Archive | April, 2010

No bird for Buzz… yet

April 30, 2010

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One thing I enjoy is helping other turkey hunters. I got that chance again earlier this week when I visited my friend, Buzz Kriesel, in Wisconsin to share with him the opening day of his five-day season.

Buzz took up turkey hunting a year ago, at my urging, and appears to be hooked. He shot at and missed a tom last year and was hoping to connect this time around. I brought my blind, my shotgun, my turkey calls and my 25 years of experience and put all of these at his disposal.

We found a nice-looking area and set up the blind the night before. I knew there probably were turkeys that would roost in the area, so I was optimistic.

Before we even crawled into the blind Wednesday morning, we heard a gobble not very far away. Trouble was, there was a ravine between us and the bird, so we were hoping he would fly across the ravine and come right in. But, as much as he gobbled to our calls on the roost, he did not come our way after flying down. In fact, he gobbled only once or twice more after landing, then walked off and disappeared.

A bird on the other side of us did the same thing. When that happens, it usually means they have found hens. That’s bad news for a turkey hunter. At about 7:30 a.m., we got up and went looking for a new spot. We set up the blind in the area where he had taken his shot last year, then walked to the far end of the property so he could show me an open field where he has seen turkeys before.

And, guess what? The birds were there again — about four to six hens and a tom strutting for the hens. We snuck through some tall grass and brush, then I instructed Buzz to keep crawling toward the bird, while I stayed back to call and get the birds coming our way.

It worked with some of the hens, who swung toward me. In fact, one of them got to about 30 yards, saw me and flew off. Meanwhile the other hens and the tom stayed put. Actually, they drifted away from us slightly and Buzz was never able to crawl in close enough for a shot.

It was about as tough a stalk as we could ask for. There was little cover between us and the tom, so sneaking in was almost impossible. I was hoping that Buzz would go about 25 yards or so and tuck in behind an evergreen tree, then the birds would come in to look for the source of the calling.

But, that didn’t happen. Sometimes, you can call hens in and they bring the tom along. But, other times, they seem to want nothing to do with you. In this case, some hens came in, some didn’t. And, the tom stayed with the ones that didn’t. Still, it was exciting for Buzz to see the birds.

It was enough action to convince him to go back and sit in the blind, which he did for most of the rest of the day. Then, he went back out the next morning. He heard some gobbling on the roost, although nothing came in. Then, around 9 or 9:30, he spotted movement in the woods. Soon, he saw the bright red head of a gobbler bobbing through the woods.

He was excited. Perhaps, he would get a chance to redeem himself. The bird came in, then went into full display. Buzz estimated the bird was about 50 yards away. After what happened last year, he elected to wait for the bird to come closer.

It never did. Like so many other turkeys, it just came out of strut, turned around and went back the way it came. Unfortunately, that’s the way turkey hunting goes. Birds seem to have this invisible line of how close they will come to a hen call or decoy. Once they reach it, you just hope it’s within gun range. In this case, I think Buzz could have made the shot with my gun. I have killed two turkeys beyond 50 yards, and my son, Andy, made a 45-yard shot this year.

But, that’s OK. I understand Buzz’s hesitation. He didn’t want to miss a bird like he did last year. That can be agonizing. The good news is, he has this weekend to try some more. I hope and pray he can have another opportunity. One thing’s for sure — win or lose, he’ll be back again next year. What I liked about going out with Buzz was he had a smile on his face the whole time.

And, that makes his hunt a success.

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When Jesus walked the Earth? Well, not quite

April 25, 2010

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life in year one cover

“Life in Year One,”

by Scott Korb

Perhaps my expectations were too high.

I thought “Life in Year One” would make me feel as though I were walking through Israel 2,009 years ago, taking in the sights Jesus would see, smelling the scents Jesus would smell, feeling the atmosphere of the places where Jesus walked.

Author Scott Korb does his best to piece together snatches of what is known about the period of time when Jesus lived and a few decades after his death, but I’m afraid the odds were against him being able to give readers that palpable sense of place that I was looking forward to.

After all, unlike later periods of human history, there are no diaries to rely on other than the gospels, and the major history was written by Josephus, a Jew who found it worth his while to cozy up to the conquering Romans, and Korb several times points out the exaggerations that make Josephus’ history suspect.

Readers will learn about money, food, bathing and buildings during Jesus’ time on Earth. It’s information that’s interesting enough, although a bit of repetition has bulked up what is a relatively short book here, only 208 pages.

Faith at the heart

The most interesting information involves religion, especially the fact that while there were numerous divisions within the unity of the Hebrew faith, a lot of the debating happened at the so-called upper levels was unimportant to people who lived away from the heated discussions among members of competing sects. Korb notes, “When it comes to religion as it was really and truly lived and things were really and truly believed, the people who seem to have been in charge were probably a little out of touch.”

The most important analysis Korb makes, in my view, is explaining the deep connection between the people of Israel and their religion:

“You cannot separate the lives of the people of this land from their belief in the God who put them there. More to the point, you cannot separate the lives of the people of this land from their belief that God had put them there.”

To the Jewish believers God was “the central piece of history itself,” Korb writes, and the typical Jew of the time felt and understood that God was involved in everything — that “what came from the ground, what lived in the trees, every hair on your, belonged to God” — as it had for your ancestors. It was a belief passed down genetically.

Because of the centrality of religion in the lives of the Jewish people of Jesus’ time, the synagogue was the center of a community’s life — and not just for worship. The synagogues that Jesus would have attended would have served as well as a soup kitchen, a town hall, a hostel and a school. As Korb notes:

“The people came and fed one another, taught one another. The place bustled all week. A visitor always knew he’d have a place to stay. And the Sabbath was hardly more important than the rest of the week. This tradition had been passed down through their genes. And despite all their disagreements and debates, even despite the power of Rome and the culture of Greece, they always had that. Tradition. And the synagogue was the place to practice it.”

If only we knew more

“Life in Year One” does a solid job of helping readers appreciate what it was like for the Jews to have been absorbed into the Roman Empire and actively work at keeping their Jewish identity while under Roman rule. Korb does a great service in bringing that feeling to the surface.

After reading “The Pacific” recently — a wonderful account of World War II in that part of the world, thanks to diaries written by marines and documents kept by the government — I couldn’t help but wish that Mary, for example, had written a diary and that some day it will be discovered in an archaeological dig.  There’s a book I’d love to read. — bz

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No more ticks

April 23, 2010

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So far this spring, I have spent a total of seven days in the woods both scouting and guiding for turkey hunters, including my three boys. Due to the early warmup, ticks have emerged sooner than usual.

I hate ticks — finding even one is too many for me. I have tried various products with success, and I’m always on the lookout for effective ways to keep ticks away. That’s why I perked up when I learned of a new garment made by Gamehide called ElimiTick.

It just came out this spring and it’s designed with a manmade repellent that is bonded to the fabric of the garment. The company says it will last through 70 washings, which is the expected life of the garment.

I have a friend who works for Gamehide, Steve Huettl, and I was eager to get my hands on a set of Elimitick clothing to try this spring. He shipped me a pair of pants and a long sleeve shirt that I bought at a reduced price. The two items retail for around $50 each.

Folks, this stuff is worth every penny. Earlier this week, I went up to Camp Ripley to serve as a guide for a disabled World War II veteran taking part in a special hunt for disabled vets held every year at the camp. I went out with him and his grandson, first for an afternoon of scouting, then out in the woods the next day for the hunt.

We were warned that there were lots of ticks out in the woods, and so I was sure to wear my ElimiTick clothing at all times. Meanwhile, my hunter’s grandson wore standard clothing the first afternoon.

He was picking off lots of ticks — he counted at least 15 by the time we finished our hour-and-a-half scouting trip. I, however, didn’t find a single one. And, I didn’t find one the next day, either.

I had similar results the week before on hunts with my three sons. But, I figured it may have been a little early for ticks. Usually, I don’t find any during the first turkey season in Minnesota in mid April, no matter what I’m wearing.

Now, I can honestly say that this product works! I would love to visit the facility where ElimiTick is made and observe the manufacturing process. I am fascinated by this product and I think it will revolutionize the hunting-clothing industry. With late-season hunts in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, I can put my tick fears to rest and concentrate on chasing turkeys.

I would also add that this clothing is about more than just eliminating the annoyance of ticks crawling on your skin and biting you. This is also about protecting yourself from Lyme disease. Though I have never gotten the disease, everything I have read about it suggests it is something to be avoided if at all possible.

This clothing will do just that. You can order it online at http://www.gamehide.com. There also are plenty of local sporting goods stores that carry Gamehide products. I did see ElimiTick clothing on sale online at Joe’s Sporting Goods in St. Paul. There are two types of shirts, cargo pants and a hat.

I haven’t tried the hat yet, but I’m not sure it’s necessary. Ticks inhabit grass and leaves, so they generally first make contact on your feet, ankles and legs. Thus, those are the most important areas to cover with ElimiTick clothing. I’m so glad to be able to hunt without worrying about ticks. Pulling a gobbler into gun range is hard enough without the added distraction of ticks.

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Catholic position on abortion promoted in an outrageous, satirical, off-beat novel?

April 23, 2010

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Checkpoint cover

“Checkpoint,”

by Nicholson Baker

Back in 2004, “Checkpoint” was blasted by reviewers for daring in fiction to have as its subject matter the possibility of killing a sitting United States president. The New York Times reviewer called it “a scummy little book,” and Republicans used it to attack Democrats as crazed liberals even though Democrats had nothing to do with the book being published in that chaotic election year.

But buried in the controversial novel, and buried in the tumult of reviews that condemned even the thought about a novel about someone “thinking” about assassinating a president — not doing it — is a unique literary argument, and a strong one at that, for the ending of legalized abortion.

If only author Nicholson Baker had found a different vehicle to make his powerful points about the immorality of aborting babies in the womb.

Outrageous main subject matter

You can call “Checkpoint” alternative writing, non-traditional, unusual in format and way-out-in-leftfield when it comes to subject matter.

What else would you call a novel that is entirely dialogue between just two characters and involves one guy trying to talk the other guy out of assassinating President George W. Bush?

Jay is the nut-case character who has determined he can no longer take Bush’s war-mongering. He’s adamant that the only way to stop the killing — and stop the President from other sins he’s convinced Bush is responsible for — is to get onto the White House grounds and put an end to Bush.

Ben, a long-time friend, gets a call to come to a Washington hotel because Jay has something important to tell him. When Ben finds out what Jay has in mind, he does all he can to reason with his friend and save him from this mistake.

It’s hilarious writing, as off-beat as it comes, with an off-beat topic pursued through 115 pages of off-beat banter. Jay’s ideas about how to assassinate the president are ludicrous, even stupid, great signals that no killing is going to happen. The dialogue format is amazingly conversational. The counter punching of the argumentation is superbly done, with point and counterpoint being made with comic timing and tangents creeping in to add to the fun.

My personal favorite of these — because it is so true to life — is Jay’s little side trip to bemoan the Wal-Marting of the world.

Jay begins blasting Wal-Mart for buying products from other countries and adding to the demise of American manufacturing. Ben responds that his son loves Wal-Mart, that the last time he shopped there he got a really cheap DVD of the Andy Griffith Show and a pretzel, and “there were friendly chatty women in the crafts and sewing area.”

Jay: What were they chatting about?

Ben: Who was going to go on break first.

Pro-life message ahead

Amid all the silliness, amid the rationale that the President has to die in order to stop the killing of both combatants and non-combatants in Iraq, all of a sudden on Page 81 Jay makes the point that the United States won’t be a righteous nation until legalized abortion is repealed.  Ben tries to fend off his arguments, but Jay scores all the points.

He makes arguments that Catholics have been making since 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision. Jay calls “reproductive rights” a huge inconsistency in the liberal position, calls “pro-choice” a fake term, and soundly condemns the use of the word “fetus.”

Jay: Twenty percent of all pregnancies in this country end up being aborted. That’s hundreds of thousands of infants.

Ben: Fetuses.

Jay. Not fetuses! “Fetus” is a scientific word that’s deliberately chosen to be ugly so that the remorse of killing will not attach to it. Infants.

Jay likewise takes apart the argument that abortion needed to be legal to stop back-alley abortions:

“Because there were evil doctors and incompetent doctors, and people who pretended to be doctors but were really killers, who harmed desperate women, therefore we must continue to permit the killing of the unborn? What kind of an argument is that?”

“Checkpoint” may be the most powerful literary attack on abortion ever.

Killed by the reviews

But you’ve likely never read “Checkpoint.”

It’s not a new work. It was published by Alfred A. Knopf, a publishing company that deserves a pat on the back for printing a strange-but-creative, outlandish novel with a message few other mainstream publishers have the guts to put on paper. And it was soundly condemned before it even hit the bookstores.

Perhaps it is outrageous to write anything — even a fictional political satire — about assassinating a president. Perhaps our national sensitivity to the horror of such an act won’t allow this kind of writing, even writing that seems meant not to provoke such an evil deed but rather to first, entertain, and certainly to make political points about the immorality not just of George W. Bush’s war-making but the failure to act morally by several generations of American leadership.

What’s sad for me is that Baker’s wonderful polemic about the sin of abortion got lost in the wash. He may have been wrong about writing about presidential assassination, but about abortion he was right on. — bz

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Letting an opportunity slip away

April 20, 2010

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The wild turkey will humble those who hunt them in ways they could never imagine.

Well, I certainly can imagine because it has happened to me many times. Saturday was yet another occasion for me to sigh in frustration. I was out with my son, Joe, to try and get him a Minnesota bird.

We got to the property about 5:30 a.m. and set up my portable blind. Joe had hunted the same spot two days earlier and had heard toms gobble, but couldn’t get anything to come in. This time, they sounded off again, with some of them sounding pretty close.

I gave them the same calling sequence I had used with success three days earlier with my son, Andy. The birds reacted the same — they gobbled hard. After they flew down, I hit ’em hard with some aggressive hen calls and two started coming almost immediately.

Everything was working according to plan. We had our blind on the edge of a field with the windows open toward the field and our jake and hen decoys. I figured the birds would come out and strut for the decoys.

I was wrong. They stayed in the woods and went behind us and sat there gobbling for at least a couple of minutes. Joe wanted to open the back window and see if he could see the birds. I said no.

The birds eventually continued on and the woods fell silent. With so many birds in the area, we decided to stay put. After about 45 minutes, a crow called and we heard a gobble in reply. Maybe the toms hadn’t left after all. It sounded like they were out in the field to our right and over the hill. I decided to try to call them in. I took a different call and did some aggressive yelping. They answered and started coming our way.

If I had been smart, I would have anticipated that the birds might come back into the woods and move in behind us like they did the first time. Then, I could have opened the windows of my 360-degree blind in the back and position Joe for a shot out the back of the blind.

But, I was so sure that the birds would come to us in the field that I left the blind windows the way they were. Unfortunately, just like the first time, the gobblers came in through the woods and stopped at the exact same spot that they did the first time. I peeked through the back window and saw one of the birds standing only 25 yards away. I didn’t have Joe try a shot out the back of the blind because I thought we would spook the bird.

Unfortunately, I found out later this thinking was erroneous. I have a friend who’s a turkey expert and he told me in an e-mail that he has done this many times  without spooking the bird. All you have to do is close the windows in the front, then open them in the back. He said most times the turkey doesn’t even react. And, even if he does, you still have a few seconds to shoot before he leaves.

I’m certain I will remember this lesson and apply it to future hunts. It proves my theory that there is always more to learn when it comes to turkey hunting. I hope to apply this lesson and everything I’ve learned thus far at Camp Ripley, where I’ll be guiding a World War II veteran on a special hunt later this week. I really hope I can help him get a bird. At least the weather’s looking good.

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Enjoying the show!

April 15, 2010

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IMG_7394My son, Andy, and I had a quick and awesome turkey hunt yesterday morning. We went to a property where I had seen four longbeards two years ago but couldn’t pull them in. I went back yesterday, figuring there might be gobblers in the area this time around, too. It’s a meadow that runs north/south and narrows at the end from about 100 yards wide to about 30 or 40. We were about three fourths of the way down, with a north-facing ridge at the end. I figured birds might roost on that ridge, especially with a south wind blowing that morning.

As it turned out, I was right. We got set up about 5:45 a.m., and within about 5-10 minutes, birds started gobbling. One was going crazy, and was joined by a couple more sounding off on the roost. I started with a soft tree yelp, which they heard and answered. About 10 minutes later, after lots of gobbling by the birds, I hit ’em with a flydown cackle and simulated wing flapping. They went nuts again.

They flew down in our direction and landed in the far end of the meadow, probably no more than 100-125 yards away. These birds just gobbled like crazy the whole way in. It’s the most gobbling of birds coming in that I have ever heard. Finally, after a few more hen calls, Andy saw a head pop up over the hill, then two more. Soon, more of the birds’ bodies came into view, then he saw one strut and gobble. It was very exciting. The birds slowly moved closer, and he took aim and fired as one came out of strut and ran his head up. It was a 45-yard shot and the bird dropped and rolled down the hill.

I did not see the birds because I sat in the woods behind Andy about 10 yards. I wanted to make sure the birds wouldn’t see me. Andy was thrilled with this bird. It weighed 20.2 pounds with a 9-inch beard and 3/4-inch spurs. But, frankly, it wasn’t these statistics that made the hunt so amazing. It was the show these three birds put on for us. It was such a thrill and will rank as one of our top hunts ever! Also there for the show was Andy’s friend and classmate, Jake Druffner, who started turkey hunting last year and is now hooked after watching Andy’s hunt.

My oldest son, Joe, meanwhile, was hunting another farm about 10 miles away. He heard a good amount of gobbling and ended up moving across a field to try and position himself to shoot a tom that was strutting for a couple of hens. He found a spot in the woods and waited for the tom to hit an open spot. He finally did, but the bird didn’t run his head up like Joe wanted him to. So, it wasn’t the greatest shot opportunity, but Joe decided to take it. Unfortunately, he missed and the bird flew off. That was the only chance he got. But, we’re going out on Saturday and I’m going to do the calling for him. Hopefully, we’ll get another shot at Mr. Tom.

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St. Cecilia becomes a music teacher

April 15, 2010

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Cecilia's cover

“St. Cecilia’s Orchestra,”

by Michael O’Neill McGrath and Alan J. Hommerding

“Read this book aloud!” the authors suggest, and, “Listen for the music in the words.”

I took that advice, and it really made the reading fun.

That’s the best part of “St. Cecilia’s Orchestra.” McGrath’s inventive artwork  and Hommerding’s imaginative poetry both create an atmosphere conducive to enjoying and appreciating learning about music and instruments and how they add to the praise of God.

Hommerding’s lyrical texts could almost be set to music. As a parish liturgical music director he brings a variety of music-like rhythms and a variety of music genres to the words. The book ends up being quite a teaching tool about instruments from around the world and how they praise God and his creation. My favorite example of this is the balalaika — a Russian string instrument like a guitar but with a triangular body — that sounds “plinka-plaika.”

The duo does a great job describing musical genres in both words and pictures. The jazzy “street music, feel-the-beat music” text is dropped into a colorful cityscape that includes a bus, a firetruck, a church, a toddler playing a child’s piano, a subway exit, a church, a skateboarder, a street band and, of course, pigeons.

Meet some new musical friends

Instruments we’re familiar with all have their place in the book — organ, piano, guitar and bells, for example. But the music makers and beat keepers from around the world and across the continents that the authors bring to our attention — and show us how they look — ought to help  everyone realize the many, many ways to celebrate the gifts and the goodness of God

There’s the marimba from the Americas and the djembe from Africa, the pipes of wood, stone, clay and metal made by countless cultures and the ram’s horn of our Jewish brothers.

Whether it’s the horns, the reeds, the strings or the percussion, all the pieces in the choir gathered by the patron saint of musicians are examples of how people all over the planet have used their God-given gifts to create sounds that add so much to life and reflect the wonder of the heavenly creator.  – bz

“St. Cecilia’s Orchestra” is produced by World Library Publications — http://www.wlpmusic.com.

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Can’t get enough of WWII history?

April 12, 2010

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pacific cover

“The Pacific: Hell Was an Ocean Away,”

by Hugh Ambrose

Whether you love reading about the Second World War because you lived through it — or like me — you feel you were born too late and missed it, you’ll sate your appetite for a good long while reading “The Pacific.”

It’s the companion book to the HBO miniseries, sharing some content with the video version. It’s also the untold half of the war from “Band of Brothers,” which covered the European Theater of Operations in a similar way.

“The Pacific,” too, tells its story through the lives of a handful of men who served in several branches of the U.S. armed forces, and most of those pretty much the full length of the war.

From Pearl Harbor to the acceptance of the surrender of the Japanese and beyond, this is an exactly researched collection of not just battle stories but human stories gathered often from first-person material: diaries kept by the combatants themselves and letters they wrote back home that were saved and cherished.

War’s brutality never hidden

Reading what happened to marines abandoned by Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines, how other marines survived suicide attacks as they fought from Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, among other island invasions, you can’t help but admire and be grateful for the sacrifices made by thousands and thousands.

“The Pacific” takes readers inside the minds of frightened naval aviators who had never landed on an aircraft carrier but had to not only do that but attack Japanese navy ships and airfields while flying through flak and fighting off enemy planes. These people were truly amazing.

Their stories are told straight. “The Pacific” doesn’t leave out facts like the number of men who left the battlefields frightened into shell shock by the non-stop bombing and the horror of the bodies of their fellow marines blown apart. The number of instances of Japanese brutality to those they captured winds up turning U.S. forces into revenge and brutality in kind.

No sugar-coating here

While the strategies of war that are successful are noted, so are the errors that needlessly cost lives. The flyers tell of poorly designed aircraft and poorly planned assignments. Marines point to ill-advised attacks, weak officers and lines of communication so bad officers are writing notes to their troops on scraps of papers that runners have to deliver.

The U.S. Marines’ disregard for soldiers in the U.S. Army comes out clearly, especially their thoughts about the grandstanding of the Army’s MacArthur. The supreme commander’s flamboyant “return” to the Philippines — wading through the water to the peaceful beach — didn’t play well with either the marines he sacrificed as his forces fled to the safety of Australia in early 1942 or with the marines who hit beach after beach and left thousands of their buddies’ bodies in the sands and jungles of the islands they won back from the Japanese.

Author-historian Ambrose does a brilliant job of piecing the stories of his primarily five men into a readable flow that moves readers day-by-day, month-by-month and year-by-year through the war in the Pacific. You’ll feel you’ve come to know “Shifty” Shofner, “Manila John” Basilone, Gene “Sledgehammer” Sledge, Sid Phillips and Mike Micheel.

What some of these men did as warriors falls into the superhero category. Ambrose, thankfully, include a chapter titled “Legacies” in which he writes about the aftermath of the war, how it impacted his subjects and their lives after the war. While the bombing of the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki isn’t given the treatment that one might expect, it would not be a stretch to wonder how many lives — both Japanese and American — would have been lost had the U.S. been forced to invade and conquer mainland Japan as it did the Japanese islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, where the Japanese fought until the last soldier even when there was no hope of victory. This book will not end the debate about whether or not the dropping of the atomic bombs on the two Japanese cities was ethical.

More maps needed

What is missing from this book — and I hesitate to fault such a wonderful read and terrific history — are more maps. I would think few of his readers who aren’t WWII vets could find the Solomons or identify the islands that make up the Phillippines, and as the battles island hopped up toward mainland Japan I kept losing track of what was where.

For those who have seen or are watching the HBO version, Ambrose notes that the book differs from the video. Two of the characters the book features are absent from the miniseries, and one of the video’s central characters appears just briefly in the book. As the author explains, “While the book and the miniseries share a core story, they are different mediums. Each must do what it does best.”

As satisfying reading, “The Pacific” does its best very, very well. — bz

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A close turkey encounter

April 12, 2010

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It was about 7:45 a.m. on Saturday and my son, William, and I were sitting side by side in a blind on a farm near Ellsworth, Wis. It was opening day of the Wisconsin youth turkey hunting weekend, and William’s first turkey hunt. We had heard toms gobbling on the roost at dawn, but none of them would come in to our calls.

Things changed quickly about two hours after we climbed into my blind. We had a hen cross the cut corn field about 7:15, and that got us excited that a tom would show up, too. That’s exactly what happened. We heard a couple of short yelps behind us, then I saw two birds to our right. At first, I couldn’t tell if they were hens or toms. The bird in front was mostly obscured by brush, except for the head and top of his neck.

I looked for a beard, but couldn’t see one. Then, I looked at the bird in the rear and thought I saw a short beard, which is what a yearling tom, or jake, has.

I figured they were both jakes, but I couldn’t see the beard on the lead bird. I didn’t want William to shoot unless I was sure the bird was legal. Finally, after standing in the brush for about a minute or two, the two birds turned and trotted off.

Eventually, they made a left turn and crossed the corn field. Finally, I got a good look at the birds and saw their short beards. I was bummed. We had them at 20 yards standing still. William easily could have made the shot. We had been practicing at that exact distance at the range with pop cans and William was hitting nearly every one.

Well, that’s the way turkey hunting goes. Unfortunately, we did not get another chance. Toms gobbled after that, but all of them were up high on the ridge, and we were down low. As my turkey-expert friend has said, gobblers just don’t seem to want to come down hill to a call. So, it’s smarter to hunt up high. In this case, I thought the cut corn field would draw birds, like it has the past two years. This time, the mature toms weren’t around.

My friend said that because of the early spring, the breeding cycle is significantly ahead of schedule. Usually, at this time of year, the hens still aren’t interested in breeding, so the toms are in more of a chasing mood. This year, the hens are already breeding and coming to the gobblers and staying with them. Consequently, the toms are very hard to call in. They have all the hens they want, so they don’t need to go looking for others.

The good news is, I get another chance to try for some birds. My two oldest boys, Joe and Andy, start their Minnesota season on Wednesday. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get on some birds. At least, the weather should be nice. That’s one blessing we’ve had this spring. And, another blessing I would like to experience is putting a nice, big wild turkey breast in the freezer.

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Little book for young chock full of extraordinary creativity and marvelous lessons

April 11, 2010

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EE&MM full cover2

“Extraordinary Ernie & Marvelous Maud,”

by Frances Watts, illustrated by Judy Watson

Not just anybody can be a superhero — or can they?

When the Baxter Branch of the Superheroes Society is looking to recruit the next generation of villain fighters, Ernie Eggers interviews for the job.

He’s not brave or strong or especially fast or smart. Ernie is, well, average.

Average won’t cut it to be a superhero, but since he’s the only one to apply, the Superhero Society takes him on as a recruit.

How he does — especially with a sheep named Maud as his sidekick — doesn’t make for a complex plot, but author Watt’s satirical vision of superheroes and illustrator Watson’s cartoon expressions of that vision will make a fun read for youngsters age 7 to 10.

It’s the first of a series by Watts for Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, and kids brought up on Spider Man et al. should get the jokes in both word and pictures. They’ll also get the lessons that come with the story, the simple yet important understanding that they can be whatever they want, even if they’ve always thought themselves to be just average. — bz

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