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.
It’s been strangely mild up here the last few days. Last Friday we got about five inches of powdery white stuff, and we’ve had scattered snow – and rain – showers on an off since, throughout an unseasonably warm spell. Temps have actually approached forty a couple of times. The office roof and part of the house roof dumped – Alaskans know what that means, and I’m sure anyone can figure it out, given that we get a lot of snow.
But now we’re moving back into typical weather for an Alaska January, daytime highs in the teens, overnight lows around zero. We should even see a bit of sunshine today.
The wheel turns. We’re now only a few days from February, then March, when the very first melting begins. Before we know it we’ll have May showers bringing June flowers, the rivers and lakes will be open, and there will be salmon and trout to be caught. That’s a big part of what we moved here for!
Every day here in the Great Land we love it just a little bit more. And not just because the lower 48 continues to get crazier and crazier.
Now then, since I’m done bragging about this place…
The name Marvin Lee Aday ring any bells? No? Probably because he was better known by his stage name, Meat Loaf, and now he’s gone, at age 74. Rock on, big guy.
Meat Loaf sure livened up FM radio when I was a teenager. His album Bat Out of Hell was required for any teen’s rock & roll collection in those days, and was widely blasted through 20-ounce speakers from 8-track and cassette players while driving into town.
One of my favorites of his pieces was the famed Paradise By The Dashboard Light, which is actually something of a precautionary tale for teens on going too far too quickly. Here is the original (spicy) music video for that tune. Enjoy.
The idea came from Gov. Mike Dunleavy: “Establish a huntable population of Sitka black-tailed deer in the Mat-Su,” according to the first page of an internal state report.
In a populous part of Alaska that climate change will warm in the decades ahead, an established deer population might provide a new source of food and wildlife viewing for residents without the means to fly or boat around the islands and coastlines where the elusive ungulates live, according to the administration.
“The governor has directed his commissioners and other officials to look into a host of game enhancement opportunities, including the relocation of species for hunting,” said a statement emailed from deputy press secretary Patty Sullivan. “The creation of new hunting opportunities is a priority of the governor’s.”
I don’t much care for the idea of spending taxpayer dollars to “create new hunting opportunities” in a state already replete with such opportunities, although I will admit that even a big Sitka buck would be a lot easier to handle than a 1,200 pound moose. But here’s the real onion:
“All ADF&G deer managers and biologists agree that an SBD (Sitka black-tailed deer) introduction is unlikely to succeed in the Mat-Su,” according to the scoping report.
“The Mat-Su is far colder than anywhere within the SBD’s current winter range with mean daily maximum temperatures far below freezing from November through February,” it adds. “It is unlikely SBD can live in the Mat-Su under normal winter conditions.”
The report goes on to explain how deer survive winters in mountainous coastal environments: forest canopies prevent snow from deeply covering forage, and after big snow events the deer can descend toward shore areas to look for more food, even eating kelp on Kodiak beaches to avoid starvation.
“Kelp is rare to nonexistent in the Mat-Su valley,” the authors note.
What’s more, deep snow pack and relatively spare tree cover is likely to leave the deer’s main food supplies buried too long for them to survive through the year.
There is also the question of predators: The valleys of Southcentral Alaska have a lot of them: “Wolves, black bears, brown bears, coyotes and others (e.g. lynx, wolverines, and feral or free-roaming dogs),” the document says. “In years of heavy snow, limited mobility of SBD could lead to higher predation rates by wolves or coyotes.”
When it comes to hunting, Governor Dunleavy is one of us; he hunts and, from what I read about him, always has, but that’s hardly unusual here in the Great Land. And I appreciate having a Governor who is very friendly to hunters and gun owners, which wasn’t the case any longer in the Colorado that we departed a year ago.
But in this case, the Gov should listen to the wildlife biologists who are educated in the field and experienced in dealing with Alaska wildlife. This is what we pay them for. Governor Dunleavy should abandon this plan as a bad idea and a waste of taxpayer money.
This has been a funny year, outdoors-wise. I didn’t fish or hunt in Alaska at all this year, and you might find that odd, since the fishing and hunting were one of our main draws to move here. But since there is a one-year residency requirement before you can buy a resident license, and because I didn’t want to pay non-resident fees, I let it go for now.
A week from today, though, I will be heading back to Colorado to attend the general rifle elk season with loyal sidekick Rat. I won’t be hunting, just tagging along with a sidearm, but as much as Colorado has gone loony the last few years, Grand and Routt Counties are still for the most part reasonably sane. Plus it’s gorgeous country, and maybe Rat will fill an elk tag, after which event I’ll try to talk him out of some tenderloin and a few steaks.
We take our outdoor adventuring where we find it, you know? Now then…
OK, that’s all I can take for this week. I actually do read these, you know.
This Week’s Cultural Edification:
Back in the Eighties and Nineties I was listening to a lot of George Thorogood and his band, The Delaware Destroyers. I saw him in concert in a small venue in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, about 1987 or so, and he put on a hell of a show.
His signature piece from that era, of course, was the 1982 tune Bad To The Bone. In the official music video for that song, George plays pool against one of his musical influences, Bo Diddley (George covered a lot of Bo Diddley songs in his various albums) with real-life pool champ Willie Mosconi looking on. It’s a fun song, with a lot of Thorogood’s typical rollicking, slam-bang guitar work. Also, the cigar-ash-tap bit at the end of the last match – priceless. Don’t forget to check the faces of the female spectators in the concert clips. Here is that song and that video – enjoy.
Alaska is mostly known for big game hunting, as would any state with healthy populations of moose, caribou, black and grizzly bears and so on. But it’s a great place for small game as well.
The Great Land has good populations of birds – spruce grouse, ruffed grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, as well as willow, rock and white-tailed ptarmigan. There are snowshoe and arctic hares in many parts of the state, and this space precludes me describing all the various kinds of waterfowl. It’s really an outdoorsman’s paradise here.
Wandering afield with a good scatter-gun looking for birds or hares isn’t as glamorous as heading into the bush with a heavy rifle looking for grizzlies, but it does have one good benefit for a guy my age – you can shoot a grouse, drop it in your game bag, and go looking for another. Shoot a moose, and even if you have it in a spot where you can get your ATV and meat trailer right up to it, there’s still a lot of strenuous work ahead. So, yeah, I’ll be hunting the big stuff – but plan on doing plenty of looking about for birds as well.
Will the EU ever learn to defend itself? Probably not. It’s probably too late for Europe. The barbarians are already inside the gates, Europeans aren’t having babies, they have effectively surrendered. Too bad.
Remember when Southern Rock was a thing? Back in the Seventies and early Eighties, bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ram Jam, Molly Hatchet and yes, ZZTop defined the popular genre. Today, the closest you get is some country bands, like Blackberry Smoke.
One of the founding bands of Southern Rock was, of course, the Allman Brothers. They were influential and popular, getting a lot of Top Forty radio play back in the day as well as (unlike a lot of Top 40 acts) actually being a pretty good band.
Here, from a 1991 performance, is the Allman Brothers Band with their tune Blue Sky, one of my favorites. Enjoy.