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Scotland’s Knoydart, you gotta just go see it

After another visit to the spectacular Knoydart Peninsula in northwest Scotland, I feel compelled to write about it.

Normally it is uncomfortable to broadcast publicly where I have been, but this community is worthy of praise.

If you like too hike, walk, hang out, or just relax in a quiet atmosphere far, far away from civilization, but with the things you have come to depend on or enjoy in day to day life, a few days in Inverie is right for you.

The fishing is mostly limited to five miles of the Inverie River, for Atlantic salmon and sea run trout. This is pay-to -play, not the kind of fishing we do in America.

Also, the hunting is totally different than what we do in America, or in Canada. You must be guided by a “stalker” (no, not the guy who just got out of jail for stalking his ex) and ghillie. You must take the shot they tell you to take, at the animal they tell you to shoot, even if it is not a trophy. You will get charged a lot of money just to go out, hit or miss, although hitting costs even more money. Then, if you like the head or cape of the animal you shot, you must pay for those separately, as well as for the meat. This style of hunting works for Europeans, and it is not my thing. It is unlikely to appeal to the vast number of American hunters. That said, I was very impressed by the fieldcraft and general fitness of Knoydart’s stalker Jim Brown. His knowledge of biology, ecology, forestry, and soil science speaks volumes about what it takes to be a hunting guide in Scotland. In contrast, here in America just about anyone can call himself a hunting guide, with the exception of a few key states like Maine and Alaska.

 

Sweet Fall is in the Air

Fall may be my favorite time of year, for umpteen reasons, only a few of which come to mind at any given moment. Until I walk outside and then recall another dozen reasons.

Clean air, freshly scented with a hearty, earthy smell fills the streets and woods alike.

Sunlight strong enough to throw objects into clear relief, but not strong enough to make you uncomfortably hot.

Cool nights, asking in the back of your head “Did you split and stack enough firewood for the long cold winter that is coming?”

Leaves turning from verdant to golden and scarlet.

Apples ripen, begging to be eaten, baked, distilled. Hard cider is popular everywhere around here, and applejack is even more popular.

Wild game begins to prick up its ears, sensing the change to leaner times is on that new wind, bringing with it hungry predators.

As a predator, my own senses begin to naturally sharpen. Tree stands are checked, shooting lanes trimmed. Hunts are planned with friends near and far.

Successful or not in taking something home, a hunt is time afield, with nature. Cannot beat that.

Enjoy Fall, friends, as it is also a metaphor for change, the end of growing things, harvesting of crops, aging, and sometimes the death that naturally follows the aging process. It is a pleasing reminder that our time here on Earth is simply fleeting.

Fall is a reminder to make every moment count, and make every moment positive to make it count the best and the most.

 

Liberals are filled up with hate, over nothing

Several years ago we caught two local guys stealing oak firewood, tree tops set aside along a field edge for cutting and splitting. By us, the owners.

Despite posted signs, the two men helped themselves, relying in their own minds on an old, long-gone approval they had enjoyed years and years prior, and which I had already revoked and conditioned on prior approval in the future.

These are not run-of-the-mill guys. Both are highly educated, tall, big, strong, married guys with plenty of confidence and income.

One, S, is a successful attorney, who risked his law license over some “free” firewood.

The other guy, J, is a historian, a curatorial professional with a government job, which is also at risk for committing theft. He’s no dummy.

When confronted, the lawyer left six voice mails on my phone, asking forgiveness. Months later, we encountered one another at a land protection dedication ceremony, and he came right up to me and said “We need to talk.” His remorse was evident, and I declined to talk further about it, because my prior experiences with him had demonstrated that his remorse and appreciation has previously been short-lived. And sure enough, his wife then acted unpleasantly, as if I had done something wrong when I next encountered her. As if!

Here’s the rub and the point of this: Both men (and their wives) are politically liberal. When I say liberal, they are as liberal as I am conservative-libertarian. They are both gun owners who denigrate the NRA, which is freeloading, in my opinion, but I have never brought it up with them. On almost all other issues they are very liberal.

We three are polar opposites, politically, which never bothered me and which I had always taken in stride. We rarely discussed politics in social contexts, preferring to talk about hunting, fishing, the kids, etc.

The difference is that I do not judge people based on their politics, and whether or not we disagree, or agree. These differences are as natural and naturally variable as enjoying chocolate versus vanilla ice cream, family backgrounds, etc. Rather, I mostly enjoy people in all their diversity.

Well, back to the firewood.

Much of the resolution to the firewood theft was conducted through emails.

The emails that I subsequently received from J were unbelievably vituperative, aggressive, accusatory. No remorse for his bad behavior, none, and filled with hate and criticism for me. He called me a “bad person,” though I have no criminal history or record, having NEVER been arrested or charged with a crime.

J was simply angry at me and caustically critical because of my political views. He labeled me a bad person because of my views, not my actions. He did not object to the (gentle) way we had resolved the firewood debacle.

Even S eventually fell back onto this same approach, bad-mouthing me to anyone who would listen to him, even people he saw in downtown Harrisburg on the street. Perhaps S feared being outed, and went on the offense in an effort to “inoculate” himself.

Many of these people he talked with naturally reported back to me on what they were hearing from S, wanting to know what could lead to such a raw outcome between us. I never told anyone the full story, because I did not want to impugn either of the men, though they had both earned it. Especially in the aftermath of the original theft. From what people have told me, S’s criticism of me is primarily rooted in his visceral distaste for my political views.

The difference between our behaviors in this case are a microcosm of the larger divide between liberals and everyone else in America, and this double standard is not working. It is not good.

Through constant bombardment in public schools, colleges, the media, and the entertainment industry Liberals have been taught and conditioned to utterly hate and despise conservatives, Republicans, religious Christians, and now even “white” people.

To Liberals, the moderate Republican Koch brothers are evil, cruel, mean, despised, demonized, even when they donate hundreds of millions of dollars, but equal billionaire capitalists Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are lauded no matter what they do.

ANTIFA and BLM’s violent war on free speech and the First Amendment rights of political opponents is an epic example of the natural results of modern Liberalism. They actually go so far as to say that their suppression of other’s rights is “resistance” and “self defense.” That is pure crap.

This unhealthy dynamic and double standard has reached the point where merely disagreeing with a liberal on policy issues results in someone being branded racist, homophobic, mean, sexist etc etc etc. This is utter crap, of course.

Used to be that Liberals were open-minded, considerate, reflective, etc. Those qualities are now long gone, and they have been replaced by naked contempt and hate for people who disagree with them and their policy goals.

Ironically, the more rational and articulate the disagreement, the worse the liberal’s hatred. Wanting my son’s Boy Scouts troop to be free of anything sexual, because it creeps me out that some adults want to sexualize little kids, has liberals branding me and others nationwide as “haters” because we want the BSA institution to remain above politicization.

This Liberal hatred is a form of intense bigotry, and it has deeply divided Americans, corroding our national soul to the point where everyone is feeling raw and angry. It has caused liberals to go on murderous rampages with guns, shooting people with whom they have a political disagreement.

For a long time conservatives thought they were merely under disagreement with liberals, whereas Liberals were at war. Now we see it; we are at war.

And now we have arrived at the latest results of that war, 59 dead and about 600 people wounded in Los Vegas.

Liberals need to ask themselves if this is really, truly what they want. If it isn’t, then the time for soul-searching and making amends has arrived.

Liberals who disagree with this politically correct war on America and Americans, your voice is needed.

I am crying over spilt milk

Whether FakeBook causes, accelerates, or encourages the split-up of long standing friendships and friendly acquaintance-type relationships is a subject of endless discussion.

People who for many years, even decades, shared affection for and cheerful enjoyment of one another’s company and personality are now not talking, communicating, or sharing. Instead, one party has abruptly broken off entirely, leaving the other party bemused, hurt, and or frustrated. The drama can be plain silly, because we are talking about adults here who post histrionic things like “If you voted for ________, then just un-friend me, now, please, I beg of you.”

Or it can be more subtle, with people hitting the “ignore” button on a relationship, pretty much tossing the friendship away without the pain of actually breaking off.

This one-sided dynamic plays out most visibly on FakeBook because “likes,” comments, and the number of “friends” are actual numeric measures of a relationship’s quality. And when you start seeing a numeric down-trend in one area, you often see the actual end coming quicker and quicker.

And what is the primary cause of these fractured friendships?

Why political differences, naturally.

Do you recall the poll done about eight or ten months ago (Pew, Gallup? I don’t recall which firm did it, but it was a real polling firm and the results are believable), which showed 39% of self-identified liberals can and will live with a conservative, versus nearly double that for conservatives willing to live with liberals?

That poll showed what many of us have observed personally for some time, and increasingly over the past year: Political correctness has destroyed liberals’ ability to live up to the qualities they claim ownership of, like being tolerant, open-minded, and accepting of differences.

PC has become so intense that now simply belonging to the wrong political party, driving the wrong vehicle, or EVEN HAVING THE WRONG SKIN COLOR is grounds for heaps of burning hatred and criticism. Nothing about this behavior is open-minded. It is not tolerant. And watching people walk around with a burden of hate for all kinds of classes of people makes them look and feel a lot like the other side, the KKK or neo-Nazi side, who are ALSO intolerant and violently hateful.

While the few decades-long friends I and others I know have lost through FakeBook were not violent people, their visceral hatred still burned bright.

Where someone’s burning hate becomes physical violence is a subject for philosophy books, because gut instinct tells you that one naturally follows the other. Seemingly uncharacteristic behavior for the loving and gentle relationship we had enjoyed lo these many years, even decades, suddenly there was the hatred, the intolerance, the violent words, and then the break.

Not one conservative I know of has broken off with the liberals in their lives (because they are liberals), via FakeBook or any other way, but the number of liberals who have broken off with people who are not liberals is legion and legendary.

These liberals’ behavior is the very definition of intolerance.

Do you ever wonder why there is no ‘world peace’?

I do wonder now, and I always have wondered since I was a kid, when the Vietnam War was going strong.

Well, part of the answer to why there is no world peace is that those people who most assiduously claim ownership of being peaceful are those who in personal practice are the least peaceful.

During the Vietnam War, being pro-peace meant being against American war-making in Asia; but those same anti-war people were not against Asians making war against other Asians, or against America. So they were not really, truly pro peace. They were simply anti-America, despite living in and enjoying America.

One test of being peaceful is your ability and willingness to accept differences between one’s self and other people without getting angry, hateful, judgmental, accusatory, or violent. When that inability to accept others turns to intolerance, why then…there is an absence of peace. And you are not a peaceful person. And it is self-evident to those around you.

And no, demanding that people adopt your way of thinking is not being tolerant. Humans have been doing things a few certain ways for thousands of years, and if you want to deviate from that, then asking for tolerance is fair. Demanding acceptance, acquiescence etc at the cost of breaking off (a form of coercion and violence) is unreasonable.

I am crying over all this spilt milk, because to not cry is to lie to myself, and to make pretend that certain unhealthy dynamics are not happening.

I am sad at the lost friendships, whether mine or those of friends of mine, for sure. I am also sad about an America that has everything, certainly more than any other country, and yet is being torn apart by violence and hate in the name of “peace” and “tolerance.”

The relationships between fellow Americans are being torn apart, over what?

This is spilt milk, and I prefer to cry over this now and have a positive, healing, peaceful conversation with someone about this, rather than later cry over something else being spilt as a result of no attempts at healing having been made and the logical outcome of hate and intolerance come to fruition.

Historic American Art vs. NAZI ISIS People

In the 1930s, the German NAZI party identified “degenerate” art that was supposedly representative of “degenerate” culture, officially unfit for Germans.

Paintings, sculptures, drawings, pottery, books, poetry, you name it, if it had any artistic value, the NAZIs scrutinized it carefully. And if that art did not match the NAZI’s new standards, then it was forbiddden, burned, destroyed, or looted and hidden away, to be ransomed and sold off to future buyers outside of the ‘culturally supreme’ Deutchland.

Entire museum collections and privately owned collections throughout NAZI-occupied Europe were looted, damaged, and or destroyed, because the art did not comport with the new standard these Ultra Germans had created. Priceless artifacts were lost forever, at best melted down for their precious metal value.

If you want to see the long-term impacts of this intolerant approach to art, use www.duckduckgo.com to search the phrase “nazi looted art,” and marvel at the sad results. Real Western culture took a huge hit from the neanderthal NAZIs, and the ill effects are still felt today.

Fast forward six decades to ISIS, the puritanical Muslim movement that uses extreme violence and sadistic cruelty to achieve political domination. A lot like the NAZIs, come to think of it.

ISIS has a thing against most art and even historic artifacts, if they do not fit neatly into the Sharia law that ISIS followers believe in.

Ancient Buddhist cliff carvings, imposing and inspiring…detonated into rubble, by ISIS.

Ancient Assyrian cities, buildings, from the beginning of recorded human history….bulldozed and detonated into shards of broken rock, by ISIS.

Important archaeological digs providing useful history, bulldozed by ISIS.

Entire churches looted of anything of immediate value, then burned down, by ISIS.

Entire museum collections either destroyed, or looted and re-sold on the international black market, by ISIS.

Fast forward just a few years to ANTIFA, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, etc., and now we have priceless American artifacts that belong to the public being outright destroyed by mobs from these groups.

Irreplaceable and beautiful bronze statues of long-dead generals and soldiers are being removed and destroyed either by street thugs enabled by big city mayors, or by the big city mayors themselves.

This is a war on history and art no different than the NAZIs or ISIS.

At the very best, this is simply the mistake of applying new understandings to old history.

Oh sure, the neanderthals claim that these statues are memorials to bad ideas, and sad times, and to some extent there may be some vague shred of truth in that. But to keep these cultural artifacts, these works of high art, is no endorsement of what they may have once captured long, long ago.

Rather, these statues are mute testimonials to our nation’s history, its struggles, and its triumphs. The fact that the Confederacy did not win, due to the intervention and huge sacrifice by hundreds of thousands of Caucasian men from the north, is the real story of these old monuments.

Today we have one American political party that is increasingly at open war with every basic value and idea that undergirds America, as it was founded. These public square symbols are caught up in that party’s war.

That political party has more and more officials doing cheap political stunts, like seizing old bronze statues in the public square, and declaring them “Cherem” (unfit, like ISIS does to the churches it burns), and culturally unfit, like the NAZIs did.

Frankly, there is zero difference between these mayors, and Virginia governor Terry McCauliffe, and the other totalitarian movements that preceded them, like the NAZIs, ISIS, and the Soviets (who tore down beautiful old Russian statues and replaced them with boring, utilitarian statues of Lenin and Stalin meant to project an intimidating political message).

Whether these mayors and governors act unilaterally and use publicly owned machines to take them down, or if they allow their allied street thugs from ANTIFA and BLM to tear them down, while the city police are ordered to make no arrests, it makes no difference.

In the end, these mayors and their violent street soldiers are no different than the worst people in history. But if they win, you can bet they will erect statues of themselves, glorifying their total transformation of America to…God knows what.

Now they are talking about destroying the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC. No lie.

I say we make a stand like a stone wall to protect this historic American art, and stop this insanity, stop this assault on America, by these modern day NAZIs and ISIS thugs.

Brown Shirts on the march…Who will meet them face to face?

Across America, especially at tech giants like Google and Facebook, and at university campuses, the brown shirts are on the march.

The original Brown Shirts were the early street thugs used by the Nazis to take control of German society in the 1920s and 1930s, from the streets to the families who walked on the streets, all the way to the top of the government.

Once in power, the Nazis imposed draconian speech and behavior codes, cowing the citizenry into obeying even the most horrendous, cruel laws that followed. Do we need to delve any deeper into the history of Nazism, and their mirror image, the Stalinists of Russia, to understand what is actually happening here in the Land of the Free?

Well, yes, you might take the time to read up on that history, because it is repeating itself here in America, with these “speech codes” at Google, Facebook, and college campuses.

These speech codes are often nebulous, hard to define, and aimed at eliminating the mere questioning of an extreme political and cultural perspective. Speech codes are purely political in purpose.

Both Facebook and Google have been in the news recently for summarily firing employees who even dare to question the politically correct beliefs at each company, who merely question the brown shirts values and behavior.

Another example is Ms. Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Washington State. Because she politely declined to make a custom floral arrangement for a same-sex marriage. She did this because of her religious faith. Agree or disagree with her, this is her right, but the ACLU and the State of Washington are using lawfare to drive this nice grandma into poverty. These two lawsuits against her, both commercial and personal lawsuits, one private the other “official,” are designed to crush this woman’s right to free speech and religious faith.

You would think Grandma Stutzman is protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution, but to the brown shirts at the ACLU and those running Washington State’s government, they don’t care. What they care about is driving Grandma into submission, and gaining control of America through intimidation and threats of lawsuits that can bankrupt people for living a Christian life.

And you say there oughtta be a law! Well right there is a good example of where America needs a law, to stop these kinds of punitive, fake lawsuits.

Maybe the best example of the worst speech code is the assertion of “white privilege,” the single most racist statement you will encounter in a full year of your life. This ugly example of racism sums up all of the other, gentler version of speech control, and you can go find videos of people physically assaulting “white” people because of the color of their skin, because that skin color is inherently evil, and bad, and…racist.

Yes, the irony of beating people with the wrong skin color is lost on the people who are doing it, those being the racist members of racist groups like “Black Lives Matter.”

Even if you are not physically beaten, if you do not obey the speech code, then you are shamed, bullied, fired, expelled, and personally destroyed. Or at least people will try.

Recall that about six years ago here in Harrisburg, a non-profit “environmental” organization called PennFuture tried to get a local meteorologist fired from his news station, because he had the audacity to disagree with PennFuture’s assertion about climate change (well, back then it was “global warming”).

This is thuggery, pure and simple.

And just like the Brown Shirts did on Kristallnacht, American brown shirts go on violent, destructive rampages from Missouri to New York to Berkeley, California. This is also thuggery.

On the flip side, try to imagine a large group of conservative Americans similarly forming up to express their political views through the use of street violence, and public shaming, and firing, lawsuits, and personal destruction. This group would be roughly the size of the existing organized speech code groups like BLM and its friends, about 30,000-50,000 active activists.

This conservative group would be highly coordinated, highly organized, with well-implemented transportation anywhere in the country, ready to go where needed pretty quickly.  Just like the BLM, Code Pink, Occupy and other paid activists groups.

Just think about that, and ask yourself how such a group would be portrayed in the media. It wouldn’t be positive, that’s for sure!

And yet we do in fact have a highly organized, increasingly armed, well funded leftist militia engaged in controlling speech and behavior across America, working hand-in-hand with the media. Right now they are pretty much unimpeded.

The Brown Shirts are truly on the march, right here, right now.

Question is, what are we going to do about it?

Who is going to go meet them face to face, nose to nose, to defend our Constitutional republic?

UPDATE August 11, 2017: Last night, while reading a positive Washington Post article about violent anarchists, it occurred to me that something is in the air here. If a little-known blogger in Central PA is writing about it, and then the Washington Post is promoting it, then this is a timely subject. The Washington Post article was full of beautifully staged photos of the black-clothed anarchists, obviously trying to make them more personable, more understandable. In this article, everyone on the streets who is not an anarchist is repeatedly described as “right wing,” though none of the leftists, liberals, etc are ever described as left wing, though the Washington Post needs no analysis to uncover its hard-left bias and purpose. Legba Carrefour is photographed with a wooden baseball bat over his shoulder, posing like a badass tough guy. Whether he is or is not (I say he is not) a true tough guy, or if he only pretends to be a tough guy when he is surrounded by hundreds of rampaging violent packs of fellow fools, it is not important. What is important is that America has a growing problem with violent Brown Shirts clad in black, and their enablers all the way up to Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Barack Obama, all of whom say nothing negative about these violent thugs, but actually seem to encourage them. Meanwhile, on the other side, we have RINO Republicans everywhere at every level engaged in influence peddling, using government to enrich themselves, and essentially blocking patriots from safeguarding America.  Something has to give way.

UPDATE August 13th: If the awful violence in Virginia is any indication, the crazy, violent left has managed to provoke the right wing crazies, who for decades have been an embarrassing and irrelevant speck of dust on our national political stage. They are the other side of the Black Lives Matter coin- racist, ignorant, and spoiling for a fight. Until now, no one bothered with them, because they were meaningless. Intriguingly, Virginia governor Terry McCauliffe refuses to rebuke or condemn BLM or any of the other violent leftists who attacked police, peaceful protestors, and white bystanders long before the biggest violence broke out. McCauliffe is only condemning the two dozen Nazi flag waving idiots and the murderous guy who drove his car into the communist flag waving idiots who attacked his car. To Governor McCauliffe, violence is only bad when it’s not his people doing it. It’s just fine when his people do it.  President Trump correctly identifies all racism and all bigotry and all violence as unacceptable. And so we see what force is behind most of the political violence in America now: radical anarchists and their sore loser Democrat enablers. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are just as responsible for this violence as the goons in the street, because they could easily call for it to end. Although now I’m starting to wonder if they could reel it back in, even if they wanted to. They’ve set a forest fire decades in the making. Can anyone put it out….?

UPDATE August 15, 2017: As the actual facts begin to trickle out, mostly in the form of video of the march and the violence, and review of official Charlottesville city documents, one thing is clear: The mayor created the conditions for the violence to happen. The mayor knew exactly what he was doing when he arranged to have the previously permitted kook right march moved from Emancipation Park (formerly Robert E. Lee Park) to an open area, so that the kook left would surround the marchers on all sides. Also, the city police were instructed to contain the kook right marchers and only allow them to exit by walking through the violent throng of Black Lives Matter and ANTIFA thugs surrounding them. This meant that no matter what, physical contact between the two sides was guaranteed. On top of this, the city police were instructed to not make arrests. So the net result is a city administration that coordinates with street thugs and its own police force to bring terrible violence upon peaceful protestors. The neo-NAZI marchers may be morons, but they have a right to march peacefully, which they were doing until they were attacked by the moron leftists. The mayor is an accessory to the murder of the woman, and the US Justice Department should bring charges against the mayor for his direct role in guaranteeing violence and the suppression of the permitted marchers’ civil rights.

And even more to the point, the mainstream media has continued to act as a partisan political arm of one political party. I saw a screen shot of CNN actually writing “Trump defends racist marchers,” which is a complete and total lie. At a certain point these attacks on Trump are an attack on the political process, because these are undocumented political contributions to a political party. The Federal Elections Commission needs to start documenting these political contributions by political organizations formerly known as “media” and “the press.”

And even more to the point, where on earth are Obama, Clinton, and Sanders? Why are they not denouncing the leftist violence? Do they really want street battles reminiscent of Weimar Germany, when the kook left Communists and the kook right NAZIs battled each other across the country? Do we really want that kind of political instability? Dear liberal friends: You really do not want this kind of instability.

Keep yer dirty mitts off our history

July 1st is the anniversary of the beginning of hostilities at Gettysburg, the beginning of the end of the first American Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression, or War Between the States).

For weeks, anti history activists have been openly discussing their intentions to defile Gettysburg battlefield’s monuments and markers.

Following recent anti history actions in New Orleans, where the mayor simply removed valuable old Confederate army statues he said were “offensive,” there is now a war against American history.

This attempt to destroy historic statues  and markers here is the same as ISIS blowing up churches, synagogues, and Buddhist carvings, as well as quite ancient carvings from Sumerian civilization.

In ancient Egypt it was fairly common for subsequent rulers to chisel out the names of a politically incorrect forebear from the many stone monuments that relayed the nation’s history

It’s all an attempt to destroy history so it can be rewritten to suit a modern narrative, be it now or 3,000 years ago.

History belongs to everyone. You cannot rewrite it, or destroy it, or damage it. If there is something in history you don’t like, then don’t judge it by today’s standards. Rather, try to understand what was in the minds of the people originally involved.

That understanding is how we use history to inform our decisions today. It’s why so much effort is put into researching history, and uncovering artifacts. We want to know. Well, civilized people want to know.

The people threatening to destroy Gettysburg don’t want to know and they don’t want you to know. They want ignorance, so they can present an alternative rendition that suits their political views today.

They’d probably write a textbook about how the evil Republicans were defeated by ANTIFA kids at Gettysburg. Or something like that.

The rest of America has a message for the disrupters and anti history people: Keep yer dirty mitts of our history.

Why I Trap

Trapping wild animals for food, fur, and pest control is as old as the human race, tens of thousands of years in action.

The traps may have changed over time, but the purposes have not. Pests still ruin valuable crops, eat valuable farm animals, and break into homes and ruin stored food. Humans still prefer to eat wild meat, which is tastier, cleaner, and healthier than agribusiness meat. And humans still prefer to wear wild furs that are warmer, prettier, and more natural than human-made fabrics. That furs are renewable, sustainable, biodegradable, and natural adds to their appeal.

But what has also happened over time is the incredibly abundant material success of Western civilization has created an unnatural gap between consumers of food and goods, and the natural world of forestry, farming, and natural resource management that creates those very same consumer goods.

Frankly, Americans and Europeans are largely spoiled.  Nearly everything we need is easily obtainable. Very few of us have to work hard for food, or shelter, the necessities that keep most humans personally toiling in dirty agriculture daily around the globe. Even our poor have expensive personal items like TVs and phones.

Never will I forget a family member decrying “those evil power companies,” years ago, because she did not like the air pollution resulting from power generation. It did not occur to her that her role as a consumer and generous user of electric power made her the real driver behind electricity generation, as well as all of the associated processes branching out from it.

And similarly, the ease of “shopping” for an unimaginably rich and diverse array of food items, so many made to suit nuanced tastes, especially meats, has resulted in a populace that does not understand the basics of what it takes to put meat and food on those same supermarket shelves.

Enter trapping. At first glance to the average American it appears to involve the sadistic mistreatment of very cute, furry animals that would beg us for their lives in humorous dialects of English, if we would only let them. Silly depiction, yes, but opposition to trapping is even more silly than imaginary talking cartoon animals.

Here are some reasons why I trap: We find a mother turtle, attempting to lay another clutch of eggs along the rail trail, the loose pea gravel of which provides perfect conditions for holding, incubating, and hatching turtle eggs. Three feet away is her previous nest, torn up, with raccoon tracks all over the destroyed turtle eggs, eaten by the raccoon. Raccoons are abundantly dead along roadsides everywhere because they are artificially overabundant in the wild, and especially in suburbia, where they have no real predators other than random cars. There are too damned many raccoons, and they are having a disproportionately high impact on other animals, like turtles, nearly all of which are in decline across the world.

Another reason: The PA Game Commission and many other wildlife agencies nationwide are studying why whippoorwills are in such steep decline. One of the reasons is they are ground nesting birds, which makes their nests easy prey for the raccoons, possums, and skunks that pulse out in unnaturally high numbers from the habitat created for them in suburban sprawl environments. The one place I have seen and listened to these sweet nocturnal birds is a place where we aggressively trap, thinning out the artificially high population of ground mammals that would otherwise raid the whippoorwill nests. We create breathing room for the birds to nest and rear young. The same holds true for grouse, turkeys, and woodcock, all ground nesting birds.

I could go on with a long list of cute feathered and furry animals that are in trouble because of predation by skunks, raccoons, and possums, but it should not be necessary. I prefer these animals because they are colorful, or sweet, or rare. Some of these animals are in real trouble, and if not for trapping of their predators, they might be gone altogether. Any thinking person will join me in preferring these uncommon birds and animals over the overabundant, artificially common racoon, possum, or skunk.

Given that choice, trapping is the natural way to preserve animals we want. We remove the animals we don’t want. I trap because I love wildlife, and given certain population dynamics, as a Nature lover, I face certain natural tradeoffs that I must consider. In order to love and enjoy one little birdy, I must eliminate a whole bunch of its predators.

What amazes me is how little most people know or want to know about trapping. They write it off with the wave of a hand. They seem unimpressed that we can easily target certain types of animals, and thereby avoid other kinds of animals in our traps. We can selectively harvest overabundant predators, to help cute, little, rare and endangered critters.

Trapping is not random, it is not haphazard, it is not cruel, and for me it is not about money. For those of us who love Nature and all in it, trapping is really the only way to ensure that Nature in all her facets sticks around. That, or level all of the large lot suburban sprawl developments and pack everyone into cities.

After all, it is suburban back yards that give us the worst of the critters needing the most control: Raccoons, possums, and skunks.

 

In defense of Mr Coffee

We enjoy coffee in this house.

Rather, to be honest, coffee is a necessity to get a day started properly.

Just one or two cups, and we are off and running full bore.

The question is, How should the coffee be created in the first place?

One person likes the fancy high-tech coffee makers, with all their automated bells and whistles, timers that people outside your home can set their watches by, nuclear heaters, supersonic filters, and so on. You push a button and things start to whirl, hidden gears begin to spin and interconnect, a promising mechanical thrumming starts, and then you wait a hell of a long time while all of the various moving parts begin to work together to make a black liquid known as coffee.

Me, the other person here, likes coffee made easy.

I like Mister Coffee, the low-technology coffee brewer that is easy to set up, easy to turn on, easy to load, easy to run, and easy to clean and shut off.

Unlike the fancy NASA spaceship – inspired coffee makers, with the flick of the ON switch, Mister Coffee quickly pumps really hot water over the coffee grounds and provides hot coffee faster than I can boil it on the stove top.

There are no moving parts in Mister Coffee, no hidden functions, no tiny gears, capacitors or microprocessors that the NSA can hack into to read your kitchen habits.

So when the umpteenth fancy pants ultra-tech coffee maker dies a sudden and unexpected technologically complex death requiring a full autopsy to understand, you can imagine the conversations we have here…

Me: “Well, your latest contraption died, and now we are back to boiling the coffee grounds in a pot, or drinking yechy instant coffee. What do you say we go with the old tried and true Mister Coffee?”

Her: “But I like all those gadgets! I like setting the coffee maker to automatically begin brewing at six AM, and then finding it in flames at 6:15 when I come down into the kitchen.”

Me: “So by being sarcastic about your own choices, are you finally admitting that these high-tech coffee makers universally suck, despite their equally high prices?”

Her: “No, I am not yet ready to give up. While you were gone, I ordered one and have already sent it back after it failed to work properly the first morning. Then I looked at the online reviews and saw that I should not have ordered it in the first place. Another new one arrives tomorrow, same manufacturer. After that, I have another brand to choose from.”

Me: “OK, so….we have still no coffee maker? And you do realize that for twenty bucks, we could have by now had a simple, low-tech, high-function coffee maker on the counter?”

Her: “But I don’t want a Mister Coffee! It’s so boring!”

And so on.

This same conversation has been had in some version about a half dozen times over the same number of years.

Meanwhile, in my own little domain, I continue to use the same Mister Coffee I acquired nearly twenty years ago. Sure, Tim dropped the glass pot early one deer season morning and broke it, back in 2008, I think, but he easily grabbed a new one to replace it, and it is still going strong.

Here is the truth: a) Simplicity trumps complexity almost every time across life’s landscape, as increased complexity results in greater, more expensive, more “exciting” breakdowns, b) coffee is a simple drink, and does not require complex machines to make it, c) low cost and high function trump high cost and low function.

Perhaps there is some hidden aroma associated with fancy coffee machines, and perhaps this hidden aroma stimulates an ego gland buried deep within the brain, resulting in an enhanced coffee drinking experience. All those lights and computer-driven processes could be stimulating on a amusement park ride, so maybe that is happening with these coffee machines, too.

But as far as I am concerned, by the time my fellow coffee addicts have started and finished their Western version of the Matcha, Chado, Sado, and Chanoyu services, I am long gone out the door, fully charged, ready for the day ahead.

Thank you, Mister Coffee, for your constance, your ease of use, and your rugged, low-cost performance.

Here’s to ya!

A Vulture’s Nose is Deep Stuff

As I am one of those many outdoorsmen who feels the presence of God most when outside in the wild (as did Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Byzantine monks, most Eastern religious founders, moved by the spirit present when interposing interference is removed), and who daily revels in the magical mysteries of nature and her myriad inhabitants, two days ago I experienced one of those affirmative moments I just had to share here.

Let me begin in a normally circuitous way.

Among our friends, the cabin frig is a notorious repository for hilarious experiments in food storage. Examples run from milk containers constantly long past the “Use By” date, which poses no boundary for me when making morning covfefe, to plastic containers containing mysterious fuzzy delicacies once lovingly stashed in misplaced anticipation of an immediate followup feed some distant time before.

So the other day, I grabbed what I thought was a container of meat pottage of recent vintage, only to discover it held the sad remains of a once-proud free range tuna fish turned to tame tuna salad some weeks prior. Upon opening the plastic container, it was clear this material could be frozen for trap bait come November, or taken to a regular dumping point deep in the forest, 100 yards from the front porch, where several trail cameras record and document the many cool forest denizens that come to explore the enticing odors thereupon.

Unwilling to risk the entire freezer contents to this nasty smelling mess, option B was followed. Taking water along to help rinse out the container only added yet more stink to the spot.

I retreated from that odorous field of battle and took up my point of respite on a chair on said porch, thinking of all the hard physical labor awaiting me, once more responsible instincts took control of my limbs. Within minutes, and I mean just a few minutes, a handful of black-headed vultures began circling the spot of spoilage, some diving down below the tree canopy to more personally investigate the enticing smell.

To me, seeing this is a magnificent experience and feeling. What a display of the incredible smelling ability of these birds!

Yes, vultures are carrion eaters, and they are supposed to be able to smell well.

Well, to me, being able to smell a few ounces of old tuna salad water dumped out in the Big Woods in the middle of a vast forest complex, from miles away, is not just good sense of smell. It is beyond imaginably incredible.

We are talking about parts per trillion of stink being immediately picked up by a winged creature far, far away. What sophistication! What finely honed senses! It is miraculous, and to me, it is a sign of the hand of God, because only God can create such complexity. Human attempts are not even cheap imitations.

Which takes me to this perhaps unexpected conclusion: I do not understand the use of recreational drugs. The free and easy endorphin “high” that my brain feels from witnessing the vultures’ display of smell capability is intense, because I appreciate what it represents. Just minutes later a beautiful ruby throated hummingbird buzzed the porch, inspecting our colorful (flower-colored) American flag gently luffing in the breeze.

Hanging momentarily a few feet away from me, I marveled at its minuscule dose of radiant iridescence.

And then as the hummingbird buzzed away at an impossibly high speed (I mean, how can such a small animal achieve such a high rate of speed so quickly? Another miracle of Creation!), my brain experienced yet another rush of self-induced stimulants. No outside drugs required. No danger, no addiction, no expense, no law breaking.

My takeaway from the vultures: Don’t take Nature for granted. She is everywhere, the handmaiden of God, here to show us The Way. If we just open our eyes and revel in the mystery.