Bass Pro Shops sent me a Christmas gift, which struck me as a pretty
thoughtful gesture considering it’s been at least a year since I hooked
And I landed that smallmouth without the assistance of any of Bass Pro Shops’ quality products.
They didn’t pay me to write that.
Truth be told, I’ve never bought anything from the company. Not even a
little bag of those black rubber worms. I’ve heard bass go for those
worms almost every time. Although I suppose if you’re a famished bass
there is only one time, unless you come across an angler who believes
in catch-and-release. That’s the bad thing about being a fish — the
likelihood that your last meal is fake.
Well, that and all the swimming.
Anyway I felt guilty as soon as I opened the envelope and read the
letter from Bass Pro Shops announcing, and here I’m quoting: “We are
pleased to enclose your 2009 Bass Pro Shops Media Discount Card for
catalog or retail purchases.”
With all those capital letters I knew right off this was a heck of a lot better present than a Chia Pet.
Except maybe for Chia Scooby Doo.
Bass Pro Shops even spelled my name right, both on the letter’s
salutation line and on the discount card (I mean Discount Card). That’s
a feat rare enough that it qualifies as its own little stocking-stuffer.
I’ve been aware for some years that the government harbors what seems to me an unhealthy fascination with my life.
And with yours.
(I mention this only to avoid implying that there’s anything special
about my life that has attracted the government’s attention. There
isn’t. My exploits are, in fact, rather routine.)
Still, I was taken aback to learn that the government’s curiosity about our habits extends even to the proper care of our hands.
This has got me a little worried.
I haven’t analyzed my lathering technique in a while, for instance.
And I’m pretty sure I don’t scrub with anything like the violence necessary to dislodge every germ.
A couple decades ago you could bypass Bend if you wanted to, except you never did.
In most years during the 1980s my family traveled east every
Thanksgiving from our home in Stayton, over the North Santiam River and
through the Cascades to Sunriver, where we rented a house for the long
Back then Bend was small enough that the one main route through town —
Highway 97 — was sufficient to handle even heavy holiday traffic. There
were an awful lot of signals, sure, but the delays were of a tolerable
If anything, the brief interlude as we traversed Bend only heightened
my sense of anticipation for Sunriver and its fabulous (to a kid and,
occasionally, to an orthopedist) sledding hills and sleeping lofts. I
remember how my heart would beat a little faster when our car cleared
the last intersection and the roadside pines appeared and the sign for
the High Desert Museum loomed out of the darkness (it was almost always
dark, because we left after school on the day before the holiday).
I quite severely, and with considerable malice aforethought, do not much care for the Oregon State Beavers.
Forgive me my lack of directness.
I strive as a rule to avoid murkiness in my writing, although I know of
no filter that can grab every bit of grammatical grit before it fouls
But it is, after all, the holiday season.
And it occurs to me that this is perhaps not the most appropriate time
to employ unequivocal yet unfriendly verbs such as despise, detest and
Except it is Civil War week as well as Thanksgiving week.
And I graduated from the University of Oregon.
And the subject, after all, is only football.
I found a dime in the bottom of my backpack, its silvery sheen
concealed by a Three Musketeers wrapper and a handful of .22 shells.
I fished the dime out and flipped it into the ceramic dish that sits on
the window sill next to the kitchen sink. This is the temporary resting
place for most of our loose change, the pennies going in one dish, the
larger denominations in a smaller one, and all of the currency afforded
a pleasant view of the Eagle Caps on fair days.
Not long after — it might in fact have been the same day — I tossed a couple of soda cans into the trash can beneath the sink.
I thought nothing of this at the time.
But some days later, while I was standing at the sink, clutching a
soapy sponge, I noticed, as though for the first time, the proximity of
the coin dish and the trash can. I doubt there’s more than four feet
between the containers.
This revelation — it was very nearly an epiphany, actually — hit me in
that powerful way unique to those instances when I realize the level of
idiocy to which I am capable of descending.
The elk hunt commences one day hence and I have been hard at it, gathering my woolen garments and my excuses.
In this way I hope to protect my skin as well as my ego, although I’m too pragmatic to expect much as to the latter.
I do own a closetful of coats — enough insulation, probably, to keep
several versions of myself toasty in all but the most frigid weather.
Except probably it will just rain.
As for the actual hunting, I lack anything like the creativity
necessary to conjure tales that would diminish, in any meaningful
sense, my incompetence.
To begin with I’m not what you could call stealthy.
I can usually stay upright, even on uneven ground. The trouble is I
tend to snap twigs and kick stones and snag low-hanging limbs with my
sleeves and in general upset the normally tranquil woods with the sort
of cacophony which not even the most naive elk will tolerate.
Last fall I didn’t see a single elk. I don’t know if this is because
there weren’t any elk around, or because I made such a racket that all
the elk heard me before I was close enough to see them, but I suspect
the second theory is a lot nearer the truth.
I feel especially proud today to be an American.
Not because my candidate won.
I voted for John McCain, and he lost.
His defeat disappoints me because I think McCain would be a better president than Barack Obama.
But I’m hardly inconsolable, because I also believe that Obama could be a pretty good president.
And I hope he fulfills his immense promise.
Politics are notorious for provoking people to embarrass themselves,
but for sheer stupidity there are few acts, it seems to me, that
surpass the stealing of campaign signs.
Except for the burning of campaign signs, which besides being illegal could lead to skin grafts or even death.
And yet, every time we as a nation go about picking those who will
represent us — and in particular when the presidency is at stake — the
papers and the TV become infested with stories about people whose
campaign signs have gone missing.
Or gone up in flames.
I’m sure some of these instances can be explained as pranks — the work of vandals who are wholly ignorant of politics.
I have long believed that my personality inclines rather steeply toward
pessimism, but recent events have prompted me to reconsider.
The thing is, I can’t rouse myself to a respectable pitch of despair about the economy.
I don’t feel right about this.
The overwhelming consensus in the country seems to be that this current
crisis ranks as America’s most severe since the Great Depression.
I’m pretty sure that’s true.
The stock market numbers, which are spinning with the speed of a slot machine, bear it out anyway.
Yet the implication of our collective hand-wringing, or so it seems to
me based on what I’ve read and heard from myriad sources during the
past month, is that our nation teeters on the brink of Depression No. 2.
I’m pretty sure that’s not true.
One of the great things about being the parent of a toddler is you can
buy products with names such as “Butt Paste” without blushing when the
cashier gives you one of those looks.
Remove the baby from the equation, though, and I regress 25 years.
I become the equivalent of a teenage boy whose mom has sent him to the
store to buy a box of what the marketing majors, those masters of
inoffensive euphemism, describe as “feminine products.”
If I need, for instance, a salve to soothe the nether regions of my
body, well then I’m loitering in the magazine aisle and leafing through
“Four Wheeler” until I see a checkout with no customers and a clerk who
appears to be dozing.
And I’ll linger for hours if I have to, or at least until someone starts turning off the lights.
Even when the way is clear I’ll hide the ointment under a couple
one-pound bags of M&M’s and maybe a six-pack of Hamm’s. This is of
course a pathetic attempt to deflect the checker’s attention from the
true nature, and location, of the affliction which prompted my visit.