↓ Archives ↓

Posts Tagged → rural

Reflections on 2020 bear season

As if by magic or just the batting of an eyelid, the much anticipated 2020 bear season is now behind us, having concluded at dark yesterday. Sad to see our friends go; we had such a fun time! The last of our bear hunting guests have left, cleanup has commenced, preparations are under way for Thanksgiving, and there are some reflections to be had on bear season.

First, where the hell were the bears? Serious question here. We hunt in a mountainous Northcentral area that is Pennsylvania’s “Bear Central.” And despite us daily scouring a lot of remote, very rugged territory that is usually home to lots of bears, we saw neither bears nor bear poop. None. It could be the warm weather has bears hunkered down under cool overhangs in even more remote places. It could be the low acorn crop has bears going in to hibernation early, because there is no more food for them to eat to put on the extra fat they need to hibernate successfully. The truth is, no bear tracks or poops have been seen around here for months, which is remarkable. I cannot think of any year prior like this.

Second, where were all the hunters? We heard only a few shots between Saturday and Sunday, and either none or one on Monday, and for sure none on Tuesday; and very few hunting parties were on the radio on any day. This means that few large scale hunting drives were going on. Without hunters moving across the landscape, the bears don’t have to move out of their way. They can just sit still and not run the risk of exposing their rib cage to a hunter’s bullet. That means that the bears can loaf about in some remote corner, escaping the unseasonable warmth or just waiting for the wafting human scent to drift away before making their usual rounds again. Which means the few hunters who are out don’t see much action.

Third, where were all the other critters, like turkeys and deer? Like with bears, we saw very little deer or turkey poop in the woods. And although I myself saw two whopper bucks and a five-point up close, no one else saw any deer. Nor did any of us see any turkeys. Once again, the absence of these otherwise ubiquitous animals could be due to the relative absence of acorns. Which would push the wildlife far afield to find food sources.

Fourth, despite all of our hunting setbacks, did any of us care a bit? No! We missed all of our friends who could not be with us for various reasons, like fear of the CCP virus, or family emergencies requiring them to stay at home. But those of us who gathered had a lot of fun nonetheless. And with or without a bear on the game pole, we would not have missed this time together for any reason at all. We caught up on our families, our work, our homes, cars, friendships, wives, and politics (yeah, there was a lot of pro-Trump  politics). Some people drank way too much alcohol, and we got some great pictures of it all, like the one guy asleep on the cold ground outside. No, we don’t post those here. We ate like kings, that is for sure, and no one lacked for food or drink.

Finally, it is possible that the new early bears seasons (archery, muzzleloader, and special junior+ senior rifle) are removing so many bears from the woods that come rifle season, very few huntable bears remain to be had. According to real-time hunting harvest data posted at the PA Game Commission website, more bears were killed in the early seasons than in the official rifle season this year. This means there are fewer bears available for the rifle hunters. It is possible that many hunters expected this, based on last year’s harvest patterns, and they stayed home or hunted alone, instead of joining the big crew at camp, like usual. As of late today, just 3,138 bears had been killed total this year. That is about a thousand fewer than expected.

Based on this raw data alone, the early bear seasons are actually backfiring. They are not removing the high surplus number of bears that are beyond Pennsylvania’s social carrying capacity. Rather, the early bear seasons are removing the easiest bears and leaving few to be hunted in the later rifle season.

And this new dynamic could be the real story in PA’s bear season: There are so many early season bear hunting opportunities for individuals that they collectively take the wind out of the sails for the regular season hunters, thereby having a boomerang effect on the entire thing and limiting it.

We won’t know what all this data really means for another few years, and by then either great or even fatal damage will have been done to Pennsylvania’s traditional bear camp culture, with its big gatherings and big drives and big camp camaraderie dying out, or we will simply all have to learn to adapt to new ways of hunting. I have to say, there is no substitute for men gathering at a camp to hunt together. The gathered hunting party is the most human of experiences; it is an institution as old as our species. Its purpose was not just making meat, but also social and sociological.

I sure hope these myriad new early bear seasons are not self-defeating, in that they do not kill that traditional bear camp culture by removing its whole purpose ahead of the game. Question for the PGC: What incentive is there to push your body hard through rugged and remote landscapes, destroying your boots, tearing your clothing, and often losing or breaking some of your gear, including damaging your gun, when the animal you are seeking has already been removed?

Below are some photos from one of our trail cameras two years ago. Just days after bear season ended, a bear was caught gloriously and most joyously rubbing its back against a young white pine tree. Almost like a pole dancer. Pretty hot hip shakes there. We haven’t seen a bear anywhere around here since May this year.

2123:113018:25F:TLH4 :6

2123:113018:25F:TLH4 :6

2123:113018:25F:TLH4 :6

2123:113018:23F:TLH4 :6

2123:113018:23F:TLH4 :6

2123:113018:23F:TLH4 :6

 

When one of our guys is finally browbeaten into washing dishes after years, it is cause for “Notify the media” acts like taking his unhappy picture. This is back in 2015. He still has to be browbeaten into washing the damned dishes

Lycoming County is the boot-looking shape in the northcentral area. Its northwestern corner is where we hunt. The darkest township there demonstrates the importance of organized hunting drives. A bunch of large hunting clubs are located in this area, and their members put on highly coordinated, obviously successful drives.

Rural & Urban People Experience the Virus Differently

Rural and urban people are experiencing the covid19 CCP virus differently. And this means they each experience the various governors’ approaches to it differently, too. Chinese Flu policies impact rural and urban people differently.

In rural America, like Clinton County and Lycoming County here in Pennsylvania, life is still pretty much going on, not quite like normal, but fairly close to normal. The perceived risk from Wuhan covid19 Flu is low. This is because the rural peoples’ observations are not squaring up with what they are being told from their state capital. Rural people are not seeing up close and personal the disruptive chaos and death that is so pervasive in places like New York City and Philadelphia. So their behavior is different.

For weeks the Lowes in Mill Hall, PA, has been standing-room-only parking on the weekends, as local people shop for gardening supplies. Likewise the other nearby big box stores and small hardware stores are also full of people attending to their needs. Life is going on, albeit with some face masks and people clearly trying to steer clear of one another in shopping aisles. The Wegmans in Williamsport, PA, was full of shoppers the last time I was there, and the shelves were mostly well stocked. Notes about limits per customer are placed in all the usual places – TP, canned tuna, milk, bread. Ladies at the checkout are quite tough and firm about shoppers abiding by these limits, and everyone seems to be getting along just fine.

Elsewhere in rural PA are drive-in church services, food takeout, maybe some bonfires with chairs set apart, but still lots of chairs, nonetheless.

Actual Risk vs. Perceived Risk vs. Government Policy

At the heart of this lifestyle difference between rural and urban people is the difference they have over perceived risk, actual risk, and what the government policy says.

When rural people look around and see none of the catastrophic chaos engulfing New York City, they begin to ask simple and necessary questions about the actual risk of the China Flu to them. The actual risk, not the suggested hype or irrational fear stay-the-f#k-at-home perceived risk that is being breathlessly communicated by the cable outlets every minute. Without bodies stacked high, without lots of people becoming obviously sick from the CCP Chinese Flu, and with local health providers like hospitals and clinics operating as normal, rural people begin to question the value and necessity of the government policy that tells them their Constitutional rights must be suspended.

They then begin to question the value and purpose of their own government.

When we hear about the over-reach in places like Kentucky and Michigan, whose governors are literally demanding that people cower in their homes or else face huge overwhelming coercive force and jail time, it is natural for Americans to ask not just what is the value of these policies, but why can’t we have real policies that are tailored to the realities that each community faces. The potential risks of Wuhan Flu are just not the same everywhere.

Rural areas have more room and space between people, fewer people, less congestion, and a lot lot lot less exposure AND a lot less actual risk. Government policies need to reflect these realities. Blanket one-size-does-not-fit-all policies serve no real health purpose. Instead, no matter how well intentioned the governor may be, these blanket policies that are the same in Philadelphia as they are in Lock Haven, PA, make everyone equally miserable, damage all businesses equally, regardless of the health outcomes.

At the end of the day, government action must both balance risks with costs and benefits, while also safeguarding the citizenry’s sacred Constitutional rights. To date, very few states have done this. Instead, almost every state has treated low-risk rural areas the same as high-risk congested urban areas, and hit them all with the same heavy hammer. This makes the whole covid19 reaction thing seem awfully fishy.

Purple woad. Or why hunting leases

Leasing land to hunt on is a big thing these days, and there is no sign of the phenomenon decreasing. Most of it is about deer and turkey hunting.

Hunting leases have been popular for a long time in states with little public land, like Texas, but the practice is now spreading to remote areas like suburban farms around Philadelphia and Maryland. So high is the demand for quality hunting land, and for just finding a place to hunt without being bothered, and so limited is the resource becoming, that leasing is a natural step for many landowners who want to get some extra income to pay their rent or fief to the government (property taxes aka build-a-union-teacher’s-public-pension-fund).

Having been approached about leasing land I own and manage, it is something I considered and then rejected. If a landowner at all personally enjoys their own land themselves, enjoys their privacy there, enjoys the health of their land, then leasing is not for you. Bear in mind that leasing also carries some legal liability risk, and so you have to carry sufficient insurance to cover any lawsuits that might begin on your land.

Nonetheless, some private land is being leased, having been posted before that. And the reason that so many land owners are overcoming the same hurdles that I myself went through when considering land leasing, is that in some cases the money is high enough. Enough people want badly enough to have their own place that they can hunt on exclusively, that they are willing to pay real money.

Makes you wonder what kind of population pressures and open land decreases America has seen over the past fifty years to lead to this kind of change in land use. Makes me think of one anecdotal experience.

On the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend of 2007, I drove up to Pine Creek to dig the footers for our barn. All the way up I shared the road, in both directions, with two motorcyclists headed in my same direction. That is it. In addition to my pickup, a grand total of two vehicles out for a Sunday drive in the country were on Route 44 and Rt 414.

Fast forward 13 years and my gosh, Pine Creek Valley has nonstop traffic in both directions at all hours. It does not matter what the time of day or night is, there are vehicles going in both directions. And not just oversize pickup trucks possibly associated with the gas drilling occurring around the area. Little tiny dinky tin can cars are going up and down the valley, too. There are literally people everywhere here now, in what had been the most remote, undeveloped, quietest corner of rural Pennsylvania. Even if you go bear hunting on some sidehill in the middle of nowhere up in Pine Creek Valley, you will encounter another hunting gang or two. Which for bear hunting is actually a good thing, but the point being that there are people everywhere everywhere everywhere in rural Pennsylvania.

OK, here is another brief anecdote. Ladies, skip ahead to the next paragraph. About ten years ago I was fishing on the north end of the Chesapeake Bay. When I was finished for the day, I drove back north toward home. At one point I had an urge to pee, so I began looking for a place I could pull off and pull out, without offending anyone. Yes, I have my modest moments. And you know what? The entire region between The Chesapeake Bay’s northern shores and the Pennsylvania Mason-Dixon Line, is completely developed. Like wall-to-wall one-two-three-acre residential lots on every inch of land surface. At the one place that finally looked like I was finally going to get some relief, I stepped out of the car and was immediately met with a parade of Mini Coopers and Priuses driving by on the gravel road to their wooded home lots. There was literally people everywhere, in every corner, in every place.

So what happened here?

There are more people and there is more land development, both of which leading to less nice land to hunt, fewer big private spaces for people to call their own, and so that which does exist is in much higher demand.

Enter Pennsylvania’s new No Trespassing law. AKA the “purple paint” law.

Why was this new law even needed? Because the disenfranchised, enslaved Scots-Irish refugees who originally settled the Pennsylvania frontier by dint of gumption, bravery, and hard work had a natural opposition to the notions and forms of European aristocracy that had driven them here. Such as large pieces of private land being closed off to hunting and fishing. And so these Scots-Irish settlers developed an Indian-like culture of openly flouting the marked boundaries of private properties. Especially when they hunted.

And this culture of ignoring No Trespassing signs carries forth to this very day.

Except that now it is 2020, not 1820, and there are more damned people on the landscape and a hell of a lot less land for those people to roam about on. Nice large pieces of truly private land are becoming something of a rarity in a lot of places. Heck, even the once-rural Poconos is now just an aluminum siding and brick suburb of Joizy.

So in response to our collision of frontier culture with ever more valuable privacy rights, Pennsylvania now has a new purple paint law. If you see purple paint on a tree, it is the equivalent of a No Trespassing sign. And if you do trespass and you get caught, the penalties are much tougher and more expensive than they were just a few months ago.

And you know what the real irony is of this purple paint stay-the-hell-out boundary thing? It is a lot like the blue woad that the Celtic ancestors of the Scots and Irish used to paint their bodies with  before entering into battle. Except it is now the landowner who has painted himself in war paint.

Isn’t life funny.

My comments to the PA Game Commission

The Pennsylvania Game Commission board of commissioners will be meeting this weekend, to set next season’s dates and bag limits. Like many other people, I submitted comments by email last week. From past experiences with this, I know that the commissioners read comments and requests from the public. Some of my comments, and those of my son, have received direct feedback from various members of the board.

A key to getting the commissioners to read and truly consider your comments is to submit them with plenty of time for the recipients to read them. If you submit comments a day or two before the meeting, it’s a very low likelihood of anyone having time to read them. Also, try to keep comments short, to the point, and sweet. Comments with prolonged bitching, whining, and playing biologist when you have no training or education or even a novice’s interest in wildlife biology, are all ways to ensure that your audience at best glances at your comments.

“Dear Commissioners,
Hunting should be fun, and therefore our small game seasons should run unbroken from their Fall opening to their February close. Whatever long gone reason for the on again-off again pattern of small game seasons, Pennsylvania must create opportunities for everyone. No biological reason exists for hiccup-style seasons. Few if any other states have this odd pattern. Let’s just let our hunters have fun and hunt.

In that vein, please consider allowing bodygrip traps on running pole sets in our most rural WMUs. The idea that a loose domestic dog is going to get caught in a trap in the middle of a state forest wilderness is preposterous. Same is true on private land. Same goes for allowing snares. We need all the tools we can get to manage coyotes. With now three years of crazy freeze-thaw-rain winter weather cycles, it’s impossible to rely on footholds. Cable restraints should be allowed throughout the whole season, and snares should be allowed on private land and or on public land in the Big Woods WMUs.

Finally, please put one of our Sundays on the day after the Saturday bear rifle opener, and another Sunday on the day after the Saturday deer rifle opener. This will create the most energy and excitement for our hunters. Even better, make bear and deer rifle concurrent!

Thank you for considering my thoughts,

–Josh”

My Morning Drive with NPR

Early yesterday morning’s two-hour drive involved a sparse radio channel selection in rural Pennsylvania.

Northern Schuylkill County is, after all, The Skook, and thus devoid of radio signals or much else emanating from the early Twentieth Century.

In a world of handheld oblivion, to some, including me, this insularity is a charming reminder of the rural good life. Rural people are largely content, and contentment is its own form of riches.

However, this long drive through raped coal fields also necessitated taking what I could get on the radio to help keep me awake, and that fell to the many taxpayer funded National Public Radio “public” radio signals along the way. Not even country stations had staying power beyond thirty seconds before fuzzing out and melding with some other vague music sound.

Having once been a fan of NPR, and still occasionally listening to NPR out of morbid fascination, I decided to open my heart and give another open-minded listen to what has become a notorious gateway for All-Things-Leftist propaganda.

“What the hell, it’s a long drive, might as well listen to these guys. They are the only stations coming through strong, anyhow,” I mused, while sipping the other second coffee.

Coffee quickly became passé, as I choked halfway through a sip and then involuntarily devolved into increasingly animated banter with the various NPR personnel as they were successively trotted out with the morning’s news items.

Within seconds, a skyrocketing heart rate, eyes bulging, and spittle flying meant caffeine was no longer needed to get me awake and keep me alert. I was there.

Was this some sort of Skook Zone reaction to news I couldn’t accept because of partisanship or unwillingness to consider inconvenient facts?

Categorical denial right here, no, it was not.

My sudden screaming match with the radio was a result of profound disgust and a sense of grating unfairness. A feeling of being violated by snobby DC Swamp dwellers who have no sense of propriety for factual accuracy or for the proper use of public tax dollars coerced from American citizens, and then turned against them.

To wit, Exhibit A, NPR news anchorman interviewing former US State Department career official and Washington, DC, insider Nick Burns about the situation with North Korea: Burns accuses Trump administration of “hollowing out” the US State Department, the US EPA, and the US Department of Interior, in an effort to undermine these agencies and their effectiveness. The notion being that failing, bloated federal agencies filled with unaccountable bureaucrats are what the American taxpayer really needs most.

The focus of Burns’ complaint was on the US State Department and how “enough” career foreign service personnel are not being hired to “adequately” represent the United States abroad. No alternative perspective was presented, no alternative view was sought. It was simply a careerist DC bureaucrat complaining to a sympathetic NPR employee about how the new administration was altering decades of government mismanagement. One long anti-Trump bitch session.

Exhibit B followed on the heels of Exhibit A. NPR reports that the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau leadership role is being contested by a holdover from the past administration, a woman who was appointed to lead the CFPB by the former administration in its last days. This woman has filed a lawsuit (already appealed because she lost the first round) challenging the new administration’s right and ability to appoint someone else as the head of the US agency.

Nowhere in this “report” is it mentioned that this is at best a symbolic contest, or at worst a leftist shopping around for a leftist federal judge who will throw the rule of law out the window in the search for political dominance. Thereby granting said former federal employee the right to unilaterally override the President of the United States on selecting senior federal employees.

Nowhere is it mentioned that the new administration has full authority to hire, fire, and appoint senior staff to executive branch agencies, and that decisions made by past administrations are null and void.

Nowhere is the rule of law mentioned.

Nowhere is this growing activist federal judge phenomenon mentioned.
Instead, it is reported as apparent support for an Obama-era employee and Obama-era policy (“under assault” by the Trump administration) with no alternative view offered, and no factual view presented, such as such a lawsuit would be baseless.

This report is a live, on-air anti-Trump bitch session.

Exhibit C followed on the heels of Exhibit B. This involved an NPR anchorman interviewing an NPR “foreign correspondent” about the current tensions with North Korea. NPR’s anchorman categorically states that President Trump uses “bellicose language” that antagonizes NK’s homicidal dictator into being even more homicidal.

The “foreign correspondent” replies that President Trump uses “antagonistic” words because anything else would require America to “make concessions” to NK on its threats to use nuclear weapons against America.

Nowhere in this anti-Trump bitch session is it asked how America is supposed to concede to North Korea in a way that preserves American security.

Are we supposed to allow NK to bomb us just a little bit?

Maybe only California and Hawaii, but nowhere else?

What parts of American security are less valuable than other parts, and which ones should we concede to North Korea?

Nowhere is it mentioned that “bellicose language” is often used by national leaders everywhere when warning off other nations that have threatened them with annihilation.

I mean, isn’t it the responsible thing for a president to do? Or is he supposed to play nice, like Neville Chamberlain did with Adolf Hitler, hastening Hitler’s rise to power and enabling his genocidal wipe-out of Europe?

The on-air discussion between the two NPR employees comes across as sympathetic to North Korea and hostile to President Trump.

Exhibit D followed on the heels of Exhibit C, and involved another discussion between NPR staff about Project Veritas.

Project Veritas is James O’Keefe’s response to a corrupt media-political industrial complex protected by organizations like NPR, the Washington Post, the New York Times, etc.

Project Veritas conducts inside sting stories where media personnel and politicians, including NPR staff, openly and often gleefully disclose on hidden camera that they are hypocrites, liars, politically partisan, and that they happily use their supposedly neutral and professional reporting roles to advance a partisan and extreme political agenda.

When they become public, these private disclosures are bombshells, because the lid comes off the corrupt media-political industrial complex, allowing the Great Unwashed to peer in and see what a corrupt cesspool is being funded with their tax dollars.

Establishment media like NPR don’t like Project Veritas, because it has taken over the role of investigative reporting that places like NPR, the Washington Post, and the New York Times used to do and which they still claim to do, but do not do.

In this discussion between NPR personnel, project Veritas is simply alleged to have edited its videos in “misleading ways,” without describing how they are misleading, and thus is just a bad outfit unworthy of consideration.

Over the years I have watched many of these Project Veritas tapes, and they don’t seem misleading to me. People like NPR’s former CEO are caught on hidden video saying things that fly in the face of their public claims about being balanced, fair, accurate, neutral, professional.

Part of this NPR on-air discussion about Project Veritas is really a defense of the crossover of overtly partisan and political agenda-driven editorial roles into news reporting at organizations like The Washington Post.

Not that this is surprising, given that NPR openly crossed that professional line decades ago, now openly serving as a communications arm for one political party and Leftist ideology.
Noah Rothman at Commentary Magazine is interviewed about this, and he provides another fascinating view into the Washington DC Swamp.

Rothman is represented as a political conservative, and therefore as an outsider source lending credence to the NPR allegation that the fruit of Project Veritas has been poisoned, because… it is just so mean. And edited.

But instead of lending credibility, Rothman comes across as a bitter clinger to the Never-Trump mantra, a guy who cannot let go of his DC Swamp allegiances in the Age of Trump & The American People.

If anything, Rothman reaffirms what many people like me already believe, which is that Washington, DC, is full of self-important nitwits who have self-selected a small circle of similarly minded people from both major political parties to reinforce an artificial and meaningless debate between Leftists and Moderates while they mutually feast upon the carcass of the American People.

That artificial debate is really about how fast or slow to grow the American juggernaut government, and how quickly or slowly it should erode, grab, undermine and other remove liberties, rights, and Dollars from the forgotten American taxpayer.

This whole narrow circle of likeminded Republicans and Democrats is euphemistically known as the DC Swamp, which candidate Trump pledged to drain, and which President Trump is mostly draining. Rothman is one of these Swamp people and he shares much in common with the interviewers at NPR, much more than he shares with the average American.

Listening to these people bitch and moan about how unfair it is to see their swamp drained is annoying. That they argue for the failed status quo is annoying. That they never mention the interests of the American People is startling, and indicates just how insular and out of touch they really are.

After all, American government runs by the consent of The People, not unelected bureaucrats and self-adulating pseudo intellectuals who sit around DC cocktail parties and politely, mildly debate the speed of our nation’s ruination.

During my morning drive through The Skook, NPR comes across as a farce. It is clearly not a news organization. From what I could tell, NPR is just one long anti-Trump bitch session.

CLICK! goes the OFF button, and I drink the remainder of my coffee, lost in my own thoughts of how far America has fallen and how lucky people are to live in such rural places where the simple things are still the best things in life.

Junk social science drives bad policies

Another fake social study has poor ammunition and even worse aim, but it is indicative of the purposefully low quality “studies” used by politicized “academics” to pursue certain social policy goals.
Go ahead and read the report on the “youth suicide” “study,” and then read the analysis I wrote below.
Analysis: It is an utter crap study with a 100% political goal.
First of all, Gallup and other sources demonstrate huge gross and relative increases in gun ownership among Americans over past thirty years, not decreases or moderate stability, as the study asserts.
Second, the anti-gun editorial at the end is a dead-giveaway that the study is about guns and gun ownership, not suicide.
Third, if suicide rates are stable in rural areas but dropping in urban areas, then it seems the story is that they are dropping in urban areas.  Is that because more urban youth are dead from homicide before they can commit suicide?
Fourth, after 17 or 18 years of age, a person is no longer a youth.  Counting 24-year-olds as youths is another hint that the researchers were hunting for the right mix of numbers to serve their political goal, and could only get them by warping the definition of their study population.  I am willing to bet that the actual youth numbers are way down.  But that would defeat the purpose of having a good anti-gun study.  So the net is widened.
Fifth, the study apparently does not identify or quantify the relative amounts of suicide by type – firearm, hanging, suffocation, poison, etc – so that it is impossible to make a logical connection between the study’s results and firearm policy, but the policy result of the study is nonetheless all about guns.  What would be really interesting to see is the method type among actual youth – including 17-year-olds and excluding anyone older.  I am willing to bet that firearm use is down among youth.
These anti-gun junk “studies” are epidemic.  They are funded by anti-gun foundations, completed by politically active anti-gun academics who do not pursue excellence, but rather particular policy goals at any cost, and these studies are then marketed by anti-gun media in a cycle of self-reporting that becomes its own story.
The Left has this stuff down very well.  A compliant liberal media plays right along.

Forget sexy issues like “climate change,” let’s solve real environmental threats

By Josh First

Pennsylvania’s forests are suffering from a one-two punch-out by both invasive bugs and pathogens that kill our native and very valuable trees, and then by a following host of invasive vines, shrubs, trees, and other plants that are filling the void left after the big natives are gone.

Today yet another bulletin arrived from PSU plant pathology / forestry researchers, noting that ‘sudden-oak-death disease’ was detected on a shipment of rhododendron from Oregon.

Oregon got it from Asia.

Pennsylvania’s forests are becoming full of non-native, invasive plants, bugs, and pathogens. Each of our valuable tree species now has its own specific attackers. God knows what our native forests will look like in ten years.

The Asian emerald ash borer is literally making ash trees go extinct as a species. I see whole stands of forest, hundreds of acres, where not one ash tree is healthy. Dutch Elm disease killed off most of our elms in the 1980s. An Asian fungus killed off the once incredible and mighty American chestnut tree. Forget pathogens and bugs, because lots of aggressive, fast-growing invasive plants are taking up room on the forest floor, pushing out and overwhelming needed native plants. Few if any animals eat the invasives, which are often toxic and low value.

Human-caused climate change?  It is a sexy political issue, and it is highly debatable. But forest destruction from non-native invasives is a real, tangible, non-debatable, non-politicized issue we need to address immediately. So many people and wild animals depend upon our native forests, that without them, our rural economies could dramatically fall and our wildlife could disappear.

Forester Scott Cary had this to say, tongue somewhat in cheek: “With the 1000 cankers disease in Walnut now in southeast Pennsylvania, that area is quarantined…maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on black birch and red maple [low-value native species long observed to be acting like aggressive, non-native invasives, and therefore harvested aggressively by responsible forest managers], that may be all we have left to choose from. Of course, Asian long-horned beetle may get the maple, so that leaves us black birch, the tree of the future.”

That is a sad place to be, folks.  And to think that so much money is wasted selling the phony issue of human-caused climate change, while real environmental disasters are actually happening…it shows you just how dedicated the environmental Left is to political dominance, not useful solutions to environmental problems.

Remembering neat people, Part 1

A lot of neat, interesting people have died in the past year or two, or ten, if I think about it, but time flies faster than we can catch it or even snatch special moments from it. People I either knew or admired from afar who changed me in some way.

There are two men who influenced me in small but substantial ways who I have been thinking about in recent days. One of them died exactly ten years ago, and the other died just last year. Funny how I keep thinking about them.

It is time to honor them as best I can, in words.

First one was Charlie Haffner, a grizzled mountain man from central Tennessee. Charlie and I first crossed paths in 1989, when I joined the Owl Hollow Shooting Club about 45 minutes south of Nashville, where I was a graduate student at the time.

Charlie owned that shooting club.

Back before GPS, internet, or cell phones, the world was a different place than today. Dinosaurs were probably wandering around among us then, mmm hmmmmm. Heck, maybe I am a dinosaur. Anyhow, in order to find my way to the Owl Hollow club, first and foremost I had to get the club’s phone number, which I obtained from a fly fishing shop on West End Avenue. Then I had to call Charlie for directions, using a l-a-n-d l-i-n-e, and actually speaking to a person at the other end. You’d think it was Morse Code by today’s standards.

After getting Charlie on the phone, and assiduously writing down his directions from our phone conversation, I had to use the best map I could get and then drive way out in the Tennessee countryside on gravel and dirt roads. Trusting my directional instincts, which are good, and trusting the maps, which were pretty bad, and using Charlie’s directions, which were exactingly precise, I made my way through an alien landscape of small tobacco farms and Confederate flags waving from flagpoles. Yes, southcentral Tennessee back then, and maybe even today, was still living in 1865. Not an American flag to be seen out there by itself. If one appeared, it was either directly above, or, more commonly, directly below the Confederate flag. The Confederate flag shared equal or nearly equal footing with the American flag throughout that region.

Needless to say, when I had finally arrived at the big, quiet, lonesome gun range in the middle of the Tennessee back country, the fact that I played the banjo and was as redneck as redneck gets back home didn’t mean a thing right then. Buddy, I was feelin’…. Yankee, like…well, like black people once probably felt entering into a room full of Caucasians. I felt all alone out there and downright uncomfortable. And to boot, I was looking for a mountain man with a deeeeep Southern drawl, so it was bound to get better. Right?

Sure enough, I saw Charlie’s historic square-cut log cabin up the hill, and I walked up to it. Problem was, it had a door on every outside wall, so that when I knocked on one, and heard voices inside, and then heard “Over here!” coming from outside, I’d walk around to the next door, which was closed, and I would knock again, and go through the process again, and again. Yes, I knocked on three or four of those mystery doors before Charlie Haffner finally stepped out of yet one more doorway, into the sunshine, and greeted me in the most friendly and welcoming manner.

Bib overalls were meant to be worn by men like Charlie, and Charlie was meant to wear bib overalls, and I think that’s all he had on. His long, white Father Time beard flowed down and across his chest, and his long, flowing white hair was thick and distinguished like a Southern gentleman’s hair would have to be. And sure as shootin’, a flintlock pistol was tucked into the top of those bib overalls. I am not normally a shy person, and I normally enjoy trying to get the first words in on any conversation, with some humor if I can think of it fast enough. But the truth is, I was dumbfounded and just stood there in awe of the sight before me.

Being a Damned Yankee, I half expected to be shot dead on sight. But what followed is a legendary story re-told many times in my own family, as Charlie (and his kindly wife, who also had a twinkle in her eye) welcomed me into his home in the most gracious, witty, and insightful way possible.

Over the following two years, I shot as much as a full-time graduate student could shoot out there at Owl Hollow Gun Club, which is to say not as much as I wanted and probably more than I should have. Although my first interest in guns as a kid had been black powder muzzleloaders, and I had received a percussion cap .45 caliber Philadelphia derringer as a gift when I was ten, I had not really spent much time around flintlocks. Charlie rekindled that flame in me there, and it has burned ever since, as it has for tens of thousands of other people who were similarly shaped by Charlie’s re-introduction of flintlock shooting matches back in the early 1970s, there at Owl Hollow Gun Club.

Charlie died ten years ago, on July 10th, I think, and I have thought about him often ever since: His incredible warmth and humor, his amazing insights for a mountain man with little evident exposure to the outside world (now don’t go getting prejudiced about mountain folk; he and many others are plenty worldly, even if they don’t APPEAR to be so), his tolerance of differences and willingness to break with orthodoxy to make someone feel most welcome. Hollywood has done a bad number on the Southern Man image, and maybe some of that negative stereotype is deserved, but Charlie Haffner was a true Southern gentleman in every way, and I was proud to know him, to be shaped by him.

The other man who has been on my mind is Russell Means, a Pine Ridge Sioux, award-winning actor, and Indian rights activist who caught my attention in the early 1970s, and most especially as a spokesman for tribal members holed up out there after shooting it out with FBI gunslingers.

American Indians always have a respected place in the heart of true Americans, and anyone who grew up playing cowboys and Indians knows that sometimes there were bad cowboys who got their due from some righteous red men. Among little kids fifty years ago, the Indians were always tough, and sometimes they were tougher and better than the white guys. From my generation, a lot of guys carry around a little bit of wahoo Indian inside our hearts; we’d still like to think we are part Indian; it would make us better, more real Americans…

Russell Means was a good looking man, very manly and tough, and he was outspoken about the unfair depredations his people had experienced. While Means was called a radical forty years ago, I think any proud Irishman or Scottish Highlander could easily relate to his complaints, if they or their descendants stop to think about how Britain had (and still does) dispossessed and displaced them.

Russell Means played a key role in an important movie, The Last of the Mohicans. His stoic, rugged demeanor wasn’t faked, and he was so authentic in appearance and action that he easily lent palpable credibility to that artistic portrayal of 1750s frontier America by simply showing up and being there on the set. Means could have easily been the guy on the original buffalo nickel; that is how authentic he was.

Russell Means was representative of an older, better way of life that is disappearing on the Indian reservations, if that makes any sense to those who think of the Indian lifestyle that passed away as involving horses and headdresses. He was truly one of the last of the Mohicans, for all the native tribes. Although I never met you, I still miss you, and your voice, Mr. Means.

[Written 7/23/14]

A brief Thank You to Janice Creason

Janice Creason is the Dauphin County treasurer, and in the summer she and her staff have to scramble to process doe tag applications.  I know Janice works hard ahead of time and in overtime to get our applications processed as fast as possible.

Hunting is a big part of my life, and it is a multi-billion dollar annual industry in Pennsylvania.  Hunting is a crucial sector of the rural economy, and it is renewable and sustainable, and very safe.  People who help hunting are helping Pennsylvania taxpayers and PA jobs.

Thank you, Janice!

Wile-y Coyote, knows the way

On my way out the door this morning, a call came in: “I think you have a coyote,” he said.

Knowing how wiley those coyotes are, I was skeptical and hopeful.

Surely enough, when I arrived the sets were undisturbed, and a second call went like this: “Yeah, we figured out he was mousing, you know – pouncing on mice under the snow,” and then eating them with great pleasure.

So what had appeared like one behavior was in fact something else, entirely.  The coyote had not been trapped, but rather had merrily and quite freely zig zagged his way across the snowy field, chasing tasty mouse morsels.  Human perception has misunderstood things of far greater consequence before, and will again, but the symbolism was instructive.

Once again I am surprised to see how entrenched most people are in a single perspective, as if their own living place, their own community, their own home, their own food, whatever surrounds them, is in fact (and must, must be) a true reference point for everyone else.  As if rural citizens relate to land the same as city slicker flatlanders, whose use for open land is a place to casually watch for deer as they serenely drive to their next appointment.  As if the flatlanders exist for the sole benefit of the rural folks….

How often do we hear activists and religious leaders invoke “peace,” as though what they are doing will actually bring peace, or that they would even know what someone else would call peace.  The take-away for me today was how entrenched in self most individual people are, and how they often (mistakenly) believe that their world view is dominant, “normal,” and correct.  And I’d say that this applies across the board, to all people, and most assuredly to me.