Monday, August 22, 2022

Non-Randomized Scoots Just South of the Northern Adirondack Blue Line

Immediately after marrying a lovely North Country girl in 1978, I began exploring from her parents’ “base camp” routes and places inside the Adirondack Blue Line.

In 1983, I bought a newly-introduced Chevy S-10 Blazer. I was itchin’ to test its 4WD capability out, and so, after reading what Paul Samuelson had to say about the Wolf Pond Road in his “Adirondack Canoe Waters – North Flow,” I decided to try it out there. Here’s how Samuelson described that “road” in 1981:

 “…the Wolf Pond Road from Standish to Mountain View is venturesome. It is a winding, one-lane dirt road used by lumber trucks and an occasional quixotic motorist. Avoid it if you are addicted to claustrophobia. The forest shuts you in as tight as a clam in its shell. Avoid it too in wash-out season or when pressed for time. Chances are that you will meet no more than one truck and one car in the 12.5 miles. It is a road you will never forget.”

Samuelson got it right. The Wolf Pond Road is highlighted in red on the map below.




Fourteen years later, I took another scoot, this time down Route 99 (the map’s blue highlight) southeasterly from Duane. The highway at that time was nicely paved, but save for one property near Loon Lake, it was the only reminder of civilization until the road terminates at Route 3.

That remaining property was what was left of the Loon Lake House, a resort famous and well attended at the turn of the 20th century. You can read more about Ferd and Mary Chase and their resort here.

Apparently the golf course was still open in 1997, although probably not nearly as well kept as it had been in its salad days. I stopped in and picked up a score card.






The course was designed by Seymour Dunn, who also designed the Craig Wood and the Links Courses, both in Lake Placid.

I’m not sure whether Mother Nature has entirely reclaimed the property, as I haven’t been back there since. But I’m glad I had the chance to see what was left of a grand Adirondack resort.

Monday, August 08, 2022

Juvenile delinquent finally quits his low-down ways

 As a young pup, our Jake was a bouncy, bitey handful. Actually, he was several handsful, and all at the same time.

 But we hung with him through thick and thin and thinner. And then, beginning last year, he suddenly realized

 



 

that his ol’ Dad knew lots of groovy places where he got to do fun things. All he had to do was be cooperative to earn attaboys and ear scritches and encore performances.

 

By May of this year, he was progressing so well that I thought he might actually, mirabile dictu, be able to earn a ribbon with a “Pass” in a doggie contest called a Hunt Test. In such a test, he has to find two live birds in the woods and fields, and retrieve them to me after they’ve been shot. He also has to fetch a dead duck from a pond and, again, deliver it to me. A "soft" mouth is expected from the dog; tooth marks or worse on the delivery are serious no-nos.

 

On a recent Sunday, Jake and I traveled to his first-ever Hunt Test, run in NY’s Southern Tier. Boy, has he ever come a long, long way.

 

August 7, 2022


Friday, May 06, 2022

Wings Are Just Chicken Feed In Buffalo’s Rich History

 Lots of things have their roots in Buffalo, NY. When used here, “Buffalo” refers to the whole “Niagara Frontier.” A starter list of things Buffalo follows below, with links.

° If you wanted piano keys at the beginning of the 20th century, your purchasing decision went through Buffalo.

 

° The “blue” in blue jeans once came from Buffalo’s National Aniline plant.

 

° “Manhattan” came to Buffalo at the Lake Ontario Ordinance Works.

 

° The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, the third-most produced American fighter of WWII, was manufactured in Buffalo.

 

° Wurlitzer organs, pianos, and juke boxes were produced in North Tonawanda, a Buffalo suburb.

 

° Highest-quality Kittinger furniture that sits in the White House and other exclusive venues was made in Buffalo.

 

° Buffalo’s Wilson Greatbatch invented the Pacemaker.

 

° The first manufacturer of Mason Jars was Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company founded in Buffalo in 1880.

 

° Willis Carrier is credited with inventing the air conditioner while working at the Buffalo Forge Company.

 

° Steam powered grain elevators made Buffalo the third largest port by tonnage in the world by 1899.

 

° Buffalo Mayor Grover Cleveland became the 22nd President of the United States.


° After Zachary Taylor died, his Vice President Millard Filmore became the 13th President of the United States. Before and after his Presidency, he significantly pursued social, educational, and philanthropic causes in Buffalo.


° Shaped like a bullet, the X-1 was built by Buffalo's Bell Aircraft Corporation.


° James Ambrose Johnson Jr., aka Rick James, was born and raised in Buffalo.


Friday, April 22, 2022

Ice Breaker 5 MI in Great Falls, MT on 4/22/1990

 (I started writing about Nancy Mieszczak’s 32-year-old races back in 2010. I thought they’d been too much fun to be enjoyed just once; and, maybe just a little bit, I wanted to show The Kids how the Old Folks used to roll back in the days of yore. Anyways, I initially crammed a bunch of her races into one continuing post. Lately I’ve been writing them up one by one. If you’re interested, you can start from the beginning here.)

Distance: 5 MI

Time: 30:48

Place: 2

Prize: $150

∑ Career Earnings: $23,779

 

The Skinny: A Lady I Won’t Name won the Masters’ Division. But Nancy was very cooperative with the racers and race director, glad handing entrants while giving a pre-race training clinic, and being accessible and positive post race. So the director, whose name I sadly forget, funneled a few extra dollars into the first runner up’s pockets. Hey, what goes around comes around!

 

Lunching with Frank Shorter


 

Coming next time: Shamrock 8 KM on 3/16

Friday, April 08, 2022

Sallie Mae 10 KM in Washington, DC on 4/8/1990

 (I started writing about Nancy Mieszczak’s 32-year-old races back in 2010. I thought they’d been too much fun to be enjoyed just once; and, maybe just a little bit, I wanted to show The Kids how the Old Folks used to roll back in the days of yore. Anyways, I initially crammed a bunch of her races into one continuing post. Lately I’ve been writing them up one by one. If you’re interested, you can start from the beginning here.)

Distance: 10 KM

Time: -36:54

Place: 3

Prize: $200

∑ Career Earnings: $23,629

 

The Skinny: Barbara Filutze won the Masters’ Division and was ninth overall.

 

Coming next time: Ice Breaker 5 MI on 4/22

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Shamrock 8 KM in Virginia Beach, VA on 3/17/1990

 (I started writing about Nancy Mieszczak’s 32-year-old races back in 2010. I thought they’d been too much fun to be enjoyed just once; and, maybe just a little bit, I wanted to show The Kids how the Old Folks used to roll back in the days of yore. Anyways, I initially crammed a bunch of her races into one continuing post. Lately I’ve been writing them up one by one. If you’re interested, you can start from the beginning here.)

Distance: 8 KM

Time: -30:09

Place: 3

Prize: $200

∑ Career Earnings: $23,429

 

The Skinny: Gabby Anderson won.

 

Coming next time: Sallie Mae 10 KM on 4/8

Friday, December 31, 2021

ICI-USRA end of year results on December 31, 1989

 (I started writing about Nancy Mieszczak’s 32-year-old races back in 2010. I thought they’d been too much fun to be enjoyed just once; and, maybe just a little bit, I wanted to show The Kids how the Old Folks used to roll back in the days of yore. Anyways, I initially crammed a bunch of her races into one continuing post. Lately I’ve been writing them up one by one. If you’re interested, you can start from the beginning here.)

Distance: -

Time: -

Place: 3 or 7, depending on who’s doing the ranking

Prize: $750

∑ Career Earnings: $23,229

 

The Skinny: Nancy had a great year “on the circuit,” finishing 3rd and 7th among Master’s women in two different ranking systems. That’s how she was able to earn $750 after the Naples, FL race without leaving her sofa back in Buffalo, NY.

 






 

Coming next time: Shamrock 8 KM

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, AL on December 9, 1989

 (I started writing about Nancy Mieszczak’s 32-year-old races back in 2010. I thought they’d been too much fun to be enjoyed just once; and, maybe just a little bit, I wanted to show The Kids how the Old Folks used to roll back in the days of yore. Anyways, I initially crammed a bunch of her races into one continuing post. Lately I’ve been writing them up one by one. If you’re interested, you can start from the beginning here..)

Distance: 26.21 miles

Time: 2:55:53

Place: 1

Prize: $1,250

∑ Career Earnings: $22,479

 

The Skinny: Race Director Harold Tinsley treated his invited runners like royalty. Huntsville was always a great road trip.

 

Here’s the newspaper’s writeup of the results.

 



 

Coming next time: Shamrock 8 KM

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Vulcan 10 KM Run in Birmingham, AL on November 18, 1989

 (I started writing about Nancy Mieszczak’s 32-year-old races back in 2010. I thought they’d been too much fun to be enjoyed just once; and, maybe just a little bit, I wanted to show The Kids how the Old Folks used to roll back in the days of yore. Anyways, I initially crammed a bunch of her races into one continuing post. Lately I’ve been writing them up one by one. If you’re interested, you can start from the beginning here.)

Distance: 10 km

Time: 0:36:10

Place: 1

Prize: $750

∑ Career Earnings: $21,229

 

The Skinny: In our warmup run the day before the race, we were surprised to learn that Birmingham is so hilly. With the help of friendly hotel staff, we also found a wonderful Italian Restaurant which served herbed olive oil and bread as an appetizer. It’s hard to believe now, but we’d never had that before. Birmingham was a terrific host: thanks!

 


Coming next time: Rocket City Marathon

Thursday, November 11, 2021

The Earth’s Rotation Ends Sleepless Night With Light Of Day

 On a recent night, I awoke with a start, consumed by a burning question: “Does the Earth rotate clockwise or counterclockwise?” No kidding. WTH? Further tossing and turning revealed that I didn’t know dookie about my home base. How old is the Earth? What does it weigh?

So I embraced the task of researching several of these questions. Possibly to save you from a similar sleepless night — OK, maybe I awoke simply for my 2 a.m. pee. Much better than not awakening…. — here’s some particulars about Mother Earth.


How old is the Earth?

 

The earth is 4.5 billion years old.

 

What does the Earth weigh?

 

1.3 X 10 ^ 25 pounds. That is, 13,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds. It’s no wonder, then, that Atlas shrugged.

 

What is the circumference of the Earth?

 

The circumference of Earth at the equator is 24,903 miles.

 

Does the Earth rotate clockwise or counterclockwise?

 

When viewed above the North Pole, the Earth rotates counterclockwise, from west to east. This is also called a prograde rotation. Because of this direction of rotation, we see the sun rising every day in the east and setting in the west.


 

Is the Earth’s axis of rotation tilted?

 

The axis of rotation of the Earth is tilted at an angle of 23.5 degrees away from vertical, perpendicular to the plane of our planet's orbit around the sun. The tilt of the Earth's axis is important in that it governs the warming strength of the sun's energy, and thus produces the four seasons.

 

Does the Earth revolve clockwise or counterclockwise around the sun?

 

 Its rotation around the sun is prograde, or west to east, which appears counterclockwise when viewed from above the North Pole, and it is common to all the planets in our solar system except Venus and Uranus


Hey, how about a picture of all this?

 

Sure. This school kid-level explanation seems sufficiently complete for me. Anything more would leave me in the dust. See if you can detect a booboo the young lady makes.

 

Hey, who cares about this anyway?

 

Well, more than a few years ago, the Catholic Church cared very much. And it threatened to put the screws to Galileo — really! That’s where the term comes from! — for suggesting that the Earth revolved around the Sun. Suddenly, Galileo cared very much, too. Looky here:


“On June 22nd, 1633, Galileo was shown the instruments of torture by the Inquisition and threatened with their use unless he recanted his expressed view that the Earth revolved around the Sun, instead of the other way round.


Galileo had seen the moons of Jupiter and the phases of Venus through his telescope. When he published “The Starry Messenger” in 1610, he endorsed the heliocentric theory of Nicolaus Copernicus. He proposed a theory of tides in 1616, attributing the motion of the Earth as a cause of them. In 1632 he published his “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems,” again implying heliocentrism, which the Inquisition had formally declared to be heretical in 1616, banning books that supported it.


At his trial he was found "vehemently suspect of heresy", banned from holding or teaching heliocentric views, and was sentenced to life in prison. He was a frail 69-year-old, and the sentence was commuted on the following day to house arrest. He spent the remaining years of his life under house arrest at his villa near Florence, until he died aged 77.”


* ° * ° * ° * ° * ° * ° * ° * ° * ° 


As I was tidying this up for submission, I found myself listening to a podcast featuring astrophysicist Sandra Faber (No kidding. Who knew?) The discussion is really big-boy stuff, and highly recommended if you enjoyed my initial research on the Earth. You can find it


here.


Thursday, October 14, 2021

Capital Trail 10 MI in Raleigh, NC on October 14, 1989

 (I started writing about Nancy Mieszczak’s 32-year-old races back in 2010. I thought they’d been too much fun to be enjoyed just once; and, maybe just a little bit, I wanted to show The Kids how the Old Folks used to roll back in the days of yore. Anyways, I initially crammed a bunch of her races into one continuing post. Lately I’ve been writing them up one by one. If you’re interested, you can start from the beginning here.)

Distance: 10 miles

Time: 1:00:09

Place: 1

Prize: $500

∑ Career Earnings: $20,479

 

The Skinny: Nancy was the first Master and 8th overall.

 



 



 

Coming next time: Vulcan Run 10 KM

Saturday, September 04, 2021

New Haven 20 KM in New Haven, CT on September 4, 1989

(I started writing about Nancy Mieszczak’s 32-year-old races back in 2010. I thought they’d been too much fun to be enjoyed just once; and, maybe just a little bit, I wanted to show The Kids how the Old Folks used to roll back in the days of yore. Anyways, I initially crammed a bunch of her races into one continuing post. Lately I’ve been writing them up one by one. If you’re interested, you can start from the beginning here.)

Distance: 12.418 miles

Time: 1:15:29

Place: 1

Prize: $500

∑ Career Earnings: $19,979

 

The Skinny: The $500 prize offered by this small regional race was quite impressive.

 

Coming next time: Capital Trail 10 Mile

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Bix 7 MI in Davenport, IA on July 29, 1989

 (I started writing about Nancy Mieszczak’s 32-year-old races back in 2010. I thought they’d been too much fun to be enjoyed just once; and, maybe just a little bit, I wanted to show The Kids how the Old Folks used to roll back in the days of yore. Anyways, I initially crammed a bunch of her races into one continuing post. Lately I’ve been writing them up one by one. If you’re interested, you can start from the beginning here.)

Distance: 7.000 miles

Time: 41:54

Place: 3

Prize: $250

∑ Career Earnings: $19,479

 

The Skinny: Laurie Binder won the Masters’ division.

 



 

Coming next time: New Haven 20 KM

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Casey’s 4 MI in Buffalo, NY on July 15, 1989

 (I started writing about Nancy Mieszczak’s 32-year-old races back in 2010. I thought they’d been too much fun to be enjoyed just once; and, maybe just a little bit, I wanted to show The Kids how the Old Folks used to roll back in the days of yore. Anyways, I initially crammed a bunch of her races into one continuing post. Lately I’ve been writing them up one by one. If you’re interested, you can start from the beginning here.)

Distance: 4.00 miles

Time: 23:05

Place: 2

Prize: $400

∑ Career Earnings: $19,229

 

The Skinny: Nancy Oshier won.

 

Jim Nowicki got Subaru to bankroll this race annually, and it began to draw premier athletes over the years. But July 15 in the afternoon usually meant a too-hot day for Nancy to thrive.

 

Coming up next time: The Bix 7

Friday, July 09, 2021

Utica Boilermaker 15 KM in Utica, NY on July 9, 1989

 (I started writing about Nancy Mieszczak’s 32-year-old races back in 2010. I thought they’d been too much fun to be enjoyed just once; and, maybe just a little bit, I wanted to show The Kids how the Old Folks used to roll back in the days of yore. Anyways, I initially crammed a bunch of her races into one continuing post. Lately I’ve been writing them up one by one. If you’re interested, you can start from the beginning here.)

Distance: 9.321 miles

Time: 56:05

Place: 2

Prize: $500

∑ Career Earnings: $18,829

 

The Skinny: Ngaire Drake won in 55:05.

 

This was Nancy’s 5th and last Boilermaker. We remember all the Boilermakers fondly for their challenging course, their great post-race parties, and for Earl Reed’s thoughtful consideration.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Checkers 8 KM in Buffalo, NY on June 30, 1989

 (I started writing about Nancy Mieszczak’s 32-year-old races back in 2010. I thought they’d been too much fun to be enjoyed just once; and, maybe just a little bit, I wanted to show The Kids how the Old Folks used to roll back in the days of yore. Anyways, I initially crammed a bunch of her races into one continuing post. Lately I’ve been writing them up one by one. If you’re interested, you can start from the beginning HERE.)

Distance: 4.971 miles

Time: 28:40

Place: 2

Prize: $200

∑ Career Earnings: $18,329

 

The Skinny: Nancy pocketed $200 for finishing second to a woman named Benzoni. Somehow I forgot to record her first name back then.

 

There’s a good reason I might have been a bit distracted. The old Duck hisownself actually WON the Master’s Division of this race (26:13) in our hometown, winning his first-ever, and last, cash prize of $250.

 

Not a bad day at all!

 



 



Monday, June 21, 2021

Mediterranean Baked Pheasant Cutlets

I discovered a veal recipe online that I thought might work with pheasant breasts. It did in fact work wonderfully well. It would probably work just as well with boneless chicken breasts. The veal will only happen after we win Powerball.

 

The olives are an important and tasty part of the flavor signature. The tomatoes and mozzarella make it look great. The recipe is very suitable for company, delivering both great taste and eye appeal. And it’s lean!

 

Pounding the breasts to uniform size is a good idea. I did that after the brining. I dissolved ¼ cup kosher salt in a quart of water. I laid the breasts in a Pyrex bowl, covered with brine, covered the bowl, and chilled 12 hours overnight in the fridge. Otherwise, there’s nothing to it.

 

You can find all the details here.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Lilac Festival 10 KM in Rochester, NY on May 21, 1989

(I started writing about Nancy’s 32-year-old races back in 2010. I thought they’d been too much fun to be enjoyed just once; and, maybe just a little bit, I wanted to show The Kids how the Old Folks used to roll back in the days of yore. Anyways, I initially crammed a bunch of her races into one continuing post. Lately I’ve been writing them up one by one. If you’re interested, you can start from the beginning HERE.)

Distance: 6.214 miles
Time: 35:56 
Place: 1 
Prize: $500, plus $300 appearance money 
∑ Career Earnings: $18,129 

The Skinny: Nancy was always treated royally by the organizers in Rochester, and she returned the favor with strong performances. This race pushed her career earnings above $18K.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

On The Joys Of Hunting Solo With Your Dog

 I don’t have many photos of my dog and me hunting alone. Actually, I don’t have any. Right? Think about it.

 

Photos or not, I simply wanted to toss out here that whenever my dog and I hunt without a human companion — and that’s most of the time — I never ever feel alone, let alone “lonely.” I imagine that more than one “dog man” feels exactly the same way.

 

Here’s a few post solo hunt snaps of my buddy Gordie with the day’s bag. You’ll have to take my word on the solo part.

 

 

I went two-for-two that day, a feat I tried to celebrate in the photo. Over time, I have discovered that doggie-hunts-man-shoots is a better division of labor than the converse.

 



 



 



Friday, April 09, 2021

Milk Run 10 KM in Boston, MA on April 9, 1989

(I started writing about Nancy’s 32-year-old races back in 2010. I thought they’d been too much fun to be enjoyed just once; and, maybe just a little bit, I wanted to show The Kids how the Old Folks used to roll back in the days of yore. Anyways, I initially crammed a bunch of her races into one continuing post. Lately I’ve been writing them up one by one. If you’re interested, you can start from the beginning HERE.)

Distance: 6.214 miles
Time: 35:54
Place: 2
Prize: $250
∑ Career Prizes: $17,329

The Skinny: Gabby Anderson won in 35:00.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Shamrock 8 KM in Virginia Beach VA on March 18, 1989

 Distance: 4.971 miles

Time: 28:55

Place: 8/ 1

Prize: $400

∑ Career Prizes: $17,079

 

The Skinny: This was Nancy’s first race as a Master. So while she was the 8thwoman to cross the line, she was the first Master.

 

The organizers down in Virginia Beach always treated Nancy very well. Shamrock was an annual highlight of the new year’s race calendar.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Let’s hear it for American Workers who keep the Wheels turning around

C&W group Alabama released “40 Hour Week for a Living” in 1985. This amazingly prescient tune could very well be the anthem thanking millions of Americans for their essential services 35 years later. Here’s how it starts:

“There are people in this country

Who work hard every day

Not for fame or for fortune do they strive

But the fruits of their labor

Are worth more than their pay…”

 

Yes, indeedy.

 

Enjoy this tribute to the wage-earning American man and woman.





Friday, October 30, 2020

Whither Went The Woodcock?

I’m having a terribly difficult time putting my 18 month old English Cocker Spaniel “Jake” into wild birds this fall. By wild birds I specifically mean woodcock. But my local coverts weren’t always a woodcock no-fly zone.

In 1994, we switched from beagles to flushing spaniels when we brought home “Bean,” an American Water Spaniel. When Bean was also about 18 months old, we shot 40 woodcock over him between October 5 and 26. Bean retrieved at least one bird each and every day during that 22-day streak.

In contrast, Jake and I started hunting woodcock this year on October 9, eight days after the season opened. We’d had an abnormally dry summer, leaving any bare soil parched and cracked. But a bit of slightly colder and wetter weather on the 7th and 8th finally moved us into our brushy coverts. I write “hunting” rather than “shooting” advisedly. Between October 9 and 26, hunting every day and logging 24 hours afield, we flushed just 13 birds and shot at just one that I thankfully managed to center. Needless to say, Jake will need lots more wild birds than that to help him figure it out for himself. As George Hickox tersely hands down sentence, “No birds, no bird dog.”

Jake and I are hunting the same coverts that I hunted with young Bean. What, then, has changed? Some short time before I was born, or so it sometimes feels in my old bones, Heraclitus declared that no man ever steps into the same river twice. I think he’s got it right in our case. Although I’ve parked the car in the same spots for these last 25 years, my current “I” is not exactly hunting “the same coverts.” Lots of things have changed in that interval, all of them imperceptibly but badly.

First of all, my coverts’ productive acreage has been reduced by more than half. New housing has blossomed on some of our old hotspots. Other properties are now posted against hunting by their recently relocated city slicker owners. The remaining coverts have not been “disturbed” for 25 years. Where the dogwood — “redbush” — was waist high in Bean’s day, now much of it towers 20 feet in the air, giving a gunner scant time to identify and swing on a ‘cock before it’s out of sight.

And since my hearing has suffered 25 more years of wear and tear, I’m usually unable to weaponize the early warning alarm of whistling wings.

Other than hoping for a more historically normal weather pattern next year, there’s nothing I can do to improve my local haunts for Jake’s benefit. It saddens me to realize that I might have to change my preferred quarry, or zip code, or both, to give Jake the same chance to develop into a cherished field companion reminiscent of his predecessors.

On a happier note, while thinking back about Bean’s streak, I also recalled that he was quite a handsome dog in his youth. What do you think?

Friday, October 23, 2020

Freihofer’s 10 KM in Syracuse NY on October 23, 1988

 Back in 2010 I began blogging about my wife Nancy’s long and decorated career as a runner. At the time, I decided to keep all the races I’d eventually append in one huge blogpost. You can peek at it if you’d like to here.

But I’ve decided after adding many entries that it’s time to post each race on its own. I hope you enjoy the slightly more concentrated presentation.

Distance: 6.214 miles

Time: 36:12

Place: 11

Prize: $150

∑ Career Prizes: $16,679

 

The Skinny: Liz Miller won $1,000 in 33:35.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

My Pint-Sized English Cocker’s Ten-Gallon Life

Gordie and I were in a woodcock honey hole that I hunted a bunch with my American Water Spaniel “Bean” 15 years earlier. The dogwood had more than doubled in size over the passing seasons, growing up to 20’ tall and branching out to choke the tiny gaps I formerly wedged myself through. Gordie presently flushed a woodcock, and I snapped off a shot as it crested the dense green canopy. I’m nearly 6 feet tall, and I immediately lost sight of that bird. Gordie, knee high at best, couldn’t have seen that little woodcock at all after it flushed.

While I was slowly clawing my way out of this emerging jungle, Gordie appeared with the woodcock in his mouth, his tail wagging happily. I still have trouble believing he completed that mission impossible. But that was Gordie’s gift: he made it all look so easy.

A year before 10-year-old Bean died in his sleep in 2005, we had the chance to acquire an English Cocker pup from our friend Harold Bixby’s WindWhistle Kennel. We jumped at it, taking in Gordie just before Thanksgiving. He delighted us by mastering overnight the ins and outs of the pet door to his fenced-in backyard comfort station. Not just smart, he was a highly cooperative puppy as well, and soon was sitting on command alongside Bean earning attaboys and treats.

Young Gordie with old Bean


Gordie was much too young to hunt that fall — Bean still managed a short hunt in easy cover on nice days — but the three of us enjoyed a long walk daily in the winter woods and fields behind our house. After sundown Gordie and I would do retrieving drills in the basement.

The weeks flew pleasantly by until a star-crossed day in March. We’d gone out the back door for our afternoon walk and were on our way to the back gate. Halfway there, old Bean just stopped and stared at me. “C’mon, Beanie,” I encouraged him. At this he turned on his doggie heels and filed his retirement papers by retreating into the comforts of a warm house. Bean and I had had a great run. If he wanted to start relaxing in his rocking chair, then I wasn’t going to second guess his decision.

Gordie was the beneficiary of this unexpected wrinkle. Now I got to concentrate totally on him during our daily outdoor adventures. He was a bold and happy pup. He’d chase a tweetie bird, or jump into an early spring puddle for a swim, and then return unbidden to his self-assigned station several paces in front of me. Here’s a photo taken after we returned home from one of our spring walks.

Gordie was a handsome boy


As spring gave way to summer, Gordie’s training heated up through sessions with more experienced handlers in our local spaniel club. Gordie swiftly revealed an exceptional talent for locating and retrieving downed game. On a training day at Harold’s, Gordie’s gunner dropped a pigeon well out and beyond dense brush scattered with pines. “Bix” howled with appreciation when Gordie appeared way out there with the bird in his mouth, and again when Gordie delivered it to me. I’ll never forget Harold’s words: “That was a world class retrieve!” I don’t know about that, but it foreshadowed many “how’d he do that?!” recoveries to come.

Successes like that one made me consider entering Gordie in spaniel competitions. Contests like that just aren’t my thing. But adding some entry level alphabet soup to Gordie’s pedigree didn’t seem too titanic an undertaking. And so Gordie and I started working toward the title Junior Hunter.

We got off to a bumpy start. He bombed out of his first test because of owner-operator error. I’d let him run far too far, fast, and loose. On the testing’s second day I did a better job handling him and by day’s end he had his first ribbon. Shortly thereafter he earned ribbon #2 at a test in Pennsylvania. Two down, two to go.

Having trained hard together all summer, we looked forward with confidence to our club’s September tests. On Saturday his gunner wing-tipped Gordie’s bird which then glided into thick brush 100 yards away. The judge suggested I recall my dog so that a second bird might be killed at a distance more appropriate for a junior. Knowing Gordie’s retrieving abilities, I said no, we’re good, he’ll make the pickup. The judge may have had his doubts, but I didn’t. I sure was proud when I handed that judge the bird that Gordie delivered to my hand.

Following his water retrieve Saturday, we had ribbon #3. Sunday went by well if not remarkably, and at closing time Gordie was now Flash Gordon of WindWhistle JH.



We were delighted to walk away from spaniel games and to concentrate on bird hunting, our real love. Old Bean died soon after Gordie’s last test, so the youngster, ready or not, was pressed into service for the October 1 opening day of grouse and woodcock seasons. Gordie needed a little time to adjust to hunting scarce, randomly occurring game birds instead of the pigeons reliably planted at regular intervals for him in testing. But his “cocker-y” nature soon burst into full bloom as he followed his nose to wherever bird scent took him. We had a sweet deal going: I let him do the hunting; he let me do the shooting; and we shared my sandwich on the drive home.

Gordie retrieved lots of woodcock,



and a goose,



many pheasants,



“partridge”



a few snipe, a beautiful wood duck, and just once, when we were targeting woodcock, a turkey.



Gordie ran to the fallen bird and puzzled over just how to grab it. He was clearly thinking “Hey, Boss, that’s one bad-ass woodcock!” He didn’t protest when I shouldered the bird and carried it from the field.

Gordie’s constant mindfulness of my whereabouts made him a boon companion in the field. He habitually worked about 10 yards in front of me and about as far from side to side as scent dictated. If I angled off a bit right or left, so did he. This made him silly simple to walk behind. Our hunts were always relaxed and joyous. Every day was Christmas, with Gordie playing Rudolf to my Santa.

Gordie’s habit of working close to and with the gun made him a sure fire hit with newbies. Kids in particular loved to work behind Gordie. I always instructed them to watch his tail, and when it started wagging at double time, to get ready for a bird in the air. Here’s a few of his satisfied customers.







On and on we went, our bond growing stronger every year. I never felt out-classed or under-dogged when I evaluated my beautiful, friendly, and productive hunting partner. For a long and glorious time, we two felt invincible together.

* ° * ° * ° * ° * ° * ° * ° * °

By the 2015 bird seasons, Gordie began to show his age. He’d have trouble with an easy retrieve of a woodcock downed close, or get slightly disoriented returning with a rooster. Unfortunately, this was only the start of a long, slow and inexorable decline in his health. After supper on one cool day late in August, 2018, I took Gordie to an old honey hole to scout for woodcock. Everything went fine until he disappeared into a likely thicket 30 minutes before sunset. I whistled him in so we could head back to the car before dark. But Gordie, partially deaf and occasionally disoriented, couldn’t find his way back to me. With nightfall approaching fast, I reluctantly returned to the car alone.

My anxieties disappeared an hour later when a phone caller told me Gordie was safe and ready to be picked up. But after this experience, even though we returned to our old familiar spots that fall, Gordie was never the same hunter. He’d literally not let me out of his sight.

By the following spring, Gordie was suffering badly from four geriatric issues. He slept 22 hours a day. Gone was the merry tail wagging of his glory days. After discussing Gordie’s swiftly eroding health, my wife and I agreed not to unduly delay his inevitable last ride with me. Gordie peacefully passed from a life well lived into a life enshrined in memory late in May, 2019.

I trust Gordie is already somewhere over the rainbow, patiently watching for me.



First thing I’ll do after I arrive is promise him there’ll be no more separations this time around. We’re a match made in heaven.