Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
Click on Mark Twain to jump to Troutbirders book review blog

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Trust Your Dog

Long ago and not so far away I was an upland game and waterfowl hunter.  Before, that is, my     knee  went bad and I switched to hunting birds with a camera and a notebook, it was a sport I thoroughly enjoyed. I owned a series of highly trained hunting dogs long before Baron, my GSD, arrived on the scene. Chessie was the name of our second dog. She was a full-blooded Chesapeake Bay retriever. Stockier and more broad-chested than Labs and Goldens, she had short, curly and somewhat oily hair. Chessie absolutely love being in the water. Cold didn't faze her at all. In other words, Chessapeakes are the perfect waterfowl retrieving machines.

This morning, as Baron lay beside me and I looked out the window on a cold and dreary day my thoughts drifted back to the times when wonderful hunting dog companions led me through the fields, sloughs and around farm ponds. Come on along with me….
Picture of Chessie as a puppy.

On one  particular day though, I was pheasant hunting. Chess   was   about eighteen months old and   in her first year of hunting. She  had already proven herself ready, willing, and able to retrieve ducks. Pheasants though would, perhaps, be another matter. That game bird required steely nerves and a good nose. I left school as quickly as I could getting out the back door that late afternoon. It was less than 2 miles to one of my favorite sloughs.There was a little creek running through about 30 acres of grassland and cover. Chessie started sniffing the ground right away. We had walked in for about 5 minutes when the first rooster flushed. It was a tough crossing shot. BANG!
Hey... sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. The bird dropped into the grass about forty yards away. Chessie was right after it. I followed on the run. I watched    her    circle a bit and then head off to the creek. She went right in the water. "Well what can you expect from a water dog," I thought. At that point, I decided it was up to me to find the bird. I searched for ten minutes. Then I called the dog. She came reluctantly. I got down on all fours and putting my nose to the ground showed her the proper technique. No interest on her part whatsoever. Maybe a little amused smile though. Then she raced back to the creek The stream was about two feet wide there. It had a bank of about the same height, where it had cut through the meadow. Still in the water, Chess seemed particularly interested in this one spot. I thought, "do you suppose" and bent over to look down into the water. Nothing. Then, I lay on my stomach for a closer look. Reaching down, I parted the grass hanging over the bank and there it was..... a large hole in the bank. Mmmmm. The dog, now emboldened, began a low growl and put her head closer for a look. It was obviously some kind of den. Maybe a beaver? Or what?

Now, at this point, one must consider common sense. Reaching into a den without knowing what one might encounter there raises some serious questions. To put into perspective what happened next, one must also take in account  several factors. The age of the hunter for one thing. How young, foolish and determined is he? How much faith does he have in a puppy who has never tracked a bird before? Well, as my uncle Walt often said, "Ve gets too soon alt unt too late schmart." The answer, dear reader, is that I reached into the dark, hoping to find feathers and not sharp teeth! My lucky day, it was feathers. Live and kicking feathers on a very smart pheasant. After doing what you have to do, I gave the bird to Chess to carry a bit . Then we began hunting again till dark sent us back home For the next ten years Chessie proved to be a wonderful hunter-companion. She was the best! I had learned on that first day in the field to trust her judgement implicitly. Here she is with a late season pheasant in the snow.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Deer Attack

With my supervisors permission I was finally able to retire from my duties  as the family Christmas Letter writer.  The ending of that duty had its genesis in the following post I wrote way back in 2009. Progress comes  slowly here on Oak Hill.  The letter was replaced this year by a photograph/card featuring the Grandchildren. Photography is Mrs. T's department....


I’m sure most drivers, at one time or another, have had to fill out a car accident report for the insurance company. In the division of labor at the Troutbirder home, writing Christmas letters, filling out reports and questionnaires is my job. Here is part of an accident report (which included a diagram I had to draw)  I was asked to fill out for Mrs T. These are her words.

"I was driving at the legal speed, east on Highway 16 in the early evening. I noticed a deer emerging from the woods and running to cross the road in front of me. Slamming on my brakes I came to a full stop. Unfortunately, the deer did the same thing, right in front of me. Whereupon, the deer turned to face my car, lowered it’s antlers and charged right into the grill  and left headlight causing all the damage. The deer then fled the scene of the attack back into the woods."

 Somewhat of a skeptic by nature, I barely managed not to question the veracity of this eye witness account. Here are a few similar accounts from  from car insurance files.

 "I parked beside a hedge in a local country lane to go fishing, but when I returned to my car I found that two horses had chewed it causing considerable damage"

 "I was waiting at the traffic lights when a wasp went down my right trouser leg. It made me put my foot on the accelerator and smash into the car in front"

 "I couldn’t put my foot on the brake because my credit cards were wedged under it."

 "My car was hit by a sofa when I was driving home last night"

 "A cow fell off the cliff and crashed right onto the top of our van, which was on the highway"

 "The gentleman behind me struck me on the backside. He then went to rest in a bush with just his rear end showing."

 "I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law and headed over the embankment."

 "In an attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole."

"The light pole was approaching. I was attempting to swerve out of the way when it struck the front end."
Yes, the last example also belongs to Mrs. T.  I was there when the accident  occurred.       Unfortunately, I was asleep on the passenger side and didn't witness the actual attack.       We had made    a   stop at  Wal-Mart off the I-90 freeway in southwestern  Minnesota.
I think I've got to make a serious attempt to get out of my family writing role. " I don't  do fiction very well !!!!

Friday, May 7, 2021

Simba Memories of long Ago

It was some 18 years ago now the phone range with a fateful call from my son in Fargo, North Dakota.
Tony:  Hey Dad! How ya doing?
Troutbirder: Hi Tony!  We're doing good. What's up?
Tony:  Well..... I forgot Mom's birthday call and present. 
Troutbirder:  Ah. No big deal I'll put her on the phone and you can talk to her. Send the present later.
Tony: Ok. But....
Troutbirder:  But what?  ( Long Pause) 
Tony:  A kitten!
Troutbirder:  "NO!  No way. I forbid it."  With Muffy  my oddly named Chesapeake Bay Retriever on hand and the fact that I didn't particularly care for cats,  this was a non starter.
Tony:  Let me talk to Mom.......

And so now 18 years later Simba, ruler of his Oak Hill domain, has gone to his Final Reward.  He was friendly and curious, calm yet brave, keeping several large dogs (Muffy and Baron) in their proper place.  Much beloved by Barb and Ray and now sadly  missed. 

Tony and Baron
Simba and two friends

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Now: a widower's philosophy


Barely the day started and... it's already six in the evening.

Barely arrived on Monday and it's already Friday.

... and the month is already over.

... and the year is almost over.

... and already 40, 50 or 60 years of our lives have passed.

... and we realize that we lost our parents, friends.

and we realize it's too late to go back...

So... Let's try, despite everything, to enjoy the remaining time...

Let's keep looking for activities that we like...

Let's put some color in our grey...

Let's smile at the little things in life that put balm in our hearts.

And despite everything, we must continue to enjoy with serenity this time we have left. Let's try to eliminate the afters...

I'm doing it after...

I'll say after...

I'll think about it after...

We leave everything for later like ′′ after ′′ is ours.

Because what we don't understand is that:

Afterwards, the coffee gets cold...

afterwards, priorities change...

Afterwards, the charm is broken...

afterwards, health passes...

Afterwards, the kids grow up...

Afterwards parents get old...

Afterwards, promises are forgotten...

afterwards, the day becomes the night...

afterwards life ends...

And then it's often too late....

So... Let's leave nothing for later...

Because still waiting see you later, we can lose the best moments,

the best experiences,

best friends,

the best family...

The day is today... The moment is now...

We are no longer at the age where we can afford to postpone what needs to be done right away.

So let's see if you have time to read this message and then share it.

Or maybe you'll leave it for... ′′ later "...

And you'll never share it....        WITH A GIRLFRIEND. 



Friday, April 23, 2021

Theresa Bugnet

It was love at first sight.
I might have met her sitting at a sidewalk cafe with friends in Tours.
Or perhaps along the Champs Elysee in Paris?
Did I take a chance on the Montmartre with Mrs. T, on the far left in the red jacket, keeping an eye on the revelers outside the Moulin Rouge?
 No, it wasn't any of these romantic places. I learned later, Therese, this delicate French flower, while of Gallic antecedents, was actually from Canada. Her father George Bugnet was a novelist, scientist, poet and settler born in France. He and his wife had migrated to Alberta, where it took 25 years of work and research to develop her. He crossed the wild Alberta rose with the Kamchatka rose of Russia.
She is almost a grandmotherly type now, having been around for more than 50 years. She was actually living along the driveway, next to the house, we bought in 1970. I was new to gardening then and didn't even know one was supposed to cover roses in the harsh winter climate of Minnesota. She wasn't bothered at all.

Although a sunny girl, she has done quite well with our move into the woods next door. A spot on the edge, that is partly sunny, seems to suit her just fine. Her children live nearby, as I have made cuttings and with an ice cream pail, potting soil, some Saran wrap and a little hormone powder they got a good start in life.
 Theresa Bugnet (Tear Reeza Bow Nay).  What a sweetheart!

Friday, April 2, 2021

Small great things


Jodi Picoult small great things

one of my favorite all-time authors

 Jodi often describes human interrelationships involving difficult moral choices. Like any good mystery they are usually resolved at the end. This novel was published in 2016 and most of the events in the story actually reflected the headlines of 2020 practically word for word. It was all there and I found that stunning to say the least. Race police violence privilege, prejudice justice, amazing.

At the start of her writing career Jodi had decided she wanted to write a novel about racism in America and then realized that she as a white woman was not in a position to accurately understand and portray what it meant to be black living under the effects of the systemic racism. The years that followed saw her learning in every way possible how it all worked. Some critics say that in effect should she overdid some of her descriptions into new stereotypes and exaggerations. I think to a small degree that was true especially in the conclusions at the end. Still I think it was very very well done.

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than 20 years experience. During her shift Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she is been reassigned to another patient the parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth who is African-American touch their child. The hospital complies with their request but the next day the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene? Ruth hesitates briefly before performing CPR. The baby dies and Ruth is charged with murder. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender takes her case but gives unexpected advice Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family especially her teenage son is the case becomes a media sensation as the trial moves forward Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others and themselves might be 

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Friday, March 26, 2021


It was to be the first outing of the trout fishing season. My new "birding" hobby had somewhat detracted from a lifelong love of troutfishing the previous summer. This year, I was determined to find a reasonable compromise between the two interests. I would do the fishing thing on cloudy days, when the fish were more active and go birding on those bright sunny days, when the birds were busy and me and Baron, my GSD, could tromp the woodland trails, binoculars and camera in hand. The day seemed perfect. Mid sixties in temp, with a heavy overcast and little or no wind. I headed off to the Root River, east of Forestville State Park. It was one of my favorite "home waters." A place where I could usually count on success. Sometimes great success. Mr. Baron was left behind that day, as his love of romping in the water was bound to scare my off my prey. Parked along the gravel road, I headed across a plowed corn field towards the stream. It was in the tree line about a quarter of a mile away. Watching my footing on the uneven ground, something caught my attention. I looked up and a mature Bald Eagle was heading straight for me. Startled, I raised my hand in protection but the seemingly huge bird soared over me by maybe thirty feet. Relieved, I watched it gain altitude and it turned behind me and headed off to some cottonwoods lining the river bank. It was then that I saw the new nest. A new pair of Eagles had made a home right above my favorite fishing hole. I circled away from the nest after taking a picture with my little "fishing camera" and settled down on the bank to rest and see what was going on. This is the moment when a trout fisherman takes stock. Are there any hatches going on? Are the fishing rising? What kind of rises? How clear is the water after the recent rains? Actually what caught my attention was a large number of small birds, mostly warblers, flitting among the shrubs and trees on the opposite bank. I strained to identify them, but they were just a little too far away. I couldn’t see the details. Where were my binoculars when I really needed them??? A flyfisherman carries all his stuff with him. Pants pockets and a vest are filled with a myriad of vital items to meet all contingencies, ranging from hooks, flies, and Vaselene floatant to tippets and a snakebite kit. No room for birding field guides and binoculars though. Darn!!! It was some time before I noticed the trout rising upstream below a riffle in the river. Looking downstream the eagle pair were looking quite settled and domestic. One stood guard, the other on the nest. Perhaps they had finished their fishing for the day. Time for me to start......

Monday, March 22, 2021

A short preface to even shorter poem

I was too young to understand the depth and breadth of poetry when my high school English teachers tried to interest me in it it took adulthood and the loss of my mom and my wife to Alzheimer's and my son Ted bipolar and my youngest son Tony to suffer from grand mal seizures as I have written here several times my new and profound love of poetry was engendered by two English teachers one of home I married till death did us part and the other a soulmate who helped me enormously be a better teacher more recently I talked to my Spring Valley ladies book club into a let's all read our favorite poems to each other at our next outside meeting in April. Also there was an Ojibwe prayer Paul taken from adult coloring book of the painted ponies which was an influence that had been gifted to me when I was sent rehab for another knee replacement. The gift or was a former student and friend Cheryl Boyd finally, in my home I wrote my first Paul after watching TV one morning as the Confederate terrorists attacked our national capital. I cried for my country that they and also my two black grandchildren. There was that day in my mind the possibility of a lost democracy and the future president who could be another deranged egomaniac it was all a reminder that someday we or a future generation might have a choice between blaming the other hate. My thought to write a Paul was inspired by America's very young poet laureate who recited a Paul during the recent inauguration. I had promised them a call for a friend who lives too far away he slipped his hand into hers and felt the comfort of her response bias squeeze he thought the world is a beautiful and terrible place, deeds of horror are committed every moment and in the end those we love die, if all the screams of all Earth's living creatures were one pain it would surely shake the stars but we have love it may seem frail defense against the horrors of the world but we must hold fast and believe in it but it is all we have.