It was a great weekend here in the Great Land. Yesterday (Sunday) was a bit rainy, but Saturday dawned fair, so I loaded the truck and went forthwith about seventy miles north to Denali State Park to look for some toothsome game birds. I only found one, but that one bird fell to the first shot I have fired at game with the hand-made Henry Tolley side-by-side I bought a couple of years back. The Tolley is a joy to carry; at a tad over six pounds it’s like carrying a toothbrush. But even restricted as it is to low-pressure 2 1/2″ 12 gauge shells, it swatted this grouse right out of the air.
Sprucies are good eating. With a bit of luck I’ll stuff some more in the freezer before winter settles in for good.
When winter does come in, I may get into the state land behind the house to look for some snowshoe hares. Not only are they likewise good eating, Mrs. Animal expects some winter-white hare pelts for crafting purposes.
The longer we live in Alaska, the more we love it.
A necropsy has been completed on the bear that attacked a 9-year-old boy and an adult male on Tuesday evening near Palmer.
The two were hunting in the Palmer Hay Flats area when they stumbled across a sow and her cub. Regional Management Coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Conservation Todd Rinaldi said Thursday that he believes the individuals surprised the bear.
“These were folks that were engaged in hunting activity which is usually a quiet activity,” Rinaldi said. “It becomes a really tricky situation to hunt animals in the bush while simultaneously making your presence known and not surprising animals like bears.”
According to Rinaldi, the pair tried to remove themselves from the situation upon encountering the animal, but the bear made threatening moves, causing the adult to fire his weapon. The carcass was discovered by Alaska State Troopers and Alaska Wildlife Troopers that same evening.
Bears, yes, can be an issue around here. As previously noted, last spring we had a mature black hanging around the neighborhood for a while, and a neighbor (I didn’t see it myself) described it as a big one. For a few days I carried a 12-gauge pump stuffed with 00 buckshot back and forth to the office and to keep an eye on things while Mrs. Animal worked in the greenhouse. But we never saw this one ourselves. If I’d have gotten a clear shot, he’d be in the freezer right now.
We’re pretty sure he moved on to the nearby Susitna River to see if he could do some fishing.
Bears can be dangerous, although here in the Great Land moose injure more people than bears. Large, hairy critters in general can be dangerous, and our ever-more-urbanized population doesn’t always seem to realize that.
But that’s down in the 48, mostly, and when it happens up here it’s often tourists. Folks who live up here tend to know how to deal with wildlife, although you do get some nitwits like that idiot Tim Treadwell dropping in now and then. But then, what else are Darwin Awards for?
One of the bountiful late-summer harvests around here are berries. While Alaska has a rich assortment of edible berries, we have on our own property a good supply of raspberry brambles. The advantage in these is twofold, in that 1) they are delicious and useful in preserves, pies and muffins, and b) we don’t have to go anywhere to get them.
So far we have gathered in between a gallon and a gallon and a half of the rich, luscious fruit, with more to come. Come the depth of our sub-Arctic winter, Mrs. Animal plans to use some of these to bake fresh raspberry muffins, so that we can enjoy a little taste of summer. I’m looking forward to that.
On To the Links!
How bad are the emissions from green activists private jets? Pretty bad.
The name Stuart Leslie Goddard may not mean much to you, but if you were watching the music scene in the early Eighties, as in back when MTV was still playing music, you’ll recognize his pseudonym, Adam Ant. In those early days of music video, Adam and The Ants were a thing, combining a sort of semi-punk sound with Adam’s trademark flamboyant, swashbuckler style.
As should surprise no one, I have a favorite from Adam’s discography, that being the 1982 single Goody Two Shoes. It’s not a tune you should be taking too seriously, and it’s not a rigorous example of the craft of music, but it’s peppy and fun, and the accompanying video is entertaining. Here it is, then – enjoy.
Note: We’ll talk more about the Mar-A-Lago raid in tomorrow’s post. I’ve been reading about the incident and its implications, and I have some thoughts.
Now then: Alaska grouse season, at least here in our game management unit, opens today. I probably won’t get out until the weekend, but boy howdy am I ever ready to get after them.
We have several kinds of grouse. Hereabouts we have Spruce Grouse and Ruffed Grouse. The limit is fifteen birds per day (!) of which no more than two may be ruffies. Up north there are Sharptail Grouse, and down on the panhandle we have Dusky Grouse, the same toothsome birds I hunted back in Colorado. At higher elevations and farther north we have three kinds of ptarmigan: Willow, Rock and White-Tailed.
If I never hunted anything but birds up here, I’d never get bored. And I have no notion of limiting myself to birds.
I’ve always kind of liked Miranda Lambert. While later in her career she cultivated kind of a “outlaw country” vibe, earlier on her songs were a little more peppy and upbeat, but still with an authentic country feel.
One of my favorites is New Strings, from her 2005 album Kerosene. It’s a lively tune, enjoyable and optimistic, and one senses, maybe a little autobiographical. Here, then, is the official video for that song. Enjoy.
Specifically, I’m thinking of hunting a certain area about sixty miles north of here, where a walk-in-only trail system leads down to the brushy banks of the Chulitna River. The problem is, it’s really brushy. The few people I’ve talked to familiar with this particular area have said that both blacks and griz are abundant in the area, and that you may well smell them before you hear them. So, I’m thinking the BullWhacker (Marlin 1895G, .45-70) is in order. The BullWhacker has been customized with a large lever loop, ghost ring sights and a forward-mounted IER scope – colloquially known as a “Scout Scope.” Seems like the appropriate piece for sneaking through dense brush after big, tough, toothy critters at short range. Thoughts?
What would you do? Granted state lotteries are essentially a tax on stupidity for the most part, but there’s probably no harm in spending a couple of bucks for the chance to fantasize about what you’d do if you got a few hundred million bucks dropped in your lap.
Mrs. Animal and I have seen the Blue Man Group twice, once at their regular venue in Las Vegas, and once at their traveling show in Denver. On that latter show they shared the stage with VenusHum, a ‘synth-pop’ band that saw some success in the early Aughts.
We saw this song on the traveling show; it was later released on the Blue Man Group’s 2003 album The Complex, and it’s probably the best cover of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love ever done; to tell the truth, I prefer it to the original. Anyway, here; make up your own mind, and feel free to let us know in the comments.
One of the interesting summer visitors to the Great Land is the Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius), a relative of the more common American Robin who also hits up our area for summer feeding & breeding.
But while the robins sing loudly and melodiously from the tops of trees, and hunt insects and worms in our open yard, the Varied Thrush prefers to stay well back in the brush, away from the open areas. It’s song isn’t much, just a metallic trill, repeated here and there in the undergrowth. I haven’t been able to lay eyes on one yet, but we hear them every day. Sooner or later I’ll have to wander into the mosquito-laden woods and find one. Hearing them is good, but actually laying eyes on a bird is somehow more satisfying.
Up until the early Seventies, America’s Songwriter, Bob Dylan, was mostly known as an acoustic folk artist. But in 1975 and 1976, he put on the Rolling Thunder Revue, set in a variety of small venues around the country. One of those shows was televised, that being the May 23, 1976 show in Fort Collins, Colorado. That recording later became the live album Hard Rain, and that concert also presented my favorite version of what I consider one of Dylan’s finest songs, Shelter From the Storm.
This performance settled any doubts that the folk artist Dylan could also do rock & roll. Here, then, is that piece from that show. Enjoy.
In the interest of better access to Alaska’s hunting and fishing grounds, Mrs. Animal and I have been looking for an ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle) to get us farther afield, faster. Such are popular and, in some cases, near-indispensable for accessing good Alaska terrain.
Problem is, there isn’t much in the way of used inventory available. So we bit the bullet and ordered a new 2022 Polaris ATV. At least, as I reckon it, buying a new one and taking good care of it should ensure that it will last, well, as long as I’ll need it to. We should have delivery of it in late August, just in time for hunting seasons. Watch this space for narratives!
In 1991, just after we got home from the General Schwarzkopf Traveling Road Show’s Highway of Death Tour, Mrs. Animal and I were able to catch one of America’s most famous concert events when we saw the Grateful Dead at the old Mile High Stadium in Denver.
It was a hell of a show. As I recall we paid $17 for tickets. Carlos Santana opened; he played for 90 minutes. The Grateful Dead, backed up by Bruce Hornsby on keyboards and Branford Marsalis on sax, played for almost six hours. For comparison, I remember reading that same summer Michael Jackson did a show in Las Vegas. Tickets started at $65 and he was actually on stage for less than an hour.
Here, then, from the live album Without a Net, recorded on that same tour, is the 16-minute epic Eyes of the World. It’s probably my favorite Grateful Dead tune. Enjoy.
Last week I finally filled a space in the gun safe that’s been empty a while, when I successfully bid on a Savage 24B-DL. This is a neat little combination rifle/shotgun, sporting a .22WMR barrel over a 20 gauge shotgun barrel. Just the thing for casual pokes through the woods for grouse and showshoe hares.
This is an early model of the 24, with nicer wood than the later models, not to mention a more robust frame-mounted selector. I’ve already ordered a wide-angle, low-power scope to go on the rig, to better accommodate my aging optics, although it occurs to me that a peep sight would work well too.
I like the .22WMR over the more common .22LR in this gun, favoring as I do that little extra punch on big snowshoe hares or maybe, now and then, a sleek winter fox or pine marten. I suspect this rig will see a lot of use in the Alaska woods – there’s a reason these old combo guns are very popular in the Great Land.
Some songs have popular covers that are better (well, that I like better) that the originals. Aerosmith did Come Together better than the Beatles, as Joe Cocker did the best version of A Little Help From My Friends.
Another example is Grand Funk Railroad’s version of The Loco-Motion. While “Little Eva” Boyd did it first, in 1962, and did it pretty damn well, I still like Grand Funk Railroad’s 1974 version better. And so, without further ado, here it is. Enjoy.
We’ve had a few new visitors around the bird feeders lately.
First up, a while back some new chickadees started showing up along with our usual chickadees, the black-capped variety. The newcomers, slightly smaller and with brown caps instead of black, are Boreal Chickadees, a type found only in the north. I’d never seen one before moving here, so their late-winter presence has been fun.
The second was a Bohemian Waxwing, another bird of the north, and another I’d never seen before. Back in the Iowa of my youth as well as the Colorado I lived in for so many years, we had Cedar Waxwings as frequent visitors, but this is my first look at the Bohemian Waxwing. I hope they stick around; waxwings are so beautiful that they don’t look quite real.
As I’ve said so often, I like having our birds around. They punctuate our days with song and color, and life is better for their presence. Now then…
OK, that’s enough for this week. I actually do read these, you know.
This Week’s Cultural Edification:
Glen Campbell was a man of rare talent, which I have showcased before in these virtual pages. While he’s best known as a country balladeer, with songs like Wichita Lineman and Southern Nights under his belt, what I find fewer people know about him is his excellent technical guitar work and occasional forays into other genres – like classical music.
Here, from a performance of unknown year but obviously later in his career, is Glen Campbell backed up with a full symphony orchestra, and his take on The William Tell Overture – complete with a bit of commentary on Glen’s youth and the Lone Ranger. Enjoy.
We’re seeing hints of spring up here in the Great Land, with temps in the upper thirties and forties and quite a bit of melting. That’s not to say that we won’t see some sub-zero temps yet; this is Alaska, after all, and we can see nighttime lows below zero into April, as we did only last year. But for now, it’s pretty balmy for early March, and things are pretty drippy.
With spring on the way, Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt. are thinking of booking a May halibut/Pacific cod/rockfish charter out of Seward or Valdez. It’s not cheap, typically running over $300 per person, but that’s a whole day fishing for the delicious flatfish, cod and the rather odd-looking rocks. There’s nothing like good homemade fish and chips. Plus a (cold) day out on the water is good for what ails you.
That’s how it is here, at any rate – spring comes to the land and all thoughts turn to fishing. There are a bunch of wondrous lakes, rivers and streams close by where one can pull up fat trout, delicious salmon and delicate little grayling. It’s a great place to be outdoors.
Trump is back. Honestly I’d rather see DeSantis run in 2024, but I’ll take another Trump run, just for the lulz. And honestly, who are the Dems going to run against him? Biden will be drooling into a sippy-cup by 2024. Kamala’s approvals ratings (and her IQ) are somewhere between dryer lint and verrucas. Will Her Imperial Majesty Hillary I, First of That Name, Dowager Empress of Chappaqua, try for a third failed run?
Trains figure quite a bit into American folk and country music, more so back in the days when they were still a primary passenger service. Probably (in my opinion, anyway) the best American train song ever written is Steve Goodman’s City of New Orleans, written in 1971 and recorded most famously by Arlo Guthrie in 1972.
My best friend from school (and still to this day) spent a career as a trainman, later a conductor, on the old Illinois Central. One of his career goals had been to, one time, serve as conductor on the City of New Orleans, which ran from Chicago to New Orleans. It’s not well known, and nobody ever wrote a song about it, but that same train, on its return trip, was known as the City of Chicago.
Anyway. Here, then, is the famous 1972 Arlo Guthrie recording of City of New Orleans, one of Guthrie’s best pieces and probably the best train song ever. Enjoy.