Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Hunting We Did Go

Getting up into the final 4 now. #4 is the first part of a 2 part blog I wrote last year. I wonder if this is still on my record?

Ethical Ellis: Part 1
01.19.05 (8:24 am)
I promised I would tell you about my personal anniversary this week. It not something I am quite proud of nor would I ever encourage anyone to follow in my footsteps. But it is something that even to this day my closest hunting buddies still bring up when they feel like having a good laugh at my expense. This story is probably not going to be as enjoyable for many of my friends outside of the hunting world but if you had known me 10 years ago you would get some kind amusement out of it I’m sure. It’ll be a 2 part blog entry since I tend to get long winded every time I tell this story.

The year was 1995. The month was January. The date, at the moment, I’m not able to precisely recall. I will have to go back and find my hunting journal and figure it out but I am certain of the fact that it was the day I was supposed to check back in at Austin Peay Dorm at UT Martin to begin the Spring 95 semester. The pervious evening I had most of my things packed and wasn’t really sure if I would have time to go hunting the next morning. We hadn’t been doing too well at our usual hunting spot and I really needed to sleep in one last time before the dreaded 8am classes and late night library term paper sessions began again. I was a freshman and the new freedom of being away from home and not having my mother force me out of bed each morning to go to class was enough temptation as I could handle. “One more chance to sleep as late as I wanted” was all that was on my mind that eve. Then the phone rang. It was my friend Jamie Patterson. Jamie and I had been great friends ever since I moved to New Johnsonville in 1987 when I entered the 6th grade. When we were freshmen in high school we took Spanish 1 together and did a fishing show skit on video for a special assignment. “El grande pez!” Mucho grande pez, si!” You see, a lot of fishing show hosts only need to know a few lines of dialogue. “Nice one”, “big fish!” “Oh man did you see that?!”, and “Ok, here is a perfect opportunity to show you how to remove a treble hook from your thumb.” I think we got an A for the project and to this day I am told Mrs. Boston still uses our tape as an example of how to come up with a creative Spanish skit. Jamie and I had a lot of fun and interesting hunting and fishing trips. Some would make good stories for another time but I’m digressing. Needless to say when Jamie calls you know it’s not just going to be an ordinary day outdoors. He told me he was thinking about sneaking down to the Refuge to go duck hunting the next morning. He wanted to go to this open marsh area where we had gone a few weeks before and killed a few ducks. It was back behind a guy’s house who was close friends to his family and the guy didn’t mind us sneaking back there as long as we didn’t park in his driveway. I agreed that would be a good place to go and we made plans for me to pick him up the next morning at 8am. Sweet! I would get to sleep in at least a little longer! I normally had to get up at 4:30 to get to the normal spot. Our plan was to sneak in, set up, kill a few, and get out quickly. We’d done it before….no problem right?

Well I pull into his driveway at 8am sharp. Dressed to kill. I’ve got my hip waders on, my thick hunting coat (it had been very cold lately, in the single digits), got my duck calls, my gun, and every pocket full of shells. I even brought a couple decoys to throw out just for luck. Jamie took his time trying to find all his gear. He couldn’t find his waders so I offered to loan him my brother Drew’s. They were just his size too. Just as we pulled out of the driveway Jamie mumbles “oh great”. I looked back to see my friend Chris Patterson driving up. I can’t remember if he and Jamie are related as there are several Pattersons in the rural communities there and some were not related. But I hope for Jamie’s sake he wasn’t a cousin. Chris was a year older than us. He stood about 6’4 and every inch of it country as hell. He was always wanting to tag along on our hunting trips. Most of the time he invited himself along….this time was no different. So we went over to his house so he could get his things and we all squeezed ourselves into my 1989 Isuzu 4 wheel drive pickup truck. Pretty tight fight! Since we couldn’t park in the driveway belonging to the man whose property joined the Refuge, we parked across the street at the end of another man’s driveway. He also knew Jamie and Chris’s families very well and I was fairly confident he remembered me as his frequent pizza delivery boy of the previous year. I mean who doesn’t remember the pizza boy, right?! “Don’t you think this is kind of conspicuous just parking right here in plain sight”? I asked. Jamie agreed and Chris came up with a brilliant idea! “Hay, why don’t ewe opun yur hood and prop eet up lahk yoov gawt veehikle truble and no one will suspect anythang.” “Yeh! That’ll work!” I thought. Problem solved… off we go running across the road and down into the bottomland timber a la Peter and the Wolf. A few minutes into the walk I decided I shouldn’t carry the decoys anymore. So I drop them into the creek and figure I’ll pick them up on our way back to the truck. It’ll be easier to carry all the ducks back anyhow right? As soon as we step through the edge of the woods and into the marsh thousands of ducks get up at once. It sounded like distant thunder or a loud army helicopter passing by in the background. Sweet! “Let’s get set up and wait for them to come back.” I guess we had been there about 15 minutes or so before the first ducks had begun fluttering back in. We hadn’t fired a shot yet and had decided it would be better if we each took turns shooting once or twice as not to arouse the suspicions of any game wardens in the area. As I mentioned the weather had been bitterly cold recently and most of the creeks and ponds had frozen over with about 2 inches of ice. Tree limbs would occasionally crack and break off under the added weight of all the ice. All of a sudden we heard some ice break across the marsh in a tree line area that had a creek running through it. Jamie and Chris were behind me and I was sitting at the point of a row of thick bushes. I squinted to see through the trees to see what made the noise in the tree line. I made out the forms of 3 men stalking in and out of the tangled trees. “Damn it’s the FEDS!” I thought to myself. As I turned around to whisper that thought to Jamie and Chris all I could see were 2 pairs of boots stuck in the mud with no persons standing in them. I looked up to see their backs…..and as the old country saying goes “All I saw was assholes and elbows!” Well, I’m no dummy (yeah right Matt, you’re illegally hunting on a federal refuge AND Chris Patterson is with you) so I take off running too. My feet get stuck in the mud and I run out of my waders also. Now I can’t leave any evidence behind can I? So I run back, grab all 3 pairs of boots and take off in the direction they had gone. Running through shin deep icy water in wool socks is NOT how I imagined my last day of freedom. I catch up with them at the edge of a slough covered with ice at the boundary of the refuge. Across the slough is a small woodland hill with an old family cemetery dating back to the civil war days. I quickly throw Jamie and Chris a pair of boots and we proceed to wade across the waste deep water with only socks on! The waders were only slowing us down filled with ice cold water. We get to the other side and they decide to go around the hill and up the hollow to a friend’s property where they would hide their guns and lay low for about an hour. I decided to take the high road and walk up to the cemetery and lay out there for a while to catch my breath. I have never been this cold before. My feet are numb, my socks are frozen solid, as are my pants and coat. This is not good.

An hour later after my heart had climbed down from my throat and into my chest I was able to walk down the hill onto the road. I crossed the road and hopped a barbwire fence onto the property belonging to the man whose driveway we parked. As I am putting on my boots I hear some guys whispering up the road a little. It’s Chis and Jamie and they’re walking down the road barefoot in their under clothes. Jeans and sweatshirts. I yell out in a deep authoritative voice “HOLD IT THERE BOYS, FEDERAL AGENT!” Hehe….it was funny to see their expression when I stepped up on the road. We walked up the road to my truck and put the hood back down. I locked my gun in the tool box and was about to unlock the door and get the hell out of there when a man across the road yelled out “Excuse me gentlemen, can I have a word with you?” Ohhhhhhh crap! It’s Wilfred Brimley! You know?....the Quaker Oats guy..the guy from the movie Cocoon. Well that’s who he looked like to me. A short, squaty man with a thick bushy mustache and beard and thick northern accent. Quaker Oats….it’s the right thing to do. “You fellas been huntin?” he asked. Before I could gather my thoughts Chris spoke up. By now you’ve probably realized Chris isn’t the most intellectual braintrust of this trio and he did a good job of proving it. “We’ve been lookin fer one of mah coon dawgs I lost last night.” “He ran off after some deer and we couldn’t find em so I called mah buddies this mornin to help me look for him.” The warden looked at me, still dressed in duck hunting clothes, and made the observation that I looked like I had been duck hunting. I told him I had just got back to the house from a hunting trip when Chris called me to come help him look for the dog. About that time I realized I had been wearing 2 left boots. I’m not sure if the warden saw that but it explained why I had so much trouble walking. I just thought it was because my legs were frozen and my feet had fallen off. This wasn’t looking good. It got worse when a jeep Cherokee full of federal wardens pulled into the driveway a few minutes later. The top man over the Refuge management knew me personally and knew my dad fairly well also. He took me aside and asked me what was really going on. He told me the gentleman who owned the property where we had parked called them and told them he saw 3 strangers sneaking down to the refuge….fitting our description. (so much for the beloved pizza boy theory). He also told me that if we didn’t confess he would have to confiscate my gun AND my vehicle and take us to the county jail until we made bail. Well that just wasn’t going to go over well with my college plans…OR my parents so I told him the truth. They decided to just confiscate our guns and write us a ticket for hunting on federal land. It would be a misdemeanor on our record and we could come reclaim our guns after we had paid our fines.This was particularly a setback for me since I was majoring in wildlife biology and looking at a possible future in wildlife law enforcement. Of course Chris and Jamie had to lead them into the woods to find their guns and they received higher fines for not having their guns properly plugged (rigged to hold only 3 shells) and for possessing lead shot (lead shot was made illegal across the U.S. for reasons of being toxic to waterfowl when ingested). So Jamie got a $300 fine and Chirs got $350….I got away with only $250. They didn’t bother to check my gun since it was there at the truck. Of course, being the good law abiding young man that I was even when I WAS breaking the law I was still legal. Hence the soon to be given nickname that I bear even to this day by some of my old friends back home……”Ethical Ellis”.

That’s enough for this post. Stay tuned there’s more to this story than just a nickname.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Up Ya Nose Wit a.....Moth

#5 is one of my fondest memories. No, seriously, it's not something you will forget if it happens to you....but if it does...we can have a laugh together.
Of Moths and Mochas
04.11.05 (1:27 pm)
I may have asked some of my friends this before but have you ever noticed how nervous and jittery turkeys are?
I mean I've never heard of a narcoleptic turkey. Have you?
But if turkeys are so aware, so jittery and nervous, why do we get so sleepy when we eat them??? If nature was consistent we would get hyper by eating snails!

A small fly of some sort just took a dive into what's left of my Sugar Daddy mocha. I wonder if he'll get hyper? Speaking of thrilling life experiences this reminds me of an incident that hppened to me and a moth one night back a few years ago.

From august 1999-august 2000 I worked the night shift at a Schwans Foodservice warehouse in Martin, TN. My job duties included refueling the delivery trucks, striaghtening the items in the freezer compartments, and pulling the next day's orders from the walk-in freezer. One autumn eve we were in between orders so I walked over to our small freezer that held damaged packages of popcicles, ice cream sandwiches, and various other yummies. As I opened the door I spooked a small moth who was resting on the wall. Just as soon as he took off, heading right for my face, I was taking a quick deep breath in through my nose. Next thing I know something gets sucked into my left nostril. Well this is a first for me....and probably the moth too. I tried blowing my nose like there was no tomorrow to get that lil booger out (ha....snot's "snot" funny.....nothing to sneeze at!..ok enough puns)

As hard an effort as I was putting forth the moth was matching me by doing the only thing he could think of.....crawling straight up my nose. When one is in a tight spot one can only think but to strive forth and hope for the best. This isn't going well. Teamwork is crucial here dude!
I could feel him squirming. I walked into the office holding my other nostril closed and blowing out hard as I can. My coworkers got a good kick out of it. Finally I got a good deep breath and blew that fella right out. He didn't miss a beat and flew right out the door. Now that's what some folks call one of those "life changing experiences."....more so for the moth I think than me.

By the way; sugar daddy mochas and flies don't mix too well. Either this one drowned or he's overdosed on sugar and caffeine.