The Old Man

An ode to Ruark.  And also our grandfathers.

The Old Man watches as the steam rises off his coffee mug, just poured from the old rusty thermos his wife gave him so long ago.

He drinks his coffee black.  No cream.  No sugar.  It’s just easier that way.

His pale, grey eyes scan the darkness for the faintest flicker of movement.  His hands caress the checked wood grain of his father’s Remington, each scar and carving familiar to his touch.

The Kid is drifting in and out of sleep at the other end of the small boat.

He drew the short straw among his brothers and cousins and Grandpa picked him up at 3:30 this morning.  He’d piled into the cab of the old truck, next to the greying Labrador, barely awake but knowing it was his turn.

They’d launched the boat by moonlight, loaded with heavy cork decoys and an outboard older than both of them, kicking them along to an unnamed oxbow just upstream.

The Old Man scratches the labs ears, causing that unmistakable thump in the bottom of the boat.  The dog whimpers his appreciation, anxious for the hunt to begin.

The sun begins to win, and nature begins to stir . . . Egrets and ibis and herons and hawks . . .

The Kid awakens, wiping the sleep out of his eyes.  He looks at the Old Man, grizzled, leathery, his face stoic as his eyes sweep the landscape . . . He wonders how many times the old man has done this . . . How many ducks has he shot, how many mornings has he set decoys . . . In a rare moment of awareness, the Kid finds himself wondering how many more times the Old Man will be able to do this . . .

The Old Man sees them from a hundred yards out . . . Even at his age and this distance, he catches the glint of green signaling an impending landing.  He taps his duck call, cementing the mallards into his trap . . .

The Kid grips his gun . . . His mouth feels dry, the wood stock cold and strange . . . He fingers the safety, nervous he’ll forget to push it when the opportunity comes . . . He reminds himself to breathe . . .

The Old Man calls the shot, the Wingmaster coming easy to his shoulder, a motion perfected by a thousand rehearsals over dozens of years . . .

The Kid rushes his gun up, unsure of what’s happening until the first recoil pounds into his shoulder . . . Aim . . . Pull . . . Pump . . .

The echoes harmonize as the ducks splash into the creek, both brought to hand shortly by that old grey lab . . .

The Old Man holds his aloft, admiring the iridescence in the now high sunshine . . . The Kid takes his duck and mimics the Old Man . . . He notices the hidden purples in the green, the brilliance on the speculum, the sharp lines and the subtle shading.  He notices the smell of the recently fired shells, the lab happily panting, the other ducks moving up and down his field of view . . . He hears the clucks, the chirps, the swirl of a fish, the sound of a distant road . . . He begins to take in the feel of his gun in his hands, the smell of the coffee, the rattle of shells in his pocket . . .

The Kid looks at the Old Man again, now with admiration . . . Maybe this is why he does it . . . Punishing himself with middle of the night wake ups and laborious decoy spreads . . . To come to this, this sort of “church” out here in the middle of nowhere . . .

The Old Man sees a small pod of birds turn their way.  The Kid has seen them too.

The Old Man smiles.

If you enjoyed this, check out our podcast, released every Tuesday . . .

#38: All About Hats

Show me an outdoorsman without a hat, and I’ll show you a ballerina . . . That’s where we’re at in this week’s episode.  Plus: Publix boycotts, Pressure washers, WWE Stock (again), Aldi, and more.

Donate to the Tim and Alexis Sommer adoption fund here

Or – Go to www.lifesongfororphans.org/give/donate . Select “Give to an Adoptive Family.” Complete the online form and fill in “Family Account Number, 7767” and “Family Name, Sommer” fields. All of these funds will go directly towards our adoption.

Follow Cast and Blast Florida . . .
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Want to experience a world class duck hunt or fishing charter?
E-mail Travis to book today . . .

Connect with the gang on social media:

Travis Thompson – @travisthompson – Instagram – Twitter – Facebook
Nathan Henderson – @nhenderson77 – Instagram – Twitter – Facebook
Emily Thompson – @lovedaloca – Instagram – @lovedalocafitness – Instagram

#32: The Live Bait Draft

Show Notes:

Greenbacks.  Shrimp.  Mullet.  Crickets.

Got bait?  We’ve got you covered in this week’s episode!

Keep and Release:

Nate: Captain’s for Clean Water

Trav’s Keep item – It Pays to Fish Podcast

Follow Cast and Blast Florida . . .
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Want to experience a world class duck hunt or fishing charter?
E-mail Travis to book today . . .

Connect with the gang on social media:

Travis Thompson – @travisthompson – InstagramTwitterFacebook
Nathan Henderson – @nhenderson77 – InstagramTwitterFacebook
Emily Thompson – @lovedaloca – Instagram

#30: Excuses

Show Notes:

Have you ever spent 12 hours on the water, only to arrive home empty-handed?

(shakes head in agreement) “Neither have we”

But, just in case that DOES happen to you one day, we’ve got you locked and loaded with our best excuses for a bad day afield . . . No fish, too many fish, bad weather, bananas, lucky hats, and more!!!

Keep and Release:

Nate’s Keep item – Grilled shrimp, with this butter on it . . .

Trav’s Keep item – What would Teddy Roosevelt Do?  The new website from Back Country Hunter’s and Anglers that examines public land policy through the lens of one of our greatest conservationists . . .

Emily’s Keep Item – The Life Coach School Podcast . . .

 

Follow Cast and Blast Florida . . .
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Want to experience a world class duck hunt or fishing charter?
E-mail Travis to book today . . .

Connect with the gang on social media:

Travis Thompson – @travisthompson – InstagramTwitterFacebook
Nathan Henderson – @nhenderson77 – InstagramTwitterFacebook
Emily Thompson – @lovedaloca – Instagram

#29: Overrated, Underrated, and Properly Rated

Show Notes:

Are Power-poles overrated?  What about Mud motors? Mojo Decoys? Shimano reels?

Plus – Tacos?

Keep and Release:

Nate & Kaley’s Keep item – the Little Gasparilla Island Facebook Group

Trav’s Keep item – Barkeeper’s Friend

 

Follow Cast and Blast Florida . . .
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Want to experience a world class duck hunt or fishing charter?
E-mail Travis to book today . . .

Connect with the gang on social media:

Travis Thompson – @travisthompson – InstagramTwitterFacebook
Nathan Henderson – @nhenderson77 – InstagramTwitterFacebook
Emily Thompson – @lovedaloca – Instagram

#28 Things Turkey Hunters Like

Show Notes:

Turkey Calls.  All the Turkey Calls.  Slate calls.  Box calls.  Mouth calls.  Wingbone Calls.

All.  The.  Calls.

Plus, TSS, Overcalling, Thermocells, Choke Tubes, and MORE Things Turkey Hunters Love!!!!

Keep and Release:

Nate’s Keep item – The Bug-A-Salt

Trav’s Keep item – Will taking an interest in Photography

 

Follow Cast and Blast Florida . . .
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Want to experience a world class duck hunt or fishing charter?
E-mail Travis to book today . . .

Connect with the gang on social media:

Travis Thompson – @travisthompson – InstagramTwitterFacebook
Nathan Henderson – @nhenderson77 – InstagramTwitterFacebook
Emily Thompson – @lovedaloca – Instagram

#27: Listener Questions

Show Notes:

This week, we empty the mailbag and tackle YOUR questions about anything and everything, from “How to get your kids more involved in the outdoors” to “who wins a fight: a taco or a grilled cheese” . . .

Keep and Release:

Nate’s Keep item – SladeNW Youtube Channel

Trav’s Keep items – BackCountry Hunters and Anglers

 

Follow Cast and Blast Florida . . .
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Want to experience a world class duck hunt or fishing charter?
E-mail Travis to book today . . .

Connect with the gang on social media:

Travis Thompson – @travisthompson – InstagramTwitterFacebook
Nathan Henderson – @nhenderson77 – InstagramTwitterFacebook
Emily Thompson – @lovedaloca – Instagram

Waitin’

You had to wake him up 3 times just to get in the truck to head to the water.

You bought him Pepsi, but it turns out he prefers Coke.

You swing through McDonald’s, and he orders a chicken biscuit, but it’ll be 10 minutes before they’re ready.  You talk him into a Sausage McMuffin and head down the road.

At this point, you realize you really should’ve filled up the the truck night before.  10 minutes at the gas station, call it 15 after you track down an attendant to unlock the bathroom door.

You pull into line at the boat ramp 9 boats deep.  Any urgency usually put into getting the thing ready to launch is lost on today’s partner; he’s dozing in and out of sleep in the backseat while 15 guys wearing high end sunglasses and driving high end boats are muttering cuss words under their breath at you holding up the line an extra 2 minutes.

You finally get the boy into the boat, the boat into the water, and begin idling out of the marina.

The fishing stinks.  2 short trout, a few “trash” fish . . . One decent bite and run, but whatever it was broke him off.  He may have cried.

Boats break down.  Lines snap.  Reels fail.  Ice chests get stolen.  Pliers get misplaced.  Engines sputter.  Winds shift.  Barometers rise and fall. Weathermen make stuff up.

All these things, on these trips, go “wrong” or “imperfect” – you just want something, anything, just one thing good to happen.

As you pull back into the driveway that night, sunburned and probably riddled with the Zika virus, this is the question you ask yourself: when is something good going to happen?

The boy has been asleep for the entire trip home.  You look back to see his Mountain Dew spilling onto the leather next to him.  You sigh as you turn onto your street.

You back the trailer into it’s spot, and you hear his door slam shut as soon as you put it in park.  You do a quick rinse of the boat before slipping your shoes off and stepping in the back door, the one that leads him into the kitchen . . .

“And daddy triiiiiiiied to get me a chicken biscuit but they were all out of them so I ate a sausage one instead and it was. So. Good. And Dad let me steer the boat and we hooked something really really big but we don’t know what it was but Daddy thinks it was a shark or a redfish or a gigantic megladon – don’t laugh – he really thinks that – and then we caught tons of fish but none of them were keepers and Daddy got sunburnt but he didn’t let me get sunburnt ’cause he brought my special floppy hat and guess what? He brought Mountain Dew AND Pepsi and he let me drink as many as I wanted and we saw a dolphin and a manatee and I heard the oysters clicking under the boat and Dad thinks we may have seen a school of redfish but they just wouldn’t bite today and . . . ” On and on.

Finally my wife directs him to the shower and turns to me, grinning from ear to ear.

Almost as though she knows, she looks at my face and says “Still waiting on something good to happen?”

It already did.

If you enjoyed this column, you’d probably like this one, or this one.  We’d also love it if you’d check out our weekly podcasts . . . We talk about stuff like our favorite Boat Songs or Bucket List Trips or Unwritten Rules of the Outdoors or, well, you get the picture!

Keep & Release

Every podcast recording session starts out the same way: Emily, exasperated, looks at Nate and I and asks, “Do you guys have a ‘Keep’ and ‘Release’ for this week?”

If you’ve never heard the show, a) consider yourself lucky and don’t click this link, and b) Keep and Release is the segment where we give a little shout-out to whatever the one thing is that we want to talk about this week in a positive light (Keep), and the one thing that irritated us or aggravated us in the previous week (Release).  A release could be leaky waders or faulty spinning reels or lousy internet service or duck ID posts on social media or any of a litany of things.

In fact, it’s become a bit of a joke behind the scenes, the rants that accompany release.  So much so that, while listening to the show last week, Will looked at me before we even got to “Keep and Release” and said “Dad, what do you hate this week?”

“Hate?  I don’t hate anything?”

“Dad – you hate EVERYthing . . . “

His exasperation hit me kind of heavy.  I took a breath, right there driving to school, and replied:

“I love a lot of things, too.

I love hot summer mornings when your shirt sticks to you before you step outside, and the chill of an ice-cold window unit AC when you get back home.  Fall mornings when there’s just a hint of crispness in the air, and winter days when they’re gloomy and overcast and your breath hangs around all day, and spring time when the greens are so bright they hurt your eyes.

I love duck hunting, and decoys, and dogs and hearing the birds before you see them and the way a wood duck whistles or a mottled grunts and the noise a huge flock of divers make, feathers and wings and air harmonizing on this weirdly deafening rumble.  I love the quacks and the tweets and the burrs, the kerplunk of a fresh shell, the chill in the air, how your hands can’t ever get warm once your glove gets wet, and ‘Take ‘em’ and ‘Cut ‘em’ and ‘Kill ‘em’ and ‘Shoot’ and ‘Fetch ‘em up’ and ‘last one’ and ‘think they’re done’ and ‘I got that one’ and ‘y’all wanna go get breakfast’ . . .

I love bird dogs, wacky and rangy and as distracted as a teen-aged boy at a cheerleader convention, locked up and birds brought to hand and sharing peanut butter crackers in between stops . . .

I don’t hate everything.  I love snook, and that glorious pop that sounds like someone launching potatoes into the shallows, the way they’ll chase your lure and tap it around and not commit, or the way they’ll over-commit and miss it entirely, big ones and little ones and in between ones right in the slot, and watching all of them swim away.  And I love redfish, the way they have to almost turn upside down to inhale a topwater plug, and the wake behind your bait right before everything goes crazy, and the tips of their tails signaling you on low tide to stop and hang out for a few.  And don’t forget tarpon, man, I love tarpon, cartwheeling and catwalking and somersaulting and basically doing things that would’ve gotten them burned at the stake in the 1600’s, 120 lbs of gills rattling and tail smacking fun, turning the beach into swiss cheese . . .

I love lots of things.  Turkeys and trout and teal.  Yeti’s and Yellowfins and Searks and Carolina Skiffs, the tackle department at Stone’s and gas station Cuban sandwiches and chumming for whitebait and Spanish Mackeral and under-slots and decoy bags and Zara spooks and picking up spent shells after the hunt and cutting down palm fronds for blinds; wet bird dogs and the way they smell, 2 stroke motors burning oil, cork rod grips and Cabelas catalogs and Mack’s Prairie Wings catalogs and podcasts and new waders and long lines and hi-vis PowerPro.

I love taking you and your sister outdoors, and kids’ first ducks and dogs’ last ducks and limits of mangrove snapper . . . Sunsets on the boat, and sunrises on the boat, sometimes in the same day; wade fishing, and shrimp runs and mullet runs . . . Beagles and Berettas and bobbers and bream . . .

When you say I hate ever-“

“Dad” Will interrupted . . .

“You still hate Duck ID posts, right?”

We hugged.

#24: Must Read Books for Outdoorsman

Show Notes:

This week we discuss must-read books for outdoor lovers. We split the authors up into Classic Authors, Florida Authors, and Newcomers.
Authors we cover include:

Classic Authors:

Peter Hathaway Capstick (1940-1996)
Gene Hill (1928-1997)
Robert Ruark (1915-1965)
Earnest Hemmingway (1899-1961)
Jack London (maybe) (1876-1916)
Tom Kelly (the 10th Legion)
Charles F Waterman
Nash Buckingham (1880-1971)

Newcomers:

Steve Rinella (1974- Present)

Florida:

Frank Sargent
Patrick Smith (1927-2014)
Mel Berman
Totch Brown (1920 – 1996)

We also discuss:

  • If you were a baseball player, what would your walkup song be?
  • Are you single and still blue from Valentine’s Day? These outdoor pickup lines are sure to win you someone’s affection.

Follow Cast and Blast Florida . . .
InstagramTwitterFacebookWebsite

Want to experience a world class duck hunt or fishing charter?
E-mail Travis to book today . . .

Connect with the gang on social media:

Travis Thompson – @travisthompson – InstagramTwitterFacebook
Nathan Henderson – @nhenderson77 – InstagramTwitterFacebook
Emily Thompson – @lovedaloca – Instagram