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On The Trail

Election season

Whew! What a morning.

It started OK after a restless night’s sleep. I arose a little late, poured black coffee and went to my favorite chair, where natural morning light through the southern window illuminates whatever I’m reading, even under cloudy skies. An hour or so later, my thoughts turned to the dogs, Lily and Chubby, likely anticipating another swamp free-for-all like Tuesday’s. First, I had to check my computer. Unable to retrieve email or access the Internet at midnight, I shut it down overnight, hoping to regain access to both in the morning. If not, I knew the drill. I’d have to disconnect all the lines from the modem and router, unplug the cord from the wall and let it sit at least a minute before reconnecting everything in reverse order. Although it works 99 percent of the time, I hate doing it. Just not for me. Way too technical. No desire to tinker with computers. Well, the good news was that the quick-fix worked. Then the phone rang. Caller ID was a cerebral distant cousin I enjoy chatting with. She’s been around, has sophisticated political insights and often suggests interesting reading. She touched upon a subject I wanted to discuss and off we went to ancient Sanderson matters, more than an hour. We even hopped across the pond, where fascism was spawned. Oooooo! Taboo. Leave it! The guardians of freedom, liberty and justice are watching, bar-stool sophists, too. Never wise to stir their ignorant ire.

So here I sit, running late, probably no chance of squeezing in a quick hunt. Although I haven’t totally dismissed hunting yet, it ain’t looking good. Poor dogs. They love a good, mud-splattered ramble. Me, too.

Anyway, how grateful I am that I got a jump on this chore Tuesday. Yep, sat down with my hair still wet from the shower, sweat-soaked hunting garb hanging out in the carriage shed to dry, sheltered from blustery, post-Sandy winds that had not been an issue during our two-hour hunt through what was once my favorite pheasant covert, now too crowded. I don’t mind admitting I was pleased to find this special place, indelibly stained with family DNA, vacant. Not a hunter in sight. Rare indeed. Can’t say I was counting on it, though. Just rode through on a whim and was pleasantly surprised. When I saw I had the big overgrown field to myself, I backed my truck in, slipped on my vest, loaded my side-by-side, and let the dogs out of their crates to joyously zig and zag through tangled, thorny cover we know and love. Lily recognized the place immediately, was tell-tail pleased with my choice. Don’t believe that old wives’ tale about dogs having no ability to reason. Lily knows this covert like her kennel. I’m convinced she even remembers my preferred route and where she is most likely to flush birds. It was a good hunt: two well-spaced flushes, a hen and a cock on opposite ends, and outta there. Returning homeward, I took the back way over Stillwater to Clarkdale for two gallons of cider, a customary bird-hunting stop. I do enjoy talking to Tom and Ben, the dad a Woodstock brother, no less.

Hunting alone, I had enjoyed fresh-air solitude, heavenly indeed — a little sun, a lot of wind, too warm, plenty of time to let my mind wander, some of it unprintable in a family paper. Actually, my cranial wheels started spinning right out of the gate, on the ride down Colrain Road, before I even reached the Mohawk Trail. Between the Big Y Plaza and GCC, I spotted a strapping young man walking downtown with a child in a stroller, another riding his backpack. It got me wondering how many more of these unfortunate homeless souls will be wandering aimlessly about if Mitt Romney wins. Some folks with young kids now get to stay in motels. Where they’ll stay if Romney gets in, I can only imagine. I think it’ll be ugly. Which reminded me of the Stephen Stills’, pre-election, Rolling Stone-online editorial I had just read. A counter-culture singer-songwriting icon from the Sixties, Stills has never been bashful about saying what he thinks. This time, he describes Romney as, “just raw ambition with no real ideology,” which is spot-on, in my opinion. But it gets worse for all the Mitt-wits. The author of that Sixties anthem “For What It’s Worth,” went on to complain, “I never in my lifetime thought I would see a creepier politician than Richard Nixon, but in the last few days, it became clear that Willard Mitt Romney is really, really creepy. Icky creepy, as my granddaughter would put it.”

Horrors. What have we come to? I couldn’t agree more with Stills, another Woodstock brother, one I listened to in the rain and smelly red mud, still respect. Artists have clearer vision that the rest of us. I believe that. Now we can only hope and pray that something isn’t again “happening here.” But I fear the worst with this scary election less than a week away. Don’t forget that our unfortunate homeless right off the streets of Dickens’ London — many of them insane and pharmaceutically-institutionalized to save money; some veterans — exploded onto the landscape during the glorious Reagan regime of right-wing nirvana. Romney is worse; and, trust me, I’m no Ronnie Ray Gun fan. Profiles of Romney, his vulture-capitalist company and Mormon beliefs are “out there” for all to digest. Problem is, folks who should be reading it, these mythical “undecideds” (more like clueless) we hear so much about, rely instead on “news sources” like Roger Ailes’ insidious Fox-News propaganda machine. Talk about creepy. It’s straight out of Orwellian newspeak. Some will say MSNBC is no better. I disagree. At least Rachel Maddow is a Rhodes-Scholar, a probing, Happy Valley intellectual and sophisticated researcher whose truth-seeking and fact-checking intentions I find laudable. Someone has to demand the truth, or at least try before windbags like Sean Hannity and the Fundamentalist noise machine cuffs them upside the head. Can anyone find me three more diabolical TV “news” commentators than Hannity, Karl Rove and Ann Coultner. Well, I guess Joseph Goebbels was worse. Who knows? We’re just getting started on this continent.

But enough of that stuff. I don’t want to get myself into trouble with the frothing, flag-waving Brown Shirts trying to protect their chauvinistic mirage. Back to hunting, even if I must stay in a ranting tone. I had intended this week to revisit a subject mentioned weeks ago about a record bear harvest set during our three-week September season. This much I can say for certain: The preliminary harvest, according to a spokesperson for state Bear Project Leader Laura Hajduk Conlee, was a record 168. The previous mark was 142, duplicated in successive years before Gov. Romney made it next to impossible to gather information from public servants. When I fired off a follow-up email asking for potential contributing factors to the record harvest, not surprisingly, MassWildlife’s response was hollow silence. Growing impatient at the end of last week, I sent a sarcastic email to the only source at Field Headquarters in Westborough permitted to spontaneously speak to the press, though I would guess that’s stretching it a bit. Well, I must give the lady credit. She responded to me promptly Monday, the state hurricane “holiday” for Sandy. So how can I say the woman’s not a dedicated, conscientious employee? I’ll give her that. Still, her response was pathetic, yet not necessarily her fault. She said Ms. Conlee was not comfortable discussing reasons for the record harvest until she had reviewed all data.

Hmmmm? Give me a freakin’ break. This is the state Bear Project Leader we’re talking about, not some bean counter. She’s charged with managing our bear population, putting out brush fires, assessing the statewide dynamic while overseeing all tagging, collaring, tranquilizing and relocating. You name it, she’s the boss when it comes to bears, and that includes field research, which she does plenty of. When bear-checking stations were fair game and I made my annual, pre-Romney harvest sweeps from one to another, speaking to the men and women who weighed the beasts on their scales, there was never a shortage of interesting information and colorful yarns to share from successful hunters. Yeah, sure, there’s always a chance that some of the chatter is pure fiction. No question, some of the folks who claim they shoot bears in the beechnuts or oaks or hickories actually shot them over illegal bait. But, tell me, what about that will change by next month or the month after? Ms. Hajduk no doubt spoke in September to checking-station personnel, especially her colleagues at the hatcheries and district offices, and she has to have an idea of why the record fell. Clearly, she just doesn’t want to be bothered and, frankly, I’m sick of chasing uncooperative people who don’t understand “news,” demand I wait like everyone else for their useless press releases months after the fact, by which time readers have forgotten there was a bear season, and hunters ask, “What the *$@& took you so long?”

Well, fellas, don’t blame me. The culprit is our secretive former governor, the Bain Capital CEO and current presidential candidate, a man you’ll likely vote for because the NRA tells you to. Count me out. I’m going in another direction without a worry in the world that my guns will be confiscated. Like my colonial ancestors, I pay no heed to reactionaries. In fact, I find then quite boring and destructive.

Oh yeah, one more quickie before I go. I see where New York City was underwater this week. How can that be, you ask? Well, truth is that the people who are surprised haven’t been listening. They’re the same people who broke into hysterical laughter when Uncle Mitt taunted global-warming in his Convention speech. Sadly, there’ll be no last laughs on this dire issue. Just terrifying tears of shame.

Reorder sports editor Gary Sanderson is a longtime member of the outdoor-writers associations of America and New England. Read his blog at tavernfare.com. Send email to gary@oldtavernfarm.com.

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