Last Word

Well, they did it to me again.

It’s not their fault. If I didn’t walk around with my mind on a trout stream somewhere, it would have occurred to me that since we had two editorial pages in a row for Christmas week, we’d have two for New Year’s week. The fish, however, were biting really good, and I caught some big, nice browns!

“Why don’t you just run something else?” someone in the newsroom commented when I complained that I had to write a column two days in a row, for two weeks in a row. I was aghast with horror.

“Give my space to someone like Bill Steigerwald? Over my dead body!” I proclaimed.

In my mind, the only one worthy of taking my place would be the Great One, the one and only Dave Barry, and then I’d probably grumble about it anyway.

It’s dreary and raining, cold. I’m in a foul mood, so what can I say that’ll be cheerful? Not much. I am, after all, eyeing that long dark tunnel and the light at the end is spring.

What the devil is the use of living in the Deep South if you get weather like this? My father’s people migrated here from Natchez, and my mother’s from Nova Scotia to a warmer climate (though granted Natchez ain’t that much colder compared to Acadia) and it seems all was for naught.

The few things that keep me going over these kinds of winters include my magazines. I only get three: Louisiana Conservationist, the publication of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries; Gray’s Sporting Journal and Sporting Classics, perhaps the finest publications of outdoors literature, photography and art in the world. I mean this is really highbrow stuff, and when I thumb through the full-page ads for $29,000 Connecticut-made side-by-side shotguns, or $45,000 trips to fish in Patagonia, I realize I am waaaay out of my league. But you know, they get my $39 subscription check every year, so heck on ‘em if they can’t take a joke.

I take it back, I get four magazines now, since a pal sent me a subscription to Field and Stream as a Christmas present, so since I haven’t seen my bud since receiving the gift in the mail, “Thanks, Benjamin!”

We’ve been considering a new subscription to a magazine a friend had an issue of. It’s called Garden & Gun, and we all three agreed we’d probably never have picked it up off a newsstand rack, but something caught Becki’s eye and she bought one, then passed it along to me because there was something she thought I might like in it, and Suzie and I fell head-over-heels for the thing.

Self-described as “A Southern lifestyle magazine that’s all about the magic of the new South – sporting culture, food, music, art, literature, people, and ideas,” this thing really rocks. It ain’t no flowery decorating like Southern Living; stories range from southern vineyards to blues musicians in a photo essay to rebuilding and restoring American shotguns to “comfort food for the Creole soul.” I like it!

So that’s my winter comforts, along with some good books. I’m reading right now Legend’s Legacy: The Hand On Our Shoulder by Mike Gaddis, who is editor of the aforementioned Sporting Classics. You can tell Mike’s book is right up my alley from the start:

“The world is full of lessons, and the most important, it seems to me, start at Earth level – with four feet on the ground, two big ones and two little ones. With the scent of the woods, the ripple of water, the caress of the wind, the meaning of the seasons, the meanderings of wild things, with grown folks and kids and the simple words, sharing and caring it takes to explain them. At the natural crosswords of wisdom. As the years travel by, I find ever ground cause to be thankful for my boyhood, for the stepping stone it gave me to the world. Most of all, for the people who made it possible. It was a dream crammed full of loose, happy days with friends, along a creek or through a woods, with a .22 rifle or fishing pole, and a dog, of clamoring happily after the grown folks who showed it all to me, who taught me where I fitted and made me know I mattered. In the 60-odd years since, it has never let me down.”

Highly recommended if you’re into such literature, and I am consuming it like a famished man. I also got for Christmas from Suzie The Lost Classics by Robert Ruark, author of the famed The Old Man and the Boy, which captivated me equally well:

“The Old Man knows pretty near close to everything. And mostly he ain’t painful with it. What I mean is that he went to Africa once when he was a kid, and he shot a tiger or two out in India, or so he says, and he was in a whole mess of wars here and yonder. But he can still tell you why the quail sleep at night in a tight circle or why the turkeys always fly uphill…The Old Man ain’t much to look at on the hoof. He’s got big ears that flap out and a scrubby mustache with light yellow tobacco stains on it. He smokes a crook-stem pipe and he shoots an old pump gun that looks about as battered as he does. His pants wrinkle and he spits pretty straight in the way people used to spit when grown men chewed Apple tobacco.”

Okay, this is starting to sound like a book review column, so I’ll stop. Both highly recommended, with Ruark and Gaddis being the finest of company on cold winter days when it’s raining and you’re dreaming of trout streams and big browns instead of paying attention to how many editorial pages are going to run this week, and when.

Happy New Year!

7 comments to Last Word

  • Gordon Bryson

    Great ending to the year Roger. Looking forward to your writings of 2010. My best to you and Suzie, and I wish for you both a healthy, happy, and prosperous new year. -30, gordon

  • sneakypete

    Browns? Big and nice ones? and SOME???? Man, have you started smoking rabbit tocacco cigars?
    Oh well, I guess dreaming is harmless. Insert “spots” for “browns”, though, and I’ll be quite happy to offer some applause. Fact is, right now I’d just love to!
    Damn specklebellies!!!!!!!

  • Partagas, buddy. Got a Havana in the humi I’ve been saving for spring, too. Then the “spots” and the “browns” better beware, ’cause we’re heading north, near and far!

    Thanks, too, Gordon, so far we’re doing great! 🙂

  • blufloyd

    It was a sizzling minus 6 this am in the tundra. Not going to make 20 till next Saturday. Going to be plenty of ice for fishing.

    Got a couple John Folse’ cookbooks (22 pounds delivered) and John Besh’s New Orleans cookbook to tide the winter over. Bought them for recipes and food but being consumed by the history.

    Smoked my New Years cigar and no it wasn’t a Kuba Kuba and I forgot to set off the bottle rockets. Back to work Monday to support my bayou addiction.

    HNY, y’all.

  • Folse is good stuff! At -6, or even at 20, that’s GUMBO weather, or say the Cajuns, who came from Nova Scotia, so they must know.

  • sneakypete

    Man, have you ever wondered what might have happened if said “Cajuns” would have been greeted with the weather that is about to greet us? Acadiana might be in Cancun!
    And that might not be all bad!
    Stay warm, Cher – and I’ll return your Crocs one day soon, just in case you find need for them. (LOL!!!)

  • You’d think if I was gonna forget something in your truck every time we go fishing, it’d be a flask or a stogie, eh?
    “Cajun Cancun”. Damn, you may be on to something there!

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