Wednesday, December 5, 2007

This Kid

This kid has a lot to do with out desire to return to the Yellowstone area. Know why? I made a 7 minute dvd slideshow of our trip for his first grade class and everyone was amazed.

He gets as excited about going back as we do.

Of course, spending one or two weeks surrounded by America's best fly fishing waters might have a little to do with my desire to return.

Except I think this time I'd skip Butte. And Pennsylvania, if it were possible. Guess that's what makes flying so attractive.

It Just Keeps Going

Well, this fun never stops. Here we are, it's December, and all the family seems to be able to think about is Montana. The road. The experience. The desire to do it all again. I don't know if that is going to happen in 2008, but the current thinking has us renting a cabin out near Yellowstone for a week or maybe two, and we fly out instead of driving.

We'll see.

I know that the Volvo is not going to be the car we take if we end up driving. That car's days are numbered, without a doubt. I can't believe I haven'd done something about it already, except that I cannot figure out what the hell to replace it with. Never have I been so uncertain about what kind of car to buy.

For more on that and just about anything else that's new, you could check out Existential Cheerleading, my new, everyday-type blog. I started it today and hope it'll be a continual sort of thing. At the same time, I think I am going to keep this blog rolling with an eye toward a return to Montana in 2008.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fishermen Tell No Lies

It's true. We fishermen tell no lies. Of course, we skirt the truth quite a bit, too, so there must be a big, gray, middle area somewhere in our lexicon and way of thinking.

That being said, before car troubles spooked this whole trip like a poorly presented cast spooks a wary trout, I had me some major plans to fish the West. The Gunnison River. The Flathead. The Clark Fork. The Yellowstone. The Madison. Well, the car started acting up before we reached the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, so a drive down to the river became a moot point. I fished the North Fork of the Flathead with Paul a couple times, but didn't see the Middle Fork or South Fork except from a rental car, really. And the other rivers? It's hard to fish when your mind is on figuring out how to get home.

Primarily, I drowned some flies on the North Fork of the Flathead and out on Spoon Lake, behind the cabin we stayed in with Paul and Melissa and Zadie. And I'm happy that I had some luck.

I caught a total of about eight fish, and each one was a Westslope Cutthroat Trout. The beautiful illustration above by Joseph R. Tomelleri shows one of these fish in its spawning colors. The ones I caught were not nearly so vibrant, but each bore the telltale red slash under its gills, as well as other signs it was a Westslope Cutthroat. And each one made me happy beyond belief. And each one was released back into the wild, alive, and treated as gently as possible.

I caught six out on the river (four in one brief span), and two on the lake (these were the largest, the last one caught on our last night at the cabin was about 14 inches). And not once did I have my camera with me.

But this is all truth. No lies. If I were going to lie about it, I'd tell you I caught 14 each day, some weighing in at four pounds. And I did it with perfectly executed 70 yard casts against the wind. I'd tell you my hand-tied flies fooled even the most finicky of old cutts, and that several other fly fishermen along the river asked me for guidance.

Truth is, I caught just a few. They were not large. My 40 yard casts were sloppy. The wind knocked my flies all over the river. I bought crappy flies from the local fly shop, all of which unraveled after some use. And the only fly fisherman on the river asking my advice was Paul, who listened to my b*llsh*t as if it were gospel. Thanks, Paul.

But more than fishing all those rivers out West, my primary fishing goal on this trip was to catch a Westslope Cutt. I achieved that goal. And I have my good friend Paul as a witness to that.

Trying to Reconcile with Pennsylvania

Photo: The Tobester above Logan Pass, Glacier National Park, Montana

I feel bad. I really do. Back in July, which seems like years ago, I made some disparaging comments about Pennsylvania. You may remember them. You may even remember that I touted the likes of Missouri over the Keystone State. And I meant it. Can't say I have it in me to change my opinion right now, but I have been left feeling sorta sorry about what I did say.

So that got me to thinking. And when I get to thinking, well, not much good can come of it. In fact, when I get to thinking, one of three outcomes is possible: 1.) I'll get even more negative about something I'm already feeling negative about. 2.) I'll be up all night and not get enough sleep and wake up ornery. Or 3.) I'll invade Russia from the West and fail to supply my troops with enough adequate winter gear for when they become bogged down in the autumn mud on the approach to Moscow.

Wait. That wasn't me. That was Napoleon. Or was it Hitler? Anyway, who cares? I'll bet neither of those guys had much good to say about Pennsylvania either.

No. I got to thinking about the home of the Phillies, the Steelers, and Cheesesteak. And when I got to thinking about Cheesesteak, I got to thinking about something good. Something delicious. Something mouthwatering. Something that has some redeeming value (except for all the clogged arteries, stained shirts, and endless debate about where to get the best).

So here are a few things I like about Pennsylvania and one thing I hope to like about Pennsylvania some day soon:
  • Cheesesteak
  • The Steelers
  • Eat'n Park
  • Trout Waters
That last one is the one I hope to find out about real soon.

But now that I look at my list, I wonder what happened to all those good things I considered as we drove through Pennsylvania in the rain on Monday. There seemed to be so many more things. So I just popped on over to Google and here are a few more items to list among the Pros of Pennsylvania:
  • Daniel Boone
  • Rachel Carson
  • Bill Cosby
  • Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey
  • Gene Kelly
  • Tara Lipinski (nah, just kidding)
  • Margaret Mead and Tom Mix (salute!)
  • Man Ray
  • Andrew Wyeth
  • Jimmy Stewart

Of course, I should also point out the whole thing about the Constitution being written there blah blah blah as well as the Declaration of Independence blah blah blah and Lincoln delivering his address at Gettysburg blah blah blah. But these three things had little to do with Pennsylvania (well, ok, Lincoln's Danbury Address would have lacked some oomph). Really, Jefferson could have written his stuff in Schenectady and we'd all still be free, happy Americans.

But let's all raise a cheer for Pennsylvania's State Fish, the Brook Trout. Hip hip hooray! And it has two whole counties without traffic lights (because no one stops at intersections?). On the downside, the state has 50 lakes and 2,500 man-made lakes. What's up with that?

And for you gourmands, please note that Pennsylvania leads the United States in scrapple production. Mmmmm mmmmmm (barf). Yes, I know. Spam. I love Spam. But Spam is not scrapple. I'll spample Spam, but I refuse to sample scrapple. Again I say, "Barf."

Residents of Idaho take note: Pennsylvania claims to lead the country in Potato Chip production. When the chips are made of scrapple, watch out, America.

I'll wrap up here with one more shining example of the greatness which can flourish in the cesspool that is Pennsylvania, proving that the most beautiful flowers are born in the stinkiest gardens: Fred Rogers. Sainthood cannot come too soon for the late Mr. Rogers, tireless educator of people (not just children) and tireless proponent of Public Television and this country's need for it.

The following excerpt from Wikipedia tells all:

In 1969, Rogers appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications. His goal was to support funding for PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, in response to significant proposed cuts. In about five minutes of testimony, Rogers spoke of the need for social and emotional education that public television provided. He passionately argued that alternative television programming like his Neighborhood helped encourage children to become happy and productive citizens, sometimes opposing less positive messages in media and in popular culture. He even recited the lyrics to one of his songs.

The chairman of the subcommittee, John O. Pastore, was not previously familiar with Rogers' work, and was sometimes described as gruff and impatient. However, he reported that the testimony had given him goosebumps, and declared, "Looks like you just earned the $20 million." The subsequent congressional appropriation, for 1971, increased PBS funding from $9 million to $22 million.

Thank you, Pennsylvania, for Fred Rogers. Looks like I owe you at least a small apology.

Now let's talk about Rocky Balboa. (barf)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Some Bears Have All The Luck

Imagine having your own country. You'd be the boss. You'd get to eat whatever you want. You get to go to the bathroom where and when you want. You answer to no one. Everyone else looks out for you. At Logan Pass at the top of Glacier National Park, if you're a grizzly bear, you get your own country. I imagine having your own country also means you can leave the toilet seat up if you want and if someone doesn't like it? Well, you're a grizzly, what are they gonna do?

Corny, of course.

America, stop messing with me. You, too, Mitchell, South Dakota! This ain't no palace. It's an auditorium. With corn nailed to the outside walls. There's no king inside, no prince or duke or queen. Just some vaguely miserable-looking people selling popping corn and t-shirts, corn cob trays and baseball caps. There's no throne room, but there is a basketball court and the promise of some good, second-tier country music outfits coming to town. And yet, I find I cannot look away. This was my second visit to THE PALACE and I shall go again, I'm sure. If you find yourself on I-90 in Mitchell, you know you'll stop there, too.

Watch It, Pal

What's the Spam Can doing to Stuart? And why is the Tobester so amused? It's all innocent, of course. Because this is the Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota, home of the Hormel Foods Company.

The Spam Museum is a must-see. From your first spample of Spam to your last dollar spent on Spam merchandise, this place is another example of what America is all about.

Lies and deceit. Because Spam is not ham. Heck, Spam is barely even a food. Yet we love it. Oh, how we love it so! And the people who work there? They are such Spam devotees (and company people to boot) they resist any attempt to wink or nod at the joke that is Spam. Go to England and try to get one of those guards in the silly fuzzy hats outside Buckingham Palace to smile or crack up. They don't. Neither do the employees of the Spam Museum admit that, hey, maybe Spam is kinda silly. And a whole museum dedicated to it? Sillier.

Oh well. Go when you get a chance. For now, go eat your Spamburger and leave me alone.