Serenickity Part II – the incredible true story behind how we came to own Who-Dey Nick, an English Setter

Nick_On_Point2

Nick holds tight to a bird that’s buried in the grass.

This is an extended version of Serenickity. It includes the full, hard-to-believe-but-totally-true, background on Who-Dey Nick.

Bob was an avid field trialer. He kept a kennel of about 5-6 English Setters at his farm, only few miles down the road from my place, but we never met. Like a lot of field trialers he trained his dogs and sold them to other field trailers or hunters. The the hunters got the ok dogs, trialers got the good dogs, and Bob kept the great dogs for himself. Bob was a serious trainer and trained his dogs well. But Bob was having some marital issues. He and his wife each had reciprocal restraining orders against each other. According to police reports there was history of domestic disturbances at their farm. They were getting a divorce and it was messy. He had moved out of his house and was living in an old hospital that had been converted into apartments and happened to be just down the street from my parent’s house. A person would have to be pretty desperate to live there, each apartment used to be a wing of patient rooms and rent was paid by the week. There wasn’t a creepier place to live in town, but it was cheap and available when he needed it. Consequently Bob had no place to keep his dogs, so he adopted them out to his buddies. One of the dog’s, Nick, ended up with Frank, who told Bob he would watch him until Sid found a found a better place to stay and got through with the divorce. Bob’s wife had apparently threatened to shoot all of his dogs on multiple occasions. Bob’s farm, where she was living, was not a safe place for the dogs.

Six months went by and one brisk spring day Bob’s wife showed up and knocked on his apartment door, apparently wanting to make up. The details of what happened next we will never know, but the outcome we can be certain of. Bob ended up lying in the parking lot with bullet in his head. His soon to be ex-wife shot him the face with a .38 special. After the shooting she got in her mini-van and drove to the next town over. She pulled into a gas station and went inside. There she reportedly told the clerk what happened, walked out and got back in her minivan, but didn’t drive away. She sat there and stared out the window. She was, no doubt, pondering her future, for those brief moments. The clerk called the police. The police arrived at the gas station and Bob’s soon to be ex-wife sat as still as a statue in the locked minivan. They knocked on the window and tried to talk her out of the car, but she just sat there. She ended her own life there in the parking lot, in front of the police officers. Nick and the other dogs were orphaned in their foster homes.

Meanwhile, our 13 year old yellow Labra-mutt Lucy had been on the decline in recent years, and things were looking bleak for her. My wife and I had been discussing what we might do when the time came, and since we have two young children we thought a puppy would only increase the level of maddness in our little household. A puppy was out of the question until our own little pups became a little more self sufficient. My heart was set on deutsch drahthaar because my experience was that they have the versatility to handle all the kinds of things I love to do. Drahthaars are the perfect combination of traits, and on top of the that the breeding and testing regime required to be a registered drahthaar means that the bloodlines don’t get all mucked up with show dog and back yard breeding. So we were leaning in the drahthaar direction.

Over the last few seasons, however, I had the chance to hunt with a spectacular English setter named Tippy. For some reason I couldn’t get her little spotty tail out of my mind. She pointed birds at twenty to thirty feet. Found them in record time. Held point like a statue and had the cheerful demeanor of a Tuesday night at the local pub. She was quiet, enjoyable, friendly, and somehow — comfortable. After hunting with Tippy, those sharp all-too-serious drathaars just didn’t seem like my kind of dogs anymore. I was thinking maybe a Setter was the right choice, when the time came.

Unfortunately “the time” for my old Lucy girl came faster than we were thinking. I entered my vet’s office with the notion that maybe I could have them patch her back together. I was hoping they would tell me that they could buy her a couple more months, perhaps even a whole summer.

We had recently purchased a house with quite a lovely backyard, and Lucy had not yet, in my opinion, fulfilled her duties of patrolling the perimeter and dispatching invasive vermin. However the good doctor told me that the procedures required to restore the old girl, to her old self, were out of reach and past due. The fair thing to do was let her go and end her suffering. We’ve all seen Old Yeller and Marley and Me right? We know how the story ends. We know that the dogs life is 7 times faster than ours. Yet we string ourselves along with the notion that modern health care can defy the laws of the natural world and buy us another summer with a friend. But it was not to be. My hopes were dashed, the fair option was to end her suffering. Its only fair. They lack the ability to comprehend. They know not why they suffer. We string them along, helping them, when nature would have long ago seized the opportunity to reclaim the nutrients locked inside their flesh. In the wild she would have been coyote bait years ago, and yet, here she was, needing us to make it a clean exit. We made the tough choice. It wasn’t easy. It never is.

I was in the vets office on the phone with my wife when we made the decision. I told her I would see her later and was about to hang up, when call waiting rang in. It was a friend of mine who is an avid bird hunter, fly fisherman, etc. He usually sends me photos of trophy fish or a bag full of birds while I’m at work and he’s out doing the good stuff. I wasn’t sure this was the best time to talk about any of that but for some reason I decided to answer.

“What’gs going on,” he said.

“My dog is going to be put down man, I’m at the vets right now”, my voice cracked trying not to sound like a blubbering idiot but failing miserably.

He went on to tell me that his Dad was at a different vet and heard about someone with an almost finished English Setter with championship quality, field trial bloodlines, needing to be adopted. His name is Nick. He gave me the contact information for Walt Nick’s now permanent foster owner and we set up a time to see Nick that Saturday. Lucy was buried by the old grape arbor, near the hole where the raccoons used to sneak in thorough the fence. Now she can guard it forever.

Frank, Nick’s foster owner, was walking Nick on the road when we pulled up to his house. I stepped out of my Jeep and Nick came running over wagging his entire body. Nick seemed very excited to see us. He promptly sat down and waited for me to reach out and pet his head. When I did, his proud English Setter posture with upright head beamed with confidence as he wore a calm gentleman’s smirk. We were off to a good start.

At about that same time as Bob’s death Frank started having some serious trouble with his knees and joints. He said couldn’t hunt like he used to, some days he had trouble getting out of bed. Frank said Nick was four years old and needed a more active home, he needs to run, a lot. Like many of us Frank’s passion was for the greatest of all game birds, the ruffed grouse. He hunted primarily in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Nick had accompanied him to the UP many times. Frank’s other setter was ten years old, and hunted at a slower pace which accommodated Frank’s condition better. Frank said Nick needed to go to a more active home. Nick is a dragster, he goes as fast as he can, right out of the gate. He can really cover ground. His nose is sharp, and he locks up on point from a dead run. It didn’t take long to figure out that Nick and I would get along great.

Fortunately Bob gave all the appropriate paper work for the dogs to their adoptive homes. Nick’s registration in the Field Dog Stud book remained un-filed and Frank had it all ready to go. We went home that Saturday to ready the house and picked Nick up the next day. He and I have hunted together one complete season and while we both are learning from each other I think I will learn more from him than he will from me. He is everything advertised and more. He is still a fairly young and very active dog, but he is a great fit for our little corner of the world. Our house was without a dog for a grand total of about 4 days and nights, but those were four long days and nights. To some this might not seem like long enough to grieve.

To some it might seem cavalier and frought with indifference towards our recently departed dear friend. But the void in our house without old Lucy-girl was cavernous.  I wasn’t sure how it would ever be filled. I doubt it ever will be filled entirely. But sometimes things just fall into place. Some may call it divine intervention or mysterious ways. Some may call it dumb luck or coincidence, but I’ve come up with a new name for it — sereNICKity.

SereNICKity – How we ended up with a cool bird dog, after the death of our best friend Lucy.

This one goes out to my friend Blammo, who’s losing his best friend. I wrote this a few years ago for a regional outdoors publication (one of those old fashioned printed ones) that is no longer in circulation and I’ve never run it here before. Hang in there Dude, it ain’t easy.

Nick_On_Point

Nick, pointing a Chukar, with his crooked tail in full effect.

Serenickity.

I always try to be positive. My outlook, at times, has been described as, overly optimistic, excessively exuberant, hopeful, sanguine, bullish, upbeat, auspicious, propitious even! And so it was, that I entered my vets office last Thursday with the notion that I could have them patch together my 12 year old dog. I was hoping they would tell me that they could buy her a couple more months, perhaps even a whole summer.

We had recently purchased a house with quite a lovely backyard, and she had not yet, in my opinion, fulfilled her duties patrolling the perimeter and dispatching invasive vermin. However the good doctor told me in that the procedures required to even have a hope of restoring the old girl to her old self were out of reach and past due. The fair thing to do was let her go and end her suffering. We’ve all seen Old Yeller and Marley and Me right? We know how the story ends. We know that the dogs life is 7 times faster than ours. Yet we string ourselves along with the notion that modern health care can defy the laws of the natural world and buy us another summer with a friend. But it was not to be. My hopes were dashed, the fair option was to end her suffering. Its only fair. They lack the ability to comprehend. They know not why they suffer. We string them along, helping them, when nature would have long ago seized the opportunity to reclaim the nutrients locked inside their flesh. In the wild she would have been coyote bait years ago, and yet, here she was, needing us to make it a clean exit. We made the tough choice. It wasn’t easy. It never is.

I was in the vets office, on the phone with my wife when we made the decision. I told her I would talk to her later and was about to hang up, when call waiting rang in. It was a friend of mine who is an avid bird hunter, fly fisherman, etc. I wasn’t sure this was the best time to talk about any of that but for some reason I decided to answer.

“What’gs going on,” he said.

“My dog is going to be put down man, I’m at the vets right now”, my voice cracked trying not to sound like too much of a blubbering idiot but failing miserably.

He told me that his Dad had been at a different vet and heard about someone with an almost fully trained English Setter, with championship quality, field trial, registered bloodlines, needing to be adopted. His name is Nick. We went to visit Nick at his then owners house that Saturday. He was a perfect match for our family and he came home with us on Sunday.

To some it might seem like too soon. To some it might seem cavalier and frought with indifference towards our recently departed dear friend. But the void in our house without old Lucy girl was cavernous.  I wasn’t sure how that void would ever be filled. I doubt it ever will be filled entirely. But the Lord works in mysterious ways, right? For those of us of a religious persuasion the phrase “mysterious ways” gets bandied about often. The idea being that often times we know not how the good lord will guide us, just that he will. But sometimes he walks right into the room and hits us over the head with a new chapter in life so amazing and obvious that we can’t help but open that chapter and start reading right away. I’ve come up with a new name for this, sereNICKity.

Since I wrote that a few years ago, Nick has gone totally blind due to Sudden Acute Retinal Degeneration which is a side effect of Cushing’s disease.
So he doesn’t hunt much any more, but I hope to get him out on some planted birds this year. I think he’ll do fine.

What does Starsky and Hutch have in common with Ernest Hemingway’s car? find out in Cuban Soul…

I just saw this posted and thought I would share. It’s really very interesting. I can’t wait to see the whole film. I’m not sure how they can verify that is in fact Hemingway’s car… but hopefully they can. On a side note, I’m not sure how I feel about this kind of idolatry. At a certain level it’s just an old car, like a lot of others in Cuba. It’s interesting, but really the writing that Hemingway left behind is the important stuff, not necessarily the artifacts that surrounded him in life. Like his boat, his cats, or his whiskey (DOH! that’s a Kenny Cheesy album… never mind about that)

Cool story with internet rabbit hole is below.


Featured_blog_CubanSoul

I returned last night from Havana and a week filming with acting-singing legend David Soul (most famously Hutch from the 1970s cult TV show Starsky & Hutch).

What a fabulous experience as we followed the trail of Ernest Hemingway’s long-lost 1955 Chrysler New Yorker convertible, the “discovery” of which I reported in my May 6, 2011 blog post: “Hemingway’s Chrysler to be Restored in Cuba”. Back then things looked promising. Various yanks, not least Bill Greffin of the Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, had promised assistance.

I made several more visits, each time bringing Ada Rosa, of the Museo Hemingway, useful documents such as a CD of the original maintenance manual for the 1955 Chrysler New Yorker. The Chrysler Corporation even offered support.

Then things went south. Killed dead by the U.S. embargo.

Enter stage left David Soul…

David has been a decade-long cubaphile, and the island has held an allure for him since as a boy he became enthralled by Hemingway’s Nobel-prize-winning novel, Old Man and the Sea. On his travels around the isle, David has recorded with the country’s top recording artists, such as Buena Fe and Eliades Ochoa. He also befriended Ada Rosa, who in September 2012 told him of her problem in sourcing replacement parts for Hemingway’s near-derelict Chrysler.

She threw her hands in the air in despair over the paltry U.S. aid filtering through the embargo… and at her urgent need to secure the hard-to-locate parts necessary to restore the car in time for the 14th International Hemingway Colloquium, to be held in Havana, June 20-23, 2013.

Ada Rosa asked for David’s help. “Sure, I’ll do it!” he said, although he knew absolutely nothing about restoring an automobile. Fortunately, as a full-time British resident and British citizen, David could source and send the parts legally. He contacted the U.K. magazine, Practical Classics, who’s editor, Danny Hopkins, got enthused. Hey presto! Financing was soon forthcoming and parts were located and secured.

SmithFly Stream Team Growing by leaps and bounds… here are the new additions.

New_Team_Grid

So after the AMAZING response from my partnership with the The Fiberglass Manifesto for the Stream Team giveaway, we thought there were some more people, in addition to Grand Prize winner Mr. Nick Bertrand, that we would add to the list of ambassadors on the Stream Team.

So without further adieu, I am pleased to announce the new additions to the SmithFly Stream Team.

Brent Wilson – Uprising Blog
Chase Hundley – Feathers and Scale
Geoff Pratt – Global Fisher
Henry Jackson – Flint River Kayak Fishing
Jason Tucker – Fontinalis Rising
Jay Eubanks – The Naturalists Angle
Brian Kozminski – True North Trout
Mike Sepelak – Mike’s Gone Fishing… Again.
Dave Zielinski – The Happy Trout Chronicles
Rick Mikesell – Trout’s Fly Fishing

Please pay a visit to their sites and read up.

It’s all good stuff!

Thanks guys.

SmithFly Stream Team TFM contest winner announced.

Despite the recent lull in activity here at the Fiddle and Creel, I have been REALLY busy with a ton of stuff and the time is really flying by.

Outside of a heavy workload at the day job, manditory overtime, Karate and flag football for the youngster and a quick trip to Steelhead Alley for the Central Basin Steelhead show, I’ve been busy with an inbox stuffed to the gills with responses to The Fiberglass Manifesto’s SmithFly Stream Team Contest.

All I can say is wow, I’m humbled at the level of interest and quality of submissiosn that came in. THANK YOU soo much to everyone that submitted, it’s great to see such excitement and enthusiasm for the SmithFly products. Initially we thought there would be only one winner, but there were a handful of submission that we thought good enough to land folks a spot on the on the team in addition to the winner. So while they may not get the whole bag and kit etc,  they deserve a spot on the team. Look for a post in the next few days  with the details on all that. The Stream Team is growing by leaps and bounds!

Nick’s submission is below as it appears on the Fiberglass Manifesto. Thanks to Cameron for running a great give away! Good work.

The winner is…

SmithFly Stream Team Winner

Nick Bertrand of Siren Flies was chosen as the winner, not only as a fly angler but also the work that he does as a fish biologist.  Congrats.

Angler and Biologist

Here is Nick’s submission for the SmithFly Stream Team…

Dear Ethan,

I’m seeking to join your SmithFly Stream Team for two reasons.  First, I am an avid fly fisherman and fly tyer developing a blog centered on Texas Fly Fishing and Fly Tying. The second, and I feel more vital reason I am seeking your aid, is my profession as a fish biolgist.  I am finishing up my Masters of Science at Texas A&M University.  My thesis is a description of the evolutionary patterns of heterodonty in fishes.  Heterodonty is the presence of more then one tooth type in the jaws of an animal.  Humans like most mammals are heterodonts.  However, this character has been very poorly studied in bony fishes.  My research has shown there are atleast fifteen tooth types in fishes which is immense compared to the four tooth types mammals possess (molars, canines, incisors, and premolars).  Preliminary results of my evolutionary study of teeth shows that the different types of teeth as well as the different combinations of teeth have evolved multiple times in very distantly related groups of bony fishes.

Fish Teeth

I’m sure your wondering what kind of game fish are heterodonts.  Just name a few…redfish, grouper, surf perch, and sheepshead are all heterodonts.  Additionally, my written contribution to the dental systems of fishes will be the largest review of the topic since 1845.  To put that date in context, Sir Richard Owen, who wrote the last major work, literally had tea with Charles Darwin.  The data for this research is driven by two sources.  The first source is active collection of fish specimens from the wild.  Such field work requires a mobile means of transporting equipment from site to site and an efficient way to organize it to specific field research needs.  SmithFly gear offers an excellent means to organize and keep my field gear mobile.  As just one example, often genetic samples are taken along with preservation of the whole specimen.  The two samples require different chemicals and different tools to take the sample.  This means I carry two different tool sets for each task with me on the water.  For genetic samples we often carry many small tubes and keep them on our person in case something unexpected shows up in our nets.  The second way I acquire information about the teeth of different species is to visit research collections in Museums.  Last year I was awarded a grant to visit the Smithsonian and I have applied to visit the American Museum of Natural History in New York this year.  These trips are actually more intensive in terms of the equipment I must have on my person.  When working at museums out side of Texas I have carry all the dissection equipment I could possibly need such as photography equipment and all my data recording devices (laptop,notebook, etc).  In places like Washington D.C. and New York public transportation means that I carry everything on my person everyday to and from the museum.  Additionally I have two more planned trips to make to museums in Texas.  Thus the SmithFly gear will aid in visits to both the field and research collections. 

The modular system your equipment provides will allow me tailor my bags for each kind of trip and organize the many different items I need for my research.  I have attached my CV and photo of some various fish teeth. I have begun a fly tying blog as well. I would be happy to review any gear you provide on here and I could also review it in terms of scientific use in light of my research. 

Smallmouth on the Great Miami

I went out for smallmouth the other day for a few hours.

I’ll never tire of them; probably my favorite fish. They aren’t a thinking man’s fish.

They take a fly willingly. They fight like they are 2 times their actual size.

They are agressive, predatory, territorial, feisty, spirited and a truly a joy to behold.

They are native to my drainage and plentiful.

More should be done to develop their habitat and conserve their numbers.

In short, I’m thankful for their presence.

Here’s a few more pics.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.