Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2019

The Opinel Knife

This is a departure from the regular content on this blog, but when I find something of quality, I want to pass it along to you.
Quality craftsmanship and affordability are what I look for in outdoor gear. I found out a long time ago that you get what you pay for. While this may be true, there are reasonably priced products out there, if you know where to look. That's how I discovered the Opinel knife.

I was looking for a knife that was durable, hard working, and that looked nice. Also, it would be great if it was easy on the wallet. I purchased my Opinel No. 8 at Mast General Store for $15. The simple beauty of this knife caught my eye, and the fact that is was a traditional working man's knife made in France for over one hundred years, convinced me to make the purchase.

In 1890, Joseph Opinel began making his wooden-handled folding knives in Savoie, France, selling them to farmers, herdsmen, and paysans-vignerons ( peasant winemakers). Soon, the knife became popular with railro…

Morning Camp

This morning I christen my Coleman stove with bacon grease at first light. The songbirds of the Smokies begin their first chorus against the white noise of frying meat. I let the first couple of pieces get maybe too done in my grandma's black iron frying pan, but that's how I like it. I turn down the fire and the rest of the thick- cut bacon comes out perfect. I save some of the grease in the bottom of the pan for eggs.
I break six eggs in a large paper cup and stir in some half and half from the cooler. I mix them well into a creamy light yellow and pour them into the dark grease in the frying pan. As the eggs cook, they take on some of the dark color from the black pan and burned bacon pieces, but they turn out well.
Bringing water to boil on the other eye, I throw in a heaping handful of good ground coffee into the French press. I pour in the water and press the plunger down, watching the dark liquid swirl into a creamy head. The first sip from my cup has the aroma and flavo…

Dad's Fish

My dad caught the biggest rainbow trout of his life, and he was so excited that he threw his fishing rod down and clamored up the riverbank and put the fish in the trunk and said, Come on, let's go.
I said, What about your rod? and he said, I won't be needing that anymore. After catching a fish like this, what's the point?
We drove into town and turned on a side street, then pulled up in front of a sign that read, Taxidermy. My dad told the man inside that he wanted the fish mounted no matter how much it cost, and the man grinned and said, Give me two weeks.
Dad was a wreck for the two long weeks of waiting. As the estimated time drew closer, he didn't eat nor sleep, he just paced the floor, waiting for the telephone to ring, with a voice on the other end saying, Come pick up your fish. Finally, that call came, and when it did, my dad ran out the door and dove in his old car, and liked to have lost it as he tore out of our yard on two wheels.
When he returned home, not a …

The Beginner

My son had to leave the family gathering at Lake Robinson early, and he left behind his most expensive bass fishing rods, propped against the wall of the picnic shelter, thinking that I would grab them for him because he was in a hurry. I noticed the rods standing there as we were gathering our things at the end. I complained to my wife about his lack of responsibility, and snatched the rods up.
As I turned to leave the shelter, this kid tapped me on the back. “I was kinda wanting to go fishing,” the boy said, “but I don't have anything to fish with.”
The boy went on to tell me that he had fished a time or two before, but he didn't know much about it. I looked down at my son's rods and said, “Let's go buddy, we'll use these, if it's OK with your mom and dad.”
The boy followed me to the dock, and when we got out there, I asked which one he wanted to use: the spinning reel, or baitcaster. I was a little relieved that he chose the former, because I could envision a …

A Rural Life

I grew up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, in a community that believed in hard work and family, as well as a close tie to the land. We grew our own vegetables and raised animals, and we helped our neighbors whenever they needed it.
When we planted our gardens in spring, we always planted more than we needed, and so did our friends and neighbors. When harvest time arrived, we shared with people in the community. I remember my dad delivering corn, tomatoes, green beans and squash to a few of the older members of our community, or families in need.
We all did our share of the work, from plowing and planting, to weeding, fertilizing and harvesting. The agricultural practices in our community were never for profit, it was always about sustenance for our families and friends.
I remember going after school to help get up hay, or put up fences, or do simple repairs on neighbors homes. In summer, I would help other people do their work in their gardens, or take care of their animals.
We would…

Working Together

My dad passed away on this date, three years ago . I'll admit that I still have a hard time with it, knowing that I'll never see him again or talk to him in this lifetime. You always hear that time heals the heart, and the pain has faded some, but you never truly get over losing a loved one. What I am left with are the memories, for better or for worse. In my head, I can faintly see his face, can almost make out the sound of his voice among the the many others that have stayed with me through the years. Sometimes I try to remember certain things he said, and when I can't, it drives me crazy. There are things that I have wanted to tell him since he passed, but can't. I have questions about things that only he would know the answer to, but I am left wondering now for the rest of my life, with no access to that answer. I've ran into trouble with a car engine, or air conditioning unit, or electrical panel, and my life- line that was always just a phone call away, is no…

After Dark

I stayed up way too late last night. Chase called on his way home from work and told me that we were going catfishing. That's usually how things like this begin.

My brand new son- in- law Bryan was going too, although my daughter wasn't crazy about the idea. No worries though, she would stay at our house and await his return. She ended up asleep on my side of the bed until we got back. Apparently, their agreed upon curfew was 11:30, and he did his best to keep it despite Chase's nudging him to stay longer. My son has no concept of time when it comes to fish, whether they are biting or not.

So there we stood in the dark, on a bridge that crosses the Tyger  River. Every creature that flies or creepeth upon the ground was out. The noise from insects and frogs in the surrounding swamp was deafening. Chase was our catfish guide. He'd brought all the rods, bait and any tackle we might need. Chase's bait of choice was chunks of chicken breast marinated in his secret formu…

Hear That Lonesome Whippoorwill

This is something I wrote in my journal five years ago. I wish I had started a blog back then. Maybe I would know what I am doing by now. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read it.


One of the best things about living in the country is the unfolding of the seasons before you. I imagine that in the big city, one season just blend into the next, with the only noticeable difference being the temperature. I imagine that the sound of traffic drowns out the mockingbirds on May afternoons, and the sound of owls after dark. Having the great fortune of coming up in a rural setting, I learned at an early age to appreciate the simple things in life the most. Sunrises, sunsets, the trilling of the tree frogs, and of course, the whippoorwills song in late evening.

Each spring, one sure sign that nature is alive and well is the lonesome sound, floating through the valley, hanging on the breeze. Many a night has been spent around a campfire, listening to the haunting dirge from deep in the woods.…

Be Aware, But Not Afraid of Snakes

Spend enough time outside in the summer months, and it is likely you will encounter a snake. Our first impulse is to get away, or perhaps if the snake is near our home, neutralizing the perceived threat by having the snake removed or killed. Our ignorance sometimes causes us to make rash decisions like this, mostly because we cannot identify the snake or its potentiality to be a dangerous reptile.

There are only four types of poisonous snakes in the southeastern U.S.

RattlesnakesCopperheadsCottonmouth Water MoccasinsCoral Snakes Though it is possible to see a non- venomous snake almost anywhere, most people will never encounter a poisonous one in their lifetime. Learning more about snakes can alleviate some of the fear and anxiety people have, and give them an understanding of how snakes are an important part of our natural world. The presence of a snake-- even a venomous one--  is a good sign of a healthy and balanced ecosystem.

Snakes keep the rodent population in check, which in tur…

Lately...

I am a coffee fanatic. Nothing pleases me more than a French press full of freshly ground fair trade, organic coffee from somewhere halfway across the globe. Sumatra has been my favorite for quite some time now: the humid, earthy aroma, with a hint of high mountain rainforest in each sip, a perfect campfire coffee, as I sit and watch he fog lift from the surface of some remote trout river. Or, if you prefer an espresso drink, a nice grande flat white with heavy whipping cream, served by a caffeine jacked hipster with a face full of metal at the local Starbucks. Coffee is always my fuel of choice, wherever I find myself, but lately, I have become obsessed with tea.

My favorite so far is the old standard Earl Grey, which is black tea flavored with the unique spicy citrus flavor of bergamot oil from the Mediterranean. The caffeine content from tea is milder than in coffee, but it provides a nice pick- me- up, and doesn't give me the jitters after a few cups like my other dark drug doe…

Panfish Odyssey: The Noble Redbreast

Yesterday was gorgeous, with sunshine and temperatures in the mid seventies, but there was a storm brewing in the distance. Thunder was rumbling far off in the west, and slowly headed in my direction. I would have to move quick, so I grabbed my old decrepit flyrod and a box containing a few poppers, as well as some nymphs, just for good measure. I waded through a tangle of saplings and small vines, making my way to a bank above where a branch dumps in to Wildcat Creek. Immediately, small shadows scattered, a school of bream, and they were headed for cover, which in this case was a mountain laurel bush and some submerged roots of an undercut bank.

All around me, and overhead, were limbs, vines, and leaning trees that would take my flies and probably my leader if I tried anything other than a simple roll cast. After a few tries, and a couple of snags, I figured out that I would have to let the slow current make the presentation for me. I flipped my white popper out toward the opposite …

In Life and Art

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a new sketch pad and some pencils, sure that with a little practice, I'd be able to steady my hand enough to produce a few somewhat recognizable drawings to go along with some of my writings about nature and outdoor experiences. I loved drawing in a past life, though I was never really any good. Back then, it was superheroes or comic book characters, something I'd do rather than studying for a history exam, or doing my Algebra homework. I drew some animals and fish, but they were always cartoonish. Sometimes my drawings were good, but I never took it seriously. Same thing with writing. Had I known then, what I want to know now. My first sketch the other day was of a rainbow trout. It wasn't perfect, but I was satisfied with it. I took my time and paid attention to detail, and found the whole thing both relaxing and invigorating. I was tickled that it actually favored a fish, much less a trout. I spent a while shading in the right colors. I…

The Back of Beyond

Daylight begins to filter through the tops of yellow poplar, white oak, and eastern hemlock trees, and soon floods the understory of this mountain cove, deep in the Carolina hills. Mountain Laurel and rhododendron are woven together into an impenetrable sea of tangled boughs of green. Laurel hells-- what they are referred to in this region-- grow up steep walls of rock and bracken fern, giant deadfall trees and green mats of moss, wherever it can hold on. A place like this is hard to find your way through, but it is very easy to get turned around in, and if a man gets himself lost out here, he is truly lost.
Back in this cove, I am miles away from any paved roads. The only modern sound I have heard came from an airplane flying overhead just before nine o'clock this morning. A pileated woodpecker’s cries echo in the canopy of trees just below where I am standing. Far off, a crow caws. My phone doesn't have a signal here, and I don't know whether that is a curse or a blessing…

Evening in the swamp...

Light begins to fade, and darkness creeps in Just as water crept into this timber After the beaver dams backed up the flow Of what was a small stream, clear and flowing Pines go first, rotting until the tops break, Falling into a tangle of thick vines The poplars, waterlogged and leaning Soon they will be hollow, providing homes For screech owls and wood ducks, and the raccoon That left the seedy droppings on this log I am standing on to get a better view Of all that is happening in these woods Order from chaos, from death comes life The circle is eternal, everything changes From woodland to wetland, the cycle goes One dies off and another one is born Abundant waterfowl now calls this home Where the squirrels once buried acorns, The water is two feet deep and rising I would have to wade to my deer stand now My beloved holly, she's a leaning Before long, she too will fall over The timber is dying off in a swath The once thick canopy, now open sky Only the skeletons of big trees re…

This Is Not Another Fishing Story

You got home from work that morning at three AM. The house was quiet and empty. Your wife and daughter were out of town, and he had been staying at your mom's for three days, and you couldn't wait to see him. Getting to sleep by four, you set the alarm for eight, giving you time to get the gear together and make lunch for you both. Baloney sandwiches, and juice boxes. You hurried to his school and signed him out. It was going to be a good day.You gave your boss some lame excuse why you wouldn't be in the next evening, but you broke down and told him that you were laying out to take your boy fishing, that you haven't seen him in almost a week, and he just smiled and patted you on the back. "See you Monday," he said. You wanted everything to be just right, so you went down the list of things to remember, all that night as you did your job.He came running down the hallway when they called his name on the intercom, and hopped up in the truck. He had so much to ta…

Last Day

Two hours before sundown, I found a place to sit among the trees, one last time to hunt for deer. I made myself a rock or stump, and soon I was forgotten. The woods slowly resumed business once more, and I'm only part of a tree, a protrusion of the leafy forest floor. That was until two sharp- eyed squirrels saw me wipe my nose, then they made a point of alerting everyone else of my presence. The pair cried and scolded me until they were certain I wasn't a threat, which took a half hour for them to determine.Moments later, a nosy finch landed on the tip of my arrow, and watched for my reaction. His beady eyes pried my every feature, trying to figure out if I was alive, or dead, but I remained stone still. To shew him away would've been a sin, so I allowed him to remain there, keeping me honest. The loud rustle of leaves on the hillside quickened my pulse, and the tiny bird flitted away. I watched patiently but couldn't see anything from where I was. Probably those same…