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Still the chief of Celtic music: The Chieftains at 57

Local York Scots Bagpipers Brigade joined local York Chorale members and then audience members with The Chieftains and the Piltazke Brothers in a long snake dance that ended the performance

The local York, PA, bagpipers all dressed up in their Scottish tartans, participating with The Chieftains in a typical sharing of Celtic culture and music, to the audience’s delight

Last night the Princess of Patience and I ventured not too far down the road to the Appell-Strand Theater in York, Pennsylvania. It is a venue we have visited over the years for a variety of music types for the adults, and high-end children’s entertainment for the kids. It is a clean, pretty, historic place right in historic downtown York, easy to access, lots of free parking, and when you are done, it is easy to leave. Fellow patrons are easy, chatty, friendly, happy, and the lady I sat next to, a Lori Sims of Hanover, PA, cheerily shared gardening tips with me and disclosed her yearning for Spring to finally arrive so her garden could get under way. Then again, no wonder: she has a TWO-ACRE GARDEN.

What we witnessed last night is one of those rare moments where, if you have been lacking in faith in humanity for whatever reason, it would be restored immediately. We watched The Chieftains do what they do best: Play sweet Celtic music combined with amazing Irish dance, and incorporating local talent in a pub-like atmosphere of fellow music chums just kind of jamming along with each other in the spirit of the moment. It would be the best of what you would find at the Temple Bar today.

So here is Chieftains founding father, Paddy Moloney, who must easily be in his 80s, alternately playing both the chipper and then humorously gruff oldster commenter, as well as his own penny whistle and Irish pipes: “Oh sure, ya show-offs,” as the Pilatzke Brothers perform amazing amazing amazing Irish tap dance routines that leave the audience exhausted from the intensity and skill. Serious world-class talent.

Now in 2019, The Chieftains are celebrating their 57th anniversary. Think about that. Fifty-seven years as inspiring performers of not just music, per se, but keepers of traditional culture, Gaelic language, ancient musical instruments, and the music and the rural, undeveloped, natural Irish landscape that binds all that together. It is quite a gift to all of us that they provide. At 57 years of live musical-cultural performances, The Chieftains are an institution, a world heritage institution.

Despite having a stack of Chieftains CDs, I can never really get enough of them, and last night my mind drifted back to one evening in the summer of 1992, during the Celtic Festival at Wolf Trap, in Virginia. The Princess of Patience and I were about to be engaged to be married, and our long-time friend Lori encouraged us to join her at Wolf Trap for that evening. The weather was perfect, the music was perfect, the musicians and performers were perfect, our snacks and wine were perfect, the audience was rapt and enthusiastic. It was all quite perfect. And there they were, now 27 years ago, The Chieftains up on stage, looking a hell of a lot younger than now, and probably having a few more teeth then than now. But still flawlessly performing the same beautiful, inspiring music.

That was the same evening I heard the best-ever joke about the bagpipes, and it is a surprisingly unknown quip, because whenever I pass it along, people respond with great mirth, as if they have never heard it before. I will disclose it here, because I know the three people who read this blog have zero interest in Celtic anything and they will immediately forget this secret to being the star at any dinner party attended by Irish or Scots.

This joke arose as an Irish pipes player dueled with a bagpipes player on stage that evening at Wolf Trap. When played correctly, the Irish pipes are of course the most heart-tugging sound the human ear will encounter. Squared off against the blaring, loud, military-oriented bagpipes, the Irish pipes are like a gentle, sweet whisper versus an aggressive, loud shout.

So after their duel on stage, during which he had played the most mournful, beautiful, inspiring sounds, the Irish pipes player said to his Scotsman counterpart: “You do know, the Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scots. And the Scots never got the joke.”

Cue uproarious audience response and a big grin from the Scotsman. Audience participation in Celtic music is expected, and it is given, as is good-natured banter among the performers.

So, on that same beautiful summer eve 27 years ago, into this good-natured banter with Celtic music and culture stepped The Chieftains, playing with humble passion on the stage at Wolf Trap. And literally over twice as many years later, The Chieftains are still chief, tops among Celtic bands. Thank you for a wonderful night of happy moment after happy moment, guys. Cheers to you, Paddy Moloney, may you see a hundred years, ’cause God knows, why not, you about look it already.

 

Rendering bear grease, Round II

Last year was a first try at something that has beckoned for a long time, and that was making bear grease out of bear fat. If you search here in the blog you will see the kind of double boiler approach that effort started with, and you will see that it took too long, though it did provide a good product.

Why would someone want to make bear grease from rendered bear fat? Fair question.

To begin with, in the natural world, fat is a major and valuable commodity. It is important to survival and is hard to come by; under normal natural conditions, it is a sign of high health. Only in modern, materially successful, over-consumptive Western countries has high human fat become a liability, a health problem. Just a couple hundred years ago, heck even a hundred years ago, most Americans could not eat enough to make up for the energy they spent during their daily lives. Today we Americans are overfed and sedentary, eating ourselves into early health problems. We do not move enough. So we look at fat and think fat is “bad.”

But bear fat is especially good. Because they hibernate from late November through March, bears usually pack on a tremendous amount of fat starting in July and August. The fat reserves they build up will feed their sleeping bodies over the long cold winter in a specialized and not totally understood way. Bear fat is very different from any other kind of fat you will ever see, and some people have said it most closely resembles whale blubber. While whales do not hibernate, they are warm-blooded mammals that occupy freezing cold oceans and dive to unbelievable depths for food. Such a hostile surrounding requires a wall of natural fat that both protects and feeds the whale’s body. So bear fat is supposedly a lot like whale fat, which means it is unique and performs unique tasks that most other animals do not require.

[Sidebar here: Think about the Canada Toad, which survives in frozen tundra by having its body freeze solid over the winter, while a special hormone keeps its blood thinned, liquid, unfrozen, and moving slowly throughout its body to keep its organs alive. Some of these adaptive traits are things we humans can benefit from for medical purposes, if we but care about the animals’ habitats so that they are around when we get around to wanting to study them]

Think about Inuit and Inupiak (“Eskimos”) in the Arctic Circle and North Pole region. Even today, many of them will sit down and eat raw seal and whale blubber as a snack, usually warm right off the carcass. Clearly this is not a bad thing, as these impressive and hardy humans have thrived on this natural food for at least 15,000 years in the most brutal conditions. So again, bear fat is closely related to these other sources of needed fat and thus it is a good fat. If you were to consume mostly bear fat in your daily diet, your body would probably function a lot better. I am willing to bet that bear fat is far easier for human stomachs to break down and for human bodies to metabolize than dairy butter, deadly chemical margarines, and beef and pork tallow.

So why would I make bear grease from bear fat? Because I want to, that’s why. I am drawn to natural living and natural things, and getting back to basics is what a healthy life is all about. While I myself will not eat bear fat or grease (or whale or seal blubber for that matter), there are many people who I care about who can and will eat it. Plus there are other uses for it, which I have experimented with and found it to be amazing. Those uses are as a leather preservative, and bear grease is AMAZING at this, far better than anything you can buy. And then there is the lubricating function on a patched round ball rammed down the barrel of one of our flintlock rifles. So far I have seen bear grease provide a longer lasting, better lubricating film on the metal than any other bullet lube I have used. And I use all the best commercially available bullet and patch lubes on the market. Finally, I have begun experimenting with bear grease as a rust preventative on steel, like shop tools and machine parts. I am in the middle stage of this experiment, so right now I have nothing to report back with. But if it is anything like the patch lube effect on our rifle barrels, it will be excellent.

And again, yes, if you want to bake pastries with bear grease, you can. People say it is absolutely delicious and the best of all oils for that use. Some of the recipients of the bear grease I have created will probably do that. If I hear from them, I will report back here.

So this time around, I used an antique cauldron. A big one, on a tripod, over a propane burner. The fat came from a 611-pound male black bear killed by Travis Dietrich here in Dauphin County, on ground I manage. Travis was able to get about 40 pounds of bear fat into a cooler, and it has sat in a freezer or outside in the frozen cold, since Travis dropped it off at my home a month ago. The cauldron could have held a lot more bear fat, probably a few hundred pounds of it, but we puny humans could only remove and store that one big hunk this time, and so that is what we had to work with. Last year I had about five pounds to work with, from a young, tender bear killed by Kenny Youtz, actually very close to where this year’s bear was taken.

Maybe the next time a bear is killed, we will just move the cauldron and burner to the bear and start tossing the fat right into the pot. That way we can get all of it used, at its freshest, and waste nothing.

Learning from last year’s experiment, the double boiler method was just too damned long. So this time four gallons of well water were poured into the cauldron and heated to a boil, and then chunks of trimmed and cleaned bear fat were tossed in. Remember last year: Include zero meat, and I mean none, not even a tiny sliver, if you want a smell-free grease to result. Even the tiniest pieces of meat impart a pleasant but very meaty aroma to your leather preservative.

Fat chunk sizes ranged from fist to finger, and one of the lessons learned in this trial is that size matters. Actually, smaller is better when it comes to rendering bear fat. Most of the people who do this regularly use a meat grinder to get the bear fat broken down into strands that really truly cook down, quickly, and give up as much of the fat content as can be had.

And let us take note: Bear fat itself is kind of…a meaty consistency. It is not like any fat you have handled before, unless you work on a Japanese or Russian whaling ship, or you are a whale or sea mammal biologist (studying cetaceans). So cutting up the fat with a knife takes time. Use a clean cutting board and be prepared to resharpen your knife along the way.

What was learned this time is that the initial boiling water does buffer the process. It starts gently melting the bear fat and creating a pool of rendered liquid that will itself become the direct rendering agent for the bulk of the fat chunks after the water has steamed off in a great billowing mass. And when the water has boiled off, which you can tell because the steam is reduced and is becoming replaced with light smoke, turn down the heat, or the grease will quickly scald and burn, and then you have just about ruined it. The pool of grease that has been rendered so far will then get to work on rendering the rest of the fat remaining in the pot. It is like deep frying fat chunks.

The resulting chittlins (or cracklings as some people call them) are supposed to be really tasty, and I saved mine for friends to eat and for my own trap bait. Yes, some people will eat trap bait. Or, some people will use gourmet cuisine as trap bait. Strange world we live in. Take your pick.

This has been a lengthy post and I am about out of time and words. Here were my takeaways this time:

  1. Render your bear fat as fast as you can. The longer it sits, the more you will get some faint rancidity on the surface that must be trimmed off.
  2. Cut your bear fat chunks as small as possible, using a meat grinder if possible.
  3. Do not over heat or overcook the bear fat. This year it was on the slightly over-cooked side, because I was operating in the dark and did not notice just how deeply brown the chittliins had become. A slight brown shows they are cooked. A deep brown shows they have been completely deep fried and the oil has become super heated. The oil/ grease will then become brown from the high heat. We are aiming for a creamy white grease that solidifies easily when refrigerated or frozen.
  4. You can strain your bear grease through a cloth or coffee filter, but I did not. As I am not eating it, I just left the cauldron outside overnight in the 25-degree cold, which caused the grease to congeal. In the early morning I scooped up the best fat first, which is easily identifiable as the hard white tallow. Below the surface was the slightly brownish grease with a slightly grainy texture, and then below that were the fine particles that were not scooped out with the strainer. I took everything, each with its own use and purpose. The bottom of the barrel, so to speak, was taken for my friends’ dogs, which will probably enjoy the tasty treat and get a super glossy coat of hair. The creamy white, hard tallow is best for leather preservative. The brownish, unfiltered grease will harden up and is best for greasing ball patches and preserving steel surfaces.

Pictures and captions below should help, and I do hope this helps. Last year’s bear grease post was right up there in the top two or three on all the search engines, so people are really reading up on this neat process.

NOTE: WordPress has recently been “improved,” and it is now much less user-friendly, very hard to use. Especially with posting photos. When I went to the WordPress online forum today, a lot of other users are complaining. I have already spent a lot of time on this essay and lost half of what I put in. The new editor is terrible, and simply deletes a great deal of text. I apologize for the poor photo formatting, but I am not yet used to whatever “improvements” were made to the software. Believe me, I am trying to edit these, but the straight forward commands that WordPress had before are now gone. Like so many things digital today, “improvements” are made that eliminate the simplicity and ease of use of prior generations. Maybe this is a job guarantee for coders. Please bear with our technical difficulties…

These bags of bear grease are not all of the final result, but account for about 90%. About two quarts were bottled for friends and are set aside outside of this photo.
The water is boiling off in a billowing cloud of steam. The white fat chunks are visible

 

The bear fat chunks are now really starting to cook down in the rendered oil. They are being deep fried. I should have stopped it at this point, but instead allowed the process to go on another 25 minutes.
In the dark of night, using only an overhead porch light, the chittlins looked fully cooked at this color. Fact is, they had indeed become fully cooked, but the grease around them was overcooked.
Literally the bottom of the barrel. Not a whole lot of grease was rendered from that forty pounds of fat. The different layers and different qualities of resulting grease can be seen, with that creamy white, pure, hard grease at the very top, and the brownest bottom material held the fines and smallest chittlin bits. Had I cared to strain all of the grease through a cloth, I am sure it would have been cleaner and whiter as a result. But for my needs, this was good enough.

Chittlins. I saved these as trap bait and for friends who like wild game cuisine. The newspaper underneath is the Patriot News, and this is the highest and best use for that partisan propaganda Fake News publication.

Great American Outdoor Show is here!

The Great American Outdoor Show is here all this week, and you owe it to yourself to see it.

Unlike “gun shows” and related flea markets full of rusty junk and Mabel’s old kitchen odds n’ ends, the Great American Outdoor Show is 100% pure beef sprawling across acres and acres of Pennsylvania Farm Show Building. It is a completely unadulterated gear-queer’s heaven-on-earth, with everything from classy side-by-side British shotguns to endless arrays and permutations of tactical gear and “Black Rifle” accoutrements.

Trop Gun Shop usually has some sort of modern “urban assault vehicle” parked there; several years ago it was a 1960s VW van re-designed to look like a Bat Mobile replete with a mini-Vulcan automatic belt-fed rotary cannon on top. Super cool stuff.

Just about every major gun manufacturer is here, except for Kimber, I think, which is sad, because Kimber makes top quality handguns and hunting rifles. The public would benefit from being able to fondle, errr, become acquainted with their fine creations. For example, a friend of mine took a 140-inch whitetail buck this past winter in the Adirondacks wilderness, miles from any roads. His rifle was….a Kimber Adirondack in .308, with which he gets quarter-inch groups at 100 yards. Now that is an accurate gun.

And so with all these gun manufacturers on location, you can pick up and handle just about any handgun made in America today, as well as the Italian revolvers used by Cowboy Action Shooting folks. Concealed carry is a big deal these days, and every serious concealed carry handgun is available to test out. Except the Kimbers.

There are custom knives, mass-produced knives, a Persian guy selling low-cost Damascus blades made in Pakistan and China with God-knows-what-metals in them, duck boats, bass boats, ultra-deluxe fishing kayaks by Hobie, the Portable Winch, animal calls of every sort, specialty ammunition, a gazillion hunting and fishing outfitters from around the world, and everything else you could possibly imagine or want.

Well, JRJ Knives is not there this year, as he has missed the past two years. John has more demand than he can keep up with, and I guess he don’t need no stinkin’ show. But his presence is always enjoyed, and I miss seeing him here.

My appearance at the GAOS is always closely tied to the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen & Conservationists, at whose booth I am an annual volunteer, holding down the fort with the likes of Grouchy Dennis, Happy Phil, Over-Mother Melody and many others who volunteer their time to help PFSC help sportsmen. And there is no other organization in Pennsylvania that helps sportsmen like the PFSC. In fact, right now the NRA does not have a representative working in Pennsylvania, and it is the PFSC lobbyist who is carrying the NRA’s load these days in the legislature.

Of course there is FOAC, and they do amazing work, but when it comes to conservation, science-based wildlife management, AND firearms rights, PFSC is it.

And so for me the GAOS is all about the PFSC, and serving the sportsmen.

The show goes on through Saturday, and you should see it to believe it. It is truly incredible.

 

Hunters Sharing the Harvest sets the Holiday Season tone

Pennsylvania is a long time big time hunting state, with such a great and famously known outdoors sports tradition that the iconic red and black “buffalo check plaid” wool coat made by Woolrich, Filson, and other long established wool clothing manufacturers was dubbed the “Pennsylvania Tuxedo” back in the 1920s.

Today our clothing may have improved since then, or may not have improved, depending upon whether you like your hunting pants to be flammable, or not, and I do not (which means I prefer wool in all outdoor clothing), but one thing remains steady: Pennsylvanians rightly love to hunt.

And just as much as we love to hunt, we are also generous with the fruits of our time afield. We have a long tradition of sharing the fruits of our hunting labors.

Well do I recall as a kid waking up in late November or early December to find some fresh venison left on our doorstep by one or two of our neighbors, all of whom had big farms and all of whom were big time hunters.

Back then in that area, kids brought fresh venison jerky to school to share and trade with other kids during and right after deer season; everyone had their own proprietary jerky recipe that they liked and were proud of. Sharing venison is a real longstanding Pennsylvania tradition.

Back in 1991, local hunter John Plowman had a vision to harness that generous spirit among Pennsylvania hunters and use it to provide for the needy. He started Hunters Sharing the Harvest, which today annually supplies well over a hundred thousand of pounds of fresh, free range, wholesome, lean, natural, organic meat to Pennsylvanians in need. That translates into about 667,000 annual “meals” for individuals and families in need.

Yesterday my son “harvested” his first Pennsylvania deer (see photo below), a young spike buck that junior hunters are allowed to take, as the rest of us are limited to bucks with at least three points to a side of the antler rack. As we had incredible good fortune yesterday, and took other deer, my son decided to donate his deer to Hunters Sharing the Harvest. My boy is enjoying the act of charity and contributing towards the basic welfare of his community.

Both Deimler (Cumberland County) and Sensenig (Dauphin County) are deer processors close by our home, so either one would be the logical place to drop off the young buck.  But Deimler has the advantage of being right down the road from Johnson’s Furs, where we have our furs tanned and where we buy our trapping supplies, so that is where the critter has been dropped off.  Mutli-tasking, ya know?

And that is the neatest thing about this Hunters Sharing the Harvest option: We get to share our cake, and eat it, too, in the charitable spirit of the Holiday Season.

 

 

Sen. Bob Casey’s record vs. his YouTube ads

If you are a registered Pennsylvania voter getting on to YouTube, you will probably be presented with several advertisements for and about US senator Bob Casey, Jr., who is running for re-re-re-re-election.

In these ads everyday people are happily, even cheerfully talking to the camera about how bi-partisan Bob Casey is. How helpful he is. He sits down with them and smiles into the camera, and says “We can work together!”

Contrast this sunny image with Casey’s do-nothing, radical left-wing record. Do-nothing in the sense that Harrisburg City officials cannot get Casey to even write a letter of support for basic project funding. Go ahead and call one of his offices yourself; see if you get a human being on the phone. Typically no one answers the phone, and no one answers your letters. This is a man who has completely checked out and simply occupies a space.

Radical in the sense that Casey has sided with the crazed, violent, obstructionist mob in Congress and in the streets of America over and over and over, publicly vowing to oppose every single Trump nominee, every single Republican – passed law.

This is not bipartisan behavior. It is the opposite of positive can-do attitude for American citizens. This is Casey being as starkly partisan and as difficult as he possibly can be.

And most important, what this means is that he is not representing the interests of the citizens he was elected to serve. Rather, Casey is just another Nancy Pelosi radical, serving some weird anti-America agenda that leaves behind every loyal, taxpaying citizen in favor of some law-breaking, border-jumping, illegal foreigner. All for his party’s quest for absolute power through registering illegal aliens as new voters.

Vote Casey out.

Send him a message that we want to be represented in Washington, DC. If he wants to represent the illegal aliens of other nations, then he can go move there, to those countries, and help them right there, where they live. Those of us who keep writing his paychecks are tired of Casey’s lies.

A few local signs that the economy is smokin’ hot

Me: “Hi. I would like to have Cleon make me log arch, one that I can hook to my ATV, that is stronger than the Chinese junk being sold everywhere, and that is less expensive than the crazy-priced LogRite arches.”

Lynette: “Josh, what is your time frame?”

Me: “Well, I can use it in a week, but two or three weeks is no problem.”

Lynette: “Here’s the thing about timing. Back in June, we were about to lay off one of the welders, but we put out bids on ten jobs, any one or two of which would have carried us through the year. And between last week and this Monday we heard back that we won every single one of them. So we will not only be retaining that junior welder, but we are now looking for about five more to help us meet our commitments. We might not be able to get to your log arch for a while, but one of the men will call you back later today.”

And then one of the men did call me back, with terms and a price that more or less said “If we are going to make this for you, then you are going to pay big for taking us away from our real work.”

Another sign that our local and regional economy is smokin’ hot: The log trucks, the pallet trucks, the lumber trucks on the roads EVERYWHERE and at all times of day.

Never before have I seen so much activity in just one business sector, as I am seeing now in the timber industry, except maybe in 2008 when the Marcellus Shale boom was indeed booming across Pennsylvania.

Log trucks are especially visible. How can you miss a log truck? It dwarfs every other vehicle around it, and looks incredibly incongruous. Log trucks have these huge wide open bays or bunks to hold the logs, and a boom arm with a claw for lifting up 6,000 to 10,000-pound logs. A log truck has about 5,000 board feet or more of medium to high grade logs of all types on it, heading from someone’s private forest to someone else’s mill. From there the logs will be carefully analyzed for grade, and either sold-on or sawn up on site. Hardwood lumber is used in flooring, cabinetry, and furniture, all of which when active indicate a strong consumer and home building economy. Even tulip poplar, once sold for pennies per board foot, is now used for couch frames and cabinetry frames.

At every timber job there are expensive machines at work, with drivers who earn enough money to support a family. And the loggers, guys born with a chainsaw in one hand and a rifle in the other, they cut down a dangerous tree every ten minutes, then lop it and move on to the next before choking up the logs and skidding them to a landing.

Then there is the landowner, who gets good money for something they did absolutely nothing to create.

The sawmills, whether small Amish mills or huge international mills selling hundreds of thousands of board feet per week, are beehives of activity. Every person working there is earning money, and spending money, and contributing toward the larger economic activity around them.

Say nothing of the new homes and kitchen cabinets being built, or of the beautiful hardwood flooring and furniture being made for those new homes. All from someone’s private forest.

The point is, these are just two small examples of how the economy is exploding, and how after many years of stagnation we finally get to do more than scratch out a living, but actually do well and pay for our kids’ questionable college “education,” buy new cars, take nice vacations, and set something aside for our later years, when we are no longer able to work so hard.

It really is a new day in America, and boy does it feel good. One gets the impression that this good feeling is widespread across America, with the sad exception of places in North Carolina and Florida, recently hit hard by hurricanes, and our hearts go out to the victims there. The one thing they can rest assured about is that the materials needed to rebuild their lives are on their way as I write these words, and they are America-made, and America-grown.

Senator Bob Casey does not deserve the Casey family name

US Senator Bob Casey is up for re-election.

Senator is just one of a long list of public sector jobs that he has held as an undistinguished and lazy heir to a good name. Casey got where he is because of his family name, largely established by his father, Governor Casey.

Governor Casey was a person of wit, incisive intelligence, thoughtful reflectiveness, intellectual curiosity, and great character. These traits are what drew voters from both parties to vote for him, and these traits are all lacking from his son, Bob Casey, Jr.

When I see a Bob Casey for Senate sign in someone’s yard, the question enters my mind: Has that person done their research on this man? If they knew what a layabout he is, and how long he has sucked at the public teat to benefit himself, would they still yet support him?

I understand that for many voters, voting for or with a political party is sufficient, and whoever the party nominee is, that is who they will reflexively vote for. If that is your way of voting (it is not my way of voting), then read no more. You are beyond help, and you serve best as a modern beacon for George Washington’s historic admonition against political parties of any sort.

However, if you are curious about who you vote for, spend some time looking into Bob Casey’s career. What you will see is probably the least impressive track record of anyone in “public service” today. Casey is the poster child for nepotism, riding on Daddy’s coat tails, and the real cost of political dynasties to all of us taxpayers.

Casey has literally done nothing of note with his career, and his recent time in the US Senate is just as representative as the previous decades he spent in all the other government jobs he held, one after another after another. The guy simply occupies space. He has nothing to show for all his years in these government jobs. To me, he almost seems like a careerist Republican!

He does nothing because he coasts on his father’s name, and he does not have to actually do anything, because voters keep voting for the Casey name.

What bothers me the most, though, is how little he appears to think things through. On policy, Casey is being mindlessly dragged along by the most radical themes in his political party, to the point where he is constantly voting against the direct interests of the Pennsylvanians he is sworn to serve and represent. His voting record and his public statements would fit better in socialist San Francisco, California. They sure as heck do not reflect the values of the working people here in Pennsylvania.

Just take “sanctuary cities,” as one example. Casey supports them, the vast majority of Pennsylvanians do not, because those cities are illegal and they are costing taxpayers our hard-earned money to support lazy illegal aliens who use and abuse America.

Do you really, truly want your tax money spent this way? Neither do I.

Casey’s support for these radical actions fly in the face of the much more balanced and considerate person his father was.

One can justifiably say “Bob Casey, Jr., I knew your father Bob Casey, Sr., I voted for Bob Casey Sr., I donated to Bob Casey, Sr., I admired Bob Casey, Sr., and you are no Bob Casey, Sr.”

I was proud to support Casey’s dad, Governor Casey. I would be embarrassed to vote for his son, Bob Casey, Jr.

Thank you to wildlife’s friends, my friends

When I started writing for Eric Epstein’s Rock the Capitol about eight years ago, one of the first stories I related to readers was an experience two of my children and I had with two pitbulls let off their leashes.

The readership statistics on this one essay were off the charts. Very high volume, and lots of comments. When I asked why, Eric and his website manager, whose name I now forget, told me that news items and stories involving animals claim the biggest share of attention on the Internet.

Fascinating, right?

And we all kind of see this fact in the strange way people routinely show concern for an injured goat in the news by donating a million dollars so the goat can get its broken hoof fixed, and then a truly sad situation involving some news story about a poor unfortunate child whose abusive parents tormented her for years raises just five bucks to get her into a better home.

It is true that people care about animals, and that is a good thing. But this care seems to extend mostly, really overwhelmingly, to domesticated animals; animals that depend upon humans for care and shelter. A natural and healthy empathy is aroused when some unfortunate critter is seen hemmed in by wire or caging, unable to provide for itself and yet not being provided for by the humans around it.

The type of animals people have the least identity with is wildlife. Most Americans, being urban or suburban, simply mythologize wildlife.

From this more urban view, all bears are universally perceived as aggressively dangerous (they are not, though grizzlies are definitely more aggressive than black bears). Deer run out in front of our cars, eat our crops, spread ticks with Lyme Disease, and nibble our yard shrubs, dammit. Squirrels are nasty tree rats with fuzzy tails chewing on our yard furniture, eating the produce of our gardens and fruit trees, and diving our trash bins. And skunks, possums and raccoons are a bunch of rabies-ridden trashcan raiders. And so on.

Wildlife by and large is not greatly appreciated by the general public, unless it is a close-up photo of some baby raccoon or fox kit. And no, I am not talking about wildlife photographers or the insane Humane Society as representative of the general public. These two categories of people are far distant outliers of one sort or another, and no generality can be drawn from their presence among or about wildlife.

So thank God there are sportsmen out there; that is, hunters and trappers. These are the Americans who really do truly care for and about wildlife, and they prove it every damned day with their financial donations and back-breaking work on wildlife habitat projects.

There is no better advocacy group or aggregation of active people who love wild animals and the wild places they need to thrive than hunters and trappers. Time has proven this fact, though the foolish flatlander will claim, with a mouthful of gross stockyard beef in her mouth, that hunting and trapping are “cruel.”

Most of our public lands were first acquired by and for hunting and trapping, at the urging of hunters and trappers. They knew in the 1890s and 1920s that human encroachment into formerly wild areas was leaving no room for the most interesting animals on earth. Many of these animals are more interesting than most of the humans we will encounter in any given day, week, month, or lifetime.

This weekend I really enjoyed my time among a special group of people, the state-wide leadership of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen and Conservationists (PFSC), what until yesterday was known as the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs (PFSC). Most Americans no longer know that the word “sport” is about hunting, fishing, and trapping, nor do they know what a ‘sporting club’ is about. The lexicon has changed as the daily experience has changed. Meat is no longer acquired from a wild animal who knew it was hunted, but rather from a miserable creature tormented from its earliest days until its last moment alive and turned into a convenient styrofoam package.

The PFSC folks are the people who work every day for the benefit of wildlife, for wildlife habitat, for the defense and promotion of our state parks, state forests, and state game lands. These people do it humbly, quietly, generously, and usually all they get in return is some self-satisfaction from sitting back after a grouse hunt and, despite an empty game bag, intently watching a mysterious red Fall sunset streaked with white wispy trailing clouds sinking down behind shadowy trees shedding their colorful leaves. A deeply comforting stillness overtakes these people at these moments, alone or with companions, and when they go home that night, they know their decades of work fundraising for the latest land acquisition by the Wildlands Conservancy has paid off. It might be a relatively small nook in a big world, but it is a special nook nonetheless, where wildlife — wild animals unknown and unloved by most people — can call home until the next glacier comes through and re-orders the earth’s surface, as has already happened many times in the past.

Here is to you, a heartfelt thank you, my friends, my companions, my betters and my teachers among the outdoorsman fellowship. Thank you for your time and gift to me and to everyone and every living thing around me, whether they know or know not what you do for us.

Senator Bob Casey: As useless as tits on a boar hog

US senator Bob Casey is nothing like his dad, Casey Senior, but he rides his father’s well-earned reputation and milks it for all he can get from it.

Senior Casey was a man of principle. A Blue Dog Democrat who was union because he was from hard working coal country, and who also recognized the corrosive effect abortion on demand had on the small, close-knit communities that make up northeastern Pennsylvania.

When he ran for governor, Casey Senior spoke with authority and sincerity. He persuaded Pennsylvanians of all walks of life to vote for him. For good reason. He was an impressive leader.

Contrast him to his son, Casey Junior.

Has Bob Casey, Jr., presently a US senator, done a single good thing or actually accomplished anything while occupying public office his entire career?

The long and short answer is No, this Casey has done absolutely ZERO his whole career. He has achieved absolutely nothing.

And the thing is, his whole career has been spent in elected jobs. Sucking at the taxpayer tit. He has gotten those elected jobs because of his father’s reputation. Casey Junior has no real reputation, except that he is here, or there, occupying space in some political job or another.

Whenever there is a government job, there has been Casey Junior.

Casey has not earned a single day in elected office. He has not achieved anything, he has nothing to show for his time in office. Only his family name has gotten him where he is.

Bob Casey, Jr. is as useless as tits on a boar hog. It is time to vote Casey out of office this November.

I would vote for just about anyone to replace Bob Casey and move him into the private sector, where he can finally learn what it takes to earn a living by one’s wits and hard work. And no, Bob, putting on a suit and tying your shoes does not qualify as hard work, or any work.

Bob Casey has gotten away with political murder for only one reason, and that is family connections, the Casey family dynasty. And in case you think I am being partisan and tough on Casey because he is a Democrat, look at www.jakethesnake.us, the website I maintain to call attention to the Republican version of Bob Casey, Jr., Jake Corman. Corman is another utterly useless, spoiled beneficiary of nepotism. He just happens to be a Republican. I would gladly welcome a change in that state senate seat, as well.

If Casey were of the other political party, I would probably be even tougher on him. I am a bi-partisan opponent of any and all nepotism and political dynasties in America.

Lou Barletta is Casey’s opponent for this one US senate seat. Barletta is a good guy, even if his teeth are so artificially white they blind everyone in the audience. For years, he has been his own person in office and in the private sector, independent minded, self-made, a risk-taker, and that is what I look for: Someone who is very much their own person.

Barletta is the complete opposite of Bob Casey, Jr. It is time for a change in that senate seat, and a change in the Casey family’s dreams of do-nothing political dynasty at the expense of Pennsylvania taxpayers.

Vote for Barletta. Vote for America. Vote for something. Voting for Bob Casey, Jr., is voting for nothing and doing even less.

PA deer hunters…spending 40 years in the desert

Last week, a guy in his late 50s posted a complaint on social media. He was both complaining about “not enough deer” to hunt in Pennsylvania, and also boasting about how he buys up as many doe tags as he can get, and then he tears them up, and then he uses them to file false deer harvest reports. He hopes this all will influence Pennsylvania’s science-driven deer management. One result of all this complaining by guys like this man is that the PA Game Commission is unable to get the license fee increase from the legislature that the PGC and most hunters want.

On the one hand, this self-defeating complaining and tearing up of doe tags is pretty much insane behavior, and a complete waste of one’s own precious time on Planet Earth.

On the other hand, that someone is so passionate about hunting and wildlife is a good thing. The question is, can this guy and the thousands of other unhappy hunters like him be educated about scientific deer management? Or are they so close-minded and emotional about this subject that they are immune to empirical evidence, logic and reason?

One result of our state’s scientific wildlife management is that we are now a major trophy hunting destination. Previously unthinkably enormous bucks and gigantic bears are within reach of those who are willing to hunt hard and smart. Bucks that rival and surpass those of the “best” whitetail states in the Mid-West. Black bears that are as big as Alaskan grizzlies. These are tangible signs of policy success, and that Pennsylvania is now an outdoor Promised Land after decades of hunters being happy with a pathetic forkhorn or even a spike buck.

On my westward drive along I-80 last week, and my drive south yesterday, from northwest Lycoming County down to Dauphin County, I saw dozens of dead deer littering the sides of the roads. Actually there were so many that I lost count. There may have been a hundred dead deer along the roads. Including along very rural roads in areas where many older guys complain there “ain’t no deer.” Obviously there are a lot of deer in these places, because they are not all being killed on the highway. These dead deer are the fruit of deer-car collisions, a very expensive and dangerous result of an overabundant deer population.

To be fair to the complaining hunters, the PA deer population in these places may be too high for the road system and not high enough for hunters’ desires. That is a very real possibility. It may be that the Pennsylvania road system is just too big, too widespread into rural areas, to allow many deer to survive into the Fall hunting season.

No, we are not going to shut down the public roads to stop the carnage, though it would make sense for Pennsylvania to put a moratorium brake on road building. We taxpayers cannot afford the operations and maintenance costs on the roads and bridges we have now, let along on any new roads and bridges. PennDot must re-direct its energies into safely maintaining the infrastructure we already have, like how about wildlife tunnels? And if the deer-car collisions are any indication, our public road system has been poorly planned and badly implemented; it has spiderwebbed out into the most rural areas and wildlife habitats. Thereby inviting expensive car collisions with wildlife.

I think this unhappy hunter situation is going to be like the ancient Hebrews’ 40 years in the desert. The older generation that cannot adapt to changing habitat, changing deer behavior, changing land use patterns and changing hunting methods is going to have to die off. Then the younger generation can get in the driver’s seat on deer management policy.

The younger generation understands and values science and biology in setting policy, like doe harvest tags, the crucial importance of getting buy-in and acceptance from the larger society around us (people unhappy about hitting overabundant deer; in Europe hunters are personally responsible for keeping wildlife populations at safe levels), the need to be multifaceted and flexible when hunting deer, etc. These complaining hunters represent the ex-slave mentality of those Hebrews who left Egypt and who could not learn to live as free men. Moses could not let them enter the Promised Land because they would infect everyone with foolish ideas and weakness. That would put the entire effort at risk. So he kept them wandering until that generation died out.

Sorry, old complaining guys, you are living in a broken past. You are slaves to an unproven, non-scientific, failed approach to wildlife management. If you cannot change your mindset and embrace reality, then you will be remembered as the lost generation that stood in the way of success and happiness.

And to be fair, this same broken thinking has haunted the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s approach to Sunday hunting. The older generation there has successfully blocked a 50% increase in hunting opportunity for decades, just because they think it is “wrong,” for no good, defensible reason. But that also is about to change, soon, as the fed-up younger generation of farmers, including religious Mennonites, takes this important policy issue in hand and directly bucks the older guys standing in the way of family success and happiness.

To enter the Promised Land, you must shed your slave mentality. I hope the anti-science hunters and the anti-freedom PA Farm Bureau folks will join us as we enter a glorious new period in Pennsylvania’s outdoor heritage.