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Some reflections on yesterday’s Election Day results

Yesterday was Primary Election Day here in Pennsylvania, and I was up to my eyeballs in electioneering/ volunteering.

Setting aside politics yesterday after lunch time, I helped bury in the ground a beautiful and perfect 21-year-old young lady who was killed the day after graduating from the University of Miami. Her name is Elizabeth Goldenberg, and she was from nearby Hummelstown, practically a suburb of Harrisburg these days. As her sobbing parents and siblings stood by, a large and far-flung community gathered around to give support, caring, and sympathy.

Young Elizabeth was killed in a boating accident while touring the Everglades with her family. She went from award-winning sky-is-the-limit talent to snuffed out like a light switch had been pushed. She was a hugely positive force surrounded by affectionate people who basked in her glow.

In moments like this I question my faith, I question God, because I can think of plenty of bad people who deserve to die, and yet this perfect young person is prematurely cut down. It is the essence of makes no sense and unfair.

It is hard to shake that feeling, and so that is also my thinking about the politics results: a lot of it makes no sense and is patently unfair.

While it is true that all my candidates but one prevailed yesterday, three issues nag at my mind:

  1. Republican Establishment is still inflicting self-damage by protecting poor candidates who are weak go-along get-along types, while stopping strong candidates from getting ahead. We saw that with the county judicial endorsement. The Dauphin GOP continues to artificially undermine the strongest Republicans and thereby alienate conservative grass roots voters, which the party needs. Unfair and self-defeating.
  2. I feel bad for Josh Feldman, candidate for the Uptown Harrisburg magistrate position, held by Barb Pianka. Feldman is a recent transplant to this area, with no roots, and had done no work related to the job, and yet he threw himself into the fray at the urging of other people. You might say he was used to try and settle a political score. If you read this blog, then you know I played a role in that race. It still brings me no pleasure to have played that role, and now more than ever I feel bad for Mr. Feldman. Hopefully he is able to get over the hard work and big expenditures he invested and get back to his pet service business in one piece. Whoever encouraged you to run was not your friend, Josh. Unfair to the unsuspecting.
  3. All the mainstream media’s anti-Trump fake news and fake leaks and fake analysis and fake issues and fake chaos are aimed at one thing: Obfuscation and diversion, hindering President Trump from digging into the morass and removing the cancer. For fifty years the anti-America left (which is in many ways lead by the mainstream media) has quietly infiltrated and taken over a great deal of American government. Had Hillary Clinton been elected, those bureaucrats were all poised to get it over the goal line, a line of no return, and fully take control of America. If Trump is able to “drain the swamp,” then all of that effort will have been for naught. Impeachment? After 100 days in office? For what? How? After Hillary Clinton’s lying and cheating and sale of emails with secret classified information, and sale of key uranium stockpiles to the Russian government, no one is more due for a trial and jail than she. The US media has become a partisan machine disconnected from real journalism, and so they treat Trump and his supporters unfairly.

While shoveling dirt on sweet Elizabeth’s coffin yesterday, miserable at the unfairness of her death, I was also struck by how meaningless so much of our material life is, how much we Americans take for granted, how relatively easy our lives are, compared to how most other humans live, and how we so easily fill up our lives with stupid, shallow things.

What is most important are relationships: Relationships between old friends, family members who respect one another, business colleagues, neighbors, and so on. Appreciate what we have. Hold our loved ones tight. In the end, it’s all ya got.

 

Bear and Deer Seasons in the Rearview Mirror

The old joke about Pennsylvania having just two seasons rings as true today as it did fifty years ago: Road construction season in the Keystone State seems to be a nine-month-long affair everywhere we go, a testament to how not to overbuild public infrastructure, if you cannot maintain it right.

And the two-week rifle deer season brings out the passion among nearly one million hunters like an early Christmas morning for little kids (I doubt the Hanukkah bush thing ever took off).  All year long people plan their hunts with friends and relatives, take off from work, spend lots of money on gear, equipment, ammunition, food, and gas, and then go off to some place so they can report back their tales of cold and wet and woe to their warmer family members at home. These deer hunts are exciting adventures on the cheap. No bungee jumping, mountain cliff climbing, jumping through flaming hoops or parachuting out of airplanes are needed to generate the thrill of a lifetime as a deer or bear in range gives you a chance to be the best human you can be.

Both bear and deer seasons flew by too fast, and I wish I could do them over, not because I have regrets, but because these moments are so rare, and so meaningful. I love being in the wild, and the cold temperatures give me impetus to keep moving.

One reflection on these seasons is how the incredible acorn crop state-wide kept bear and deer from having to leave their mountain fortresses to find food. Normally animals must move quite a bit to find the browse and nuts they need to nourish their bodies. Well, not this year. Even yesterday I was tripping over super abundant acorns lying on every trail, human or animal made.

When acorns are still lying in the middle of a trail in December, where animals walk, then you know there are a lot of nuts, because normally those low-hanging fruits would be gobbled right up weeks ago.

After still hunting and driving off the mountain I hunt on most up north, it became clear the bear and deer were holed up in two very rugged, remote, laurel-choked difficult places to hunt. Any human approach is quickly heard, seen, or smelled, giving the critters their chance to simply walk away before the clumsy human arrives. All these animals had to do was get up a couple times a day, stretch, walk three feet and eat as many acorns as they want, and then return to their hidden beds.

This made killing them very difficult, and the lower bear and deer harvests show that. God help us if Sudden Oak Death blight hits Pennsylvania, because that will spell the end of the abundant game animals we enjoy, as well as the dominant oak forests they live in.

The second reflection is how we had no snow until Friday afternoon, two days ago, and by then we had already sidehilled on goat paths, and climbed steep mountains, as much as we were going to at that late point in the season. With snow, hunting is a totally different experience: The quarry stands out against the white back ground, making them easier to spot and kill, and snow tracking shows you where they were, where they were going, and when. These are big advantages to the hunter. Only on Friday afternoon did we see all the snowy tracks up top, leading over the steep edge into Truman Run. With another two hours, we could have done a small push and killed a couple deer. But not this year. Maybe in flintlock season!

And finally, I reflect on the people and the beautiful wild places we visited.

I already miss the time I spent with my son on stand the first week. He was with me when I took a small doe with a historic rifle that had not killed since October 1902, the last time its first owner hunted and a month before the gun was essentially put into storage until now.

And then my son had a terrible case of buck fever when a huge buck walked past him well within range of his Ruger .357 Magnum rifle, and he missed, fell down, and managed to somehow eject the clip and throw the second live round into the leaves while the deer kept moseying on by. When I found my son minutes later, he was sitting in a pile of leaves where the deer had stood, throwing the leaves around and crying in a rage that we needed to get right after the deer and hunt them down. The boy was a mess. It was delightful to watch.

I miss the wonderful men I hunted with, and I miss watching other parents take their own kids out, to pass on the ancient skill set as old as humankind.

It is an unfortunate necessity to point out that powerline contractor Haverfield ruined the Opening Day of deer season for about three dozen hunters by arriving unannounced and trespassing in force to access a powerline for annual maintenance in Dauphin County. We witnessed an unparalleled arrogance, dismissiveness, and incompetence by Haverfield staff and ownership that boggles the mind. I am a small business owner, and I’d be bankrupt in three days if I behaved like that. Only the intervention of a Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer saved the day, and that was because the Haverfield fools were going onto adjoining State Game Lands, where they also had no business being during deer season.

Kudos to PPL staff for helping us resolve this so it never happens again.

Folks, we will see you in flintlock season, just around the corner. Now it is time to trap for the little ground predators that raid the nests of ducks, geese, grouse, turkey, woodcock, and migratory songbirds. If you hate trapping, then you hate cute little ducklings, because the super overabundant raccoons, possums, skunks, fox, and coyotes I pursue eat their eggs in the nests, and they eat the baby birds when they are most vulnerable.

 

The power of Dad

Call me patriarchal, but the power of “Dad” still awes me, as it has so deeply shaped all human cultures from our beginning.

At his best, Dad is provider, protector, guardian, best friend, guide, advisor, partner….Someone a boy looks up to all his life, wants to emulate, and shares his intimate life struggles with.

Dad is that one person you can always count on, no matter what. It’s a pretty potent symbol and subject. Everyone loves “Dad.”

Fatherhood is so powerful that it can be used to hurt, too, and some father figures don’t seem to recognize their own strength. Or worse, they revel in their ability to punish, or hurt, though that seems to be a dying breed these days.

Today in America, we celebrate the happy and hard working Dads out there who have busted their butts, hoed tough rows, sacrificed and taken risks for their families.

Heck, we see these Hollywood superhero movies and it’s impossible not to laugh. Reality is a lot more compelling!

Just getting our kids off to school on time in clean clothes with all their books and pencils is a real feat. Paying the bills? Now THAT is true hero stuff. It’s not easy. Parents and dads who pull that off are the real heroes, because without them, the wheels come off.

Here’s to the dads- three cheers.

Bad guys are on the run around Harrisburg

Toldja so.

Last year, several critical essays I wrote about PA AG Kathleen Kane were widely published, long before other people felt safe enough, I guess, to jump on the band wagon.

Kane’s incompetence and corrupt behavior were evident within a few months of her arrival in the PA Attorney General seat.  She only got worse and worse, and was on a downhill slide to the point where she has now been indicted by a grand jury.  Imagine that.

I feel vindicated.  Sadly.

Harrisburg’s top cop may go to jail, or be fined, disbarred, and barred from holding public office.  It says a lot about politics, that her Breck Girl smile and slow-motion hair tosses were enough for  her to get elected.

For the record, I believe that if Pennsylvania absolutely must have a Democrat AG, then Katie McGinty would be the right person.  McGinty is every bit as liberal and political as Kane, but Katie is also way too smart to let it show or implement it so egregiously.  So, we’d end up with a partisan professional and not the corrupt political hack we have now.  That’d be an improvement.

An even better improvement would be Ed Marsico as AG.  Ed Marsico is the stellar DA for Dauphin County, and he is so a-political that the Republican establishment has passed him over in the past.  Can you imagine, an AG who simply does the job of prosecuting bad guys?  How refreshing that would be.

On to Harrisburg City, my home town and my family’s home since at least 1745.  It’s a place I care about a lot.  We moved here from Washington, DC, to enjoy the high quality of life, easy commute, and low cost of living.  I love living in Harrisburg.

Yes, the city has problems.  OK, that is true and I think people are genuinely working to solve them, even as many of the same people have worked to exacerbate them because they stood to make money from them (think: Public Parking).  But that is another story.

Here’s a story that is just now unfolding: Harrisburg has decided to hold on to its illegal anti-gun laws.  Harrisburg City remains happily and blatantly in violation of two state laws barring any PA municipality from passing gun laws.  The city has been served notice that they may get sued over this, a costly loss because the city will have to pay money damages and legal fees to the winner.

And of course, the gun laws they have do zero to punish criminals or limit crime.  They are designed to punish law-abiding citizens and turn them into criminals, because the zealot prohibitionist crusaders pushing these laws are against guns per se.

Late last Friday night a deranged man attempted to forcefully enter my home through the front door.  He was banging away at it, working over the handle hard, and shouting at us.

My wife and kids cowered on the kitchen floor, with Viv talking with a surly 911 dispatcher (who actually yelled at me over the phone); our guests were in the basement.

I stood with a pistol pointed at the door, waiting for the guy to come barging through.  Every warning I shouted to him through the door elicited a curse-filled response and harder efforts to get through.

Even I was scared.  Someone trying that hard to break into your home is going to do damage once he gets inside.

Ten minutes later the Harrisburg police arrived and caught him, two doors up the street.  They were professional and friendly to us taxpayers, and they used force to capture the crazy man because he was violent.  I watched him fight with them and try to kick their police dog, Bo.  He had some white powder drugs on him and acted like he was insane.  Case in point here: Drugs are bad, m’kay?

Without my gun, immediately accessible, our family was a sitting duck for this guy.

We were lucky that he did not come through a ground floor window.  Sure, I would have shot and killed him had he entered our home, but who needs that?  And what about the other citizens who are neither armed nor prepared or able to defend themselves effectively against intruders?

Let’s ask the obvious question: What about “when seconds count the police are only minutes away” do you not understand, Mayor Eric Papenfuse?

Why are your illegal, ineffective gun laws more important than the safety of my family?

What makes people on the Left so cocksure about their illegal behavior? It must have something to do with the tradition of Leftist protests always being “right,” a mentality that undergirds everything they do.

We will see you in court, Mayor Papenfuse, because you may not inflict your illegal laws on the safety of my body.

An outdoor lifestyle, halfway through the season (to hunt is human)

Most of the readers who visit this blog are not outdoors folk. Feats, exploits, and the inevitable tales of woe, cold, and misery from the field would naturally bore, or at best morbidly fascinate, the non-hunter.

Nevertheless, here we go, for the first time here, on a midway retrospective of a singular hunting season still unfolding.

Hunting for most hunters is a way of life literally built into our genes. We do what humans have done since the rise of Homo Sapiens upon Planet Earth: Hunt animals that we eat, wear, and admire. While the Pleistocene ended only 20,000 years ago, it is marked by the full arrival of adept hunter-gatherers who had spent tens of thousands of previous years perfecting their lifestyle.

Humans have been hunters and gatherers for 100,000 years, or 60,000 years, depending upon how long one believes Homo Sapiens has been human.

We have been agrarian for what…10,000 years at the most generous definition of the sedentary lifestyle, but closer to 5,000 years for most humans.

After that, the most modern, most technologically advanced, most “civilized” humans have lived through the Industrial Revolution (400 years), the Technological Revolution (150 years), the Information Revolution (50 years and ongoing). Combined, that’s a total of 600 years out of a total of 60,000 years.

At our core we are all hunter-gatherers. Scratch our civilized surface, and right underneath we are all spear-toting, skin-clad hunters.

To hunt is innately human. Hunting makes us human.

In other words, although many people today look at our current effete, energy-intensive Western lifestyle and think of it as being the peak of human civilization, some of us see this civilization as becoming complacent, detached from the reality of natural resource management necessary to support this modern lifestyle, hypocritical.

When someone believes it is morally superior to have an assassin kill their meat for them than to kill it themselves, you’ve got an unsustainable logical break. Similarly, people want “the government” to protect them, and they want to prevent citizens from protecting themselves, and those same citizens cannot hold the same government accountable when it fails.
Western civilization is full of this weak thinking. In my opinion, Western society is becoming hollow, a shell, full of contradictions.

The hunting lifestyle is a powerful antidote. It is a dose of reality inserted into a cloudy drugged up dream.

So far, this season has been marked by time afield in the most beautiful places in several states with long time friends, new friends, my young son, other kids, and by myself. Like our Pleistocene ancestors, the feeling of the pack on my back and the game-getter in my right hand is about the most natural and satisfying feeling possible.

A number of deer have fallen to various firearms, a Fall turkey, a colorful pheasant; there’s a bunch of photos commemorating the times for the results-oriented. My best moment was late at night, checking a trap with my boy, and finding a large bobcat. There for about four hours, it had really no taste for humans and represented the wilderness in all its wildness.

Catching a bobcat is a real achievement in the world of hunting and trapping, and I confess it was with great mixed emotions that we dispatched it and brought it to Butch at Blue Mountain Taxidermy. Even if a bobcat is again in one of our traps during the short bobcat season, we will release it. One is enough for a lifetime.

One bobcat trophy represents a lifetime of time afield, or 60,000 years.

Historic Harrisburg gets an A+

Annually, in mid-December, Historic Harrisburg arranges a tour of historic homes around the city.

In the interest of showcasing our wonderful city, participating private citizens open the doors to their homes to utter strangers, who, for the modest price of the ticket, can walk through at their leisure.

Yes, there are docents, volunteers who stand guard over privacy and valuables, but nevertheless, strangers in abundance are in your home. Homeowners exhibit grace and panache, some swilling their umpteenth glass of wine, yes, but they maintain decorum and patience through a six-hour tour that would put me over the edge within an hour. Maybe less. Well, for sure less.

It’s an impressive commitment to place and pride in community displayed by these homeowners. In fact, the tour is a big statement about the sense of close, shared community we all share here in Harrisburg. Although I have lived in a bunch of different places, I have never seen anything like this tour, or this shared sense of belonging. Again: Absolute strangers are in your home, hundreds of them, and it works really well. It is an unusual arrangement. I like it.

Today’s tour was of homes mostly in Bellevue Park, a grand island of landscaping, natural contours, natural areas, and spectacular homes. My grandparents built a beautiful home in Bellevue Park many many decades ago, and I grew up going there for holidays. Summer visits involved playing in the large in-ground pool with my cousins and eating huge amounts of delicious food prepared by our grandmother, Jane. Winter holidays involved eating huge amounts of delicious food prepared by our grandmother, Jane, and then walking it all off around the park, followed up with playing pool in the basement.

My memories of Bellevue Park are long, distant, and misty-eyed. My grandparents were loving people, and we kids felt their love. Oh, how one longs for the simpler days of youth, with innocence and guileless smiles, statements of affection truly meant. Being in Bellevue Park today was like taking a time machine trip back 40 years. In a way, today’s tour was an expression of the same guileless, innocent sharing that we had as kids, but today was between and among adults and families who have previously never met one another.

Trust is the by-word for today’s Historic Harrisburg tour.

As it turns out, many of the older residents whom I met today recalled my family, and recounted trips they had taken with them, pool parties they had enjoyed there, John Harris High School events and teams they had played in together, and political events where the pool evoked then-fresh images of “Mrs. Robinson” and her lifestyle. And I met quite a few former colleagues and acquaintances, themselves taking stock of these updated homes for their own renovation plans, or providing valuable assistance as volunteer docents.

Isn’t that something. Community may always be where you find it, but one place it never disappeared from is Bellevue Park, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. One other similar historic neighborhood I have seen is Squirrel Hill, in Pittsburgh.

It is also important to recognize the many gay men and couples who have ventured further out of the city’s center to bring revitalization to some of the park’s older homes. If there is a ‘down’ side to tolerance, it is that gays are moving ever farther from the urban cores where they have traditionally played a pivotal and leading role in the fight against urban blight by rehabilitating decayed neighborhoods. Now, gays are recognized as exemplary and desirable neighbors in traditional family areas; their colorful sense of style and personal flourishes are valuable, and are just not going to be replicated by anyone else. Surely not by me or my fellow knuckledraggers. Bellevue Park is now home to a large number of gay men. I won’t say it is a gay community, because it is not. It is simply a community with many gay people in it, and it is a great place as a result.

Thank you and an A+ to Historic Harrisburg for a fine afternoon well spent with my wife, who doted on every kitchen, every light fixture, every antique stained glass window, who relished meeting every single person today, and who left the going ga-ga over the omnipresent quartersawn oak all to me. Yes, there was tons of beautiful quartersawn oak in every home. That is pretty much all I remember. Oh, that and the old friends.

Sure beats the alternative

Getting older signifies wisdom, life experience, contribution to community, commitment to family, and other desirable attributes.

It also means leaving behind youth, strong knees, a tolerant back, a cast iron stomach, and lifestyle options associated with vibrant health.

Saying goodbye to these basic comforts is tough, but it beats the alternative, which is the endless black sleep of death.

Today I turned 50, a significant age, for people who are mature and who act their age. For me, turning fifty means I wonder daily why my eyebrows are going grey while my hair remains mostly brown. Clearly forces are at work inside my body that I neither recognize nor really welcome.

Today I celebrated by hunting, alone, in a remote area, which I enjoy greatly. As if a lifetime of hunting would result in good hunting skills, irony struck and I managed to distract, disturb, and disrupt every deer I contacted today. No bullets were fired in making this message. Nevertheless, hunting is about serene contemplation, which I enjoy tremendously.  So I killed a lot of bad ideas all day.

Thanks to my friends and family for their fantastic memories and gifts. We will be having an open door party very soon. A real celebration is necessary.

Thank you

Dear friend, thank you for your friendship, affection, and trust.

Dear clients, colleagues, and partners, thank you for your trust. Taking risks and making sacrifices with you in the spirit of entrepreneurial pursuit is tremendously satisfying.

Dear family, thank you for your love (which I try to return equally), hard work, support and for getting good grades in school.

Dear God, thank you for making me a natural-born American citizen, and for having me live in a time of great material abundance and comfort.

Dear fellow citizen….Enjoy Thanksgiving in the greatest nation on Planet Earth.

It’s duck season! No it’s turkey season! No it’s rabbit season!

In addition to picking apples with the family, one of Fall’s greatest attributes is the abundance of hunting opportunities.

A friend sent me a photo of a huge buck he arrowed last week.  I am jealous of him because I have not yet had an opportunity to go bow hunt for deer.

Instead, I have been small game hunting, wild turkey hunting, duck hunting, and trapping.

So, it is not as if I have been missing out on the outdoor experience by failing to bow hunt.  The problem is that I’m in a frenetic whirlwind of other, related recreational pursuits, because Pennsylvania is blessed with an abundance of wildlife and healthy natural habitat.

Spending time with my kids and friends outside in this environment is one of the healthiest, safest, most wholesome activities anyone can do.  Hunting is safer than cheerleading, high school football, soccer, and baseball.  It gets my son’s face out of whatever handheld device is sucking out his brain at any given moment.

Successful or not, time afield is the best family time possible.

Here are some old favorite cartoons about hunting, and most important is the Duck Season, Rabbit Season, Duck Season! episode.

Bugs Bunny vs. Daffy Duck

Rabbit Season! Duck Season!

I brought my guns to school

Back in the 1970s, I brought my deer rifle to school on the bus.

It was locked in my school locker when I arrived at school on the bus. In its case.

No one made a big deal about it.

No one was hurt by my gun.

My biology teacher reloaded my 7mm Mauser shells for me.

I hunted after school with friends, and no one was hurt. We were all safe handlers of our firearms. We all took it seriously.

It now might be a time for Americans to recall a different time, a safer time, a time when Americans could not imagine using basic firearms to hurt one another. A time when deer rifles were as normal as new sneakers, as significant as new clothes. A high powered deer rifle meant that much, and that little.

So many Americans today wonder what happened to our nation. Well, quit treating traditional American values as inferior to the chaos, anarchy, and violence that have replaced them. Let us traditionalists come back. Let your kids demonstrate how responsible they are. Take comfort in the inherent strength of our nation and its traditions. Relax.

We gun owners are safe, responsible, and experienced. We have our own children who we cherish. We will do nothing to hurt our own children.

Guns, used safely, are safe.