Thursday, January 15, 2009:
A dusting snow squall is the vanguard of the arriving killer cold. By tonight we’ll all know why we annually swear we’re going to become Costa Rica snowbirds -- as soon as finances allow.
For me, I’m mentally eying artwork projects I’ve been repeatedly putting on hold, as I fished, tracked, treasure hunted, i.e. did things common to temperatures above 10 degrees (tonight’s forecasted low).
Looking at the long-term forecast, there is about a 30 percent chance for ice fishing conditions by early next week. However, much of next week will be above freezing so any angler-holding ice cover forming this weekend will be immediately by put to the test by sun. I’ll keep in touch with those nutcases, I mean outdoorsmen, who first test out Collins Cove to see if it’s thick enough.
Here is some of my weekly blog:
As for stripering, it’s noteworthy only as the object of affection for busy plug makers now tweaking their 2009 bass models, incorporating slight changes based on shavings of data gathered last season.
I am a fervid fan of serious plug carvers, whom I consider folk artists of the highest order – though many of them don’t acknowledge that artsy angle on their craft, preferring to think of their works as simply functional fishing gear. For me, I not only admire the look and sashay of the artwork – I often give them a cast or two, which in no way hurts their value -- but I can actually afford to buy an occasional signed plug, whereas even bad decoy carvings are garnering major, oft ridiculous, bucks.
I keep waiting for a (nearby) technical course in the carving, sometimes called turning, of plugs. I have even gathered a load of sapling, walking cane-grade red cedars. They generally go from two-inch diameters at the base to less than an inch at the wispy tops. They’ll likely carve perfectly, even though cedar is seldom the wood of choice for most carvers, who go for swim more than shine. I would simply like to get some of the cedar’s red heartwood and thick grain into the shape of a working lure. And I’d likely make some less shapely models for the offshore folks who, find cedar trolling plugs a classic that still attracts like a champ.
SPIRITUAL SIDEBAR: My collection of arrow-straight sapling cedar trees is comprised of blow-downs, meaning the wind dealt the deadly blow to the young trees. I’d never cut down a living cedar, acquiescing to an American Indian belief that every living cedar contains the soul of an ancestor lost during the long night.
This is actually a very cool and timeless Native American legend, apropos to this time of year.
The long night came about after the long day, which came about when the people pleaded with the Creator to make it day all the time, so there would be no troubling darkness. Kinda like a Nonstop Daylight Super Savings. The Creator thought “What the hay,” and gave the sun loving people their wish. A constant day kicked in. It quickly became an overdose of daylightness.
In the words of a Native American, Jim Fox, “Soon, the forest was thick with heavy growth. It became difficult to walk and to find the path. The people toiled in the gardens many long hours trying to keep the weeds pulled from among the corn and other food plants. It got hot, very hot, and continued that way day after long day. The people began to find it difficult to sleep and became short tempered and argued among themselves…”
Short-tempered and arguing among themselves, eh? I can hear it now.
“Whadda ya mean it was my idea to ask for constant daylight! You were the one shouting, ‘Just think how good our tans will look.’”
Drenched in dispute and bathed in bickering, the deeply tanned people swung full pendulum and begged the Creator to replace nonstop day with constant night.
Even I see problems there, being a surfer and all.
Per Fox, “(During the long night) The crops stopped growing and it became very cold. The people spent much of their time gathering wood for the fires. They could not see to hunt meat and with no crops growing it was not long before the people were cold, weak, and very hungry. Many of the people died.”
“Oh, this is just great. I don’t even know if this is breakfast, dinner or a midnight snack.”
The never-ending all-nighter turned out to be even a worse idea than 24-7 daylight thing. The final option was obvious.
The people beseeched the Creator to return thing to just the way it had been before all the daylight, nighttime nonsense began.
So, the Creator hit that big “default” button in the sky and all was, once again, well and good, i.e. night-and-day.
However, there was the gloomy issue of those who fell during the longest night. The Creator did what he (she?) did best and created. A new tree was formed in which the departed from the long night would rest: the cedar.
It definitely wasn’t boring being a Native American. Of course, I better check to make sure that shaping a deceased cedar tree into a fishing plug won’t loose some livid spirit. On the other hand, every time I fail to catch a fish using a carved cedar plug, I can blame it on pissed off spirits. (Hey, it’s not like people don’t think I’m a tad touched already.)
I’m sorta on an Amerindian roll this week. Here’s a tad more.
CRAZED CLAMMIMNG: Baby, it’s cold out there. And colder for some more than others.
The other day I was down Graveling Point way, scratching around for Indian artifacts. It was frigid, due in large part to a honking west wind whipping straight down the Mullica River.
I was duly dressed and still barely held my own against the wind-chills.
During a break in my eyeing for artifacts, I glanced out across the near-beach waters and here was a wading wetsuited clammer, working the staked (leased) plots thereabouts.
It was apparently one of the Parson’s clan (Tuckerton’s historical clamming family) hand-raking in the white-capped frigidity. He was likely collecting clams the family had placed there during kinder and gentler times, namely summer.
I smiled sympathetically as the bayman, now and again, would swing his arms in circles. I recall that move all too well from freezing times I used to clam through, when my fingers would sink to the point of fierce pain-laced near-numbness.
By doing circling arm movements, you essentially force extra blood into suffering appendages; the wider the arm circles (and the harder you swing), the greater the warm-blooded relief, albeit short-lived. It does work – and, admittedly, looks as if one is trying to fly off to warmer climes. Back in the day, that was especially true for yours truly.
As I took some pcis of that way-off-season clammer, I flashed back to the dumb-as-dirt days when I used to actually tread for clams during the wickedest of winter months, water temps toying with 32. I’d wetsuit up (only my face exposed outside a thick rubber hood), jump in the near-frozen bay and go through all the treading moves of summer. I’d feel a clam underfoot, dunk underwater to reach it with a gloved hand, emerge all but dripping icicles and toss it into a tube-floated basket. I had trips when ice would build up on the steel wiring of my clam basket. Evenings after winter clamming, my face would be the exact color of an over-ripened Jersey tomato. If I had to go into public, people would openly grimace upon seeing my tortured face skin. I once had my eyes swell almost shut. Hey, I was young and needed the money.
To this day, I dreamily recall the very last time I ever went clamming in fully frigid conditions. That day, I barely felt the cold from my position high atop Cloud 9. Waiting for me at home was an airline ticket that would usher me off to school on Maui. That airline ticket and a goodly chunk of my school tuition costs were paid by those cursedly cold clamming days – may I never need to return to them.