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I hear that song about My Favorite Things around Christmas time each year. Some ol’ boy named Richard Rodgers wrote it back in the 50’s, then Julie Andrews made it famous in “The Sound of Music”, which I am proud to say I’ve never seen. I have, though, turned the volume up on the radio and listened to the lyrics of the song. That part about crisp apple strudel always conjures up a picture for me. I’m not a Broadway guy. Not much of a movie guy. I probably can’t name 5 show tunes with any confidence and that they actually came out of a show. In fact, I’m having trouble getting to two right now. But, ”My Favorite Things” kinda got me to thinking. We all have favorite things or situations that we cling to a little too much or dwell on while we should be thinking of more productive efforts. But what the heck, it’s okay to idle away a few minutes here and there I guess. You’re doing it right now, so, in no particular order...
The thump that you feel in the cork handle of a good crappie rod. The force with which a crappie sucks in a small jig is actually strong enough from 18-20 feet deep to send a vibration up the line to the rod tip and then to your hand that triggers a reaction in the brain, to send the thump back down the line and set the hook in ol spec’s mouth. All of this takes place in about 1 second. The thump is absolutely one of my favorite things.
Good dogs on point and birds that hold tight. It is amazing to watch what God put into a bird dog. The indwelling drive to hunt game birds. I’ve watched ‘em for years running at ¾ speed through dusty, windy, dry, rainy, thick cover. Meadowlarks, sparrows and chee-chee birds of all sorts popping up and flitting away as the dog runs, but he gives them none of his attention...none! Not even a glance, but 1 single molecule of scent from a quail, pheasant or grouse makes the dog flip back-end over front and land with a hard stop! Head and tail high, smoking the pipe. The dog breaths scent in with his nose, exhaling with his mouth which in turn makes his cheeks puff out and back in...giving the impression of a pipe smoker. Many times, a covey of bobwhite quail will hold tight on a snowy morning, so will early season young birds that have never met a birddog before. Walking up to that view will always be a favorite.
A big bass jig swimming from that shallow little pocket that you threw it in to. You know it didn’t come to life and start swimming on its own. No, a bass has that jig in her mouth and she’s headed for deeper water with her prey much like a dog will seek out a private spot to enjoy a treat. You “catch up” to her with your reel, then set the hook like your name is Klein, Brauer or Evers! Oh, what a feeling and favorite.
Any fish on a topwater bait. Matters not if its sunfish on a little popper delivered by your fly rod or a big 6 inch walking-bait targeting bass. When the lightning fast explosion occurs, that very second is on my favorites list. You want to see it again and again, the feeling never grows old! You could do this all day, but the sun climbs higher and the topwater bite dies off. Special moments reserved mostly for short periods of time and then left to bounce around in your mind while you should be listening to the preacher.
Pre sunrise in the pasture or on the lake. The temperature drops another degree or two as if the night is tightening its grip on your world not wanting to let go. The first birds of the morning, outside of chuck willows will or an old owl, start to make their presence known. Faint light begins to creep into your surroundings like water seeping into a marsh. The sun’s not officially up yet but is steadily working on it and is precisely on time, the same today as it was on that first morning when God put it in motion. The world is waking up around you. Barely visible are a couple of deer. How did they get there! I’ve been watching so closely, every second! It’s like they grew straight up out of the ground. Unseen turkeys lightly yelp from the roost and get more vocal as they fly down. In the stillness of pre-dawn you clearly hear the flapping of their wings and they depart the tree limb for breakfast. The slow gentle ride across quiet water to a favorite fishing hole with red and green lights leading the way. Trying not to spill your coffee as you go, you have just enough light to see “feeding rings” on top of the water, raising your expectations and thinking about that trusty old “Pop R” that you tied on last night.
Two-lane blacktops and worn dirt roads, especially those that you’ve never travelled before. Wonder and excitement, looking at new country and looking deeply for the flash of a white tail or a summer herd of elk. Snow topped high places in June. Ripe Montana choke cherries growing wild along a public right of way or wild West Texas sand plums in a pasture, ready for picking and making jelly. An old dry goods/grocery store from a bygone era that somehow manages enough business from area farm families and wide-eyed adventurers to keep the lights on. A winding Ozark farm to market road that leads toward the farm, not the market. As it leads you across the creek for the 3rd time, you catch a glimpse of a flock of eastern turkeys running up into the thick southern woods.
A crackling fire. The fireplace on a chilly winter’s evening, reading old Gene Hill stories for the 15th time. Maybe it’s a hot bed of coals with fresh logs popping on top, circled by satisfied hunters after a day in the field. Some facing the fire with glowing faces and cold hands extended, palms out, others warming their backsides with hands stretched backwards. Someone’s telling a story. You’ve heard it before and know the ending well, but the moment is so agreeable that you in quiet eagerness give it your full attention. The story is good, but so is the thick blanket of quiet that follows that laughter.
Smells...fresh gunpowder in the air on a clear blue morning, fish on your hands, spring flowers in the turkey haunts, smoke from the last pipe that exists in deer camp.
Time, places, experiences, tools of the trade, some people, well-mannered dogs. What was that?? Sounds. Peach pie in summer and my old Ruger Red Label 20 gauge. Just a few of my favorite things.
February 6, 2020
I stood in awe of the sight, roaring sound, massive power and indescribable beauty before me. I’d had that feeling before on occasion, and here it was again. My view was from a steep mid-September back road in Yellowstone National Park. The north wind was fierce that day as an early and strong front slammed the wilderness. It would turn out to be the heaviest September snow and winter blast in Wyoming’s weather records. The cutting winds pouring in from Arctic north with huge snowflakes swirling and moving like those big flocks of birds that seem to fly together in choreographed motion, coupled with the awesome rugged canyon and roaring waterfall before me, all lead to my sense of awe. I was reminded of just how small I am in this universe. I felt that I was sitting in God’s living room, and I just couldn’t get enough of it. Robin and I spent the remainder of the day, and the next, picking our way through this national treasure, then exited the park to the east as afternoon shadows began to stretch out. Ten minutes later I pulled up the drive to Elephant Head Lodge, so named because of the massive rock overhang that looks a whole lot like an...yeah, that’s right.
Buffalo Bill’s niece built the old trapper cabin and original buildings here back in 1910. Things are to this day rugged and tough in this country, I can't begin to imagine the hardships confronted by the folks that settled down here over a hundred years ago. Our century old pine log cabin would shelter us for the night. I looked forward to coffee in the morning as God’s glory would rise in the east and light up the mountains of the Shoshone National Forest that cradled us. It’s a sunrise that I have replayed again and again in my memory.
Once every five to seven years or so, the clover will bloom in South Dakota. We were there to fish the deep blue waters of Lake Oahe and gather our walleye for the year. The clover bloom is another of those gifts that only God can bless us with. The clover covers hundreds and hundreds of thousands of acres, and is the sweetest smelling perfume. The yellow flowers that it produces makes the countryside, for as far as you can see, a rolling vibrant yellow blanket. As we trolled the deep blue walleye water, surrounded by hills covered solid by the clover, I knew that I was in a special moment of my life. It impacted me. We fish with an ole South Dakota bronc rider named Jim Lawhon on Oahe. Jim explained that the knee high clover would be cut and baled in many places, then when the deep winter rages South Dakota style, and you roll out one of those clover bales for the cattle, springtime fills your nostril’s all over again. Special.
I could go on about the morning movement of millions of doves from an Argentina roost, the splendid colored leaves that flicker and fall around you as you put your fly rod to work in the Ozarks of Arkansas' White or Norfork rivers. The stillness of the deer blind deep in December when the only visible movement is your breath floating away and dissipating, and on and on. I've heard several times in my life that these settings are “church” to outdoors men. No, it's not church. It’s a mild display of God’s creative beauty, just a glimpse of what Heaven looks like. There was no one in any of these settings telling me of my sin, teaching me of Paul's travails and travels and example. Jesus' name and His salvation for this lost and dying world didn’t echo from the yellow rolling hills. It’s easy for some to slip up and worship the creation as opposed to the Creator. Do I feel a sense of God’s awesomeness in these settings? Of course! Do I worship and thank Him in these situations? Absolutely! Is this a church setting? Maybe, if we are reminded that God created it, man sinned and messed it up, Christ died for our sins and rose from that grave. Salvation, is a gift that makes majestic beauty pale in comparison. Just like God gave us this creation splendor, so did He give us His Son. Gave, free. That’s big. Do you believe?
DECEMBER 2, 2016