Friday, April 28, 2017



 I first heard the word Ishkabibble  in a poem that was recited around an evening campfire.   I was attending summer camp  in northern Wisconsin.  I was 10.  We campers were turning marshmallows into flaming orbs of molten sugar that when partnered with a piece of  Hershey's chocolate and a Grahm Cracker became  S'mores.  Legendary snack and rite off passage, Smores.  That I can remember hearing the word ishkabibble while in the throes of creating this heavenly treat,  gives testimony to its impact.  It makes a strong  impression.  Hearing it or reading it just once is all it takes.

I was in my early 30's, driving west across southern Ontario with my  pregnant wife and first born when I came in contact with this word for the second time.  It was written on an old, weathered board serving as the name of a very small and narrow creek.  Much to my wife's surprise, in my excitement,  I skidded to a stop, leaped out, and I stole the sign.  Yup, uprooted the whole thing and threw it in the back of our old Ford station wagon, and took off in a shower of dust like the thief I had just become.  Powerful.

Where did that word come from,  Ishkabibble?  Is it a native Indian word?  Where is it from and what does it mean?  I have finally decided to find out.  When I first encountered this word,  ishkabibble, there were no computers, no internet.  Many years have passed, and these finger-fast fonts of information now exist and I used them to get some answers.

 I looked it up.  There is a surprising amount written about this word, but it all adds up to very little.  It is the name of a San Francisco restaurant.  It was taken as his stage name by an American comedian and Coronet player who lived 1908-1994.  He more than anyone put the word in the public's eye, ear, and vocabulary.

 There have been a  few attempts at defining this word,  and the consensus is that ishkabibble actually has no definition.  It has been described as a mock Yiddish word, but is not a Yiddish word.  This description goes on to say that the word is used to describe the indescribable,  and is used when there is no more to say.

 Ishkabibble shows up on many word lists.  Among the more interesting sounding lists are:  the Pseudorandom list, the Whimsical Word Waggery list, Slackagogo's word list, and Logodaedalus' Lexical Locutionary list.

And,  perhaps, the last word on this word, the coup de gras.... the word ishkabibble is not recognized as a valid Scrabble word!  That about seals it.  It is a word with no place of origin, no definition, means nothing, and cannot be used as a word in Scrabble.  Still, I think it a marvelous word, and am happy that it still lives.

My most recent and last use of ishkabibble:  A fishing buddy and I had the good fortune to be taken to two spectacular  trout streams by a Canadian friend who was intimately familiar with both of them.   I gave my word that I would not give them up, to speak their names aloud.  Ever.

Being a rather chatty character, I realized that it would take Draconian self discipline not to divulge the names of these rivers, by accident or otherwise.  I solved the problem by assigning them pseudo  names, names that would give nothing away.  

Well,  Ishkabibble was too perfect.  It was a word that essentially has no meaning.  For the second stream, I chose Sparnfarkle as my substitute name.  This word has a German word.   At least in central Wisconsin it is.  It means a  party-sized BBQ on wheels, usually hired to cater a  lawn party or large family gathering.  The one I attended came with a cooked-to-perfection entire pig,  complete with apple in mouth.   The trailer had its own serving sideboard and the owner carved and served the pig.  Outrageously good pork, and quite an impressive operation.

 I have spoken about these to magnificent trout streams many times to fly fishers and others without ever having broken my promise to never reveal their names.   By giving each a substitute name, I have succeeded in protecting them by hiding them in plain sight.  And with their unique pseudo names, it is unlikely that I will ever  forget them or the great fishing I shared on them with good friends.

Monday, March 20, 2017




I have been busy doing household chores.  I have dusted our 20' beamed living room ceiling with my own  concocted apparatus.  It removes otherwise unreachable spider webs from  the rough-sawn, planked under side of the ceiling and the support beams.   It negates having to use scaffolding, saving time, money, and huge inconvenience.  I also use this rig to remove lint buildup  in our clothes dryer vent pipe.   Cleaning the vent from the roof reduces the chance of inline fires and keeps the dryer operating efficiently, saving time and money.

Clearly, there are a multitude of other once a year jobs I've done that I won't bore you with.  Who wants to hear about under-the bed dust bunnies, defrosting the freezer, etc.?  There is one other job I undertook that merits mentioning, however.  Actually, there are several of them.

I have come to the reason for this blog.  That is share with everyone who has fought in the  toilet wars.

 Our house has four toilets.  Two checked out fine, one needed a minor water level adjustment and, then, there was the fourth, the rarely used one.  When I checked it, it clearly was holding its water by sheer force of will alone.  The flapper had been tortured by age and chemicals to be almost unrecognizable   I new flapper needed to be installed.   No problemmo.

Change the old flapper for a new one, and all will be right with the world.  It is the end of the second day and all may be right with the world,  [assuming you are in 100%  agreement with our President and your team advanced to the Sweet 16],  but my toilet is still nonfunctional.  After hitting two different hardware stores,  plus Walmart, Home Depot and Lowe's without finding the proper replacement flapper, I changed course and spent an hour ranting to friends by email.

 The five stores  were visited over the course of three different road trips, the shortest being a six mile round-tripper.  I was guaranteed by two different hardware store plumbing gurus that the flapper each handed me was the proper one.   Wrong.  Twice, after me explaining the nature,  shape, style and nasty demeanor of my problem child, I was assured that I'd been handed the right flapper.  [I even showed the wrinkled old one to no avail].

The offending toilet is a Kohler.  I finally found a Korky made Kohler replacement flapper that did not fit my toilet, but it did provide four pictures of different toilets on the back of the packaging card with pictures of their water towers and the proper flapper part number.  One of those pictures matched  mine and provided the part number.  The problem was that none of the five stores carried that  part numbered flapper.  I finally gave up, called my wife in Denver and asked her to order two of the flappers made by Korky that were made to fit my particular  Kohler toilet.  I'll will have it in two or three days.  It should take all of 20 seconds to install it. Assuming it is the right one!

That ends the flapper caper.  I won't tell you about the spraying stop-cock that had held its water for 15 or 20 years, right up until I turned it off,  at which point it hemorrhaged water until I shut the water main line to the entire house off.  That I installed on the first try, after changing into dry clothes and mopping the bathroom floor.

Since I seem to be into toilets, it occurs to me that other males might enjoy my run-ins with toilets past.  [My rant email written yesterday elicited strong responses from several friends, so I think there is an angst that I tapped into by sharing with others.  I think most males have a story of their participation in the toilet wars, but haven't found a way to share it with others.

My first bad potty experience occurred when I was an undergraduate living in an old, old rented home.  I perched on the throne one morning and ended up on the floor.  Apparently, my toilet had leaked long enough to entirely rot out the hardwood floor upon which it had once been bolted.  It took  threats to my land lord to notify the health department [which got no action] and, finally, the promise of not another rent check until the toilet was up and running to  get some action.  In the two weeks it took to get a working toilet, I became  well acquainted with my next door neighbor.

Exactly eighteen years ago, and I remember this because as I was paying over $20,000 per year to have my now 36 year old daughter attend a small Liberal Arts College.  I had a professional plumber out to set a wobbly toilet in a bathroom with a Saltillo tile floor.  I had to call him back out. He had not removed the wobble and had to start over to get it right.

I mentioned my daughter's tuition.  Upon Bozo's departure I wrote a rant email to a friend saying my daughter should quit school and become a plumber immediately.  It was unlikely that she would ever equal what a plumber made annually, even with a college degree.  She wasn't big on dress wearing anyway.

When the environmental movement started,  I chose to replace my toilets with low-flow models.  I somehow managed to get three mounted over their wax rings.    The fourth one didn't go so well.  It was the one in the Saltillo tile bath.  After crushing three wax rings I stood up and stated aloud,  "I know how to mount this SOB" and proceeded to smash it on the bathroom floor.  My wife, who had been watching my efforts  and I both walked out of the bathroom without another word being uttered...ever, about that toilet job.  It was two or three days later that I called the pro out to mount a new toilet I had waiting for him.  And he screwed it up on his first try.

The last story was relayed to by a friend who replied to the rant email I sent out yesterday.  He stated that he had problem with his toilets not flushing completely.  To solve his problem, he had pressure tanks installed and had no further problems with inadequate flushing.  BUT... the manufacturer of the pressure  tanks notified him and others who had installed them in their toilets that several had blown up!   So,  Jim has in the back of his mind the possibility that one day one of his toilets may explode, soaking his house, water damaging who knows how much in the way of flooring and furnishings.  Now,  that just isn't right.  It is hilarious because the very idea is insane and it ain't gonna happen to me, but, really, it just isn't right.

For all the technological gadgets available today, with push button control of our house lights, ovens,  sound systems, garage doors, no matter the distance from home, that we can be held hostage by a potentially exploding toilet is beyond the pale.  Really.

The very idea that the Throne, that sanctum sanctum is no longer a safe place to sit quietly, to read, to hide, to avoid facing the day,  to dawdle is just unacceptable construct.  It's not right!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


                                            RENEWING THE CHALLENGE

 I picked up an eight week old English Setter puppy two weeks ago. Getting Wilson at the perfect age and avoiding the cost and stress of shipping him in was almost serendipitous.   It took only a week to find this puppy.   Wilson shares much the same DNA as my ten year old,  Peso.   An old shoulder injury, with its resulting arthritis,  has slowed Peso considerably.  Wilson was brought onboard to maintain continuity.

 Raising and training a young dog is a real challenge for me. The problem lies in me choosing to be its trainer.  I am easily distracted and have a short attention span.  They had no name for this  when I was a kid.    Today it is defined as ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder.  Thats me, in spades, and  it hasn't dissipated with age.

 I have trained only a few dogs over the years.  Each has been very challenging for me.    Each puppy has tested my lack of patience, focus, and short attention span.   To compensate,  I try to zero in on the essential commands required to to train up a puppy into a birddog.   The commands Whoa and Here are musts.  These two commands can literally save a dogs life.  I rely on  the click method for Hunt Dead, and teach running pattern afield.  No problem.   I have avoided  force-breaking to retrieve entirely.    I don't feel comfortable taking on that responsibility.

Generally speaking, well bred bird dogs train up easily.  Some people, on the other hand, don't.  Im one of the don'ts.  The trick to training is to give a young dog as much  experience on live, wild  birds as possible, and stay out of its way.  The breeding and lots of experience will sort things out between a young dog and birds.  The rest is just basic discipline training.

 The art of training a bird dog is instilling sufficient direction and control without interfering with the birding instinct that came in the puppy. It is a balancing act.  Less is more.  It is certainly preferable to leave a little slack in a dog than to make too many training mistakes.  Mistakes create a confused dog, and a confused dog may require a professional trainer to spend months unraveling mistakes made by an inexperienced owner/trainer.   I have read and heard from several trainers:  Given a choice, I would much prefer to train the owner rather than his dog.  Many professionally trained dogs become quickly untrained when returned to inexperienced owner/handlers.

 It is hard for me to stay disciplined and consistent long enough to get a dog trained as well as a professional could do the job.  I willingly  accept that difference.  My puppies and I have learned from each other,  about each other, and by the end of the training process,  and have become a team.   Neither of us is perfect, but we are nearly perfect for each other.

 My dogs  have been happy dogs and I have been happy to follow them.  For me, it is far more enjoyable and satisfying watching my dogs do what they love and were bred to do, run with style, locate and point birds.  The opportunity to photograph this dog/bird interaction, trying to get the rare wall-hanger, is why I still go afield.   Being out afield with your best buddy, walking, involved in the magic that occurs between dog and bird,  is what makes putting ourselves through the training process so very worthwhile.

 Wilson and I are starting a grand new adventure in both our lives.  We both look forward to it.

Friday, October 28, 2016



I just put down the Oct. 28th newspaper issue of  USA Today.  One article grabbed my attention: A Dramatic Loss of Wildlife on The Planet.  The article states that wildlife populations around the world have declined by more than 50% since the l970's, and man is largely responsible. [World Wildlife Federation and the Zoological Society of Londons published this in The Living Planet recently.]

For decades scientists have been warning that human actions are pushing life on our  planet toward a sixth mass extinction.  The article went on to say that it is probable that by 2020, fully 67%  of of the 1970 wild life populations will have disappeared.  Not a pleasant thought to contemplate.

I propose a greater effort be made to interest and educate young people to become hunters.  While sounding like a counter intuitive idea,  it isn't.  Hunters quickly learn about wildlife habitat and the importance of its preservation.  Their awareness is heightened by being out on the land.   Hunters  see how the environment is faring and communicate their findings to affect steps to preserve and enhance habit to maintain wildlife populations.

Ducks Unlimited  is a largely hunter donation funded organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of duck populations and duck habitat.  It has raised and invested more than half a billion dollars to that end.  It is just one of many organizations dedicated to wildlife preservation.  On an even larger scale,  Kenya has made ecotourism a prime pillar of its economy, and in doing so, has made the protection of habit and wildlife a national focal point.

Television and ecotourism have increased public awareness of wildlife and created awareness and interest.  But hunters and their organizations have the charge toward the spreading effort to insure game animal and bird populations.   Without hunters, Fish and Game departments would lack a significant  amount of the funding required to manage, protect, and study wildlife.  These agencies derive much of their  funds from the fees paid by hunters.  Hunters are essential to the ongoing efforts to wildlife habitat and prevent more species extinctions.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016



I found this image on a Cabo San Lucas Pharmacy wall some years ago.  I laughed then,  just as I did when I  first saw drinking water being sold in American grocery stores by the 8 oz. bottle six packs.  I couldn't fathom anyone paying for drinking water.   I thought both were silly novelties.  Time has shown me how much things can change.  Strange [to me] products have become, first, ubiquitous, then, part of the landscape and now are considered among todays necessities.  Who would have thought  just a few short years that we would come to feel naked without our cell phones?  Ever leave home having forgotten your cell phone?  I have, and Ive turned around to get it.  Im embarrassed to admit to the anxiety I now feel without my phone.  We've even ended home-based land lines!  Time brings changes.

 I remember an event that severely jolted me.  I was in four wheel drive creeping around old, long abandoned mining roads high in the Gilauro Mts., all but totally lost, at least  forty miles from town with darkness descending, worried about maybe having to spend the night sleeping in my truck  when my cell phone rang.   My six year old daughter, Morgan, asked me where her shoes were.  My brain froze.  She took me from my predicament in the mountains to hers in that question.  I was so caught off guard that I had to will by brain to unlock before I could answer her.  The mental incongruity I felt then is just as strong today, twenty five years later, as it was then.  But Digress.

After fifty-five,  or thereabout,  we start changing as our senior years near. We change both biologically and mentally.  Most are gradual, but some  are sever enough to require medical intervention.  What is certain is that change is upon us and we must adapt.  We must adapt to a body and mind that are increasingly less efficient than they were in our forties.   Our bodies no longer are as reliable.  We aren't quite as strong as we once were, nor is our balance as good,  nor our energy levels  quite as high.  The vision, cataracts even, are areal possibility.

 We have reached the point where we must allocate our skills and resources more judiciously.   What we used to do automatically, without a thought,  now can be more easily and safely accomplished by thinking before acting.   This is and will be more and more a necessary step if we are to ensure our  personal safety.

We all must accept growing older and how it is affects us mentally and physically.  We do it at different rates,  but what is important is that we recognize that the process of real aging has begun.  The better we adapt to inevitable changes as we age,  the safer our senior years will be.

Montana Journal Entry 1

Aug. 3, Sat, 2013

I'm camped above Quake Lake, in Beaver Creek Campground, roughly thirty miles north of West Yellowstone, Montana.  I've have been here for the ten days enjoying the cool nights.  The afternoons are still rather warm, lending themselves to afternoon siestas.  With the still long days, mid afternoon is perfect nap time.

This five mile long valley epitomizes all that Montana's seemingly endless forested land has to offer.  It has mountains that run up well beyond the tree line and a fish-filled  lake that ties two stretches of the Madison River together, and two fishable feeder streams that join into the Madison.  And it all comes with unparalleled views.

The Madison River is one of the premier trout fishing streams in all of America, and I think the mile stretch of it that runs between Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake is as fine a stretch of river as exists anywhere, and not just for it's fishing.  This short stretch of river is as scenic as any I've seen in Montana and the mountains through which it runs are breathtakingly beautiful.  They also hold a number of Montana's notable wildlife.  With patience and a little luck you can bear witness to a great deal in the course of a few days. I have seen Mountain Goat, Moose, Grizzly and Black bear.  I have yet to see Big Horn Sheep and Elk, but know they are here, their sign is everywhere, even the road signs.  It being summer, they are more than likely high in the mountains grazing on the short summer-time grasses.

I have seen a number of Osprey, and been able to photograph a nest still holding unfledged young whose parents are still bringing them fish.  I have seen Bald Eagle, both adults with their white heads and distinctive white tail bands, as well as immature eagles who are still a year or two a way from their adult plumage.  They both fish the Madison, sharing it with fly casters.   With its flooded trees,          Quake lake is the chosen roost site for a number of Cormorant that ply Quake and Hebgen Lakes for fish.  Strangely, there are a few White Pelicans and a few seagulls that call Quake Lake home as well.

Peso and I have taken both morning and evening  walks in the woods along the top of the steep slope that drops down into Quake Lake.  The grass that grows here amongst the flowers, tall pine, Aspen and sage brush is taller than knee high.   There is the reds of Paint Brush and Indian Weed, the purple of lupine, and the white of a flower who's name I don't know.  All of it blended into a rich ground cover that delights the eye and will soak your pants to the top of your thighs with the morning dew.   Peso has found Blue Grouse on a couple of these walks, and he looks for more every time we go walking.

Even the highway before the climb up to the camp grounds has views.  It is saddled  by beaver ponds, which have created a lovely scenes off either side of the road  prompting many travelers to stop and enjoy.   Many take pictures.  I have parked there often.  I have seen mirror-like surfaces and no wildlife whatsoever.  I have also seen much that the casual observer might very well miss.   I have  seen clutches of ducklings and their mothers  busy feeding, weaving in and out of the water-bordering grass.  One evening just before dark,  I watched two beaver that were kind enough to let me observe them as they crossed from the piled-high wooden home across the pond to their night jobs.  And one morning, I found three fresh water otter playing amongst themselves as they foraged the shallow bottom for food.

Montana Journal Entry

Tues.  Aug. 6, 2013

Today was an interesting day.  Bruce and I floated his boat from the Kirkwood marina, crossed Hebgen lake, and searched the far shoreline for  rising trout.  We actually found a dozen or so sporadically spread out over our two hours on the water, but had no luck on dry flies or any of the several nymph patterns we offered under the surface.   We called it a day just before  noon after beaching the boat to give the dogs a break.  The dogs don't mind their boat time.  In fact, they enjoy it, especially Peso who is on constant look out for ducks.  When he sees one, on the water or in the air, even at a great distance,  I used to fear that he'd leap out of the boat at take off swimming after them.  Actually, as a young dog he did that until he finally realized he wasn't ever going to catch them.  But they haven't lost their influence on him.  He tenses up and goes  full alert mode each and every time one comes within his sights.

Hebgen Lake is characteristically calm in the morning, but toward noon a freshening breeze comes up and puts a pretty good chop on the lake.  Until and if the breeze dies down much later in the afternoon or early evening,  the day's fishing is pretty much over.  Only die-hard trollers would bother to continue fishing,  those who wouldn't mind the discomfort of being buffeted about  by a less than friendly lake surface.  Both inquiry and experience have taught us that this is true.  What we haven't learned, yet, is how to catch fish on this lake.