Humor

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.

Mark Leroy Dudley, known to all as Roy, was a guide on Katahdin from the 1890s until his death in 1942. Guiding during the summers and trapping in winter, Roy worked mainly north and east of Katahdin, roaming into the mountain’s Great Basin and camping at Chimney Pond. It was there he had his first of many encounters with Pamola and began sharing the tales with guests around his fire, including many prominent personalities of the times, distinguished scientists, and even Governor Percival Baxter, who bought the mountain and created Baxter Park for the people of Maine.

Roy Dudley

Roy Dudley wrote his stories in his head and told them out loud, something not many people do these days. Year after year he told his tales, not always the same way as the time before, and he entertained hundreds if not thousands of visitors with his wild yarns. In 1937 a man named Clayton Hall lugged an Edison dictation machine seven miles in to Chimney Pond, where he recorded Roy’s tales on wax cylinders, intending to turn them into a book. They would not be the same, transcribed and printed, but they would be preserved.

That book never came about but Clayton Hall’s old manuscript was found in an attic by his niece, Beth Harmon and, with help from her friend, Jane Thomas — who had heard Roy Dudley’s stories when she was a child — Chimney Pond Tales, Yarns Told by Leroy Dudley was published in 1991 (Pamola Press, ISBN 0-9631718-0-1).

Chimney Pond Tales

Characters like Roy Dudley are few and far between. He cared for anyone who found themselves on Katahdin, fixing tea and keeping them comfortable while giving advice that could save their lives should the benign spirit of the mountain give way to its moody and dangerous side. Pamola was that moody and dangerous spirt of Katahdin and Roy got to know him well in his years at Chimney Pond.

Pamola’s first attempts to evict Roy from his shelter at Chimney Pond were violent, with thunder and winds that scattered his belongings far and wide. The stones from Roy’s fire pit were stacked in his lean to so he had to excavate sleeping room, and Pamola even downed a pot of boiling tea in a single gulp while screaming at him to leave. Roy held his ground and the two of them eventually reached an uneasy truce that gradually grew into true friendship.

Roy smoked a pipe and enjoyed blowing smoke rings, which fascinated Pamola, who decided he’d like to give it a go himself and asked Roy if he could have a pipe, too. Unwilling to deny the twenty foot tall Pamola’s request, the next time he was in Millinocket, Roy searched for an empty beer barrel to use as a bowl. For some strange reason, every beer barrel in town was full so Roy procured an old tar keg and found a ten-foot length of three-inch pipe for the stem. Pamola was pleased.

Roy did not have enough tobacco to fill Pamola’s bowl so he gathered balsam boughs and birch bark, along with some tarred paper with which he’d been repairing his roof. While Pamola puffed he built a small fire in the barrel and after a while Pamola was enjoying a good smoke and blowing rings that filled the basin. He declared it to be “delightful.”

With the smell of balsam, birch bark, and tar filling the evening air, Pamola puffed harder and harder until a “mean little piece of birch bark, no bigger’n your hand” caught ablaze and Pamola’s head was engulfed in flame! Off he shot, from the peak of the mountain to Chimney Pond, followed by a trail of fire a hundred feet long.

Pamola Has A Smoke, Illustration by Jane Thomas

The water in the pond boiled as Pamola plunged in, and was undrinkable for quite some time afterward. Worse, Pamola’s tremendous beard had been burned and he was so embarrassed that he retreated to his cave in shame. The flames, as it turns out, had been spotted from miles away and a crew of men came into camp the next morning looking for a fire to fight. Roy convinced them it must have just been a group of college boys building a bonfire and, after a cup of tea, the men left, none the wiser.

Of Roy’s tea, it was said you could pour a yard of it and stand it in the corner.

Tall tales and fantastic yarns like the ones told by Leroy Dudley were part of an oral tradition that goes back as far as language itself. Without a book like Chimney Pond Tales, these stories would have died out with their teller. While Pamola figures prominently, this collection includes other pieces about porcupines, prune whip, and more, including why fifteen frying pans hung on Roy’s wall.

Fifteen Frying Pans, Illustration by Jane Thomas

Chimney Pond Tales has a special spot in my collection of folklore and tales of the outdoors. The hunting, trapping, and fishing abilities of Maine guides are legendary, as are their story-telling skills, and Leroy Dudley was one of the best.

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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

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Lapse

Time flies whether you’re having fun or not but, for a frog, time’s fun when you’re having flies. And never forget that, while time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

The subject of time attracts hyperbole, as when things take “forever” or when someone is “always” doing something, which you and I both know is impossible (reflexive, unconscious activities like breathing excluded).

I spent more hours fishing this year than in any of the past several, which is interesting, having spent those years living less than 200 feet from a lovely lake stocked with trout. No matter how much I did or did not fish, I could never have spent as much time fishing as the legends suggest (all of it), especially considering how much time some tellers of tales spent on the same lake themselves (hardly any).

It has been said that the time one spends fishing is not deducted from the time one is allotted on this earthly plane so, if the legends are true, some of us must be nearly immortal. Time spent in the company of cigarettes and whisky and wild, wild women* may be another matter entirely, so some of us will probably have to just call it a wash. Continue reading

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

Stepping Out in Style (plus a little music)

Regular readers of these pages know how dedicated I am to style, as well as the dignity and respect with which I treat the subject. In fact, in 2013, an entire Flashback Friday post was dedicated to style — the appropriately titled Style Issue. Since then, we’ve covered style from head to toe, with posts about hats, men’s outfits, and even shoes, all with the seriousness such subjects deserve and the gravitas readers have come to expect from me.

The inspiration for today’s post comes from the pages of The New Yorker‘s recent Spring Style Issue — specifically, the third page in.

Occasionally bumps into things.

I have grown used to not being in a target demographic when it comes to such ad campaigns, and it’s probably just as well. The handsome young man in that Armani ad is wearing lovely shoes but I am struck by several things when I look at it. First, there is a smudge on the right side of the page. It’s barbecue sauce and, for that, I apologize. Second, that man’s britches seem a little short to me and, around here, anyone with pants that short and not wearing socks is bound to pick up ticks. Third, those shoes look expensive and I shudder to think what even a mild case of plantar hyperhidrosis might do to the silk linings. Talk about smelly dogs!

Things might be different if I lived in Rome, but those are definitely not the shoes for me or, for that matter, anyone else I know. I live in Vermont and, curious to see what kinds of fashionistas I’ve been consorting with, I set out with my camera last Saturday to record some of the fancy footwear I came across. Okay, I didn’t set out anywhere; I spent half the day and all damn night in a sugarhouse and took pictures of people’s shoes as they came through. Continue reading

Categories: +Uncategorized, Humor, Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Pictures Don’t Lie and Neither Do Fishermen

Digital technology has given us filters and apps that do all kinds of things to the images we share, making them “better” or even more “artistic” than what was originally captured. Some of us take liberty when sharing our surroundings, maybe simply tweaking the contrast or saturation, but some of us go so far as to create completely surreal, imagined landscapes to picture ourselves in.

Speaking of surreal, most of us, in our own heads, are stylized versions of ourselves (if not someone else altogether), and because we can alter the way we appear on a screen, humans being humans, we have done so to the point that “Snapchat Dysmorphia” is now a thing.

What’s next, digitally altered fish?

Now, before someone gets their knickers in a twist, I want to make perfectly clear that I am not implying in any way, shape, or form that a person who fishes might ever  present anything but the unvarnished truth. I’m saying it.

(Twisted knickers may be addessed in the comment section, below.)

Along with the digital wonders we can work with images, it is easy to take for granted that anyone, anywhere, can show a picture to everyone else in the world in a matter of seconds, something some of us do with alarming frequency.

There was a time we didn’t photograph everything, willy-nilly, and put it out there for all to see, as if it was interesting or important, fish included. Cameras weren’t part of our phones and we sure as heck couldn’t take our phones wherever we went. Instead of chips and a “cloud”, capable of holding pretty much everything there is, photos were recorded on a strip of treated plastic and the length of that strip determined how many pictures we could take.

The number of miles that film had to travel for a chemical bath and to have light shined through it onto special paper — which then got its own chemical bath — determined how soon we could see the pictures we’d taken. It was quite a process but my, how exciting it was to see those vacation pictures, sometimes weeks after they’d been taken!

With a fixed number of exposures on a roll of film, bad pictures cost the same as good ones, so every shot had to count. Companies like Kodak™ were there to help tell and preserve our stories, and if anyone can tell stories, it’s anglers.

Yeah, but I bet he’s going to tell you anyway.

An angler’s story, nicely told through photos. Handsome fellow gets in boat; handsome fellow nets fish; handsome fellow displays fish; handsome fellow ends up cooking hot dogs because that looks like a pike to me and everyone knows those things don’t taste good.

For less than $55 he could also have recorded 8mm movies, early precursors to modern video which, by the way, is much too easy to produce and distribute. Either way, it would have been days before he knew how his pictures looked.

Not that the aforementioned handsome fellow or his fish needed any work but, with all our opportunities to enhance, a modern angler might be tempted. With a little tweaking, that fish could become a good six inches longer and ten pounds heavier, but that was then and our hero is stuck forever with a middling 28-incher.

Not that the modern angler would need to do such a thing, especially with today’s cameras that can make any fish exciting. Miniaturization and advances in materials make it possible to take fish pictures our handsome fellow in the Kodak™ ad couldn’t even imagine. To think such a picture could be seen within seconds by anyone in the world would probably explode his tiny brain.

Such is the nature of modern life that we can present ourselves and our fish any way we want, any time we want and, in theory, our millions of digital fish pictures, doctored or not, will live forever out there in the cloud. But the truth is, despite their supposed immortality, most will never be seen again.

Old fishing photos have their own version of our modern cloud, consisting mainly of shoe boxes and old albums. Some are as faded as the memories they were meant to preserve, torn from their pages and consigned to dusty corners of antique shops and other such places frequented by the likes of me.

Most of the old photos I scan require a certain amount of doctoring to make them presentable but, no matter how much I struggle to bring out such things as the patterns of socks, there are some things I would never change even if I could.

Kodak print, 1949, location unknown

Handsome Fellow Displays Fish

 (cluttering up my own little corner of the cloud on Instagram)

 

 

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Harder Than Counting the Stars

 

 

“The only thing harder to count than the stars is baby spiders.” — Natty Bumppo in “The Pathfinder” by James Fenimore Cooper, 1840

 

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Categories: Humor, nature | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Even More Macro Mayflies and Musical Mayhem (But Is It Art?)

Some say a well-cast fly line is art. The graceful flex of a rod and a tight loop unfurling is exquisite unless, of course, someone is using their “art” to poach your hole while you’re still fishing it; then those 80-ft casts are something else entirely.

Some say a well-tied fly is art. There is certainly skill involved, getting everything just-so but, from personal experience, I say the fish don’t give a fig about thread wraps or the number of tails an imitation has. There is also the question of “imitation of what?” but even so, you have to hand it to folks who can wrap some feathers, tinsel, and what-not onto a hook and create a marvelous thing of beauty.

I, myself, tend to rely on rough deer hair, bunched-up dubbing, and tufts of Antron® to achieve my results, choosing representation and function over beauty. Some people go the other way, creating as close to an exact copy of a food item as they can produce. Still, even the fussiest among them probably leave out little details in their replicas.

Details like the moustaches of mayflies.

Mayfly with a Moustache

They are actually antennae but their position, in front of those compound eyes and above that (non-functioning) mouth, makes them look like a moustache to me.

Another Mayfly with a Moustache

As adults, mayflies don’t generally live more than a day. There are some exceptions (not by much) but, by golly, you’ve got to admit that they spend the time they have looking good. There might just be some art in that.

Not Around for Long, but Looking Good While I’m Here

There might even be some art in these photos but who am I to say? They do, however bring art to mind, especially when I realize what those mayfly moustaches resemble.

Salvador Dali

Say what you will about his paintings, that moustache is art.

A surrealist in life, in death Salvador Dali has become the subject of a nearly surreal court battle in Spain, with Madrid’s Supreme Court recently ordering his remains to be exhumed in order to settle the paternity claims of a woman born 61 years ago.

Unlike Salvador Dali’s tightly waxed lip hair or the antennae of mayflies, my own archaically spelled moustache is bushy and a bit droopy but, in my own special way, I consider it art.

Not everyone agrees what is and what isn’t art. Some people think The Who were artists. Others believe Johnny Cash to be an artist unsurpassed. Heck, some people even find clowns and clowning to be high art, although I think we can all agree that paintings of clowns are, to say the least, a little creepy.

If only there were a way to combine The Who, Johnny Cash, and a clown. Now, that would be art, even if it didn’t include moustaches. Fortunately, just such a thing has occurred, thanks to Big Mike Geier and Puddles Pity Party:

Again, you’re welcome.

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Neatly Trimmed and Ready for Inspection

Don’t worry — it’s been a very long time since Quill Gordon was neatly trimmed so this post is not about that. This post is about cutting the vegetation on an old earthen dam, something that must be done at least twice a year to inspect the embankment for animal burrows or changes that might go un-noticed if hidden beneath vigorously growing grass and pretty flowers.

There is always an outcry from certain quarters when the wildflowers get cut but the rule is that the person operating the machine gets to decide what stays and what goes. I’ve even offered to help get them geared-up but, so far, not a single 80 year old woman in a floppy hat has taken me up on it.

Before

For some, work is a spectator sport and some folks can watch it all day. I appreciate that not everyone has that much leisure time to spend watching someone else work so, with the aid of my trusty tripod, several hours of work has been compressed to less than two minutes for your enjoyment.

There are a some breaks in the action, though, for things other than refueling or getting a drink of water. The first one, early on, comes as a very nice man shares an important tip about using charcoal grills, having to do with the way Pyrex glass baking dishes can explode over such intense heat.

The second passes quickly and is not easy to catch from a distance so I’ll zoom in on a couple of frames and explain.

A Man with a Bag of Wet Clothes

As grandchildren will sometimes do, this man’s had “accidentally” gone swimming, fully clothed, and now he needed a dryer. Not the clothesline on the porch of his camp, a dryer.

Of course, I was happy to oblige.

Same Bag of Wet Clothes, Different Man

In other words, just another typical day at Fish in a Barrel Pond.

Now, take a little break from your work and watch someone else do theirs:

Yep, that darn Quill Gordon, fishing all the time.

After

 

 

Categories: Humor, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

More Macro Mayflies and Musical Mayhem

As if making the transition from aquatic nymph to airborne adult (imago) wasn’t enough, mayflies do so without passing through a pupal stage. Instead, they emerge from their nymphal shuck with fully formed wings as a subimago, somewhat drab and not yet sexually mature. After a short rest with nothing to eat, they shed their skin one more time, spread their clear wings and join others of their kind for the first and only sexual experience of their lives.

Long Arms for Grabbin’ the Ladies

Random handing-off of sperm packets is probably more like it and there’s no regretting one’s choice, for they all soon will be dead. Such is the life of a mayfly. Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor, nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Macro Mayflies and Musical Mayhem for Your Monday

People come to these pages for many reasons. Some actually subscribe and come on purpose but others simply stumble in as the result of tragic search engine accidents. Either way, many go away confused, some even leaving before they get to the good stuff.

Short-form posts are not our forte here at Fish in a Barrel Pond. A thousand words is never out of the question, meaning someone could spend four or five whole minutes reading these ramblings. We do our best to reward intrepid readers and most posts end with a treat, whether it finally be the punchline or an interesting photo or video.

No guarantees as to word count, since we’re just getting going, but the plan for this post includes multiple treats. We’ll let you decide for yourselves which are the treats and we’ll also drop the pretense of referring to myself in the third person.

An Unblinking Stare

The so-called “major” hatches of mayflies have begun for the season. Some are sporadic but others come off like clockwork, albeit a different clock than we puny humans watch. Intricate, delicate and very nearly absurd, they exchange the drab coloration and digestive tracts of their nymphal stages for the reproductive organs and gaudy apparel of adults. I find them in boats, on porch screens, clapboard walls, and in spider webs. When someone asks “What’s hatchin’?” I know, and not because I’m fishing all the time. Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor, nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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