a mini Las Vegas in the mountains— gambling is the main industry anymore and some of the casino buildings cover-up the bed of the Creek that gave the town’s name.

But there is one building that caters, not to hopeful gamblers but to the arts. It is the restored Butte Opera house where recently I saw the finest theatrical performance I’ve ever seen and those include Broadway and regional productions of famous musicals productions by local and national theater groups.

The occasion was my wife, Marty’s, and my 62nd wedding anniversary and we celebrated it by watching a magical two hour production of “Always…. Patsy Cline”, a musical which has sold out off-Broadway and in repertory company productions all over the country as well as in foreign theaters.
The musical features only two performers, one channeling Patsy Cline, the other her devoted fan Louise Seger. Both are on stage virtually the entire performance and in Cripple Creek they were backed by an outstanding cowboy band that had assimilated the Patsy Cline arrangements to the point where I felt trapped in a time warp— listening to radio from the late 1950s late on a Saturday night when the reception was good from WSM in Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry was in its true heyday (not the overproduced, pop diluted crap that passes for country music today).

This was a country music I grew up with, twiddling the dial on the old upright Zenith radio in our ramshackle Missouri home trying from about 5:30 PM to pick up a distant signal, usually contaminated by a.m. radio static, from Nashville. There were early shows in those days, before the Opry began and I remember hearing Hank Williams Senior during his brief stint, both on the Opry and in life. They’re all gone now, those Grand Ole Opry stars of the 1950s—Red Foley, Roy Acuff, Carl Smith, Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow, Bill Monroe, Marty Robbins and…. Patsy Cline. Not to mention and not to forget Hawkshaw Hawins and Cowboy Copas who died in a plane crash with Patsy Cline.

I would haunt the radio until the closing of the Ernest Tubb record shop show after 1 AM. My high school peers probably were out on dates and few if any shared my enthusiasm for country music. To them Patsy Cline couldn’t hold a candle to Patti Page. As a social life it wasn’t much to brag about, but maybe that intense exposure to classic country in my early life gave me an appreciation for a musical dedicated to the memory of Patsy Cline that few today can share. Consider that most people today were not even born when Patsy Cline died. It is a tribute to the Cline talent that her songs and recordings became more popular after she died than when she was alive and that even today more than half a century after that tragic plane crash her voice still resonates as powerfully as it did for six short years of fame.

Anyone who has even a passing interest in country music knows that Patsy Cline died in a plane crash in 1963 after a brief (six-year) career as a superstar. Her legend now has spanned nearly 60 years since her death and her album of greatest hits has sold more than 10 million copies and continues to sell every day.

Her death, along with those of fellow Grand Ole Opry stars Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas and her manager and pilot Randy Hughes (Hughes was married to Copas’s daughter), was part of a seemingly unending tragedy. Hughes flew into bad weather, which already had canceled the commercial flight that Patsy was scheduled to take, and the plane crashed 85 miles short of Nashville. They were returning from Kansas City where Patsy had done a benefit performance for a local disc jockey (who had been killed in a car wreck). Days later, Jack Anglin, half of the singing dual of Johnny and Jack ( smash hits Poison Love and Ashes of Love) died in a car wreck en route to a memorial service for Patsy Cline.

Patsy Cline spearheaded the Me Too movement long before today’s women coined the phrase. More than just the best female vocalist in any area you care to name, she represented woman power at a time when women still were accessory items in a man’s world. She took no crap from anyone. She knew what she wanted from life and she seized it with authority, yet was beloved by everyone she ever associated with— and that includes two husbands, two children, and every legendary entertainer she worked with.
At one point in the performance, Patsy, spending the night with Louise, sings a lullaby to Louise’s two kids. She is off stage when she starts the song and after she gets the kids to sleep, she appears on stage, in a robe, clutching a teddy bear, and finishes the song. If there was a dry eye in the house it wasn’t mine.

Mixing comedy with heartrending drama, Louise opines that roadhouse dancing is about as much fun as anyone can have and comes off stage while the band is playing a song with a boogie-woogie beat and Patsy is singing. Louise grabs a guy from the front row and they dance. Maybe the guy was a plant who was part of the performance, but if not—if he actually was a local— he was a regular Fred Astaire of the beer joints and the two of them got an ovation when they finished.

Most of those who see the Patsy Cline musical know only the talent of the actor playing the part of Patsy Cline and what they know of her life is what they read about. I was there when it happened. I heard her live (by way of low-fi a.m. radio) on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium, standing on the hallowed spot in the middle of the stage where the featured performer was spotlighted. It’s my regret that I never saw her in person the way I have seen, for example, Willie Nelson, perhaps the last legend of that storied era of country music. Most of them now are gone and when I watch the Hee Haw reruns I can tick off the members of the cast who have died and there are more of them than those who are still alive.

According to the story, Louise Seger was so captivated by Patsy Cline’s voice on her radio that she pestered a local disc jockey to play Patsy Cline records so persistently that he finally gave in. And Seger also pursued a meeting with Patsy Cline when the already established star performed at Houston’s cavernous Esquire Ballroom and that’s how they became friends. Seger invited Cline to spend the night with her and the tired entertainer agreed.

On the night that Patsy Cline and Louise Seger stayed at Seger’s house, the story goes they sat around the kitchen table (which is part of the stage set in the musical) until 4 AM and Seger is quoted as saying we were “Talking over broken hearts, husband problems, children problems, love lost, love won. We sounded like two people writing country songs.”

We all know what happened to Patsy Cline but what about Louise Seger? It turns out she died quietly and peacefully October 28, 2004. Patsy Cline’s biographer recalls having met Seger for an interview: “We met in 1980 in Houston Texas. It was quite a scene: Louise showed up in a white Caddy convertible, and a white cowgirl outfit, with holsters of canned Buds on both sides looking every bit like a blonde Patsy!” Patsy Cline’s second husband, Charlie Dick, died in 2015. Her daughter, Julie Fudge, is the caretaker of the Cline legacy with a museum in Nashville.

There is a YouTube video of the entire production, shot from the audience, and of marginal quality but if it were a Hollywood production of the off-Broadway original it would not have half the quality of the Cripple Creek outing featuring Kelli Dodd as Patsy Cline and Rebecca Myers as Louise Seger. These two young actresses may never star on Broadway, but if not it would be a travesty. They are major league performers and outshine a video of the original musical cast. The miners of old may have been looking for gold in them thar hills but today’s theater goers found a pair of diamonds gracing the stage of the Butte Opera house.

Dodd mastered the Patsy Cline vocal sob to perfection and tore my heart out with her re-creation of Cline singing Faded Love, Sweet Dreams and other Cline classics that once came from Nashville through the static into our old Zenith and into my memory and my heart. But if anything, the night belonged to Myers as Louise Seger with more energy packed into her trim frame than a stick of dynamite. If anything, she reminded me of Betty Hutton, the original blonde bombshell of movie fame who created the role of Annie Oakley in the movie version of the Broadway stage production.

All in all, it was a magic afternoon capped off by a drive through the mountains where the aspens flamed against the dark green background of pines and the red rock bluffs added another color to the palette and Pike’s Peak loomed in the background like the massive Rocky Mountain presence that it is.

Marty and I are fans of musical productions and have been to many including The Music Man and the Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. We’ve seen South Pacific and Chicago at the Maples Repertory Theater in Macon, Missouri, Marty’s home town, and Mary Poppins at the Lyceum Theatre in Arrow Rock, Missouri, a rep company which has been in existence for many years and is nationally renowned.

But if we’re married another 62 years we will not duplicate the magical two hours spent high in the mountains of Colorado in what once was the location of a gold mining bonanza, in a venerable opera house, where once grizzled and weatherbeaten prospectors gathered for an evening of rustic entertainment. Some of them found gold in the hills around Cripple Creek. We found it in that old opera house and for two hours our lives were enriched beyond anything those 10,000 miners ever experienced in any given two hours of their hardbitten lives.  

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  • Blog
  • October 4th, 2018

YOU GET A LINE AND I’LL GET A POLE

By Joel M. Vance

Another lobster knows the difference; another crayfish knows the difference, but without some scale of reference you wouldn’t. Look at a photo of a lobster and one of a crayfish and you couldn’t tell one from the other. Side by side, yes, but not individually. That’s why you wouldn’t make either a good crayfish or a good lobster.

Basically, a crayfish is just a freshwater lobster, lacking size and gushy press clippings. Big ol’ lobsters are not a big ol’ deal to a Cajun, one of those displaced Nova Scotia lobster country expatriates who long ago forsook the rocky northeast coast for the sullen swamps of Louisiana where the crayfish is king.

Mostly they are crayfish except with the commercial crayfish farmers who call them crawfish. There are multiple species (at last count 42 native species in one state, and three non-native species). For many, crayfish are called, somewhat contemptuously, “mudbugs” but many species inhabit clear, cold water, lurking under flat rocks.

There’s a cruel irony in the only song dedicated to the Little Lobster, irony which hit me one sunny afternoon when I was playing the banjo and singing:

“Whatcha gonna do when the creek runs dry?
Just sit’n watch them crawdads die!”

What a terrible fate for such a cool critter! Crawfish, crayfish, crawdads, you take your pick—they are revered in Cajun Country but often ignored or considered only as prime live bait elsewhere. Even when they are called “mudbugs,” they are eagerly sought after and consumed by the descendants of Longfellow’s epic poem “Evangeline.”

The crayfish even starred in a memorable episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, some 50 years ago—Jed Clampett, had some crawdads shipped from home back in the hills, proving that someone among the scriptwriters had a southeastern rural background.

If you want to trace the name back and amaze friends while you’re chomping through a heaping helping of boiled crawdads, you can tell them that according to one story the name Crawfish began its life as krabba “crab” in one of English’s ancient Germanic ancestors. It’s also theorized the name comes from Old High German “krebiz” which means edible crustacean and that makes more sense. It was borrowed by Old French and became crevis or crevice “crayfish”. More modern French retuned this word as crevisse which the English promptly converted to a more palatable crayfish. Now, since crayfish crawl, it ultimately became crawfish in some regions. And crawdad is “a fanciful alteration of crawfish” according to one dictionary.

Crayfish are creatures of the wet, from lakes and ponds, to streams and even wet meadows. If it has water it can support crayfish. Some even have adapted to the complete darkness of caves and no longer have eyes or coloration. And, in contrast to sighted crayfish with a two or three year lifespan, blind cave crayfish can live for 20 or 30 years. Other crayfish burrow deep into a meadow, far from standing water, leaving tall mounds of excavated dirt above the tunnel entrance.
While a crayfish can exist out of water for some time, it is aquatic, with gills for breathing. The land-based crayfish who build tunnels, dig those tunnels deep enough to reach the water table and thus they can luxuriate in a subterranean bath full time.

As delectable as crayfish are for humans, they’re equally so for a variety of other critters, finned and furred. Otters and raccoons are especially fond of ecrevisse au naturale, and any angler knows that a soft-shelled crawfish hooked through the tail and drifted down a rocky run in a smallmouth stream is as close to a guaranteed strike as sportfishing gets. Use as bait has resulted in exotic or non-native species being introduced into habitats where they compete, sometimes successfully, with the native crayfish.

Accidental or deliberate introductions have had serious ecological results—the starling is an exotic as is the gypsy moth. Any introduced species does just what introduced people would do—it competes for food and shelter with native species. While crayfish largely are good citizens, their mounded burrows can damage earthen dams, gardens and fields, and some species have internal parasites which can affect humans.

Nationally crayfish farmers produce up to 85 million metric tons of the little lobsters every year—more than a billion pounds, with Louisiana and Texas the major producers. One crustaceans expert says, “Because of their roles as both consumers and prey, crayfishes are vital forces in the flow of energy and nutrients within aquatic ecosystems. Without crayfishes, the health and integrity of freshwater ecosystems would be severely damaged.”

Thus the crayfish is the “canary in the mine,” an indicator of either good or bad things happening to the water. A crayfish’s optimum water temperature is 55-60 degrees, relatively cold and coincidentally close to the water temperature favored by trout. So a healthy crayfish population in a trout stream is a good indicator that the trout are doing well also.

Crayfish are “soft-shelled” when they shed their exoskeleton (human skeletons are inside, while crayfish skeletons are outside). This molting happens several times in the crustacean’s lifetime, a lifespan that usually maxes out at three years. While it defies logic, it’s true that the older a crayfish gets the less tail meat it has compared to head mass, so the best eating size is young-of-the-year. About 15 percent of a crawdad is edible by humans. Some of the leftover can be converted to catfish food which in turn becomes human food.

It might dim the appetite of the would-be crayfish eater, but it’s fact that the little mudbugs are scavengers, often feeding on dead meat. They are omnivorous, though, and vary their diet with all sorts of juicy goodies in addition to the occasional defunct and grossly bloated catfish. Most of the diet (80 percent) is vegetative but worms are the preferred entrée.

For humans, eating a crayfish is similar to eating unpeeled shrimp. In common with other shellfish, the exoskeleton surrounds all the edible stuff. Break off and peel the first three shell segments of the tail. The “vein” (the creature’s gut) should pull free as you tug at the tail fin. Dip the tail in hot sauce and enjoy. Cajuns also suck the “fat” or mustard-yellow liver out of the head portion—a practice it’s better for non-Cajuns not to think about. One commercial species, the White River, has green fat which turns most folks off, but might be appreciated on St. Patrick’s Day.

As food crayfish are as good as it gets. They are high in protein, low in saturated fat and they are tasty. They are high in cholesterol, but also contain various vitamins, iron, calcium and phosphorus. It would take more than six ounces of crayfish meat to exceed the American Heart Association’s accepted daily cholesterol limit (300 milligrams). For the mathematically inclined, a three-ounce serving of crayfish tails contains 178 milligrams of cholesterol and would be slightly less than an average serving.

And a 3.5 ounce serving contains only 75 calories for those who count such things. Of more concern would be anaphylactic shock for those allergic to shellfish. Anyone with a shellfish allergy should stay far away from cooking or eating crayfish or even using any utensils or anything else used in the preparation of a shellfish meal—it’s the most common food allergy and a reaction can range from mild to fatal. While it’s not common, such allergy can occur anytime, even if the victim never before has reacted.

But allergy and cholesterol whim-whams aside, many thousands of Cajuns and apprentice Cajuns gleefully dive into a heaping mound of crayfish, a crayfish etouffe, jambalaya or any of the many recipes where the mudbug flourishes with no more serious repercussions than a need for bicarbonate of soda.

The simplest recipe is boiled crayfish. Drop live crayfish in a rolling boil of seasoned water (crab boil or any of the many seafood seasonings will do) and rescue them when they float to the top, now a bright orange color.

It takes about seven pounds of crayfish to produce one pound of tail meat and the average serving is between three and four pounds of whole crayfish or five or six ounces of tail meat per person per meal. Obviously the serving depends on the appetite of the person. In 1991 a fellow named Steve Luman ate 30 pounds of crawfish in 30 minutes. The contest was co-sponsored by Weed Eater.

The easiest way to collect a meal is to buy the meat (you can buy live crayfish on the internet for between $5-$6 per pound) but if you want to get them yourself, a bait seine with two energetic youngsters, one on either end, is the weapon-of-choice. Someone upstream kicks over rocks and the disturbed crayfish drift into the net.

A slower and less ecologically-intrusive method is to carefully lift rocks in the shallows of clear streams and either hand grab the crayfish hiding below or position a dip net just behind the little fellow and feint at his upraised dukes. He’ll flip backward, right into the net. Put the rock back where it was, haven for the next resident.

And if you do collect your dinner from the stream or pond, refrigerate it immediately, but not below 38 degrees or the crayfish can die. Make sure they have oxygen and either eat them within 24 hours or freeze them cooked. Discard any dead crayfish before cooking.

Given that it takes a bunch of crayfish to feed a hungry horde of shellfish lovers, it is necessary for the little lobsters to practice crustacean love often and productively. A female crayfish will lay from 400 to 800 eggs.

Crayfish love occurs in fall and winter. The mating is both conventional and peculiar in that the male, after depositing sperm in the female, plugs her receptacle which serves both to keep sperm in and other males out. After the female lays her huge clutch of eggs, she fastens the egg masses to her swimming legs, called swimmerets, and hides until they hatch in a few weeks.

As is true of all prolific creatures, mortality is high—just about every fish that swims relishes a juicy crawdad, not to mention four and two-legged predators and even the occasional winged one.
Crayfish are largely a creature of the eastern half of the country—almost all of the estimated 350-400 species (no one knows for sure how many species there are) exist east of the Rocky Mountains and more than 90 percent of those are in the southeastern United States—oddly there are no crayfish in Africa.

But you’ll find them in every corner of Missouri, dukes raised, ready for a fight, ready to help you catch the smallmouth bass of a lifetime, ready to indicate the health of your favorite river, ready to grace your dinner plate with a heap of their peers—all-around good fellows.

“You get a line and I’ll get a pole
And we’ll go down to the crawdad hole….”

-30-

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