With the Pennsylvania Primary election just eleven days away, the time has arrived to go back to the blog and leave the campaign policies and pledges to candidates Andrew Lewis and John DiSanto.
The last blog post was in June 2015. How surprising it was back then to see the amount of traffic the blog received, and from all corners of the world. Most of our readers were from Harrisburg and Washington, DC, two government hot spots and centers for policy development. Wonks galore in those two locations. But then there were the places like Washington STATE, Louisiana, Upstate New York, and California, where many fewer dedicated policy weenies reside. Even recently a bearded Democrat said he missed this blog, “Even though I don’t agree with you a lot of the time, you are a good writer and you have interesting subjects.”
So we begin again. However, with the election just days away, you can expect some politicking to occur here. Welcome back, dear reader.
Since my first hunting license adorned my back way back in 1976-1977, a lot has changed in the Pennsylvania landscape.
For example, wild game then so abundant that you could go out and shoot a couple for dinner is now practically extirpated.
Why pheasants and quail disappeared from Pennsylvania is a big debate with no clear answers. Loss of farmland to sprawl, low density development is one. Changes in farming practices is another; fallow fields had the best habitat. A plethora of winged and four legged predators cannot be discounted. Successfully rebounding populations of raptors like hawks and owls for sure ate a lot of plump pheasants. But why a sudden and dramatic crash?
Conservation successes since 1976 are plentiful and say a lot about wildlife biology. Wild turkey populations, fishers, bobcats and other animals once thought completely gone are now firmly in our lives, whether we see them, or not.
An interesting dynamic is playing out at our hunting camp. This year we have a virtual carpet of oak and hickory seedlings unlike anything we saw over the past 15 years we’ve owned it. Why?
Conventional wisdom is the deer population is low, and it’s true that it’s lower than it has been in 15 years. That is, deer are known eaters of acorns and tree seedlings. Fewer deer means more of both.
However, another factor seems to be playing out with these newly abundant tree seedlings. Where we once had an incredible overload of tree rats, aka squirrels, the new fishers have eaten them all. Like all of them. Not one tree rat remains in our carefully cultivated forest of white oaks. We see fisher tracks. We neither see nor hear squirrels.
As squirrels are known eaters of acorns and hickories, it stands to reason that their absence means more acorns and hickories hatching into baby trees.
Add a long icy winter that appears to have crushed our local wild turkey populations, also known for eating nuts, and the right conditions emerge to help a forest rebound and grow some new stock, a huge challenge we aggressively tackle every year.
So, my son getting his first hunting license yesterday is now entering a landscape that in some ways is just as dynamic as the one I began hunting so long ago. What a difference these landscapes were and are, and who would’ve guessed the fishers would be responsible for oak and hickory forests regenerating?
A lot has changed in our wildlife landscapes, and yet not much has changed in my lifetime. Different animals, same kind of population changes, variations, pressures. One thing I keep reminding myself: It’s all natural, these changes. And while some are painful to see, like the loss of pheasants, other opportunities open up. Never would I have imagined in 1976, nor would any PA Game Commission staff, that in 2015 my son would get a bobcat tag and a fisher tag with his license.
Totally different opportunity than chasing pheasants in corn fields, but still good.
“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” goes one famous observation.
Here in Pennsylvania we’ve had one long going example of power-mad officials using their office to attack symbols of their political opponents, and we’ve had one recent example of a nudnik mayor whose goal in life was to finally acquire power, and who then flubbed it publicly.
Long-term: Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane dropped a bomb of false accusations and police with guns on Brian Bolus, his wife, his little boy. Bolus had the temerity to be cited by then governor Tom Corbett as a classic example of bootstrap capitalism, an all American kid who did well.
Corbett- Republican, Kane, Democrat. So Kane uses the power of her office to attack Corbett by proxy.
Years later, the AG has nothing, zero, to prosecute Bolus. Brian’s personal effects and titles to his paid-for home and vehicles are not in his possession, and the home video surveillance footage of the day the Gestapo visited his house is somehow missing.
Now why would criminal investigators “lose” the security video footage of their violent, over-the-top raid on a peaceful family? Could it be damning? Ummmm, you know it.
The Bolus attack is an obvious abuse of power by an AG drunk on influence and deep corruption, as if hiring her own sister into a sensitive public service job wasn’t bad enough.
Another reason for Kane to begone. And give back the Bolus family their personal things before ya hit the road, lady.
Short-term: Harrisburg cops terrorize, bully, threaten, harass, intimidate and falsely accused a 75-year-old Marine named Robert Ford on Memorial Day.
Ford’s crime? Wearing his fifty-year-old US Government issue Marine Corps uniform in public, where he had earlier performed Taps at a Memorial Day event. In other words, no crime.
Public outrage against the two Harrisburg keystone kops has grown ever since, with the story hitting media and blogs coast to coast. Officers Moody and O’Connor will not apologize for their unprofessional behavior, but making things worse…neither will Mayor Eric Papenfuse.
Papenfuse has excused the police officers and said they did nothing wrong.
This, from a man who hung around and lauded former anti-police terrorists. This from a man purveying his Yale undergrad degree as proof of his superiority. Apparently Yale doesn’t teach Morality 101, or Papenfuse was just so smart, too smart to take such a course.
So here we have an inexperienced used bookstore owner who used to accuse the police of being criminals, now wallowing in his newfound power, high on power, unable to break out of its grip and just do the right thing.
Yep, power corrupts. Let’s hope our citizenry corrects it.
The following story is found at http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2015/06/harrisburg_artsfest_veteran_st.html#incart_m-rpt-2.
The other day, a Harrisburg Police officer aggressively harassed an old Marine dressed in his uniform, accusing him of stolen valor. That is where people wear military uniforms and medals they are not entitled to wear. They do it to make themselves appear better, cooler, tougher. Turns out, the old Marine, Robert Ford, was in fact honorably discharged from the US Marines a long time ago, and the uniform he proudly wore was given to him by the US Government. He had just finished performing “Taps” at a Memorial Day ceremony and decided to walk over to ArtsFest along Front Street and the Susquehanna River.
American citizens cannot be expected to put up with this kind of over-reach and abuse of power. It is official malfeasance, which is actionable. Harrisburg City has real crime problems. This is Bad Government, Exhibit A. My God, what is happening here?
Questions about this videotaped and photographed event abound:
a) Will Detective (!) John O’Connor offer an apology to Ford?
b) Will Detective (!) O’Connor be demoted or terminated for his wildly unprofessional, threatening, bullying behavior of a free citizen?
c) Will Mayor Papenfuse have anything to say? Will he do anything?
d) Will Harrisburg police Captain Deric Moody also apologize, or be demoted? Moody’s behavior is almost worse than O’Connor’s, because he compounded the initial antagonistic behavior and then tried to cover it up.
Folks, Harrisburg is in trouble, deep trouble, and unless elected officials are quick to get these kinds of situations under control, a festering culture develops. Recently I discovered that yet another city agency is once again making bad decisions in a vacuum.
Mayor Papenfuse, an apology from your police officers is Job #1. Other elected officials should chime in, too.
Since early childhood and Wyeth paintings of Captain Kidd and pirates bearing cutlasses and flintlock pistols, old timey guns and edged weapons have gripped my imagination.
No, there is no oddity here in that. There is no eccentric or weirdo behavior resulting from this affliction. In a sporting world increasingly enamored of stainless steel and plastic firearms, bearing Hubble Telescope-like magnifying scopes capable of coldly assassinating animals at half a mile or longer, being a nut for simple guns of old steel, open sights, and darkened walnut sets one apart more on the side of sanity.
When these old guns last hurt someone, the War of 1812 was a recent memory; maybe some time in the 1890s a kid playing with one hanging above the mantle managed to unintentionally bag his grandma in the living room.
In 1994, a pile of them were dumped into the trash by one of my neighbors in suburban Maryland, because they were “guns,” and therefore bad, apparently, despite each one being representative of one artistic school or another, each a canvas of steel and wood, not fabric. Together worth a new luxury car at that time, and today each worth a single car.
Dumping them in the trash was that recent widow’s own self-inflicted wound.
In general, these quality antique firearms and their “modern” descendants, including the black powder express rifles, double barrel shotguns, nitro double barreled rifles, and single-shot stalking rifles, pose no risk to humans and are a threat to four-legged animals only when used with hard-won, developed skill and hard-earned, focused woodcraft. After all, these weapons require their user to approach wary wild game within at least 150 yards, and well within 100 yards is preferred, where noses, ears and eyes easily tell the quarry “RUN! NOW! FAST!”
No assassinations here. Hunting skill is the key.
Many of these guns were made at a pivotal time in human and technological history when steels were dramatically improving in hardness and durability, explosives were well on their way to matching our best fireworks today, electricity-powered machinery was becoming more available and more precise, human labor was still abundant and relatively cheap, and standards of craftsmanship were still exceptionally high so that each item a worker produced carried his or her pride of best abilities applied.
Finally, remote stands of ancient walnut trees and other tree species, long neglected for their timber and enjoyed by the natives for their fruits and nuts, became known and available by steam locomotive, pack mule, and steam ship. Wood from these trees captured a time when few factors reared their hands against the relatively soft material, and so they grew slowly in peace and quiet in far-off lands and places, each decade adding a narrow band of dense and highly figured curl and figure to what would eventually become a stunning, valuable gunstock in London, Suhl, Ferlach, and Belgium.
Today, such firearms, and even reproductions of them, are highly sought after by harmless romantics seeking to hunt but not necessarily to kill, to capture the essence of bringing an aesthetically pleasing hand-craft to the necessary bloodletting in harvesting wild game; basically, to class-up and improve the joint a bit with style and understated elegance.
Certainly there are representations of this time period among our most favorite buildings around the planet, so if “guns” elude you, your emotions, or your tastes, think of beautiful, carefully constructed, famous buildings that inspire people (or furniture, or cars, or or or…). Then you should understand that those nerdy, harmless romantics actually carry such high art around in the woods, and that being a nut for such specimens of humankind’s best mechanical and artistic abilities is not such a strange preoccupation, after all.
It is an aesthetic pursuit, with a bang.
As this right here is not a book, and as it is merely my own small, off-hand, and brief attempt to say Thank You to people who have distantly but materially added to my quality and enjoyment of life, just three institutions are receiving mention today, though many many many more deserve kudos, too (Steve Bodio comes to mind, or Ironmen Antiques, and and and…).
First, a big thank you to the Cote Family, the hard working founding publishers of the Double Gun & Single Shot Journal (DGJ), 1989 to present. Without the DGJ, aficionados of old but not the oldest or most popular firearms would have but occasional and fleeting mentions in Grey’s Sporting Journal, American Rifleman, and hard-to-find tomes filled with errata and alchemy. DGJ captures both the spirit of old hunting tools and methods, and the details required to make the whole endeavor successfully fall into place now.
Without the DGJ, Capstick and Pondoro and similar oldies-but-goodies would be most of the reading available to us. Yes, yes, Roosevelt’s African Game Trails and his other hunting books are phenomenal, but how many times over can a person read them?
So a huge Thank You to the Cote family for keeping the DGJ going.
Second, DGJ hosts such gifted analysts as Sherman Bell, whose decades-long “Finding Out for Myself” series of articles has put to rest silly notions about using black powder and nitro-for-black substitutes (yes, you can kill a beautiful buck with style, elegance, and woodcraft, you do not have to be an assassin to be successful), the safety of Damascus barrels (yes, they are safe with modern shells), and other interesting myths and facts surrounding Grandpa’s old gun on the mantle. Thank You to Sherman Bell, for enriching my life in small but directly meaningful ways with these beloved and useful artifacts.
Finally, a huge Thank You to noted gun writer Ross Seyfried, whose introspective writings and wanderings in DGJ and elsewhere have inspired many others to pick up the double rifle or single shot, and shelve the plastic contraption, once again capturing the spirit, at least, of fair chase. And Thank You, Ross, for your own steady, incredibly patient guidance and knowledge as I walk my own path.
Yes, I know, you too had your mentors, and they too held your hand and guided you along your path. We have walked those paths with you in the Matabeleland of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and the hills of Elk Song in Oregon. But in a culture of increasingly shallow or fragile relationships, expectations of immediate gratification, point-and-click ‘knowledge’, plastic contraption guns, brief patience, half-mile assassinations of unstalked animals, and so on, being a junior apprentice to someone like you is a pleasurable rarity, and an honor.
Ross, I pledge I will do my best to follow in your footsteps and do as you have done with me: Passing along all of my knowledge of the old things, the old ways, the class and the grace — what little I possess!, to those who want them. I will withhold nothing from that next generation.
An old Japanese Samurai sword presently sitting up on the mantle may be just an old hunk of metal in a damaged wooden scabbard, and to the vast majority of people, a sword is a sword is a sword, so it means nothing other than it is a one-dimensional artifact of another time and place.
What’s the big deal about one or another artifact or old sword, right?
What sets old Japanese swords apart from every other sword ever made by humankind is literally everything about them, every aspect and detail of a sword, from tip to pommel.
Without going into detail here, suffice it to say that if, for example, a huge Viking sword was successfully made to mindlessly, crazily smash, bash, break, cut, gouge, gore, and rip a human body in a fit of power madness, a relatively slender Japanese sword will certainly do all that, if it must, but it can also serve as a surgical scalpel slicing fatally deep with minimal sense of anything awry, at first.
Artistic forms of death inspire artists and fascinate onlookers still, so is it any wonder that old Japanese swords symbolically speak still to men around the world, including me. A hushed, quiet, almost slithering whisper is its language. You cannot really hear it, but to look upon such a weapon, with full understanding, is to recognize its potential danger, even if it appears inert, steady, a mere object in need of a strong arm and shoulder to wield it.
Such is the role of any powerful symbol, and the more subtle they are, the more powerful they are.
As a new window begins to open in some political theater, Kabuki?, this sword sits front and center before me, speaking its quiet, ancient language, inspiring on to battle those who revere quality above apparent size. The theater may be absurd at time, it may have incredibly comical villains and real heartbreak, but nevertheless, the sword remains. Whatever it must do, it will do, so long as the will remains to direct it.
And buddy, there is a deep well of will.
Two days ago, a dear friend sent me the text of a recent speech by Colonel Richard Kemp, a highly recognized and decorated British military leader.
Col. Kemp has been speaking all over Planet Earth about how America, Western Civilization, and Israel are bound together in a single, common fate. Freedom, liberty, and other basic democratic values are under assault, he says, from political correctness.
Here is the URL to Col. Kemp’s taped speech:
If you are really interested in my response to my friend, read on:
Beginning around the I-81 overpass over Front Street in Harrisburg, and ending about half a mile south, turtles are now trying to reach loamy dirt to lay their eggs.
Oddly, sadly, many dead and dying turtles litter the roadside, hit by cars, either by accident or on purpose.
It’s difficult to plumb the depths of someone’s thinking when they deliberately drive off the roadway and onto the roadside, to crush a tiny helpless little animal like this.
Please brake for turtles. They can’t, won’t, and haven’t done anything to us humans. They deserve to live, too.
Memorial Day is a big deal in a Republic like America. Without the sacrifices and daily risks of our armed service personnel, America wouldn’t exist. Our daily freedoms and liberties would be replaced by fear of an all-encompassing government.
Thank you, dear departed.
Days ago, my next door neighbor was riding bikes with his son, and he had an accident. The trauma to his head was so significant that he died yesterday, never waking up from his injury.
Doctor Jerry Luck was a hell of a nice man, and I’m very sorry he is gone. Planet Earth is a much poorer place without Jerry among us. Our condolences to his wife Kathi and their two children.
Tonight I attended a regular meeting at the Duncannon Sportsmen’s Association, where club president Carl Fox pours his endless love, energy, and devotion to recruiting new hunters, fishermen, and outdoor enthusiasts. Sitting next to me was an elderly Mr. Foultz, a name I dimly recalled.
Turns out, Mr. Foultz is from Pine Grove Mills, a small village near where I grew up. Many summer days I walked barefoot from the deep farm country across the semi-developed farm country closer to State College, to play with friends in Pine Grove Mills.
Sitting on his porch there, forty years ago, was a grumpy, quiet old man we knew as Indian Joe. He was reputed to be an actual Indian, he certainly looked dark skinned and “ethnic,” and in a location as rural and frontier-like as that area was back then, he was as good and as real and as exciting as a person could be. Indian Joe was a touchstone for the old frontier days that we could still feel and see and touch, like when someone’s dad would find an old 1790s or 1820s flintlock rifle stashed away in a barn, and people would come to see it and hold it.
Indian Joe was a central feature of many Penn State homecoming parades on College Avenue, often dressed in a nice suit and a Plains Indian feather bonnet, riding in a convertible Cadillac behind Coach Joe Paterno. Indian Joe would grumble at me when I was a kid pestering him on his porch for stories of the old frontier days.
When I asked Mr. Foultz tonight if he knew Indian Joe, and what his real last name was, I received a long and flattering description of Indian Joe.
No, he was not Shawnee, nor Delaware, nor Conestoga, nor Onandaga, nor any other local tribe. Joe was Menominee, from Wisconsin.
Turns out, Old Joe had served in the American Armed Forces, met a young woman in Baltimore, married, and moved back to her home town of Pine Grove Mills. His real last name was something like Gonfer, as it sounded to me.
Pine Grove Mills was also the location of the first girl I had a crush on, Billy Jo. We hunted together as kids, and even then she was beautiful to look at, and kind. She was a hell of a shot, too, and killed deer sooner and faster than I did.
So elderly Mr. Foultz and I went on a memory spree tonight, naming places and people from decades ago. The Artz’s Arco, where I bought my hunting licenses from age twelve through twenty, was where he worked Saturdays as a teenager. And so on. Mind you, dear reader, Pine Grove Mills had a total population of about 250 people back then, and probably a bit more today. Still surrounded by farms and State Forest, it is the epitome of Small Town Pennsylvania, something I regularly celebrate.
So, kind thoughts to old Indian Joe, long gone from his porch and from Joe Paterno PSU homecoming parades down the middle of our quaint town, and sad but good thoughts to Doctor Jerry, whose kind and gentle demeanor will be hugely missed today and for decades to come.
Takeaway? People shape us constantly, from our earliest days to our hoary old age of fifty. It’s good and proper that we should be shaped, and honed, sharper and better, by the people around us, as time marches on.