Pissed Off By Politicians – Sportsmen’s Bill Derailed By Political Shenanigans

July 10, 2014

I don’t usually, and I’m not now, wrapped up in the general political discourse.  There are things I agree with and things with which I disagree… but that’s not what I want to spend my time writing about on the Hog Blog.  But it’s no secret that there’s some serious dysfunction, and because of that dysfunction, things that matter don’t get done… things like the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014, legislation that would have ensured and enhanced access to public lands for hunters, fishermen, and other outdoorsmen.

At any rate, as much as I have to say about this, I think this press release from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership says it better.

Political Gamesmanship Sinks Sportsmen’s Bill

Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act fails in Senate for second time as sparring legislators derail bill

WASHINGTON – Broad public support, strong advocacy by hunting and angling groups, and 45 bipartisan cosponsors couldn’t save the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014, a commonsense package of measures intended to enhance sportsmen’s access and opportunity that failed to advance in the Senate this morning.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and others in the sportsmen’s community were deeply invested in advancing the bill, and the TRCP lambasted today’s actions as an “opportunity lost” due to political gamesmanship.

“The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act, an historic piece of legislation comprising some of the most important measures in years to benefit America’s 40 million sportsmen, has failed due to political infighting, a dysfunctional amendment process, and the extreme wings of both parties, who are more interested in scoring points than legislating on behalf of America’s hunters and anglers and the values of the population at large,” said TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh.

“We are deeply disheartened that a bill with 45 bipartisan cosponsors and the support of the national sporting community could fall victim to a fundamentally broken Senate, where some legislators’ support for sportsmen is only a talking point,” stated Fosburgh. “While we support an open and deliberative legislative process – including Congress’ right to engage in debate and offer amendments – we believe that this process should not come at the expense of advancing commonsense legislation that benefits natural resources conservation, public access and the nation’s outdoors economy.”

A similar package of sportsman-focused legislation likewise failed to advance in the Senate in 2012.
Future opportunities for the bill to advance are highly uncertain, although the bill’s sponsors have indicated that they will try again to pass the bill before year end.

The Remington Outdoor Company, a TRCP corporate partner, reiterated the bill’s value and urged its passage.

“The Remington Outdoor Company fully supports the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014,” said Teddy Novin, Remington director of public affairs. “This legislation will enhance the experience of America’s sportsmen by preserving the rights of hunters to choose their own ammunition, providing state fish and game agencies greater flexibility to build and maintain public shooting ranges, and improving access to public waterways and lands for hunting, recreational fishing and shooting.”


Mid-Week MishMash

July 2, 2014

BassAnother week is rushing by, and honestly, stressing over the day job is enough… I’m not gonna worry about the Hog Blog.  Well, not too much.  So here’s a little something, that’s really a whole lot of nothing… nothing important, anyway.

Just to prove that I don’t spend all my time sitting in front of the computer, here’s a picture of my “big catch” from Sunday evening.  I took the fly rod down to the river (Nueces) and tossed some poppers out there.  I’ve seen big fish here, but they must have seen me… or maybe they saw/heard Iggy, the big-splash dawg.

Seriously, having a water dog along when fly fishing in clear, shallow water is probably not conducive to fishing success.  I finally convinced the big galoot to park his butt up on the rocks while I fished.  That helped a little.

Something else that struck me while I was out there was how hard it is to tie that little fly to that little line without my reading glasses.  It’s not impossible, but if impossible had a twin brother, this would be it.  I finally surrendered after I lost my third fly, and stalked pouting back to the car… the splash dog frolicking happily ahead.

In other news, the government did something that pissed a lot of people off and lit up the social networks.

In yet other news… this time, from Japan, the wild boar are really on a tear.  I’ve been getting newsfeeds about wild boar terrorizing villages, or running amuck on city streets, but until now, I hadn’t seen video.

Now I have.

I don’t know what they did to piss that little guy off, but he was having none of it.  I don’t know about ya’ll, but I was cheering for him.

No hogs to report here at the Hillside Manor.  Lots of whitetails, though…  Come on, October!



Meat Guns And Hand Grenades

June 27, 2014

I love my .17 hmr, I do.

There’s something about shooting it… that tiny little report with that non-existent recoil but so deadly, scary-accurate…  it’s just awesome.

But as a meat gun?

Not so much.

Even with CCI’s 20gr “hunting” bullet, it is just too devastating.  I know, I know.  Keep it to headshots, and everything is cool.

And that works, for the occasional jackarabbit, or tree squirrel.  And even then, all it takes is a breeze, a shudder, an untimely muscle twitch, and you’ve blown dinner into little, bone-ridden pieces.

Consider the Eurasian collared dove.

There, did you consider it?

He’s not a big bird, although a healthy adult is a bit larger than a mourning dove.  He’s made of tasty, tasty meat.  He’s plentiful.  Here in Texas, there’s no season or limit. What’s not to like?

Occasionally, like this afternoon, I can sneak out the front door and whack a couple for dinner with the Marauder (I love my Marauder too, but I already said that, earlier).  Unfortunately, I could only manage to bag one, which is, for me, a half a meal.  I needed one more.  I sat out on the porch with Iggy, the “what the hell is a bird?” dawg, and we waited and we waited.  Of course, as I type this now, there are two on the oak tree, just above the feeder.

But then, I had other things to do.

I was out at the barn, when I noticed the birds were gathering along the edge of the trees.  I assume they were waiting for the deer feeder to go off.  Mixed with the white wings, mourning doves, and Inca doves were a bunch of Eurasian collared doves (folks down here call them “ring necks”).  Unfortunately, the Marauder was up at the house, and the birds were 80 yards away.  Fortunately, the .17 was right there.

I’m no Annie Oakley, much less Carlos Hatchcock.  Making an 80 yard headshot on a dove… well, it might be pushing my abilities a little bit.

The first shot shattered the branch, but the bird flew away.

The second shot ripped through the leaves, but ruffled not a feather.

The third shot ruffled a lot of feathers.  In fact, when Iggy got up there, that’s pretty much all he could find.  I went up to help him, and finally discovered the rear half of a dove.

I carried my “prize” back down to the barn when a new flock came sailing in.  I figured I’d try once more.

You know, even if you hit a dove right at the base of the neck with the .17, it pretty much explodes.  Honestly, I was sort of thinking that on such a small, soft target, the bullet would blast right through.  No.  It didn’t.

I have a new definition of finesse cooking.  It’s grilling the legs and thighs of a dove while sipping my third scotch of the evening.

(And yeah, those of my friends or readers who are “real” cooks or chefs… laugh into your own sleeves.  I’m sure you have some frenchified technique for this.  There’s probably even a name for it.  But me?  I’m just having my Friday night drink on the range, making the best of what Ma Nature dropped by my doorstep.)

Father’s Day – The Gift My Father Gave Me

June 15, 2014

Things change.

The long leaf pines don’t seem as tall as they did almost 50 years ago, towering over the sandy, southeastern North Carolina soil.  The woods aren’t as thick as they were then either.  Houses and highways have grown up faster than the trees.  The paper companies, ravenous for pulpwood, have mowed the long leafs down and replaced them with fast-growing loblollies.  The only big hardwoods left are deep in the swamp, or scattered through city and town parks.  Tobacco and sweet potato fields are subdivisions and strip malls.  The place I try to remember isn’t at all like I remember it.

But the squirrels… grey, bushy-tailed, and lightning quick… they’re still there like always.  That hasn’t changed much since I used do my best to quietly follow my dad over the sandy ground in his quest to add a few squirrels to the stew pot.  Those are memories I cherish.

Of course, the haze of almost a half-century makes it sort of hard now to pick out the real memories from dreams and stories.  Like many kids, my early childhood was a wild mishmash of fantasy and real-life adventure in and around those North Carolina pine forests, the swamps and pocosin, and the waterways.  Untethered by TV or computer, my memories were mostly formed outdoors, but when I look back now, imagination struggles to fill the gaps.

Did I really sneak a cap pistol along on a squirrel hunt, convinced that if a bushytail would just come close enough, I could kill it and add it to the bloodstained pouch of my dad’s old, canvas game vest?  I seem to remember something like this, even to the moment when, after sitting dead still for what seemed like hours, impatience got the better of me and I tried a “long shot”.  I even think I recall my dad being kind of mad, as the squirrels scattered at the noise, robbing him of his opportunity.  Maybe it happened like that, or maybe it didn’t.  All I know is that it could have happened, because that’s what kids do.

Squirrel hunting requires stealth and stillness… traits not typically found in a four or five year-old boy.  I must have really frustrated my dad, because when I look back at those memories, I have come to believe that he treasured the quiet moments in the woods more than he did the opportunity to bag game.  And quiet just didn’t seem to be part of my nature.

But he kept taking me.  I’m sure there are times he didn’t really want to.  Who needs a wriggling, chatterbox kid along when you just want to hunt?  Looking back at it from my grown-up perspective, I realize that he must have sought the woods as a respite from the noise of everyday life… including me.  But almost any time I asked, he took me along.  Sometimes, I didn’t even have to ask.

Over time, I eventually started to catch on.

Daddy taught me the magic of sitting still… of leaning back against a tree trunk and letting myself become part of the landscape.  He showed me that a whole world of things happens in the woods when nothing knows you’re there.

He also taught me that patience is the most powerful tool in a hunter’s kit. The ability to wait it out, to sit without becoming discouraged… sometimes that’s more important than marksmanship.  If the squirrels were there when you walked in, they’ll be back when they think you’ve walked out.  You just have to be able to wait longer than they do.  (There’s a life lesson to be learned there too, if you’re not careful.)

Finally, he taught me to appreciate all those things that happen when you’re not shooting. Through his example, I learned how to just take it all in… the interactions of the birds, the smell of the woods at different times of the year, the sounds that you never hear unless you shut up and listen.

And that last lesson tied the others together.  Don’t be still for the squirrel that you can’t see.  Be still so you don’t interrupt the finch, picking out the pine nut on the branch just above your head.  If you stay quiet, you can watch that fox hunt the field mouse, and maybe a deer will come out too.  I found out that it’s easy to be patient if you can enjoy what you’ve got, rather than worrying about what you’re waiting for.

In short, Daddy gave me everything I needed to become a good hunter.  Even after years of study and experience, and despite the things I’ve learned from books and from experts, those basic lessons are the ones that still mean the most.  I know a lot now about guns and ammunition, and a fair bit about wildlife biology.  I’ve become a reasonable tracker, and a decent marksman.  I can skin and butcher and cook what I kill.  I may not be an expert, but I’m pretty competent.

But without those basic lessons, I’m not sure any of it would mean a thing.

Be still.

Be patient.

Feel the wonder.

That’s the gift my father gave me.


GQ On An Elephant Hunt?

June 5, 2014

“The lion is a fine animal. He is not afraid or stupid. He does not want to fight, but sometimes man makes him, and then it is up to the man to shoot his way out of what he has got himself into.”
— Ernest Hemingway to The New York Times, April 4, 1934

This quote was posted in the sidebar along with an article in GQ (Gentleman’s Quarterly, for those who don’t know).  But this story isn’t about lions or lion hunting.  It’s about elephant hunting. I just really like that quote.

There was a time when men’s magazines were about manly things.  Sadly, somewhere along the line, most of them became fashion rags and, according to most of the “manlier” guys I know, there is very little to be found of masculinity in those glossy, perfumed pages.  But every once in a while, one of them, GQ or Esquire or something will surprise me.

In my email this evening, just as I was about to wander into the kitchen for my daily sundowner, I caught something out of the ordinary.  I glimpsed something about GQ magazine, and almost delegated the message to SPAM when I also caught the word hunting… and Africa… and elephant.  In all-caps, the subject line read, “GQ GETS AN INSIDE LOOK AT ELEPHANT HUNTING IN AFRICA.”

I toddled off to the bar, filled a Waterford tumbler with a few fingers of Glenmorangie (thanks, John!), and considered reading the article.  My initial preconceptions were pretty damning.  It seems like every time I turn around, lately, some celebrity is in hot water for shooting some sort of big, beautiful animal.  GQ isn’t exactly known for their stable of quality hunting writers, and given my estimation of their typical audience, this was either going to be a hatchet job on African hunting or a mean-spirited caricature of the “great, white hunter” on safari.

I opened the email, and within read a few snippets from the article.  This Wells Tower guy, the author, knows how to pull some words together.  That much was obvious.  For example, the press release included this nicely crafted paragraph:

Two more strides and the elephant could reach out and touch someone with its trunk. The elephant looks to be about twelve feet tall. The trunk weighs hundreds of pounds and is easily capable of breaking a human spine. Apologies if that sounds like sensationalistic inanities you’ve heard intoned sotto voce by Discovery Channel narrators trying to ramp up the drama of snorkeling with porpoises and such. But the elephant is about fifteen feet away, and I will now confess to being scared just about shitless. The elephant snorts and brandishes its vast head. Lunch goes to lava in my bowels. If not for my present state of sphincter-cinching terror, I would well be in the market for an adult diaper. This is an amazingly pure kind of fear. My arteries are suddenly capable of tasting my blood, which right now has the flavor of a nine-volt battery.

I don’t have to approve of the content, as long as the writer is an actual wordsmith and not just another smart-assed hack.  This guy has skills.  I wanted to know, not just what he had to say, but how he was going to say it.  I clicked the link.

And here’s the thing…

First of all, those of us who have lately bemoaned the death of long-form writing… it’s not dead.  Slumbering heavily, no doubt, but it still stirs!

Second of all, my preconceptions and prejudices (aren’t they really the same thing?) be damned, this was not at all the article I expected to read.  To be sure, Mr. Tower is not a hunter.  The archetype is obviously alien to him.  And throughout the piece, he questions himself and the hunt, and the whole bloody idea of hunting as a positive tool… either for conservation or personal growth (self-actualization? Maybe that’s a stretch.).  Maybe he’s flawed, but we’re all flawed.  What I felt though, as I read the words, was honesty.

The internal dialogue throughout made it worth the effort to read.  Tower is no Hunter S. Thompson, and he’s not trying to be… but in this piece he is as much a part of the story as the PH and the client.  What he sees and feels became as important to me as the actual shooting of the elephant.  Sure, he seems to be faithful to detail and he captures the important stuff.  At the same time, though, he is present… not just as a journalist but as a participant.  And for something like this, the hunting and killing of an elephant, being present is really what it’s all about.

I’ve often dreamed of an African safari, but I want it to be something like you read about in Hemingway or Roosevelt.  You know, weeks in the bush, but with a level of luxury afforded by hot baths and cool whisky at the end of the day.  Of course I’ve considered the game… bush pigs and giant forest hogs and Greater kudu and warthogs…  the sheer volume of available game… and all of it is made of delicious meat!

But I have never harbored the desire to shoot an elephant, a lion, a cape buffalo, or a rhino.  Maybe that would change, if I were there in Africa, with the animal in my sights… but I sort of doubt it.  I think it’s like my reluctance to kill a black bear, or to shoot the jack rabbits in my pasture simply because they’re devastating my horses’ grass supply.  It just doesn’t feel like something I want to do.

It’s not that I have a problem with someone else doing it.  Robin Walldrip, the hunter in this article, found something in shooting that big, old bull that I’m simply not looking for.  That doesn’t mean I begrudge her the experience.

And I think that’s why I related with Tower’s article.  I felt like he was willing to explore his own reaction to the hunt, but he was willing to accept… at least on the surface… the reaction of the hunter.  He doesn’t have to understand, he only has to accept… and that made all the difference.

So read the article, if you will.  It’s in the June edition of GQ, or you can catch it online.

And then let me know what you thought.  Am I wrong?  Or was that a pretty good piece of writing?

Misguided Sportsmen Or Is This The Good Fight?

May 30, 2014

I ran across an interesting sort of conundrum today on Facebook.

Apparently, there’s a “sportsmen’s organization” pushing back against the CA proposal to remove the feral hogs’ status as Game Animals.  I wrote, briefly, about AB2268 a couple of weeks ago.  As I did then, I still support the intent of this bill.

But why would someone oppose changing these regulations?

The Outdoor Sportsmen’s Coalition of California (OSCC) has posted a handful of “action alerts”, urging CA hunters to oppose AB2268.  In the position statement on their website, the organization states the following:

OSCC believes the repeal of its game mammal status would lead to the wanton destruction and wasting of wild pig populations in California with no Department of Fish and Wildlife oversight and no accountability relative to such important things as how many pigs are killed, the methods used to kill them, where they are being killed, who is killing them, or the disposition of their carcasses.

Pretty chilling stuff, huh?  “Wanton” destruction and waste of wild pigs.

What this statement, and its author, fail to take into consideration is that CA landowners already have means at their disposal to eradicate hogs on their properties through depredation permits.  The process to get a depredation permit for wild hogs is pretty simple, and the permits are pretty flexible as to methods.  I know, for a fact, that many CA landowners are killing hundreds of hogs each year under depredation permits.  Nothing in the proposed legislation will really change any of that, despite some fear-mongering suggestions from the OSCC in regards to indiscriminate use of poisons (already tightly regulated in CA… even for vermin).

Based on my reading of the position statement, and subsequent “action alerts”, as well as the chatter on Facebook, the best argument the OSCC has is that de-listing the feral hog will result in a reduction of hunting opportunities.  I find this almost laughable, considering that CA is the only state that currently lists feral hogs as “game animals” in the first place, while states like TX, LA, FL, GA, and many others are still citing major hog problems despite a no-holds-barred approach toward their eradication.

In my opinion, and in the opinions of many hunters from CA and beyond, the biggest impediment to hog hunting opportunity in CA is the fact that a single tag has come to cost as much as a deer tag.  A private land hunt, for a single animal, ranges from $500 to over $1000.  Rather than enabling sport hunters to take an active role in managing the burgeoning hog population, the CA system limits hunter opportunity through financial restraint.  Even worse, this system removes any incentive for hunters to actively manage hog populations by killing smaller animals. or by taking multiple animals in a single outing.

But I put this to you, Hog Blog readers (all both of you)… what do you think?  Am I just reading the OSCC all wrong here?  Or is this a short-sighted (and misguided) effort by a small group of hunters to override wildlife management considerations in favor of enhanced “hunting opportunities”?

Heading For The Big Apple

May 21, 2014

Given the unpredictable and intermittent nature of my posts, I could probably get by without saying anything… but just to let some readers know, the Hog Blog is taking a short break to go visit the big city.  It’s just a long weekend, but I definitely won’t be posting while I’m gone.

In the meantime, here’s a little something that showed up out in front of the Hillside Manor the other morning…

Big axis buck

Housekeeping Time – Blog Roll Management

May 8, 2014

I cast a wistful glance over my blog roll this afternoon, and I was a little saddened to see that the pool of familiar bloggers is drying up faster than my pastures in this Texas drought.

I’ve remarked on this before, but it seems like the advent and popularity of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are bringing the blogosphere to its knees.  On the one hand, there appears to be a dwindling interest in long-form prose and snail-like comment:response ratio.  Blogs are already going the way of print media, as the short attention-span demographic searches for variety and speed.  “One site for one article?  Pfft… who has time for that, when I can read and respond to a dozen posts, links, and comments in the space of a few minutes?”

On the other hand, I think a lot of writers are finding the instantaneous feedback of these other outlets more rewarding than the painstaking process of composition, editing, posting, and waiting (hoping) for readers to respond.  Got something to say?  Hell, whip out a 25 word post on Facebook.  You don’t even have to get the spelling and grammar right.  Within moments, someone will click the Like button, and there’s your feedback!

But anyway, the end result is pretty much the same.  Some of the folks listed on my blog roll haven’t posted new content in months.  Others are intermittent, at best, and many of these posts consist of apologies for not posting more and half-hearted  promises to “step up the game” in the “near future.”

So I’m breaking out the Windex and a rag and cleaning them out.  I’d like to say I’m making room for new blogs, but finding new blogs of any real quality is becoming quite a challenge.  Many “hunting blogs” are little more than press release outlets, or promotional sites that only last as long as some campaign.  Others are flashes in the pan, a brief moment of promising brilliance followed by nothing.

On top of that, the old sense of community seems to have faded as well.  Bloggers used to reach out to one another, offer to exchange links, and share ideas.  I don’t see that so much anymore.  The link requests I get these days are from PR networking firms, looking for an opportunity to put up “guest posts”, which are little more than extended advertisements for one product or other.  Sure, these sometimes offer payment, but that’s not what I want my site to be.  I’m often opinionated, sometimes wrong, but always as honest as I can be.

My thoughts are wandering now, so I’m off to do some housekeeping.

A Hog Blog Listicle – Top Three Reasons I Hunt Hogs

April 25, 2014

Everybody, from newspapers to bloggers to television shows, is doing lists these days.  I’m not sure who’s to blame, but it generally fits right in with all the other short attention-span media that’s flooding the general (un)consciousness.  Really, they’re everywhere and they drive me nuts.  Here are some examples from today’s scan of the Interwebz.

  • 8 ways to know she’s cheating on you.
  • 4 ways to spark up your love life.
  • 7 foods to avoid if you want to lose weight.
  • 50 ways to leave your lover.
  • Etc.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that lists are a pretty easy way to get out of doing any real writing.  Think about it.  You don’t have to worry about complex themes, paragraph construction, transitions, or even complete sentences!  They’re perfect for the writer who:

  1. Lacks motivation
  2. Lacks inspiration
  3. Lacks time
  4. Lacks writing ability

So what the hell.  I’ll do it too.  Here’s a graphical list of the top three reasons I hunt hogs.

  1. It's hunting.  Outside.

    It’s hunting. Outside.


  2. They're made of pork!

    They’re made of pork!


  3. They're destructive to habitat and agriculture.

    They’re destructive to habitat and agriculture.


Something A Little Different – When Cacti Attack!

April 24, 2014

Deceptively pretty prickly pearIn the days of my youth, I was taught what it means to encounter cactus.  (All due apologies to the fellas from Led Zep.)

A friend just shared this link to an excellent article about first aid for cactus attacks, and it reminded me of a tale I don’t think I’ve told before.

I couldn’t have been more than seven or eight years old the first time I was assaulted by the fearsome prickly pear.  The thick, green pads were pretty common sights around the coastal North Carolina habitat where I lived and played, and for the most part, I knew to avoid them.  But sometimes, attention wanes.

I was at my grandmother’s house in Southport, and had set up a box trap for squirrels.  You may have attempted the same trick, using an old shoe box, a stick, and a long string… with various substances to lure the squirrel into the box.  You prop the box up on the stick, and then tie one end of the string to the stick.  You hide with the other end of the string until an unsuspecting squirrel or bunny hops into the box.  Then pull the string, snatching the stick out from under the box and trapping the hapless furbearer in the dark.

As you might suppose, there are a few minor flaws in this plan… not the least of which is the unlikely prospect of an eight year-old boy sitting still and quiet long enough for a moronic critter to wander into the trap.  But young minds don’t always think these things through, especially when the plan is strongly endorsed by adults in whom the young mind has absolute faith.  I am often amazed, in retrospect, by the alacrity with which my dad could come up with ideas to get a rambunctious youngster out of the house.

So there I was.  The trap was set, and I backed away, unwinding the string with each stealthy step.  About ten yards from the trap, an ancient longleaf pine tree offered cover behind its thick trunk, and I eased around, never taking my eyes off of the trap, and crouched down to wait.

Not all cactus encounters are negative.  The fruit of the prickly pear can be downright delicious!

Not all cactus encounters are negative. The fruit of the prickly pear can be downright delicious!

I waited, poised on the balls of my feet, ready to spring into action.  In my mind were images of a new pet bunny, or squirrel and dumplings as only my Granny D could make them.  Either outcome would be satisfactory, and given my preparations (based on the advice of the conniving adults in the house), I knew it could only be a matter of time before a small, furry animal was delivered into my possession.

Crouching like that really starts to put a strain on the calves, even in a healthy young outdoorsman like me.  After some minutes, my legs began to tremble and ache.  I held fast, though, gripping the string tightly.  I’d been taught the importance of being still (even if I wasn’t very good at it), so I fought the urge to sit back in the pine needle-covered sandy soil.  A squirrel had just come down out of the woods, and movement would probably send him scurrying back into the canopy.

My legs went numb.  It was a very, very long time ago, but I can still remember the burning sensation in my thighs and calves slowly giving way to nothingness.  But the squirrel was actually getting closer to the shoe box.  I knew he would soon be lured by the bait, and if I could only wait a few more moments…

I couldn’t wait, and as quietly as possible, I eased back and flopped into a sitting position.

Right on top of a patch of prickly pear cactus!

In my focus on setting the trap, I had failed to inspect my hiding place.  If I had only taken a quick glance, I’d have seen the thick, green pads only partially obscured by the pine needles.  But I hadn’t looked.  Poor preparation has doomed many an endeavor, and my screams certainly put the kibosh on my chances of capturing dinner (or a new pet).  I leapt to my feet and ran screaming and crying into the house.

I should add here that Granny D was a retired nurse.  She was also a very practical lady who wasted little time on the niceties of bedside manner (or so it seemed to this thoroughly perforated, eight year-old).  In clipped terms, she directed me to strip and get up on the bed.  I complied, despite the pain, as stripping off my shorts and underwear ripped many of the offending spines out of my tender flesh.

I lay, trembling with pain and trepidation, awaiting Granny D’s ministrations.  With the stealth and grace so common to the nursing profession, I felt the cold tips of the tweezers before I even realized she had crept up on me.  I’d dropped my entire weight on the cactus, so the hard spines were deeply embedded, and it took no small effort to pull them out.  Again displaying the traits that made her a successful nurse, she held my thrashing body down with a firm forearm, and utterly ignored my screams and crying as she plucked each one.

It was traumatic.

But she wasn’t done yet.  After pulling at least a million of the big spikes, she told me to hold still so she could get the little ones.  These were the little, hair-like spines that are barbed and wicked and obviously spawned by demons in the darkest, vilest depths of hell.  Too small to grab with tweezers, too deep to be scraped with a knife, these glochids are difficult to remove.  They are also the most disproportionately (for their size) painful part of any encounter with prickly pear.

Granny D knew just what to do.  Before long, my butt was covered in a layer of some kind of super-adhesive tape that I’m sure can only be found in medical supply and BDSM shops. Thankfully, at that stage of my life, I had not yet acquired this fine, protective covering of body hair, so when she ripped the tape off I wasn’t assaulted by the agony of ripping follicles.  No, it was only the ripping of tender skin and hundreds of thousands of tiny, hair-like, barbed cactus spines.  The pain was only mildly unbearable and the paroxysms passed reasonably quickly.  Too breathless to cry any more, I lay gasping, face down on the tear-soaked, feather pillow… which is why I didn’t see what was coming next.

These days, we have all sorts of antibiotic and antiseptic ointments and unguents, and most of them are relatively benign.  Many of the harsher ones are mixed with lidocaine or other numbing agents.  But when I was eight, the wound treatment of choice was mercurochrome.  Typically applied directly from the tip of an eye dropper, the stuff burned like the fires of Hades on contact with an open wound.  With no preamble and little ceremony, I believe Granny D dumped an entire quart bottle on my raw little behind.  The results were predictable.

It wasn’t my last run-in with the spiny succulents, but it was memorable.


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