JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — The Cry Of The Pheasant

One more time around for pheasants and Paul Southworth Bliss, in honor of Saturday’s 2017 Pheasant Season Opener.

This will be my 59th pheasant season. Actually more because before I was 12 in 1959, when my dad bought me my first shotgun, I had tagged along since I was able to keep up with him in the field, probably starting at age 8 or 9. And actually less because I missed a few seasons in the ’60s and ’70s when I was away in the Navy and migrating between California and North Dakota.

And then there was last year. An early October bout of bronchitis turned to pneumonia, and I was sick the whole month. Then November came, and the weather got good, and Jeff, Wayne and I fished pretty much every day, telling ourselves there’d be plenty of time to hunt when it got cold. So we fished right up through Thanksgiving weekend, when we got hit with the terrible blizzard dumping feet of snow on our hunting grounds. We hunted pheasants once in December, in waist-high snowbanks , and I didn’t get one bird, the first pheasant season I’ve gone without shooting at least one in many, many years.

Well, anyway, I’ve chased pheasants for a lot of years, and it’s an eagerly awaited time of year for the Fuglie boys, thanks to a dad who literally decided where he wanted to live after graduating from optometry school in 1950 based on pheasants. He had offers from three North Dakota towns — Grafton, Ellendale ad Hettinger — and chose Hettinger because of good pheasant hunting. Thank you, dad, from all of your boys.

So, starting Saturday morning, and for the next eight or 10 weeks, I’ll join about 90,000 or so of my best friends in one of North Dakota’s favorite pastimes, hunting pheasants. In honor of the season, thought I might rerun a post from a few years ago with some of the poetry of Paul Southworth Bliss, my favorite North Dakota poet.

* **

Paul Southworth Bliss was no outdoorsman. Born in Wisconsin in 1889, educated at Harvard, a World War I veteran, where he rose to the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army, Bliss began his professional career as a newspaper reporter and music critic. But sometime in the mid-1930s, he found himself driving the back roads of North Dakota during the darkest days of the Great Depression, as front man for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal Works Progress Administration relief program.

He traveled the state with with pen and paper in hand, and he used his gift as a poet to describe what he saw and felt on those long, dusty, sometimes freezing cold, sometimes sweltering hot, roads. From those North Dakota travels came three of his seven published books of poetry, three volumes full of poems about places in North Dakota. And what makes Bliss’ poetry so enjoyable is that he identifies the time and place where each poem happened to him, and in many cases, you can say “Yeah, I’ve been there.” But generally, Bliss throws a whole new light on those places.

Bliss has been dead 75 years, but I’m still a fan of his poetry and short essays. He spent as much time in the Badlands as possible, and loved what he saw there, and in his unique style, found ways to describe the countryside that I have never seen before. For example, this line from a poem called “Blue Heaven”:

Under the torture of 47 degrees below.

The air of McKenzie County

Is pure as the soul of Christ.

Bliss comes to mind as October — Pheasant Month at my house from the time I was old enough to jump into the back of Dad’s station wagon — begins calling me from my warm bed on those first few cold mornings of late fall. His seasonal poetry is some of his best, and it’s clean and clear and shows an obvious love for his adopted state. Two of my favorite Bliss poems — one about pheasants, the other about dogs — are the reason I’m thinking about him right now.

But now, for me, in retirement, October is much more diversified.

When I was a student and then when working for a living, hunting and fishing were done pretty much on weekends, and so choices had to be made, and in October I most often chose pheasants. But now, it is not unusual for me to be sitting in a duck slough or a goose blind or a fishing boat on a Wednesday in October, sometimes more than one of them in a day, because in retirement, every day is Saturday, and there’s time to do everything.

What I don’t do much of in October is read, especially poetry. Now, my reading is pretty much left to those winter days when the wind is blowing too hard to go ice fishing or summer days when it is too hot to sit in a boat. But on those days, I often turn to Bliss to remind myself what a great place we live in.

You can probably find Bliss’ books in your local public library, or buy them online at Amazon.com, or your favorite used book website, or you can just Google Paul Southworth Bliss poetry, and you’ll find a place to buy his books. They’re all out of print now, so they might be a little pricey, but if you shop around a bit, you can probably find one in your price range.

Without further ado, let me share a couple of his best poems with you. Both are from a volume titled “The Rye Is The Sea,” printed right here in Bismarck, in 1936, using recycled farmers’ burlap bags for the covers.

In the introduction to this book, Bliss writes “Attention is invited to the physical appearance of this book. ‘The Rye is the Sea’could be produced from a farm village. The burlap binding is the gunny sack of agriculture. The bag of which this binding is a part has held in its time wheat and corn. The paper used is ordinary wrapping paper.”  The book is about 7½ inches by 10 inches and is so intricately printed and bound it is a joy to hold in your hand.

The first poem is titled “Pheasant Cry.  I love it because Bliss tells us what color pheasants are, like no one ever has before. My friend Dan Nelson says, every October, “Let’s go get some of those big red birds.” And we usually do. But Bliss adds a few more colors to his description.

Pheasant Cry

Sun,

Shine on me —

Make me glorious!”

 

Thus spoke

The pheasant,

Walking the rowed wheat

In the morning.

 

North of the way,

A cottonwood;

South of the way,

A willow;

The sun shone upon them all.

 

Said the pheasant:

“Sun,

Shine on me —

Make me glorious!”

 

It was afternoon:

A crag

Of white cumulus

Lay in the north;

Nimbus

Hung in the east;

The south

Was pearl —

The sun shone upon them.

 

The pheasant cried:

“Sun,

Shine on me —

Make me glorious!”

 

All day

The pheasant called

Incessantly.

 

And at evening

The sun

Hearkened to his cry;

And the sun

Bestowed upon him

All his colors:

Pink, violet,

Honey, salmon,

Thistle,

Persian rose,

Copper,

Peach,

Daffodil,

Tangerine,

Citron,

Tile,

Lapis blue,

Wine,

Emerald,

Corn,

Old gold,

Lavender,

Ginger,

Henna,

Sandalwood,

Turquoise,

Sea green,

Fern,

Cinnamon,

Heather,

Wild aster,

Chartreuse,

Carmine,

Lavin red,

Scarlet,

Vermillion,

Purple,

And white.

 

And the sun said:

“From the early

Morning,

When you walked

The rowed wheat,

You have asked

Incessantly…

Henceforth

You shall

Be glorious—

And

A little bit

Ridiculous.”

May 17, 1936

Minnesota-North Dakota border, south of Wahpeton-Breckenridge

Now you know what color a pheasant is. Then read this one, and see if you don’t recognize you and your dog.

 

Just Another Old Dog

Just another old dog with sorrowful eyes,

Peering at me from the rug where he lies;

Watching me always, calm as a sphinx,

With two aging eyes, neither one of which blinks.

 

Knows I’m no company — not for a dog

Dreaming of meadowland, forest and bog;

Dreaming of pheasant, partridge and quail,

And curious things by the aspen-leaved trail.

 

Wond’ring why men stay so long in one place,

Chained to a desk — when there’s plenty of space.

Just a run out of town and the fun might begin —

I know that he reckons such sitting is sin.

 

A law would be passed if dogs had their way —

That men must go out in the open each day —

Out to trees, brushland or prairie remote:

Ah, that would win every honest dog’s vote!

Old fellow, stop looking so sadly at me;

If only you knew it, we agree to a “T.”

 

Come, we’ll just chuck it! These papers are trash —

Let’s go where clean, cool forest streams splash!

There, you old rascal with sorrowful eyes,

That far-a-way look was a crafty disguise.

 

Now you jump up, wiggle tail, wriggle ears,

Shedding like water a half-dozen years.

You’ve waited so long, but you knew you would win;

You scoundrel, I see that you’re hiding a grin!

 

So off we go, leaving no trail, and no track —

I hope they don’t miss us; let’s never come back!

May 19, 1935

Williston, N.D.

To a venerable red-eyed springer spaniel, 11 years old, who keeps faithful and friendly watch.

How many times have you seen an old dog jump up and “shed a half-dozen years?” Yeah, me, too. Isn’t that a marvelous line?

After traveling the back roads of North Dakota for a couple of years, Bliss was convinced by his new North Dakota friends that he must take up hunting as a sport.

And so he did, and he recounts some of the adventures of that first year in a short essay titled “Hunting Begins at 40” in the back of “The Rye is the Sea.”

Interestingly, the account is kind of what you might have read in an old issue of Field and Stream or Outdoor Life of the same period. Yeah, me and Joe did this and this and this. But at the very end, Bliss recounts for us how much money he spent on hunting that year (something I’ve always considered too dangerous to undertake — there are some things you just don’t want to know). Here’s his tally. Check out his note at the end.

LICENSE

Hunting License No. 28634 N.D.                                 $1.50

Federal Duck Stamp                                                          1.00

$2.50

EQUIPMENT

Take-down Repeating Shotgun                                   26.95

Gun Case                                                                           4.95

Box of Shells                                                                     .98
Additional Shells, 3 boxes at 98c                               2.94

Ramrod Set                                                                      .39

Oil Can                                                                              .25

Khaki Hunter’s Coat                                                    3.50

Wading Boots                                                              4.50

Decoy Ducks                                                                2.25

Duck Call                                                                        .65

$47.36

TRAVEL EXPENSE

Oil and Gas                                                              $10.00

Broken Auto Window                                                2.50

$12.50

DOCTOR’S BILLS

Visits and Office Treatments                             $18.00

Medicines                                                                   2.85

$20.85

CAMERA EXPENSE

Films, Developing, Extra Prints                         $5.00

GRAND TOTAL                                             $88.21

            Author’s Note:  From this you will see that it cost me $88.21 for one sharp-tailed grouse, one partridge and one duck. Rather expensive — but I will never forget how yellow the cord grass was on the duck pass, how the reeds waved their plumes and how the dawn turned the ice into pink sherbet.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Autumnal Equinox and Dakota Trails

With the arrival of the autumnal equinox, my writing will begin to shift away from the garden returning to the topic of Dakota Trails, among other topics.

My two favorite days on the calendar are the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, when the light of the world is equal, in complete harmony between day and night. Although autumn is my favorite season, living here at Red Oak House at such a northern latitude makes the vernal, or spring, equinox my favorite of the two. Finally, after months of long and cold winter nights, the light returns. Jim and I even chose the vernal equinox for our wedding day all those years ago.

Now it is autumn, and the days will begin to grow short. Monday, we dug the last of our abundant potato crop, which tickled Jim to no end. I found one shaped like Mickey Mouse. Jim’s sister, Jill, will convert some of these into lefse for the holidays, a Norwegian tradition that endures in our families. He also pulled the bean plants and reports that hundreds of green tomatoes are slow to ripen in the cool weather. Wednesday, he picked a crazy bunch of raspberries, and we dined on Napoleon sausage and raspberry waffles, breakfast for supper. He has frozen the surplus raspberries, which I call “nuggets of January happiness.”

This week I bit the bullet and tossed this year’s petunias from the patio pots, hanging on to the basil and rosemary. Frost is nigh. Jim has pulled the cucumber plants, too.

On Wednesday we washed and put away the window screens. And Thursday, while I washed the windows and listened to nuthatches, Jim busily prepped the garlic bed because he plants garlic in the fall. The yard was full of butterflies.

My siblings were all over last night for a bonfire, lacking just my younger brother, who lives in Virginia. We reminisced and laughed into the night.

On Saturday, my husband will be out on the trail with his buddies, hunting ducks, with pheasants and geese soon to follow, another fall ritual at our house. Our springer spaniel, Lizzie, seems to know this. Her joy when she spots him taking out his hunting boots is infectious. Right now, the song “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” is on my mind as it is every fall.

I’m going to join Jim on the trail this year as my time permits, dovetailing my interest in North Dakota places with our mutual enjoyment of being outdoors. I’m ready to tackle the pile of research I’ve compiled on the topic of North Dakota trails, to get my desk cleared off and prepared for winter projects of all kinds.

The kind folks at the State Historical Society of North Dakota have shared with me a map they prepared, which I think is a beautiful overview of the state’s historical trails. With their generous permission, I reproduce it here as a preview of what’s to come, gentle reader. This will be fun!

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Whither The Meadowlark? A Message For North Dakotans Who Enjoy The Outdoors

Here’s a question for some of you who spend a lot of time in the outdoors in the fall:

How was your pheasant season? “Good enough, I guess,” would be my response. All of us who hunt pheasants in North Dakota are loathe to say anything gloomier than that, because saying “It wasn’t all that great” might mean admitting:

  1. We could have shot better.
  2. We didn’t do our homework, contacting landowners before the season started.
  3. We didn’t get out of the office enough days.
  4. Any number of other things that were our own fault the season wasn’t better.

Well, maybe. Let’s be honest. All in all, we had a pretty good pheasant season. Considering. There were more birds than last year.  But think back 15 years, to 2000, or 10 years, or even 5. Sorry, things just don’t match up.

In spite of a, b, c, or d above, we all know that there are two really good reasons for the demise of the “glory days” of North Dakota pheasant (and deer) hunting: A dramatic loss of CRP habitat, and the oil boom (Bakken Hell, as Bill Mitzel, editor of Dakota Country magazine, where this article first appeared, calls it) .

You don’t lose millions of acres of CRP without losing a lot of the critters that depended on it for food, protection from the elements and predators and nesting cover. And you can’t escape the invasion of industrialization of the prairie in the western one-third of the state if you’re a whitetail or mule deer, bighorn sheep, mallard or sharptail or sage grouse.

So this year, I went about the business of hunting pretty much as I always have, spending every available day in the field. But I didn’t put as many Ziploc bags of game in my freezer. My friends, family and neighbors didn’t get quite as many freezer bags as they used to. But I didn’t whine because I’ve lowered my expectations.

So let’s talk about the reasons for that: The loss of habitat — and the havoc being wreaked by the oil industry and the state’s lax regulation of it. I’ve talked about lax regulation numerous times and about the impact that lax regulation has had on our environment — for those of us outdoors enthusiasts, that means the places we hunt and fish — and the impact on the Badlands and the lakes, creeks, rivers and wildlife refuges in northwestern North Dakota.

I’ve also lectured on THIS before, and I’m going to do it again: This is an election year, and it is time for the sportsmen and women of North Dakota to get involved in politics. Because it is the politicians — the men and women we elect to political office — who determine what kind of hunting and fishing we are going to have in the future. And the future is as early as this year.

The politicians create or kill the programs which make habitat for our wildlife. And they regulate (or don’t regulate) the industries which destroy the habitat, pollute the creeks and rivers, foul the air, take away the dark night skies with their oil well flares, build roads through  previously undisturbed prairie and send the thousands of really big trucks boiling down our back-country roads. That any wildlife even remains in western North Dakota is testament to the hardiness of the critters that have chosen the prairie as their home.

But every year now, there are fewer and fewer of those critters. And not just those we hunt. I don’t believe that my inability to hear the meadowlarks calling from fence posts on back roads of the Bad Lands can be attributed solely to a slippage in my hearing in my old age. There just aren’t as many around as there used to be, and that has wildlife professionals worried. Those meadowlarks are the “canaries in the coal mine” of the prairie, and they are fast disappearing. And that’s a direct result of habitat loss and an industrial invasion.

If you’ve been reading my articles here for a while, you know I’ve been critical of North Dakota’s elected leaders, especially those who make up the North Dakota Industrial Commission — the governor, attorney general and agriculture commissioner. If there was even a more aptly named trio — the Industrial Commissioners — I can’t imagine it. Their modus operandi has been to open the state’s doors wide to any industry that will come here, providing tax incentives and a willingness to overlook violations of any of our state’s environmental regulations in the name of progress and job creation.

The Industrial Commission is chaired by the governor, and he’s also the guy who hires the would-be regulators, and in 2016, our current governor is departing the scene. Good riddance. I hope he doesn’t let the Capitol doors hit him in the ass on the way out.

His administration has turned the attorney general loose on the environment, and he’s suing everyone in sight. The biggest targets of the state’s lawsuits are the two federal government agencies that are most important to those of us who enjoy spending time outdoors in North Dakota — the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The EPA enforces regulations to keep our air and water clean. The Department of Agriculture, in addition to administering what’s left of the CRP program, oversees the U.S. Forest Service, which manages a million acres of mostly open range and Bad Lands in western North Dakota. The work of those agencies is critical to the future of outdoor recreation here.

By the attorney general’s own count, the state has filed at least a dozen lawsuits against those two agencies, seeking to remove the environmental protections they are charged with administering. By my count, they haven’t won any of them — yet.  But the intentions are clear, and one of these days the state might just find a friendly judge, and we’ll pay the price for that. Here’s just one example.

The State of North Dakota has filed a lawsuit against the EPA to stop it from implementing a new rule designed to protect wetlands and streams. The beneficiaries of the rule are ducks and fish. But our state’s leaders apparently have not been listening to hunters and fishermen. Because a couple of months ago, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), the leading voice for people who hunt and fish in America, announced the results of a nationwide survey that found that 83 percent of hunters and anglers approve of the new EPA rule that extends Clean Water Act protections to wetlands and streams, also known as the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. Here’s what the NWF reported:

“As every hunter or angler knows, ducks need healthy wetlands and fish need clean water — it’s that simple,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “Everyone on Capitol Hill should take note: clean water has the bipartisan support of millions of sportsmen and women across our nation — and these men and women vote.”

The bipartisan research team of Public Opinion Strategies (R) and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (D) partnered on the survey of 1,000 registered voters who also hunt or fish. The sample leaned conservative — 38 percent of those polled were Republicans, while just 28 percent were Democrats. Almost half of those surveyed (49 percent) said they considered themselves a supporter of the Tea Party. Support for this policy was strong across the political spectrum with 77 percent of Republicans, 79 percent of Independents and 97 percent of Democrats in favor.

The NWF’s O’Mara said the rule is not a partisan issue. “The survey’s results show there is ‘an incredible disconnect’ between what groups ‘more interested in politics’ are saying about the rule in Washington, D.C., and what American sportsmen think is acceptable.”

So in North Dakota, which probably has more hunters and fishermen per capita than any other state, the lawsuit to try to prevent the Clean Water Act rules from taking effect is puzzling. But not as puzzling as the lawsuit against the Forest Service, which seeks to open up all of our roadless areas of the Bad Lands to development.

I’ve written before about the 50,000 acres of the Bad Lands — out of a total of 1,000,000 acres that the Forest Service administers — that remain closed to roads and oil development, but open to hunters, hikers, photographers, birders and anyone else who will visit them on foot or horseback.

The lawsuit by the state and four county commissions seeks to remove the road-building restrictions on those acres and let the state and the counties put roads through them. They are the last few places of “wilderness” in the state. They are used by hunters, who seek a place where no giant oilfield trucks roar through the draws they are still-hunting, and photographers, who don’t want to disturb the golden eagles feeding their young in nests high on a Bad Lands butte.

Surprisingly, these roadless areas are the same ones that Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem proposed be listed for protection under the “Extraordinary Places” plan he submitted to the Industrial Commission in 2014. When I asked him about that seeming inconsistency, he said that lawsuit is about “state sovereignty,” which apparently outweighs environmental, cultural and historical preservation. My opinion: It is homage to Big Oil, which wants to drill every acre of North Dakota and which will finance his 2016 campaign for governor.

Yes, Stenehjem’s running for governor, so the hypocrisy in his actions bears pointing out. He could very well be the man hiring the oil industry regulators for the next eight years.

Choosing political leaders is important, and we should make sure our voice is heard. So in 2016, when the candidates for governor of North Dakota —  and other offices, like U.S. Congress and Senate — come to our towns, we need to ask them how they will vote on issues important to us.

For example, will our next governor support rules to keep our clean air and water — and protect critical wildlife areas? Will our congressional representative and U.S. senators fight to restore the CRP program? If that’s not possible, can the governor find money in his budget for a state CRP program?

By my count, there are somewhere around 100,000 North Dakotans who hunt and/or fish. And vote. We need to be heard, and we need to make sure the politicians hear us.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — What Color Is A Pheasant?

Editor’s note: Jim Fuglie wrote this before this past weekend’s pheasant hunting opener in North Dakota.

Tomorrow, I’ll join about 90,000 or so of my best friends on one of North Dakota’s favorite days, hunting pheasants on the opening day of pheasant season. I thought I might share here, for those of you who don’t read a magazine called Dakota Country, an article I wrote for them earlier this fall. If you’re a regular reader, you’re familiar with the poetry of Paul Southworth Bliss, my favorite North Dakota poet. I’ve shared his poetry here a couple of times.

Paul Southworth Bliss was no outdoorsman. Born in Wisconsin in 1889, educated at Harvard, a World War I veteran, where he rose to the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army, Bliss began his professional career as a newspaper reporter and music critic. But sometime in the mid-1930s, he found himself driving the back roads of North Dakota during the darkest days of the Great Depression, as front man for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal Works Progress Administration relief program.

He traveled the state with with pen and paper in hand, and he used his gift as a poet to describe what he saw and felt on those long, dusty, sometimes freezing cold, sometimes sweltering hot, roads. From those North Dakota travels came three of his seven published books of poetry, three volumes full of poems about places in North Dakota. And what makes Bliss’ poetry so enjoyable is that he identifies the time and place where each poem happened to him, and in many cases, you can say “Yeah, I’ve been there.” But generally, Bliss throws a whole new light on those places.

Bliss has been dead 75 years, but I’m still a fan of his poetry and short essays. He spent as much time in the Badlands as possible, and loved what he saw there, and in his unique style, found ways to describe the countryside that I have never seen before. For example, this line from a poem called “Blue Heaven”:

Under the torture of 47 degrees below.

The air of McKenzie County

Is pure as the soul of Christ.

Bliss comes to mind as October — Pheasant Month at my house from the time I was old enough to jump into the back of Dad’s station wagon — begins calling me from my warm bed on those first few cold mornings of late fall. His seasonal poetry is some of his best, and it’s clean and clear and shows an obvious love for his adopted state. Two of my favorite Bliss poems — one about pheasants, the other about dogs — are the reason I’m thinking about him right now.

But now, for me, in retirement, October is much more diversified.

When I was a student and then when working for a living, hunting and fishing were done pretty much on weekends, and so choices had to be made, and in October I most often chose pheasants. But now, it is not unusual for me to be sitting in a duck slough or a goose blind or a fishing boat on a Wednesday in October, sometimes more than one of them in a day, because in retirement, every day is Saturday, and there’s time to do everything.

What I don’t do much of in October is read, especially poetry. Now, my reading is pretty much left to those winter days when the wind is blowing too hard to go ice fishing or summer days when it is too hot to sit in a boat. But on those days, I often turn to Bliss to remind myself what a great place we live in.

You can probably find Bliss’ books in your local public library, or buy them online at Amazon.com, or your favorite used book website, or you can just Google Paul Southworth Bliss poetry, and you’ll find a place to buy his books. They’re all out of print now, so they might be a little pricey, but if you shop around a bit, you can probably find one in your price range.

Without further ado, let me share a couple of his best poems with you. Both are from a volume titled “The Rye Is The Sea,” printed right here in Bismarck, in 1936, using recycled farmers’ burlap bags for the covers.

In the introduction to this book, Bliss writes “Attention is invited to the physical appearance of this book. ‘The Rye is the Sea’could be produced from a farm village. The burlap binding is the gunny sack of agriculture. The bag of which this binding is a part has held in its time wheat and corn. The paper used is ordinary wrapping paper.”  The book is about 7½ inches by 10 inches and is so intricately printed and bound it is a joy to hold in your hand.

The first poem is titled “Pheasant Cry.  I love it because Bliss tells us what color pheasants are, like no one ever has before. My friend Dan Nelson says, every October, “Let’s go get some of those big red birds.” And we usually do. But Bliss adds a few more colors to his description.

Pheasant Cry

Sun,

Shine on me —

Make me glorious!”

 

Thus spoke

The pheasant,

Walking the rowed wheat

In the morning.

 

North of the way,

A cottonwood;

South of the way,

A willow;

The sun shone upon them all.

 

Said the pheasant:

“Sun,

Shine on me —

Make me glorious!”

 

It was afternoon:

A crag

Of white cumulus

Lay in the north;

Nimbus

Hung in the east;

The south

Was pearl —

The sun shone upon them.

 

The pheasant cried:

“Sun,

Shine on me —

Make me glorious!”

 

All day

The pheasant called

Incessantly.

 

And at evening

The sun

Hearkened to his cry;

And the sun

Bestowed upon him

All his colors:

Pink, violet,

Honey, salmon,

Thistle,

Persian rose,

Copper,

Peach,

Daffodil,

Tangerine,

Citron,

Tile,

Lapis blue,

Wine,

Emerald,

Corn,

Old gold,

Lavender,

Ginger,

Henna,

Sandalwood,

Turquoise,

Sea green,

Fern,

Cinnamon,

Heather,

Wild aster,

Chartreuse,

Carmine,

Lavin red,

Scarlet,

Vermillion,

Purple,

And white.

 

And the sun said:

“From the early

Morning,

When you walked

The rowed wheat,

You have asked

Incessantly…

Henceforth

You shall

Be glorious—

And

A little bit

Ridiculous.”

May 17, 1936

Minnesota-North Dakota border, south of Wahpeton-Breckenridge

Now you know what color a pheasant is. Then read this one, and see if you don’t recognize you and your dog.

 

Just Another Old Dog

Just another old dog with sorrowful eyes,

Peering at me from the rug where he lies;

Watching me always, calm as a sphinx,

With two aging eyes, neither one of which blinks.

 

Knows I’m no company — not for a dog

Dreaming of meadowland, forest and bog;

Dreaming of pheasant, partridge and quail,

And curious things by the aspen-leaved trail.

 

Wond’ring why men stay so long in one place,

Chained to a desk — when there’s plenty of space.

Just a run out of town and the fun might begin —

I know that he reckons such sitting is sin.

 

A law would be passed if dogs had their way —

That men must go out in the open each day —

Out to trees, brushland or prairie remote:

Ah, that would win every honest dog’s vote!

Old fellow, stop looking so sadly at me;

If only you knew it, we agree to a “T.”

 

Come, we’ll just chuck it! These papers are trash —

Let’s go where clean, cool forest streams splash!

There, you old rascal with sorrowful eyes,

That far-a-way look was a crafty disguise.

 

Now you jump up, wiggle tail, wriggle ears,

Shedding like water a half-dozen years.

You’ve waited so long, but you knew you would win;

You scoundrel, I see that you’re hiding a grin!

 

So off we go, leaving no trail, and no track —

I hope they don’t miss us; let’s never come back!

May 19, 1935

Williston, N.D.

To a venerable red-eyed springer spaniel, 11 years old, who keeps faithful and friendly watch.

How many times have you seen an old dog jump up and “shed a half-dozen years?” Yeah, me, too. Isn’t that a marvelous line?

After traveling the back roads of North Dakota for a couple of years, Bliss was convinced by his new North Dakota friends that he must take up hunting as a sport.

And so he did, and he recounts some of the adventures of that first year in a short essay titled “Hunting Begins at 40” in the back of “The Rye is the Sea.”

Interestingly, the account is kind of what you might have read in an old issue of Field and Stream or Outdoor Life of the same period. Yeah, me and Joe did this and this and this. But at the very end, Bliss recounts for us how much money he spent on hunting that year (something I’ve always considered too dangerous to undertake — there are some things you just don’t want to know). Here’s his tally. Check out his note at the end.

LICENSE

Hunting License No. 28634 N.D.                                 $1.50

Federal Duck Stamp                                                          1.00

$2.50

EQUIPMENT

Take-down Repeating Shotgun                                   26.95

Gun Case                                                                           4.95

Box of Shells                                                                     .98
Additional Shells, 3 boxes at 98c                               2.94

Ramrod Set                                                                      .39

Oil Can                                                                              .25

Khaki Hunter’s Coat                                                    3.50

Wading Boots                                                              4.50

Decoy Ducks                                                                2.25

Duck Call                                                                        .65

$47.36

TRAVEL EXPENSE

Oil and Gas                                                              $10.00

Broken Auto Window                                                2.50

$12.50

DOCTOR’S BILLS

Visits and Office Treatments                             $18.00

Medicines                                                                   2.85

$20.85

CAMERA EXPENSE

Films, Developing, Extra Prints                         $5.00

GRAND TOTAL                                             $88.21

            Author’s Note:  From this you will see that it cost me $88.21 for one sharp-tailed grouse, one partridge and one duck. Rather expensive—but I will never forget how yellow the cord grass was on the duck pass, how the reeds waved their plumes and how the dawn turned the ice into pink sherbet.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Empty Deer Camps

Over the past couple of years, I have written several times about the decline in North Dakota’s wildlife population since the Bakken Boom began. It may just be a coincidence that numbers of game species (deer, sage grouse, bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope, to name a few) have been decimated at the same time as the big oil boom took place. Or not. There have been a number of factors, including some harsh winters a few years back, disease (including rubber tire disease) and questionable decisions by the Game and Fish Department. The number of deer licenses being issued this year, for example, is about 100,000 fewer than in 2008, just seven years ago, because of sharp declines in the deer population. In an article I wrote recently for Dakota Country magazine, which should appear in the mail and on newsstands this weekend, I talked about one of those questionable decisions and the politics of it. Even if you’re not a deer hunter, you might want to read this anyway for a good lesson in the politics of game and fish management and hunter management.

At noon on Nov. 6, just about four months from now, about 40,000 North Dakotans are going to be doing something other than what they had hoped to be doing. That’s when the North Dakota deer season opens, and that’s how many hunters are not going to be going deer hunting. Because they didn’t draw a license in this year’s deer gun lottery.

In recent years, the department has had to severely restrict the total number of deer gun tags issued statewide, for a number of reasons we won’t go into here. You’ve all heard the litany. This year, the department will issue just over 43,000. Of those, about 13,000 will go to landowners who get a gratis license for taking care of the deer herd for us. That leaves about 30,000 licenses to be drawn for in the lottery. About 70,000 people were expected to apply this year. You do the math. But that number of unsuccessful applicants could have been cut substantially if the department had stuck to its guns late last year.

At a North Dakota Game and Fish Advisory Board meeting in Bismarck last Dec. 2, director Terry Steinwand was pretty unequivocal about the change he was about to make in the allocation of 2015 deer licenses. After discussing a number of options with his biologists, Steinwand was ready to go ahead with a “One Tag Only” season in 2015. Meaning that if you drew a gun tag in the 2015 lottery, you would not be able to buy a second tag to take a deer with a bow, as in past years.

Traditionally, there’s been no limit on how many bow licenses can be issued, the theory being that generally the number of deer taken by bowhunters is not significant enough to affect the deer population. Each year, somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 licenses are issued to bowhunters. Any North Dakotan who wants to hunt deer with a bow can do that. Bow licenses are issued all year long.

Hunters who want to get a gun tag AND a bow tag apply for the gun tag in the lottery and take their chances just like anyone else. If they are drawn, they can still go get a bow license and hunt with a bow right up until rifle season, and then go out to deer camp with their buddies on Nov. 6 and hunt with a rifle. A lot of them do that. A lot.

Under Steinwand’s proposal last winter, acknowledging that these are hard times requiring some sacrifice by all of us until the deer herd bounces back, the idea was, if someone is a serious bowhunter, and really, really wants to hunt deer with a bow, and doesn’t want to be restricted to a specific unit, they would purchase a bow license and forego the lottery for a rifle license, thereby freeing up that license for someone not interested in bowhunting. It likely would have meant a few thousand — or maybe as many as 10,000 — more non-bowhunters would have drawn a rifle tag this year.

So what happened to Steinwand’s “One Tag Only” proposal? It disappeared. Steinwand got run over by the North Dakota Bowhunters Association. Unhappy bowhunters won a political argument. Bowhunters are great sportsmen, but too many of them are also selfish. Bowhunting is not a sport for the timid. It’s hard work but also, when successful, incredibly stimulating. Problem is, it often does not result in taking a deer. And so, to have the best of both worlds, a lot of bowhunters want the option of being able to go shoot a deer with their rifle at the end of the season to guarantee they’ll have some venison in their freezer.

So how’d they do it? Well, they showed up, and victory often goes to those who just show up. They showed up at Game and Fish Advisory Board meetings last winter, like the one I attended here in Bismarck, where Steinwand argued pretty hard in favor of his “One Tag Only” proposal, saying bowhunters have not had their opportunity to bowhunt reduced, the way gun hunters have. I left that meeting convinced (and pleased) that Steinwand really believed that “One Tag” was the way to go until the deer herd recovers from its current problems, in spite of how noisy the bowhunters were at the meeting.

But the bowhunters used another tool. They got political. They wrote letters to people in high places, some even containing threats of political repercussions. It wouldn’t be fair to say there was a flood of letters to the governor’s office, or to director Steinwand, but there were enough to make a difference. Here’s a sample (the comments in parentheses are mine):

  • “Gov. Dalrymple: I am concerned about the N.D. Game and Fish Department’s proposal to change the deer allocation system… This decision is proposed to take a little heat off of the department, even though it will only add about 7,000 to 7,500 more people in the field.” (Only?)
  • “Dear Gov. Dalrymple: The alternative currently being considered, in my opinion… brings too many restrictions upon those who enjoy hunting with multiple types of weapons. Please direct your agency to take no action and CONTINUE TO MANAGE DEER ALLOCATIONS AS THEY TRADITIONALLY HAVE.” (“Direct your agency?” I’m not sure I like the idea of the governor telling the Game and Fish biologists how to do their job.)
  • “To Gov. Dalrymple: I have purchased an archery tag for over 20 years now… I am also a landowner and get my gratis tag yearly to hunt my own land on which I have shot several respectable bucks… Why not make a new category of license available through the lottery that allows hunting with a bow, rifle and muzzleloader (any weapon, any season) sell it for twice the price of the regular gun lottery license.” (This guy gets a free tag AND a bow license. That’s about as good as it gets.)
  • To Gov. Dalrymple: “I am writing hoping that I am one of MANY people contacting you in OPPOSITION to the N.D. one deer tag proposal. Anyone with common sense knows that his makes NO sense. Tell Game and Fish if they want to do something constructive, ELIMINATE the taking of does.” (That would leave another 10,000 or 20,000  people at home on Nov. 6.)
  • “To Gov. Dalrymple: As the governor, please ask the director of Game and Fish to not implement the one-tag system.” (Once again, asking the governor to override the director.)
  • “Dear Gov. Dalrymple: “I believe this is a knee-jerk reaction to the incessant whining of a spoiled populous (sic). SUSPEND DOE KILLING STATEWIDE FOR TWO YEARS. PUT A BOUNTY ON COYOTES. MANDATE ALL GUNS IN VEHICLES BE ENCASED AND FULLY UNLOADED. Our state has gone through a huge transformation in the last several years, and it scares the heck out of me when I see who’s driving the roads with loaded guns.” (New gun laws?)
  • “To Gov. Dalrymple: I believe that if we are going to make a decision like this, it should be put to a public vote. Then you would know the majority opinion.” (Think Al Jaeger can figure out how to get THAT on the ballot?)
  • “To Gov. Dalrymple: This plan punishes landowners because it would force me to choose between gun hunting my own land or bowhunting with my friends across the state… It appears the governor is the only chance to stop this policy. I just want it to be known that I feel strongly enough against this and, if it is enacted, it will decide my vote for governor in two years.” (Well, I don’t think Jack was really shaking in his boots.)
  • “Dear Gov. Dalrymple: In general, one-tag option is going to suppress the interest of our youth getting into the heritage of hunting, not accomplish the goal that you are trying to achieve, and will require future legislation and changes to correct this problem.” (Uh-oh. Calling in the Legislature.)
  • “Dear Director Steinwand (cc: Gov. Dalrymple): The “One-Tag Option”, as you proposed, is a terrible idea dreamed up by someone with a short term view of things, and, if implemented, will immediately tarnish and damage the hunting system we have all grown up with. This is our culture and tradition you are meddling with. A few ideas to consider — temporarily eliminating nonresident tags.” (I’ve been waiting for that “no non-residents” thing to come up.)

The letters to the governor were given to the Game and Fish Department to respond to. That’s how governors do things. All the writers got a letter or a phone call from Steinwand or Wildlife Division chief Jeb Williams. I asked to see the letters I quoted from above. They’re public records once the governor opens them. I didn’t ask to see the responses. And I don’t know how much influence the letters to the governor, or the governor himself, had on Steinwand’s decision to just leave things the way they are. I think I don’t want to know. I do know that Steinwand has said over and over that his job is not only to manage the wildlife but to manage the hunters. There’s a customer service element to what he does, and that often plays a role in his decision-making process. It’s a fine line he walks, and as he said at the Advisory Board meeting, “When I make a decision, I will make half the people in this room happy and half the people unhappy.” I’m guessing that among the half that were unhappy with his final decision were his own biologists.

As I read through those letters, though, I saw some things I really didn’t like, as you can see from my comments. For example, the requests for the governor to step in and override the experts — the biologists — at the Game and Fish Department. I’m trying to imagine, if the governor did that on any regular basis, how most North Dakota sportsmen and women would feel about that. While technically it is the governor who issues the annual hunting and fishing proclamations, most often that is just a formality, lending stature to a tradition of hunting and fishing that we hold most dear here on the prairie. Details are left to the biologists. At least we hope so.

It seems to me that the bowhunters who opposed the One-Tag Only proposal exhibited a selfishness that has no place in our outdoor heritage. Yes, they want to experience the ruggedness — even primitiveness — of hunting a deer with a bow. But the chances are they won’t get a deer, so they want that gun license, too, as their backup, to insure meat in the freezer. They want to have their cake, and eat it, too.

And then, there’s the guy who says to create a new “everything” license and double the price. Fine for those wealthy folks, I suppose. But I’m not sure that’s how things are supposed to work — an entitled gentry — in the fields and streams of North Dakota, or America.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — So Long, Bighorn Sheep

I learned about this earlier in the week, but today it became official, when my copy of North Dakota Outdoors arrived in the mail: Add bighorn sheep to the list of species for which there will be no hunting season in North Dakota this year. Or for the foreseeable future. At least not likely in my lifetime.

The Game and Fish Department announced this week that because of the big die-off of bighorn sheep in the past year, they have ended sheep hunting in the state — for now. When — or if — there will ever be a season again is unknown. This is the first year since 1983 there will be no bighorn season.

Bighorns join mule deer does and sage grouse as species which will not be hunted here. In addition, like last year, there will be a severely reduced mule deer buck season and a limited pronghorn antelope season in just one small area of the extreme southern Bad Lands, with antelope season closed again in the rest of the state.

Moose licenses are down about 40 per cent from five years ago. Likewise elk. Moose licenses in the Oil Patch units are down 50 percent.

And whitetail deer licenses are down by more than two-thirds from the peak in 2009.

What the hell is going on here?

Game and Fish has lots of answers, all legitimate, I think, and all different for each species. For bighorns, the latest casualty, the Department says it is pneumonia. The herd has come in contact with a domestic sheep herd and caught pneumonia and is dying off in numbers so serious that the department’s wildlife chief, Jeb Williams, says “it would be irresponsible on the Department’s part to issue once-in-a-lifetime Bighorn licenses without further investigating the status of the population.”

In other words, it wouldn’t be fair to send someone afield who gets drawn  for one of those once-in-a-lifetime hunts this year, because the odds are he won’t find anything to shoot. They say they’re not sure about that, but they don’t want to take a chance. Actually, they’re pretty sure, they just don’t want to say so. And I don’t blame them, just in case they are wrong, and there are a bunch of critters hiding out there they just haven’t found. But that’s unlikely. They keep  pretty good track of the critters.

I spotted this yearling Bighorn south of Medora last summer. I hope he's grown up and still hanging around.
I spotted this yearling Bighorn south of Medora last summer. I hope he’s grown up and still hanging around.

And its not just pneumonia. The sheep are getting hit by trucks along the main highway through the Oil Patch, U.S. Highway 85, and the gravel roads leading up to it as well, taking a further toll on the population. Just about exactly two years ago this week, Game and Fish said they had lost six rams to collisions with vehicles along Highway 85 and had moved the remainder of what used to be a herd of 43 out of the area along Highway 85 to get them out of danger. I haven’t heard if they’ve lost any more to vehicles since then.

Since 1986, the beginning of the Conservation Reserve Program, North Dakota has been a hunter’s paradise. Now, it is a totally screwed up disaster. And it’s not just the species I’ve already mentioned that are hurting. Add pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge to the list.  Game and Fish blames a lot of it on three bad winters a few years back, and loss of habitat with the disappearance of CRP. I agree, but I’ll add one more reason they don’t like to talk about: the oil boom. I’m adding it because the loss or decline of most of these seasons and species is taking place in Oil Country. That’s no secret, and that’s no coincidence.

I can tell you the guys at Game and Fish are getting tired of covering up the casualties caused by the boom though. Last spring, when I was doing a story about sage grouse for Dakota Country Magazine, which you can read on my blog by going here, one of the biologists, who gave me permission to use his name, although I didn’t, told me “Go ahead and use my name. I’m sick and tired of everyone walking on eggshells. This massive oil and gas development is bad for wildlife, and not just sage grouse. There are other species suffering just as bad.” That was a North Dakota Game and Fish Department biologist. He was mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it any more. And I don’t blame him. These biologists, more than any of us can imagine, really CARE about the critters.  His job is becoming almost impossible.

He didn’t list all the other species who are hurting, but I’ve listed them above.

There are some really big losers with this latest turn of events. First, we’re losing one of our most spectacular species. Losing any species is a disaster. Losing this one is hard for a couple more reasons:  There are four North Dakotans who might have been able to spend their autumn in the Bad Lands hunting for a bighorn sheep this year, but won’t get a chance. They may never get another chance. But bigger than that, the Department has donated one license each year to the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep to be sold at their annual banquet as a fundraiser. That has been bringing in about $75,000 a year for FNAWS. And FNAWS has been pumping money back into the state to help our sheep program here. That’s gone now.

Y’know, I know I can’t blame all this on the Oil Boom. But there are some days I really just want it to go away.

KEVIN GRINDE: Rhythm Of The Trail — Dog And Master Learn To Live With Age

Brother Brett Grinde pauses for sandwiches and a break with dogs Kea and cousin Maggie at a secret upland bird hunting location somewhere north of Iowa and south of Ontario.
Brother Brett Grinde pauses for sandwiches and a break with dogs Kea and cousin Maggie at a secret upland bird hunting location somewhere north of Iowa and south of Ontario.

Kea snarled at her Master when he tried to get into bed last night.

Yes, the dog was occupying His space, which sometimes is shared territory, until he needs to sleep, which is far less than the dog’s requirement these days.

At least the spot her hairy body vacates is warm, a good thing when the temp is set at 65.

She’s slept in our bed since she was a pup and always will as long as she’s alive.

The notion of how much time she might have in this life occupies the Master’s thoughts more and more these days.

The springer spaniel’s 11 years of doing what she was born to do — hunt game birds — has caught up with her. Him, too, during the tough days.

Kea’s left hip is the source of a woods and water war wound, not atypical for a hunting dog.

She’s sore and supersensitive, especially at night. And she can get owly when she’s in her Master’s bed and it’s time for her to move.

Bed entry is a nightly challenge requiring, first, the notification that the Master wants to go to sleep (Move!) and, second, using the blankets to gently lift and nudge her to the other side. Twenty-nine nights out of the month, the process is routine. If she’s deep asleep, the Master provides some oral encouragement (Get the hell over there!). Sometimes, her position on the bed prevents the lift and nudge technique from motivating her to move. That’s what prompts the rare snarl or growl. It’s not nice to growl at your Master. She knows that.

And during her waking hours she tries to make up for it by laying half on, half off his slippers that are attached to his feet while he drinks morning coffee. Drives Master nuts.

She knows that, too. Springers, you see, have attitude. Of course, Kea has had a most excellent instructor on the psychological and behavioral aspects of what makes a good dog good.

Eleven years old, multiplied by 7 or whatever number the dog-to-human age converter is, puts her in that mid-70 something range. That grumpy, owly age. Remember, Kea’s instinct to vocally warn anybody when she’s having a rough day with pain happens less than 1 percent of her waking moments.

She’s proven to be a favorite canine among the five grandkids, and the neighbors and their kids. Her owners have nothing negative to say about her domestic performance, other than she enjoys retrieving tennis balls a little too much.

When she’s in her element, the woods, she behaves, works closely, finds birds and flushes them. She also eats well and wants to share the sleeping bag with the Master’s brother. Master, who is smarter than his brother, sleeps in the top bunk. So all in all, Kea is a darn good dog.

Her Master can relate to her gnarly episodes with feeling lousy, even though he hasn’t scraped 60 yet. He lives with pain, too. (Who doesn’t?)

Bombing around woods, rocks, water and prairie is a young creature’s game, dog or another inferior animal.

Master and Kea have shared many, many outdoor adventures the last decade, but not all of them were spent together. Even they have appreciated their time apart once in a while.

Late summers and fall often found them plowing through Dakota grass and wetland cattails, busting through northern Minnesota brush, navigating over and around windfalls and swamps, dragging watercraft up and down banks to fish trout lakes; paddling hundreds of miles in a canoe to hunt muskies; humping 45-pound backpacks up and down the West’s vertical relief.

Add those activities up and the sum is stress, strained or fractured muscles and bones. Add to that the Master’s catastrophic health event that resulted in him a wearing a scar in the form of a very large Mercedes Benz logo on his abdomen, and there’s enough pain for each to share and talk about over coffee in the morning.

Their wounds are visible both in behavior and mobility.

The torso area is a source of disability. The back can lift only half what it used to. Worn teeth reveal thousands of meals of red meat. The muzzle is grayer. Eyesight requires corrective vision. Hearing is most excellent. What? Huh? You said something didn’t you.

Now let’s talk about Kea.

Her rear left hip generates a gimp when she walks. She shoots a threatening look (“the Kea look,” we call it) if one’s petting hand wanders toward her rear end. Her tail is arthritic. Don’t even think of touching around its base. Her teeth are worn by thousands of meals of crunchy dog food. Her muzzle is gray. Her eyes show signs of glaucoma. Her hearing is just this side of deaf. Plus the Master knows for a fact that she’s mastered the art of selective listening. She’s had a most excellent instructor, after all.

However, having said all that, Kea’s time on the planet has allowed her to become quite the drama queen. Nobody knows where she developed this most annoying trait.

For example, he just missed stepping on her left front paw as he walked down the hall the other day on his way to the recliner. As usual, she was in the middle of the trail. A few minutes later, Kea tracked him down and entered the room with a new limp, an exaggerated, practiced limp. Thing is, she was limping while favoring her right front paw. Ha. The Master is not making that up.

That same day, Kea displayed her fear of anything plastic or nylon appearing or moving unexepectedly in her vicinity. A ghost-like plastic grocery bag blowing through the yard will trigger a 15-minute barking fit and a series of bluff attacks and hearty growls that would impress an Alaskan brown bear.

Yesterday, her Master went outside to sweep snow when he heard the dog erupt into a barking frenzy. Know that she is extremely quiet for a dog and barking is unusual. This time, something scary inside the house was freaking Kea out. The Master was confused and investigated.

The first clue she was downstairs was obvious. She had brought a rawhide bone into the basement to hide it, her idea of hide-and-seek when cousin by marriage dogs visit. On this day, however, she entered a downstairs room and discovered a big, mean, red, ice fishing tent her Master had half strung up to dry. She barked and brayed almost like a hound, which ought to be embarrassing for all spaniels.

The tent now was erect with fear. In disgust, the Master left her puzzled and fearful and barking and returned outside. The tent occupied her time for another 30 minutes.

Come April, the two companions will head east and north to the cabin in the woods. At most, Kea will accompany him only one day on the trail. After that, she will be content to just hang around the yard. The smell of fallen leaves reminds her of fall. The smell of spring reinvigorates both souls.

During the last three years in the woods, they’ve spent fewer hours on the move, trading the time wandering on purpose for more time sitting around the campfire or cooking or telling stories. Some days, they hike back to secret places and just sit and watch and wait.

Inevitably, Kea will pass, joining Rylie and Shire and Frisbee.

And when she does, her Owners already have decided their dog days are over. They’re getting too old to raise the dogs the right way, to respect the dog enough to teach it the hunting way — to do the training necessary so the dog can perform what it’s born to do, above and beyond fulfilling the role strictly as human companion.

As has been stated, all of our springers have earned high praise as friends to neighbors and their kids, our kids, and our kids’ kids. But bring a springer to the woods and the companionship role slips to a distant second every time. A focus and perseverance for finding ruffed grouse becomes all consuming. Little else matters. Except when you miss an easy going away shot opportunity. That’s only happened twice in her 11 years.  But both times, she glared back at her Master and he thought he was dead.

So the couple has done their part for dog and country. He still has faith in dog. Not so much in country — the serious, bloody dog fights have just begun and they’re about to get way worse. Thank God, unlike a dog, Hope never sleeps.

In the year or more Kea has left on Earth, Master and dog will continue to do what they’ve enjoyed best. Maybe not as frequently and for sure not as intensely. He’s confident she can handle a wee bit more wear and tear. Just a little more. He can, too.

At home, Kea’s Master companions will continue to tolerate her dog drama, vacuuming her damn dog hair, the feeding, the watering, the exercise routine — the usual drills pets and humans need to survive in the bubble tunnel.

Except when it’s time for him to get into bed. The occasional snarls already are getting old.