Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter One: "The Beginning, the End" Part One

The following is part of the blog serial "It's, It's a Dog Named Blitz." For background on this story, please click here.

The wind whipping outside rattled the old house. The clock read 4:05, too early for anybody normal, but a special time to those devoted to the hunting and fishing lifestyle. An alarm wasn’t necessary; I was up this early on my own and it was time to get going.

My bare feet hit the cold floor and helped get things pumping better than a jolt of coffee. I dressed as quietly as possible, trying to keep the silent house still. The creaky floor and staircase reiterated my need to shed some pounds, but despite the noise I was successful in creeping downstairs while the rest house remained still.

I ran out to the truck to get it started and warmed up, and came back in to scribble a note for my wife.

Couldn’t sleep, so Blitz and I are going to the Duck Camp. I’ll be home later.

I ran back outside and climbed into the cold rig. “You ready to go, girl?” I asked to the dog in the back seat. And with that start we departed for my farm.

The drive took a couple of hours due to a stop at my favorite coffee shop in Sauk Centre. As we finally approached the land which had brought us both so much joy, I couldn’t help but be flooded by memories of hunts that Blitz and I had enjoyed among the parcel.

I pulled off to the side of the dirt road and pulled the truck up to the site of Blitz’s first flush on the property. I left the truck running, but exited the vehicle, and donned my hunting vest. As I walked into the thicket of trees, my memory of Blitz's flush filled my eyes. She was an exuberant seven month old at the time – a darting yellow streak dashing to and fro with unabashed joy. Half hunting, and half just running her tail off for the simple pleasure of it. While not the best technique for hunting, it clearly was entertaining to watch.

Blitz had just completed a quartering move to my left and was coming around when her nose went to the ground hard. I had seen such behavior before, and usually found it reserved for bunnies and chipmunks, so needless to say my expectations were not high. But despite my doubts Blitz made a nose-down beeline for the thick cover to my right, and I haphazardly swung in behind her in case she actually was on a bird.

Through the thick cover I could see that she had moved in tight to a small clump of cover, and as she was closing in, she froze solid. Due to my nonchalance, I was completely out of position, but even with her locked up on point, I could not believe that she could be holding a bird in such poor cover. As I lollygagged to getting into a better area, a giant rooster pheasant suddenly burst from the cover that Blitz was pointing and quickly headed down the only window out of the cover available. Unfortunately that window was completely blocked buy a huge tree given my current position. Dog 1. Rooster 1. Hunter 0.

Blitz immediately emerged from the thick cover with looked up at me with an unmistakable look of incredulity on her face. One glance said all there was to say, “You have GOT to be kidding me!” We stood looking at each other for a couple of seconds, with me offering apologies and her giving me “the look” when, just like that, she headed off like a shot, looking for the next bird. That is one of the true beauties of dogs – short attention spans, and the complete inability to hold a grudge.

On to the next chapter

Saturday, May 30, 2009

It's, It's a Dog Named Blitz

My first Yellow Dog was a remarkable dog named Blitz. While she was only with me for a very short time, her antics, the stories she subsequently created, and the joy (and, ultimately, the heartbreak) she brought have stuck with me.

Over the past few years, I have been thinking about all the stories I have of her, and had been toying with the idea of cobbling them together into a book. Now, before becoming critical of me, note that there are ways to self-publish in very small runs for friends and family. Hence, I have no delusions of grandeur on my writing and my long term prospects. I know where I stand.

I was further buttressed in my desire to write Blitz's story once a read Marley and Me. Frankly, I felt I had more compelling story to tell, plus Marley didn't even hunt. Hello.

Thus, I'm going to try and tell my stories via this blog. I intend on doing it a section at a time - consider it a blog version of an old radio serial if you will. I'll still post the usual blog stuff, but will intersperse the Blitz content with it. The format may not work well, but I'll try it and see.

Toward that end, I'd really appreciate your candid feedback. Feel free to leave comments, and also use the poll that I have set up on the right. I trust and appreciate the readership I have - be it long time friends and family, or folks that just happened to find this site via Google or some other random method.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Follow the Dog with Google Reader

I ran across Google Reader - a great utility that Google created that allows you to aggregate feeds from different websites, and view, at a glace, what is happening.

For those of us that monitor a number of different sites and blogs throughout the day, it serves as a great one-stop-shop.

You can sign up

Don't forget to add the!

Monday, May 25, 2009

It's Memorial Day, and I'm a Dick

I awoke this morning to log-in for the first time in 8 days, and was met with 1,839 emails to process.

I was going to write today about those emails in a real "woe is me," fashion, but as I was driving back home I thought about the day that it was today. Memorial Day. The one day that we take to honor our fallen; those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

I'm currently reading Stephen E. Amborse's book D-Day, and in it he describes how Eisenhower at the time wanted the invasion force to not be filled with veterans from fighting the Japanese. Despite the logistical challenges of using those men, there was concern that seasoned veterans, already damaged by living war up close, would be so frozen upon seeing the carnage wreaked by Hitler's Atlantic Wall that they'd not be able to depart their Higgins boats and charge across the bare beach. Only the fresh faced rookies would be ignorant enough attempt the brave and impossible acts required.

I wonder what the gallant souls that fought and died on that cold beach 55 years ago would say about my emails.

May all that have given their lives for our country rest in peace.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Furlough Finale

Today marks my last day of furlough, which is officially over at midnight tonight. As a condition of said furlough, I have been prevented from doing any kind of work whatsoever during the past week. That means no emails, no phone calls, no texts – nothing.

In looking at this period, I have a number of reflections:

  • Getting to the point of being out of the office for a week without any contact of any kind about killed me last week. I was already very close to a burn out point, and the incremental work and pressure pushed me to my mental and physical limit. I was in a very, very bad place.
  • I was finally able to completely “let go” about Monday. Since then, my time here has been absolute bliss.
  • With 11 straight days out of work, you’d think I might get bored, and you’d be dead wrong. Among other things, I fished a ton, had meaningful conversations with my friends and wife, read two books and countless magazines, saw six movies, rode my bike, worked on websites for my Delta chapter and for the resort, played both virtual and live poker (and won at both), took multiple naps, and cooked and enjoyed a number of fabulous meals. If this is what retirement looks like, I cannot wait.

I know in all of this I have some lessons that I need to apply to my non-furlough life. I’m still unclear as to what exactly those lessons are, and will be thinking on it the next couple of days. I clearly need to find some balance between work and living, and that’s where I’ll focus first.

Also, all that good food and drink I’ve been having has added a couple of pounds. I’ll be working on shaving those off too.

If the ultimate goal of any vacation is to relax and rejuvenate you, this has been my best vacation ever. Hands down. With that hindsight, the fact that it cost me a week’s worth of my pay seems like a bargain.

Now, off to the lake in pursuit of last day walleyes!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Good Fishing, Better Gumbo

I headed out with Bill today to aid in his pre-fishing, and he did not disappoint. We covered a ton of this 100,000 acre lake. Bill has a beautiful new, used Ranger. It’s a lot like fishing out of your living room. It is comfortable, completely tricked out, and likely the fastest boat I’ve ever ridden in. We were up over 50 mph a couple of times today – extremely fast for a boat.

We started at Trappers and immediately found fish. We had two in the slot and a number over, but didn’t keep our slot fish as we had just started and they were in the 14”-15” range. I was holding out for those big 17”. Ah, the old bird in the hand…

We fished Little Stoney and I caught a couple bigger than 20” – nice fish. Then a quick tour to west of Goose Island, followed quickly by a run to Snake Pits where I landed a 23”. Then up to Ottertail, and just south of Two Points, where our wind proceeded to die to nothing.

We made the big run to the south side of the lake over glass water. It is incredible to run for 10-12 miles with nary a ripple. I was reminded of the time in college when dad and I were fishing Submarine and the wind died on us. He happened to have the water ski equipment in the boat, and I skied back to Big Rock – about 8 miles. Even being in good shape back then I was exhausted by the end of the haul! He got a big kick out of it.

We motored the south side, basically vertically jigging, but getting nothing. I landed a nice keeper perch just west of Pipe Island, but that was the stringer. While embarrassed with such a wimpy catch, that perch will likely come in pretty handy next lent, so I’ll take the one fish and like it.

Overall for the day I caught 6 walleyes, one small, one good keeper (that I didn’t keep) and four really nice fish over 20”.

Last day fishing is tomorrow. It has been a great vacation, and the fishing has been really outstanding. I hope to do some damage against my freezer limit and get my lovely bride to work on hers as well. We’ll be in the resort’s pontoon, which will be a far cry from Bill’s Ranger, but it is big, comfortable, has a private potty for those than need it, and a radio for the finest classic rock in northern Minnesota. Wish us luck.

By the way, the gumbo yesterday was out of the park. If my cousin knew a Yankee could cook like that, he’d likely think I’ve got some rebel blood in me somewhere. I’d tell him no, I just have a good teacher.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Leech Lake Muskie

Leech Lake is renowned nationally as perhaps the finest muskie lake within the United States, and with good reason. The lake’s habitat, structure, and geographic location create an environment that is almost perfect for the big fish. Muskie enthusiasts from throughout the country travel here in hopes of landing “the fish of ten thousand casts.”

I’ve been fishing Leech ever since I’ve been in first grade. The hours I’ve put on this water over the past thirty five years or so have to run well into the hundreds and are quickly approaching one thousand. And in all that time, with all those lines in the water, I’ve never even seen a muskie boated.

Consider that situation over. Yesterday as I was trolling a Tail Dancer on the flats outside of Rogers looking to raise a big walleye, I was slammed by my friend here. He started out putting up a massive fight, but ended up with the other treble hook in the front of his snout, and finished coming in pretty quietly. He was small by muskie standards at 26 inches, but was fun to catch nonetheless.

Big west winds and the resort’s rental pontoon boat kept my fishing options down, so I was limited to the southwest side of the lake. I boated a couple of perch and my muskie, but finally had got skunked by the walleyes. It had to happen sooner or later, and it was a good run.

The boats are all rented out this weekend, so I’m not going to be fishing today for sure. Bill comes back up tomorrow and has promised to take me out, so we’ll be running hither and yon as he conducts his pre-fishing for the big walleye tournament up here in two weeks. While there’s no guarantee we’ll catch fish, I am guaranteed that I have a nice tour of the lake as Bill’s not afraid to burn up the boat gas.

So today I’m relegated to replicating my cousin Terry’s gumbo recipe. I have a big pot, some duck and pheasant, some great andouille sausage, and the Cajun holy triumvirate of green pepper, onion, and celery. Roux work begins shortly…

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fishing, "Big Time"

I Met up with my buddy Jeff and his brother John today for another session on the lake. Huge south winds kept our options limited, but we toured the south end of the lake looking for the bite. We started at Rogers, moved up to Club 21, then Stoney. We had some bites at 21 and John landed a small northern, but it clearly was not what we were looking to get ourselves into.

John had an idea about Trader’s Bay, so around the corner we went, and still nothing could be convinced to bite. We were pondering different options and ready to make a big move across some big waves when we decided to give Little Stoney a try since we were right there. Good idea! We got bit right away and ended up finding the walleyes. I was hot – boating 4 (a 19”, 20” and 21” plus a slot fish) and had another slot fish to the boat before losing him. John did his share on two, including one slot fish. Jeff? Not so much…

We had a great time, although fishing could have been a little easier for us. Regardless, it was kind of them to trailer their boat over and take me out, and we had a lot of laughs.

Speaking of laughs, the boys will be launching their TV show later this year in October. I’ll post up time/channel details once we get closer, but in the mean time here’s a preview.

To think, I have now officially outfished both Al Lindner and Jimmy “Big Time” Miller. I gotta get me a TV show…

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Leech Lake Limit!

It took us four stops, but once we found the fish, we had an incredible time. We did the usual run to Stoney to start, and while there were boats there, we saw nothing boated and had no luck ourselves. We checked in with Bill who reported that boats were all over the place on Pine, so we headed there next.

Indeed, there were about 20 boats there and a bite was happening, albeit a small one. We landed one slot walleye and a keeper perch, but were not impressed by the size or the quantity of fish getting caught there. Combine that with the goat rodeo that is 20 boats tying to jockey for position, and our patience wore thin.

We headed to Ottertail where four boats were working and did a couple of drifts. Saw two nice size walleyes caught, but could land nothing ourselves, so we headed to the area between Ottertail and Duck points. Nobody fishing there, and the place to ourselves. If nothing else we had some breathing room.


We did one drift tight and then Fuzzy suggested moving out further. We landed our first fish about three minutes after the move and the action was hot from then onward. We only landed one above the slot, and also landed a number that were too small, but overall it was a great bite. Throw in a couple of really nice northern pike to mix (24” and 25”) and we ended up with a really nice stringer.
While there have been nights up here where the fish fry ended up being bratwurst night, we’ve never had bratwurst night bumped because we needed to eat fish for the second night in a row. Web and I ate one limit so we have room for more fishing today. We’ll see if we need that room or not.

Fishing doesn’t get better than this.

Our gratitude goes out to “Guy” for all he did for us.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Leech Lake Fishing Update, Part Two

After finding good amounts a fish the night before, yesterday was a tough one. We put in significant time on the lake, but had very little to show for it.

Here’s a prime example of team morale based on the fishing action:

Despite the slow progress, we did boat a couple of fish, all above the slot. Here’s JP’s 24 ½” beauty, caught before he left in the afternoon:

Not to be outdone, JT also landed one the exact same size. Note that he’s holding it up closer to the camera to exaggerate its size. Don’t be fooled:

Personally, I boated a nice 22”, and had on a really good fish that would have likely been mid-20s, but lost him before a got a look. Regardless, I didn’t get skunked.

Speaking of skunked, here’s Web, who came up yesterday. He landed a wimpy perch for his day. There are grave doubts about the boy’s jigging skills, but we hope today he’ll be redeemed. He did end up with this fabulous hair style, combined with wearing much of his gin and tonic. Ah, the dangers of sitting in the front seat of a boat going 45 mph.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Day Two Payday

NW winds of up to 35 mph and a four hour owner’s meeting kept the team off the field for a good chunk of the day today, but the late rally made up for things.

We first started at the hole “about 75 yards” from the harbor opening, but ended up at Marshal point, where the wind had been blowing the bait fish all day. JP found a “convergence” on the map, and once boat control was wrested from JT, we got on the fish.

Bottom line for the team was 7 slot walleyes, at least that many that were small and thrown back, and one nice 25 ½# that was boated by yours truly at Club 21. We also boated two nice keeper perch to augment the stringer.

Great rally by the team, and we’ve set ourselves up well for our evening fish fry tonight.

Friday, May 15, 2009

One Dollar Two Foot Long

You’re looking at the first fish of the day (and, subsequently, the first fish of 2009). This, ladies and gentlemen, is 24 inches of prime Minnesota walleye. As is the custom of the Gang of Four, first fish of the day wins $1 from those in the boat. Alas, the fish was too big (the slot on Leech Lake is anything less than 18” is returned to the water) but it still was fun to catch and still got me paid.

Mixed weather kept the boys from making big strides today. JT had to work and was only able to fish for an hour or so. JP and yours truly put our time in on the water – we started at 9 and finished up around 4. We got off the lake just in time before the big winds and rain came up. By the time we finished, we had boated two keepers – not a lot of fish for as long as we were out. But a good day nonetheless.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pepsi Thinks Things are AWESOME!

Every day on my one-hour commute to work, this is the last billboard that I see before I arrive. It is at the top of the highway exit, about a quarter mile from the office.

Usually I spend my commute thinking about the state of our business, my team, our market, the overall economy, and eventually build to the weight of the entire world. By the time I approach the office, I'm in the process of steeling myself and swallowing these negative thoughts. My job is to bury these worries, regardless of their magnitude, and lead my team and my company. I cannot disclose my own personal fears; cannot betray any appearance of any kind of lack of confidence.

In the final stages of gulping all of this down at the end of the commute, I run into this sign every day. Pepsi launched this campaign with the Obama election, and is a thinly veiled attempt to align their brand with his (a POTUS with a brand - great).

What the hell does Pepsi think is so AWESOME!? Seriously. Is it just the election? It sure can't be the economy, job market, taxes, health care, the state of Somali piracy, a potential Farve signing or the Twins' start.

Every day I interface with this thing. And every day it is like a visual fingernail across the chalkboard of the start of my day.

Anyone for a Coke?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Minnesota Mother's Day

While other guys were taking their Moms to a brunch or something more boring, mine asked to be taken golfing. Who am I to deny such a request?

Things were cold up here in Minnesota, with temps not getting out of the 50's. A stiff NW wind kept things chilly, but the conversation and the company offered plenty of warmth.

While Mom's game was not its usual, I'm blaming it on the temps. Seriously, who can golf when you're dressed up like this?

She shot in the 100s, I was in the 90s, and both of us held out hope for warmer temps and hotter scores later in the season.

I can't speak for her, but from my perspective, I had a great Mother's Day. We don't get much one-on-one time, and I really enjoyed my day with her.

I'm lucky to have had an incredible Mom like her to help mold me into the man that I am, and of all of the wonderful blessings that I have in my life, she's perhaps the greatest. My life would be quite different had she not played all of those important roles through these growing decades.

Thanks for everything Mom. I love you.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Nancy Pelosi is a Liar

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Speaker of the House of the United States is a liar.

After months of demagoguery, fake righteousness, indignation, and hate, the truth has finally caught up to Nancy Pelosi.

Here's the truth: She knew about waterboarding. She knew the whole deal. And she let it go on without raising one little peep. ABC has it all here in black and white

When September 11 was fresh in the American psyche, when we still didn't know the magnitude of threats that we were up against, and when we were still in the process of cleaning the rubble from the attacks, our leaders (including Pelosi) were willing to accept the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" to prevent future events that would leave our citizens dying in the streets.

But as time went on, fears faded, and feelings of safety and complacency set in, the Daily Kos, Keith Olbermann, and the fanatics in Ms. Speakers' home district stumbled upon a way to finally get Bush - war crimes. Calls for investigation, prosecution, impeachment, and a perp-walk out of the White House grew and became more and more popular.

Once elected, president Obama stoked the fire by releasing the exact details of what had been done, and indeed, that fire raged hotter. Unfortunately, his own party now stands burned. First, former Vice President Dick Cheney chimes in, demanding that the full details of the techniques be released, including the intelligence that was gathered. (Note these still have not been released. Memo to Obama - you may want to avoid playing poker with a guy like Cheney in the future.) Second, we now come to find that it wasn't just Bushco behind all of this. There are ample numbers of leaders on both sides that knew ostensibly everything and did absolutely nothing.

So how does the far left handle this cognitive dissonance? On one hand, there's furor over "torture." On the other, the #2 person in the Democratic party knew about it for years, could have said something, but never, ever did.

I'll tell you exactly how they're going to handle it - the same way they always do. Don't report it, don't talk about it, "move on." Until there are calls for Pelosi to join the orange jumpsuit brigade, this issue needs to be put to bed. For the Democrats' sake it better be, because every time it gets pushed they look more and more like the lying hypocrites that they are.

Right, Ms. Pelosi?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Chaska Minnesota Welcomes Our New Friends in Latino Gangs

In the StarTribune this week, there was an expose on the establishment of not one, but two rival Latino gangs to the suburban town. It used to be a town had made it when it got a new Dairy Queen or maybe a new Target store. Now you're a nobody unless you have a division of the Latin Kings selling drugs to your children.

You'd think this would inspire panic in the citizenry, but you'd be wrong. According to school leaders, this is no big deal:

Chaska School Board Member Diane Koban says parents are struggling to understand the extent of the problem. She, for one, believes there's some "overreaction" when it comes to gang symbols and colors. "It's extraordinary to say just because a kid has gang stuff in his room that he's a gang member. Isn't there such a thing as freedom of speech?"

So, peaceful citizens of not-so-peaceful-anymore Chaska, if little Johnny starts flashing signals, wearing colors, and addressing you by "homes," take pride that he's just expressing his sacred First Amendment rights, and sleep easy.

If you can...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Dire Times and Dandelions

Yesterday was a bad day.

Our business continues to suffer greatly in this recession, and we continue to fall further and further behind our extremely conservative 2009 budget. We currently have an $8MM profit gap that we need to try and fill, and this is on top of the massive cuts that we've already made over the past year.

The impacts of this on my company, my team, and me personally, will be significant.

As a senior leader of our company, this weighs very heavy on me. We've done all of the easy things. There are no longer any easy paths forward. I know that a definition of great leadership is the ability to create victories out of situations when they are at their most dire, and I feel like I am failing at the time when I need to be at my most clear, confident, and decisive.

I thought about this constantly as I was mowing my lawn yesterday - mulling over the situation again and again in my head. I found a really nice distraction in the emerging dandelions that were popping up. The reason I have them is because the lawn service we employed still had not been out to work on our yard yet.

The more I thought about the state of my lawn, the more it infuriated me. Given the recession, I have to believe that something like a lawn service is one of the first things to get kicked to the curb when the family budget get tight. They should have ample bandwidth to take care of my lawn. It is May 1, for cryin' in the beer. What are they waiting for?

I was now getting whipped up into a froth. In my current situation, I'm desperate for some sales right now! How dare they!

At the apex of my rage, and as if on cue, a competitive lawn service happened to drive into my neighborhood. In my furor I immediately flagged them down, and my inquiry about their interest in some incremental business was met with a shocked and smiling "YES!"

15 minutes later my lawn had been serviced, a contract for $300 of lawn service had been inked, a phone call had been placed severing the relationship with the old service, and the dandelions were on their way to the great green lawn in the sky.

If only all of my problems could be solved so expeditiously.