Sunday, June 19, 2011


My eldest son Jean and I went fishing together on Father's Day in 2002... the following is a true story of our trip... expertly recalled and written by Jean. In my eyes, it is a true classic, worthy of sharing... thanks again Jean, a day I will not forget.

Dad & Jean

A funny thing happened at the boat landing

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

A shot of Dad with a furry friend

Back in 2002, my parents still lived in central Minnesota, and Dad and I had a somewhat regular tradition of fishing on Father's Day weekend. Mid June was always a great time to catch bluegills with fly rods, as they would be spawning in the shallows and eager to hit surface flies. So we would usually go to a favorite small lake in pursuit of panfish.

Yesterday, buried in the archives of my e-mail, I found this story I wrote to share with friends. It recaps a humorous experience Dad and I had on Father's Day weekend in 2002 while at the boat landing of Rabbit Lake in Aitkin County. I sent this to Dad yesterday just for kicks, and he has been laughing about it for the past two days now. The story seems to have gotten better with age for us, and I had forgotten how funny this whole episode was. I thought I would share it on my blog. Every word is true, and to clarify,
"The Osbourne's" was a favorite reality show of ours at the time, hence the reference to Ozzy, "The Prince of Darkness" himself.

A Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there, especially mine! Enjoy...and work on your boat landing skills, will ya?! :)

Saturday, Dad and I made our way out to the little lake that we fished last Father's Day weekend. Well, we got into yet another bonanza of fish.

We caught and released over two dozen crappies (middle of the day, bright sun...what gives?), and easily three times as many bluegills on the fly rod. My hands are scarred and sore from taking off so many fish and getting stabbed with fins, etc. It was an absolutely legendary day on the lake. One for the books, without question.

However, one of the more entertaining moments came as we were trying to get in at the boat landing.

Dad had said earlier in the day that it never will always have to wait for somebody at the boat landing. It didn't matter that we were amongst the only people on the lake. Murphy's Law says that there will always be someone launching or landing when we are trying to get in.

Well, sure enough, Dad was right. Not only was he right, but we also got a front row seat to witnessing a father having a really bad day.

We cruised up to the landing where we see our Father of the Year candidate, his wife Sharon (we weren't introduced, rather, we deduced this from the occasional use of the phrase "Dammit Sharon!"), and four small children, the oldest no more than ten. They were trying to bring the boat into shore. The whole situation just screamed of somebody pressuring the dad into taking the whole family fishing on the weekend.

So, we sat quietly on the water out in front of the landing.

Dad made the observation that this guy had one of those trailers with the rollers that catch the sides of the boat, and it had no carriage in the middle to help center it. Dad also noticed that this guy had the trailer too far in the water, which meant that the back of the boat would still be floating when they are trying to trailer it, making it REALLY hard to center it. And, to top it off, Sharon and one of the children were still IN the boat, making it even that much more difficult to align on the trailer.

So, we waited and watched.

The dad is yelling instructions to Sharon. Sharon is lying on the bow of the boat, trying to hook the rope from the winch to the boat itself. One kid is in the water trying to hold the boat steady. The smallest child is sitting on shore crying. The other two kids are asking daddy lots questions. Daddy is getting mad.

Finally, after a whole lot of messing around, they seemingly have everything situated. He gets in the van to pull the boat out of the water. He pulls forward, and there is a loud "clank". I didn't see exactly what happened, but I suspect the boat shifted on the trailer. He stops, gets out, walks to the back of the van, looks at the boat, and exclaims very loudly:

"Well, what a F&%$ING load of SH&%!!!"

The guy completely lost it, unleashing a stream of profanity that might still be echoing throughout southern Aitkin County. He re-releases the boat into the water in an attempt to get it on the trailer correctly.

Now the dad is shouting instructions to everyone. Sharon says nothing. The smallest child, still crying since the time we pulled up to the landing, is having a complete meltdown. One of the middle children is bugging the dad, saying, "Daddy, I have to pee!" Straight from the pages of a Dr. Benjamin Spock parenting book, the dad says:

"Just drop your F&%$ING pants and go!"

I am absolutely dying...appalled, yet oddly entertained by this buffoon who appears to have never landed a boat before. I had to turn my back on the boat landing just so this guy wouldn't see how hard I was laughing at him. At this point, my dad is goading me into shouting to the shore to ask this gentleman if he is having a good time. I resist.

Finally, after about 20 minutes and a whole lot of shouting, they actually get the boat out of the water so we could bring ours to shore. The crowning moment was the oldest kid coming down to our boat and saying to us, "We're sorry it took so long."

This guy, the Father of the Year candidate, actually made his KID come down and apologize to us!

My Dad, ever the gentleman, resisted the urge to say, "That's OK, you weren't the dumbass that backed the trailer in too far," and just said to the kid, "Hey, no problem. Stuff like that happens when you are fishing."

We get our boat out in minutes, and we are packing up our gear as they began to leave. As the happy family was driving off into the sunset, their boat still not sitting on the trailer correctly, my Dad launches into his Ozzy Osbourne impersonation:

"Sharon! SHARON!!!"

I am doubled over in laughter at this point, thinking thoughts like "I am the Prince of f&@#ing Darkness, Sharon! I'll have nothing to do with landing the boat!!!" I was wondering if I had just witnessed Ozzy himself!

The rest of our evening was comprised of telling Mom about our great fishing stories, having incredible NY strip steaks on the grill with some Whitehall Lane Cab, and me shouting at random times for no apparent reason, "Well, what a F&%$ING load of SH&%!!!"

It was a really fun Father's Day weekend.

So with that, to my Dad, Happy Father's Day! Thanks for the awesome fishing outing!

And to the Father of the Year candidate at the boat landing...Ozzy, or whoever you were...Happy Father's Day to you too. I hope you are having a better day. :)

Friday, June 17, 2011


I suspect "Magical Moments" in bird photography, conjures up many different ideas and visions for us all.

Through the years I have enjoyed my hikes in the forest. Each day, I usually walk, stand, listen and watch for many hours. What shows up, dictates how many miles I walk or how long I stand in one area. I have learned what brush or trees draw which birds, for nesting or a food source. As an example... I "scout" spruce deadfalls that have an abundance of spruce beetles, I then know that this would be a prime area for the Black-backed Woodpecker. In this spring time frame, I am now watching different nests built in hazelnut shrubs, birch trees, cedar trees, etc.... waiting for the hatch and fledgling feeding.
I have also learned to "whistle in" various species of birds. I also have a flock of chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches that follow me for hours... drawing in many curious, species of birds.

All of the above has produced some interesting "Magical Moments" for me in this spring's photography.

This first image is a Chestnut-sided Warbler. He was drawn close to me by my gathering chickadees who were eating out of my hand. I credit hundreds of photos to my chickadee friends.

The most endearing bird that has flown in this spring is the Eastern Towhee. I found this bird in the middle of May with the help of my son and wife as we were birding our ridge. I did a thread on him awhile back and figured he would be long gone in a short period of time. The reason being, I had never seen this bird in this area and he was out of his range. A few weeks ago, I was surprised to hear his piercing one note, echoing over the ridge. I followed his repetitive whistle until it abruptly quit. I began whistling his note and waited... to my amazement, he again started his one note chirp and had moved closer to me. I spent the morning watching him work the brushy ground for worms and grubs, taking time off to chirp and pose on branches.

I also observed that he interacted with the White-throated Sparrows. He was drawn to their songs as they sang from deadfall perches. Some days he seemed to enjoy their presence and on other days, he gave chase when he heard their song. It seemed to be no rhyme nor reason to his antics with the sparrows. One day he picked up dry leaves with his beak as he followed a sparrow through the dense underbrush.

I learned if I whistled the White-throated Sparrow song, it would draw both the towhee and sparrows where I waited.

My spring prize so far is this Winter Wren image. One morning I heard her long, lovely song coming from a distant, deadfall mess. I have scarred shins to show the difficulty of past and present Winter Wren hunts. This time I planted myself with the morning light to my back and repeated her long, melodic song. She started her song again and popped up on a dead fall branch and serenaded me. I caught images of her singing and she posed beautifully in the morning sunshine. I believe, from the hundreds of Winter Wren shots, this is my best.

The Chipping Sparrow shot came from a nest I discovered. The pair of sparrows watched me and my chickadees, as we passed by an eight foot spruce tree. I noticed one of the sparrows had a wisp of dried grass in her bill. I walked a short distance away and watched while the female sparrow darted into one of the short spruces with the grass. Here, about three feet above the ground she had constructed an all grass nest. She now is sitting on four eggs.

Norris and Noreen are the names of my pet Red-breasted Nuthatches. Each year and I believe it is the fourth, they introduce me to their fledglings during the first two weeks in June.

Today I almost had one of the fledglings eating out of my hand like mom and dad... it will be a matter of time and another "Magical Moment" for me.

"There was magic in a forest, on a mountain top or seashore; in the heart of a desert and, yes, even on a city street. There was beauty in humankind and the creatures with which they shared this world; and there was mystery, too."
... Charles de Lint, Spiritwalk