Well, I wonít be here next week. Iím taking my final week of vacation for the year.

My first week of vacation, you recall, was back in May when my cousin Jim and his son, my cousin Chris, came down and we spent the week not catching fish due to last yearís hurricanes. We had a marvelous time, of course, but nothingís improved much in the fishing venue.

I celebrated my first year anniversary of not smoking that week, as well. I am still on the wagon, other than an occasional demitasse H. Uppman on the bayouside now and then when the dog and I are sitting watching the sunset and wood ducks are flying by, whistling to each other. Itís okay. Like Bill Clinton, I donít inhale.

I say itís a week, but itís actually nine days. Of course, I have five days off from work, but itís much more fun to think, "Iím off for the next nine Ė count Ďem, nine! Ė days." Just makes me feel a little special, you know.

Luckily, the weather starts warming today and will stay that way for most of next week, though a chance of rain has been slinking in and out of the forecast for days.

Hope you had a good Turkey Day. I didnít have turkey, so it was good. Donít much care for turkey. I mean, itís okay, I wouldnít starve to death if I had nothing else to eat, but itís not my favorite food in the world. Dad didnít like it, so we never had it, rarely anyway. I guess I just never developed a taste for it.

In fact, with my mother still recuperating from her hospital stay of two months, so many people offered to send over food for Thanksgiving I didnít have to worry about taking her place at the stove, which in my case, would have meant ordering out. Several plates of traditional turkey and trimmings entered the front door as the lunch hour approached, but my brother Larry was my saving grace: He showed up with a huge platter of catfish, fried in a black iron pot hanging from a tripod over an open flame, and a big bowl of potato salad. Sacre bleu, cher, but that was some good stuff, yeah. You can have your turkey, youíll get no complaints from me.

Turkeys, you recall, are so dumb theyíll actually drown themselves in a rainstorm staring up at the downpour trying to figure out what it is. No kidding.

Spent the rest of the day hanging out at the house, watching the tube, walking with the dog on the bayou and spending some time napping. Napped a little too much and stayed up too late watching a marathon of That 70s Show.

I hate this new time. Itís ridiculous to be dark at 5 p.m. Makes me crazy. I rush home when I get off work at 4 p.m., run inside and change, grab the dog and a cold one, and we have maybe 30 minutes to enjoy the remainder of the day. Iíve been practicing my fly casting lately, trying to improve my accuracy and distance, off the wharf at the bayou. But due to the configuration of the trees and the wharf and the bayou, I can only cast upstream, which is where the sunís going down, so I canít see what Iím doing anyway. Sundown at 5 p.m. Phooey!

I may try to take a trip, donít know. The significant other and I have been wanting to take a trip to Kisatchie National Forest for awhile now. Might wet a line in Bayou Kisatchie if we do, as scenic and lovely a stream as youíre likely to find in Louisiana, but the recent cold weather may have spoiled the fishing. Well, it may have spoiled the catching, but the fishing is always good in my book.

And thatís what I guess it all amounts to, really, for each of us. What makes us happy on a vacation, on our few moments of time to ourselves (despite the screwy 5 p.m. sundown!) I rather fancy the words of Robert Traver. If you ever saw the Jimmy Stewart movie Anatomy of a Murder, it was based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Traver, pen name of John Voelker. Voelker was a Michigan supreme court justice, but the success of Anatomy allowed him to retire and pursue his first love and passion: Fishing. He wrote many books on this love, and his "Testament of a Fisherman" has become legendary. I think they exemplify what vacations are all about to me, if I can accomplish my goals:

"I fish because I love to; because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful, and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly; because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape; because, in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion; because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience; because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one donít want to waste the trip; because mercifully there are no telephones on trout waters; because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness; because bourbon out of an old tin cup always tastes better out there; because maybe one day I will catch a mermaid; and, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant Ė and not nearly so much fun."

Yíall have a great week, ya hear?