Author Archives: Quill Gordon

Overwhelmed By The Times, Another American Business Closes

We, here at The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond, have always been advocates for and supporters of small businesses, including (sometimes against my better judgement) those started by my good friend, Eugene, and his pal Purly. In 2010 we featured their Vermont Hand Crafted Tenkara Rods as that style of fishing was gaining wide acceptance and in 2012 we introduced the world to Eugene and Purly’s Political Discourse Paint by Numbers Kits. (Click this link to read that original post.)

It is with great regret we announce today that the manufacture of Eugene and Purly’s Political Discourse Paint by Numbers Kits has ceased. Sadly, the failure of this business is a result of the unsettled times in which we find ourselves. Born of a metaphor and nurtured on hyperbole, Eugene and Purly’s Political Discourse Paint by Numbers Kits were at one time considered “at least adequate” by untold numbers of customers, satisfied or not. Abandoned now in favor of more extreme measures, affected by a pandemic and caught up in events beyond their control, Eugene and Purly have been forced to close the doors. Join us now as we remember an innovative, truly American product, including exclusive, behind the scenes photos.

Political Discourse Paint by Numbers Kit Headquarters

Barack Obama had just been elected to a second term when Eugene and Purly’s Political Discourse Paint by Numbers Kits hit the market. Their original ad copy spoke to the mood of the country:

We are faced with many issues in these troubled times, and some people would have you believe that these issues are complicated, difficult to understand, and worthy of thoughtful conversation.

Poppycock!

Everyone knows it’s winner-take-all these days, so quit screwing around with careful reasoning and listening to the other side! You need bold rhetorical strokes to shut the other guy up, and you want the broadest brush possible to paint him into a corner when logic fails. Our selection of new products gives you everything you need to win any argument!

The 12″ Mini Brush

Many a dinner table “discussion” was put to a stop by one of their 12″ “mini” brushes and the reach of its 6′ handle. Word spread and the orders poured in, capably processed by enthusiastic staff working in immaculate surroundings, using a filing system that one expert described as “indescribable”.

Order Processing Facility

Customers who didn’t have time for stuff like “facts”, “logic”, and “choices” also appreciated the narrow range of colors offered, described in the literature as “the only two colors that matter these days!

Color #1: Black

Color #2: White

Orders increased very quickly, as people stocked up with a supply of each color. You never knew what color the next guy would be using or when you might need to change things up, just to keep the morons off balance. More raw materials were required, along with storage, so an annex was added and a Chief Materials Foreman was hired to insure uniformity and quality. The system and methods he initiated were viewed by modern efficiency experts as “absolutely unbelievable.”

Raw Material Grading

The workers in the Shipping Department displayed teamwork and ingenuity as they fulfilled their duties. Their dedication was recognized by many customers, one of whom wrote that their packing methods were “beyond imagination.”

Shipping

Rapid growth defined Eugene and Purly’s Political Discourse Paint by Numbers Kits for the next several years but demand exploded in the summer of 2016. Concentrating on their most popular category, production of extra-large brushes was increased while researchers sought ways to make bigger and bigger brushes. Eugene and Purly showed appreciation to their workers, leveraging their success to provides niceties such as “breaks”.

Preparing Coffee in the Employee Break Area

Pandemic-Ready Modern Restroom and Sanitation Facilities were also installed.

Modern Facilities

Relying on word of mouth and a dedicated force of Professional Sales Representatives, countless records were set and business was on an upward trajectory, like a spaceship.

Professional Sales Representative

Meanwhile, folks were painting in broader and broader strokes, the likes of which no one had ever seen. They were also demanding brushes of constantly increasing size. Supplies of ingredients for proprietary paint formulas became harder to find and shortages developed. It was unclear how long Eugene and Purly’s Political Discourse Paint by Number Kits could live up to its promise that, “these two colors absolutely will not, under any circumstances, mix together, enabling you to make your case with no shades of gray! They actually repel each other, and are also permanent, so no one (not even you) will ever be able to change your mind!

The previous high standards were relaxed and paints began to smear. Surprisingly, many people wanted smears and smearing became a craze. Bold rhetorical flourishes looked to be in danger. It has come to pass that broad strokes, being plural, require too much engagement for some people, many of whom don’t want to change their minds anyway.

In an effort to meet these changing requirements, a high-priced Consultant was engaged in January of 2020. He worked diligently until he fainted with exhaustion that afternoon, but as he slid to the floor he mumbled something about the World’s Biggest Brush.

High-Priced Consultant, Hard at Work

Such a project would involve huge expenditures, for which Eugene and Purly sought financing. Unable to secure loans via traditional avenues such as banks (something about needing a Social Security Number), more creative means were employed, mostly barter and arm twisting. Precision equipment was needed, along with personnel to run it, and these were obtained in short order.

Modern Precision Equipment

For the base of the World’s Biggest Brush, it was decided that ash was the appropriate wood to use. In plentiful supply, and cheap, due to the number of ash trees in Vermont being cut down to save them from the Emerald Ash Borer, an imported, invasive pest, ash only made sense. Log after log was processed, milled, and joined until, this summer, the base of the brush was large enough that no brush anywhere else could possibly be bigger.

A discussion ensued regarding the fairness of making only one giant brush so it was decided to cut the base in two, which took a day and a half. Only the firmest, strongest opinions could ever lift either piece, but Eugene and Purly were confident they would sell and felt this was the best choice as it would solve the problem of having one color of paint left over.

Paint color itself became an issue as events unfolded over the summer. The choice of either black or white suddenly seemed quite inappropriate. Aware that they were creating the new problem of having two colors of paint left over, Eugene and Purly set about finding two new colors to replace them. Eugene suggested his favorite color, which is Safety Green, which Purly complimented with his, Hunter Orange. Focus groups shielded their eyes and agreed they had rarely seen a combination like that one.

Innumerable holes were carefully drilled in the two brush bases, in anticipation of the imported bristles, due in from China at the beginning of July, which is about the same time U.S. Customs Agents raided the headquarters of Eugene and Purly’s Political Discourse Paint by Numbers Kits, Inc. The 13 tons of brush bristles they’d ordered had been confiscated at the docks and turned out to not be brush bristles at all, but cosmetic weaves made from real human hair, suspected to be that of political prisoners in Chinese camps. Convinced Eugene and Purly knew nothing about such things and were, indeed, shocked and appalled at the thought, the Agents departed, as did the dream of building the World’s Two Biggest Brushes.

Eugene and Purly remain philosophical about their foray into politics. They have scrapped their plans to develop a two-handed brush for internet use, though, because, as Purly put it, “Black and white just aren’t good enough for some people any more. Our brushes were never intended for lies, anyway. That’s what the internet’s for, I guess.”

It’s nearly August and to men like Eugene and Purly that means it’s time to start thinking ahead to winter and, quite frankly, they have just about had it with people. They are back at their place above Horrible Swamp, off Lower Skunk Hollow Road, where you will find them strictly enforcing social-distancing rules — meaning if you’re not them and get hit with bird shot, you’re too close.

The former employees of Eugene and Purly’s Political Discourse Paint by Number Kits, Inc. have been working hard, cutting the bases for the World’s Two Biggest Brushes into smaller pieces, as the new employees of Eugene and Purly’s Exceptionally Large Cribbage Board Company. Once they figure out how to move those pieces indoors they hope to have the painted boards available in time for Christmas. Limited Colors. Shipping extra. Pegs not included.

Categories: Humor, politics, Stories About My Good Friend, Eugene | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Need of Improvement

If people want to do yoga with goats, or in hot rooms, or even on paddle boards, they should. If they want to put on kimonos and sit awkwardly in the woods, that is fine by me, too. At this point, anything that puts us closer to the better angels of our nature would be welcome. Peace and justice were the dreams of our ancestors and terrible divisions among us are the dreams of those who wish us harm.

Of an Evening

As has been implied multiple times in these pages, fishing is my goat yoga on a paddle board. I spent a decade fishing a private lake where, for some guys, fishing meant trolling in the morning, a nap in the afternoon, and then a quick toddy or two before motoring out to fish the evening rise with white Wulffs and cream-colored duns. For me, it meant finding odd seams of time when nothing else was going on, my work was done, and no one on the water would object to my presence. I fished a lot of hot Sunday afternoons and rainy Wednesdays (which were when the blue-winged olives came off.)

A BWO Day.

Booming long casts over still water while surrounded by trout is quite a thing, but I have always been fond of small streams and brook trout. The aforementioned lake is fed by just such a stream, full of rocks, shaded by hemlocks, with brush tight to the banks, and one day the chair of the committee in charge of improving the fishing by “improving” the ecology asked me, “Quill, how do you think we could improve that stream?”

“What’s wrong with it?” I asked in return.

“Well, you can’t fish it, for one thing,” she replied.

“But I fish up there and it’s full of little native brookies,” I said.

“That’s the other thing,” she said. “They’re so small!”

I tried to make the case for cold, clear water and tiny char, but to no avail. She ended the conversation, saying I obviously understood nothing about habitat improvement and her committee set out to see about opening things up back there by taking out the hemlocks and maybe dredging some pools large enough to hold proper fish.

Analysis Paralysis set in and that plan died on the vine. Benign neglect is still the best thing to ever happen to that stream.

Lately, I’ve been fishing nothing but streams like that, exploring a nearby drainage that was rearranged nine years ago by Tropical Storm Irene. A friend recently asked where I was headed and when I told him he said, “You can’t fish that, can you?”

“No, probably not,” I lied.

You can’t fish that!

It’s a little more tactical than sitting in a boat, waiting for mayflies, but it is fishing none the less. It is also more strenuous than sitting in a boat, waiting for mayflies, and this week I managed to explore less than half a mile of stream in just under three hours. Sure, I sat on a rock and smoked and I took a few pictures, but there were so many pools to sneak up on and so many runs to drift flies through that it took longer than expected. Also, skipping from stone to stone is not an option for hauling my no-longer-inconsiderable bulk through the jumble of boulders that distinguish this stream.

Trying to be sneaky.

Quill Gordon does not take many pictures of fish and posts even fewer. Pulling dinks out of their holes might be debatable sport and anything that can vibrate on the end of a line like a brook trout deserves to be returned as quickly as possible. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t keep count of how many fish were caught but I can’t tell you how many fish were caught because you would think I was lying. Three measured longer than six inches.

Millions of small, green, moth larvae are eating their way through the forest right now. Some cartoonishly chew leaves out from under themselves, falling to the ground or into the stream, while others descend on silken threads and still others simply fall. No matter how they got there, the brookies were eating them, and the savvy summertime small stream specialist always carries a supply of caterpillar patterns. I squinted at a #16 light green hare’s ear nymph and declared it close enough.

Left to right, through the sunlight…

Fifteen minutes and a world away, cold water flows through a narrow slash on the side of a very old mountain. Periodically churned to the point humans might consider it ruined, this stream has been through a lot, as have the fish and everything else living in and around it. Always changing yet somehow remaining the same, and not needing improvement.

Occasionally Rowdy

With my head somewhat cleared, I clambered out of this little mini-canyon and back to the car. Rod stowed, boots in the back and bag on the seat, I drove along a Forest Service road, trailing a cloud of dry dust despite my lack of speed. Windows down despite the dust, I turned left where I normally turn right. A stretch of stream I hadn’t noticed before emerged from a long heap of boulders, beyond a dozen downed trees. Putting it in my pocket for later, I turned around and slowly headed home, listening to the crunch of gravel beneath tires and the warbles of warblers in the understory.

A few hours in the woods did not change the world, certainly not in a way I would like — in fact, it had gotten worse, but the change of perspective did me good. Thinking of these small, headwater streams and their fish of appropriate size as I returned to the world as it is, I was not so sure it’s the land, water, and fish that need “improvement”.

I think it’s us.

Goat Yoga on a Paddle Board

 

 

 

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor, politics, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

In Extremis

I worry about us people sometimes. In fact, way back in January, I started a post for these pages in which I expressed some of that worry. As keeping up with the news became like drinking from a fire hose, my worry did not decrease, and you don’t need me to tell you we live in interesting times. So interesting, in fact, that the aforementioned post was abandoned as a draft and it was only recently that I, myself, mustered up the courage to come back and make it look like someone lives here.

Pardon the dust. Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

11 Best Holiday Gifts of the Year for Outdoorsy Types on Your List

(Before someone gets in a snit because they expected something else, I would like to point out that the year in the title of this post is 1958 and the images are from the issue of Sports Afield magazine published in December of that year. Also, I apologize to the anglers out there for the lack of fishing-related gift items but, I’m sure you’ll agree, these are gifts that everyone can use! ~QG)

Who among us hasn’t awakened feeling certain urges, knowing that the nearest bush/outhouse/privy is just too cold/far away/full of splinters and/or spiders to consider? Or that we’d feel better about ourselves if only we had a good old-fashioned status symbol to show off?

“You’ll have to go some to beat this gift!”

There is no indication as to just what kind of fur this pot to piss in is lined with but, of course, it’s real. Personally, it looks a little small, not much larger than a decent coffee mug, but what do you want for $3.95? Continue reading

Categories: Humor, Product and Gear Reviews | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Back by Popular Demand: Political Discourse Paint by Number Kits!

Listening to the radio many years ago, my friend, Eugene, and his pal, Purly, were inspired to create another of their timeless products. Originally delayed by concerns about toxicity, I was pleased to announce those concerns had been addressed. The conversations may be toxic, but this product is not! Once again, we are pleased to present:

Eugene and Purly’s Political Discourse Paint by Numbers Kits

We are faced with many issues in these troubled times, and some people would have you believe that these issues are complicated, difficult to understand, and worthy of thoughtful conversation.

Poppycock!

Everyone knows it’s winner-take-all these days, so quit screwing around with careful reasoning and listening to the other side! You need bold rhetorical strokes to shut the other guy up, and you want the broadest brush possible to paint him into a corner when logic fails. Our selection of new products gives you everything you need to win any argument! Continue reading

Categories: Humor, politics | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

To Hell with Fishing

“When a fisherman gets to the stream he looks it over and decides where he would go if he were a fish. Then he takes out his worm can or fly box and decides which worm or fly he would prefer if he were a fish.

Then he drifts his worm or casts his fly into the spot he has decided on. If he catches a fish he is very proud, because he knows he thinks like a fish. And naturally, fishermen who think like fish catch more trout than fishermen who think like armadillos or duck-billed platypuses or mongooses.

Of course, the reason a fish thinks the way he does is that his brain is very tiny in relation to his body. So the tinier the fisherman’s brain the easier it is for him to think like a fish, and catch trout right and left.”

~ Ed Zern

Many an angler has one or more shelves full of, or tables leveled with, books containing some of the finest outdoor sporting writing ever produced — the  literature of fishing. Names like Haig-Brown and Halford, Maclean and McGuane, Skues, Ford, Walton and a hundred more fill the pages of collections and compendiums, readers for fireside and bedside, as well as books pocket-sized and absolutely gigantic. Some writers are represented with snippets or single pieces, while others justify entire books of their own. Writers like John Gierach, for example, who I appreciate for several reasons, including the fact that Still Life with Brook Trout has done more for me to keep things from sliding off this table than any other fishing book in my collection. Continue reading

Categories: Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Castwell and Tantalus go a-Angling

In a short story by G.E.M. Skues, Theodore Castwell is an angler who, after death, finds himself fishing the hole of his dreams, for eternity. In Greek mythology, Tantalus is such a jerk that he finds himself surrounded by things he desires, just out of reach, for eternity. Here at The View From Fish in a Barrel Pond, Quill Gordon finds himself relating to both predicaments although he eventually has the good sense to extract himself.

Inspired by an old copy of The Compleat Angler and a jug of cider, what follows imagines Castwell and Tantalus as Piscator and Venator, in the style of Izaak Walton, Charles Cotton and oh, I don’t know, Ed Zern, I guess. Illustrations by J. Eyre, in a Collins’ Pocket Classic Edition of the Compleat Angler published in Great Britain in the 1930s(?).

~~~

*the first hour*

TANTALUS. Wait, sir! Wait! I can’t keep up with you.

CASTWELL. I hold back for your benefit but you’ve still not caught up. What’s keeping you?

TANT. Trout are swirling, right there, not fifteen feet from shore! A few minutes is all I ask, to ascertain what they feed on. After that, it won’t take long to bring a few to hand.

CAST. Spent mayflies, no doubt, perhaps a few cripples that never made it off the water last night. Or little brown beetles that crashed, trying to fly before they were fully warmed by the morning sun. Take your pick. The breeze brings them here, nearly every day at this time. But this is not a time to be fishing. There’s work to be done!

TANT. Half an hour at most! I see them right there! Twelve casts, and I will be all about business. Honest.

CAST. Your first business this fine day is a leaking commode but don’t worry yourself one bit; with each other for company, time for us will drag by only twice as slowly. Fishing may come later, after the commode. Bring a hammer, just in case. Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Of Polar Bears, Elephants, and a Place to Put Your Stuff

Us outdoorsy types, especially we who fish, sure do like our stuff.

When Johnny Morris started Bass Pro Shops in his father’s Brown Derby Liquor Store I doubt he had any idea how much stuff we would buy, but by the time he was selling fully outfitted bass boats he was certainly getting the picture. As we bought more stuff, so did Mr. Morris, including that other outdoor catalog behemoth, Cabela’s, in a 2017 deal valued at a cool five billion dollars.

True

While Bass Pro may dominate an industry, it is much more than a business juggernaut. Johnny Morris has always supported research and education about conservation issues, partnering with groups like the Bass Research Foundation as far back as the 1970s and, more recently, the Audubon Society, which just awarded him one of Conservation’s highest awards, the Audubon Medal.

One can only imagine the stuff cluttering up the garage of a man like Johnny Morris. Actually, I doubt there’s much clutter in his garage at all but, while some people collect stamps or hand-tatted antimacassars, Morris comes home with race cars and taxidermy collections, and he is not the sort of person who is satisfied watching a tank full of guppies.

The Alligator on the Way from Boats to Menswear

Continue reading

Categories: +Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

From the Mixed Up Bookshelves (and Beer ‘Fridge) of Quill Gordon: Pamola

Moosehead Breweries Limited, in Saint John, New Brunswick, keeps a close eye on other brewers who might think of putting a moose on their label. They own multiple U.S. trademark registrations for the words “Moose” and “Moosehead” and for “moose-based” images. Their legal department carried on a long discussion about such images with the Hop’n Moose Brewing Company of Rutland, Vermont, in 2017, before voluntarily abandoning an infringement suit in 2018.

Baxter Brewing Company, of Lewiston, Maine, also features a moose of sorts on its cans but I imagine any conversation with the folks at Moosehead would have been short, due to the fact that Baxter Brewing’s moose has the body of a man, claws, and wings.

Wicked tasty, by the way.

A moose, with claws and wings?

That’s no ordinary moose. That is Pamola, a legendary spirit believed by the Algonquin people to inhabit Mt. Katahdin, the tallest mountain in Maine. Pamola is the spirit of thunder and cold weather, and he is the protector of the mountain, always doing his level best to keep people from its summit. Even Henry David Thoreau wrote of Pamola’s determination, and I once found myself approaching Katahdin’s base, dog paddling through the flooded woods lining the rain-swollen Penobscot River, towing my backpack, which was lashed to my air mattress. The mountain was completely hidden by clouds, the rangers closed the trail, and I’ve still never been to the top of Katahdin. Continue reading

Categories: Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fishing Indoors with Cocktails

There are those among us who believe they are not properly admired when they catch a fish, nor are they showered with proper adulation. No crowd goes wild and no drums are beaten when they bring a fish to net.

Nimrods who release their catch might get a photo or two, nearly identical to the thousands of others floating by on social media, and can spend the rest of the weekend hounding their friends for “likes” and their friends can spend the rest of the weekend avoiding them.

Under some circumstances, fish may be kept and consumed. One of the most iconic images associated with fly fishing is that of fresh fish, fried over a streamside fire. Brookies for breakfast beneath pines dripping dew.

Sometimes, where it is allowed, larger fish are brought back to camp and laid out on a table for all to see before being prepared in such a way that they become unrecognizeable. Pieces of skin adhering to the hard crust of burned corn meal stuck to a cast iron pan are sometimes the only clues remaining as to why the pan was in the trash. Continue reading

Categories: Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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