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Coming Full Circle

We were camping on the James River near Gladstone, Virginia one summer when I was a teenager, and as usual, I had struck off by myself to get away from the rest of the family and spend some time exploring unfamiliar waters. Besides, if I hung around the RV site too long, my dad would put me to work, leveling up the camper, hanging those ridiculous owl lights around the canopy, or something. I had seen a picture in the camp store of some smallmouth bass a guy had caught, and I had only seen a few of them in my life. 
I waded out into the water about thigh deep and started casting a small Rapala down and across the current with my spinning rod. Besides me, there were three other fishermen strung out along the river in this section of wide, swift moving water. Every now and then, a fish would take a swipe at my lure, but I couldn't get any to commit. I made my way down toward a large rock about a quarter of the way across, and side armed the bait upstream, and watched it bob and ride …

Can fishing add years to a person's life?

This is a piece I wrote several years ago. It still holds true today.



Everyone needs a place where they can reflect on life. A place that will strengthen their spirit and rejuvenate their soul. Such a place is known only in the heart. There are a few places like that for me, but the one that first comes to mind is the solitude of a mountain trout stream. 
As I cast a fly into the dark recesses along the banks and near deadfall trees, my mind wanders to days past. I think of all the great experiences I've had, and the people in my life who have inspired me. All that time, I wish I could get back. It does not really matter to me if a fish is hooked-- just watching them swirl and gawk at my offering gives me satisfaction, and is sustenance to my soul.
The aroma that comes from the surrounding forest and the the sound of rippling water gives me a deep feeling of peace and quiet joy, far beyond my comprehension. In the spring of the year, it's the new green on the trees and the flower…

Water and Stone: Meditations

My soul finds rest by the river. The soft purling of water over smooth stone soothes my mind, lifts my spirits, and gives me a sense of my place in the Creation. Rivers represent for me life, death, and the passing of time. The constant flow of water washes away my sorrows, and carries my prayers down the river that I must cross over in the end.
When I gaze into the cold, turbid water, I am reminded of my own birth and my rebirth. Contained in every molecule of river water is a memory, the resonance, of the formation of the Earth.
In the depths of a shadowy pool of clear water, I watch a trout steady itself against the powerful current. Its colors are a remnant of primordial times, proof of the handiwork of God. The trout reveals to me the purity of the river that is its home.
When my mind is troubled, I go to the river. I step out into the cold, clear waters to cleanse my soul.

Darkness

The effects of the shortened length of daylight on my psyche is compounded by the raw, wet, cloudy weather this afternoon. Seasonal Affective Disorder-- add that to the list of issues I deal with on a daily basis. What I wouldn't give for a little sunshine today. I don't know how much longer I can stand it. When I leave home in the morning, its pitch dark, and by the time I arrive home, the light is fading. No wonder so many of us suffer with depression more in the winter months.
I know that I have so many things to be thankful for, but I tend to forget that when I am down. My wife and kids are so good to me, even when I am withdrawn, stuck inside my own head. I lash out at them sometimes for no reason, then have to deal with the shame afterwards. If you're anything like me, you know how that feels. 
My oldest daughter found out she has some major issues with her intestines last week. At first, the fear was cancer, but thank God, it wasn't. Her condition is still serious…

Through the Seasons

As a child, I would sit at the base of an ancient oak tree, the woods my only refuge from a world in which I didn't fit.

In summer, the green canopy sheltered me from gathering storms, from both the sky above and the soul within.
On autumn evenings, I would watch the squirrels play on the branches above, and my spirits were lifted.
Winter's cold breath did not keep me away, and I didn't fear the ghosts that the trees had become.
When the first leaves appeared in spring, I would be there to witness life renewed, in both the woods and myself.

Passing On the Hunting Tradition

At ten years old, it was nearly impossible to sit still on the cold, hard ground beneath a huge pine tree, beside my dad as he scanned an old hayfield in search of deer. I was bundled up in his old camouflage coveralls—which were big enough to swallow me whole—and the boredom had started to set in by 9 am. I busied myself, playing with sticks and pinecones as I watched the occasional squirrel or songbird that would come to check us out from a safe distance. It was a cold December morning in Greenwood County, South Carolina, and despite the extra layer of clothing and my thermal underwear, I was shivering, hoping that soon my dad would give up and we would retreat to the comfort of the heated cab of his pick-up truck. I sat back against the tree and pulled my blaze orange stocking hat down over my ears, and drew my head inside of the coveralls to warm up. In just a moment, I was jolted by the thundering blast from my dad’s .58 caliber muzzleloader, and I popped my head out just in time…

Her First One

There was a certain air of anticipation that morning as our guide, Captain Charles King, plied the waters beneath us for signs of schooling striped bass. We came to Santee Cooper Country to immerse ourselves in the sportsman's paradise, and explore all the area had to offer. As our boat cut across beautiful Lake Moultrie, the sun was breaking the eastern horizon with a warm, red glow, casting a soft, picturesque light on one of the most beautiful lakes in the South.

The South Carolina Outdoor Press Association (SCOPe) and members of the Georgia Outdoor Writers (GOA) had converged on the Santee Cooper lakes, as they held their annual fall conference at Black's Camp. As part of the group of  writers and photographers that were on the lake that particular morning. My wife, Melissa and I, along with Georgia outdoor writer, Polly Dean, were matched with an experienced guide, a man whose business is to know these waters and the popular game fish that thrive in great numbers there. Ch…

Elderberry Syrup as a Remedy for Cold and Flu

(Originally published in the Backwoodsman, July/August 2018)
In the U.S., the flu season usually runs from October to May, normally peaking sometime in February. Outside of taking an annual flu shot and costly over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, most remedies for the symptoms are, at best, minimally effective.
There is a home remedy, however, proven to work time and time again.


Black elderberries (Sambucus nigra) have long been used in Europe and North America as a medicinal plant, useful for ailments ranging from a diuretic and laxative to a diaphoretic (promotes sweating). Elderberries contain antioxidants and flavonoids, as well as vitamin A, B, and C. The antiviral compounds in elderberries can be effective fighting not only the common cold, but both influenza A and B.

Flu treatment

Research has proven that the compounds found in the black elderberry can lessen the symptoms of the flu virus, and shorten the duration of the sickness. In a double- blind study, it was found that 93% of thos…

Beaver Dam

My craft drifts on the waterlike a birch leaf, downstreamwith the slowed current.This swamp was once a mere trickle, rushing waterthat undercut high banks.As high as I could reach from the creek bed, wasthe leaf litter and tree roots.Now the water is over thebanks, and standing kneedeep, fifty yards each way.As I drift on, the causeof this flooding, the beaverdam, comes into view.Perhaps the largest I haveever seen in these parts, hundred yards or more across.From base of the slopeon either side of the bottomland, this dam stretches.The architects worked tirelessly,spring, summer and fall,to build this great structure.And every time the soundof running water is heard, the call of duty is answered.A builder comes forthfrom the depths of its lair,and repairs the breach.Weaving in more saplingsand packing sticks and mudin the holes, the dam holds.I survey this engineering feat

What's In Your Pocket?

There's always that sinking feeling you get when you end up in an adverse situation, only to realize you are unprepared, not having critical tools you need to perform the task at hand. You may be at work, stuck in traffic on the interstate, or even in the middle of an apocalypse, when you discover that you are SCREWED, that you went against everything you were taught in the Scouts, or on those survival reality shows on TV. You vow to God, yourself, and Bear Grylls that next time you won't be so careless. That you'll never leave home without it again. 
Next time, you tell yourself, you will be able to cut that length of rope needed to repel down the waterfall, use a flashlight to signal the rescue chopper once you have located a group of lost children in the gorge, or open that beer that you thought had the twist-off cap.
There seems to be a trend in preparedness going on right now referred to as Everyday Carry, or EDC. This simply means that the participants in this subcultu…

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 …