Pheasants And The Meaning Of Life

This painting for me is more than a picture of a beautiful rooster pheasant. It is me trying to express the essence of something in my life that is significant.

Pheasant, ring-neck pheasant, watercolor, watercolour, art, , pThis painting has been on the board a long time. It is destined for my office. Oddly, I’ve never hung any of my art in my office. I guess it is about time.

Blitz joyfully returns with a bird.

Blitz joyfully returns with a bird.

Pheasant season ended a few weeks ago. It is a time when our dogs get to live their bliss, as Mary is so fond of putting it, living-bliss. I’ve re-blogged her post, because it is also about the dogs doing what they are born to do. They are working dogs and hunting is their work. They are happiest when they are working. What they do is written in their DNA.

golden retriever, hunting, photography

Teka can’t wait for her turn. She stakes out my truck.

I suppose the same is true for me. If I was plopped down in the American West 200 years ago I think I would have been perfectly happy. Engaging in hunting with dogs, friends and family keeps me connected to my roots and more primitive self.

golden retriever, hunting, photography

Teka was born to hunt birds.

golden retriever, hunting, photography, Pheasant

Teka delivers a pheasant to her person, Doug.

Dogs are pack animals and pheasant hunting helps them live their pack experience. The difference is that we are now their pack, but the satisfaction to them is the same.

golden retriever, hunting, photography, pheasant

Teka relishes bringing the bird to Doug and receiving his appreciation.

If I didn’t have bird dogs I probably wouldn’t bird hunt. The pleasure they bring to it is what makes it complete. These dogs have such heart in what they do. Hunting without them would be like dancing alone.

golden retriever, hunting, photography, pheasant

Blitz on a water retrieve.

Procuring food is such a basic human activity. By acquiring food myself, I appreciate the meal much more. To spend the time hunting and experiencing the joy of success with my partners makes me think about what our hunter gatherer ancestors did on a daily basis. Then to have to go through the process of cleaning and preparing this food, it puts me very in touch with the reality of what was given.

golden retriever, hunting, photography, pheasant

Blitz is happiest while doing her work.

When I hold the pheasant in my hand that I just killed and Blitz just fetched, I experience a blend of feelings. There is joy in the success and satisfaction of providing this meal to my family. There is appreciation for the beauty and for what this creature lost, it’s life. That leaves me with some sadness, but it is the reality of life. It causes me to not take meat in the grocery store for granted.

golden retriever, hunting, photography, pheasant

Blitz has a lively pheasant.

The time out in the field away from the day to day activities is a welcome break to go enjoy a more primal experience. There are things all around to be noticed that add to the richness of this time spent.

geese, Canadian Geese, photography, wildife, nature

Canadian Geese hiding in the grass.

This time means so much when spent with family.

golden retriever, hunting, photography, Pheasant

My oldest son, Chris with his girl Nellie. This will be her last pheasant season.

family, sons, golden retriever, hunting, pheasant

My sons and Nellie.

This is also a time for me to remember my old loyal hunting partners from years past. The ones that gave me so many fond memories. Last year was Hawk’s last season only we didn’t know it at the time. He should have had many more pheasants to retrieve. We miss him very much. Mary posted about him a while back, Her Papa’s Eyes.

golden retriever, hunting, photography

Hawk during his last pheasant season. An old hunting partner remembered.

We lost a dear canine member of our family today. Tom-dog you were loved very much. I’m reblogging this post by my wife, Mary. I don’t have anything to add to this today.

Sneaking Bliss

Golden Bo Thomas SH WCX“Our animals shepherd us through certain eras of our lives. When we are ready to turn the corner and make it our own…they let us go.” Author Unknown

We knew this day was coming. The average lifespan of a retriever is 10 years. Tom-dog was 14 years, 8 months when we said good-bye today.

He came home to our youngest son many years ago and was the grand-pup of our first retriever. In the learning hands of a growing boy he was trained into an outstanding hunter and companion.

When his boy grew to manhood, left for college, got married and started his family, Tom stayed with us.  In the years that have followed, this magnificent family member has been greeted by 3 rowdy grandkids that he loved dearly.
Tom-dog always loved kids. It is only fitting that Tom-dog’s grand-pup, Jake, now resides with Tom-dog’s first person and family.

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The Concrete Jungle

San Francisco

I was in the concrete jungle of San Francisco today.  It was a cool gray day with lots and lots of folks.  I looked at the dense pack living conditions of the big city and I missed all the space I have in my normal life.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I understand a lot of people love living in the city.  Different strokes for different folks and all of that.  However, a trip to SF makes me appreciate my daily contact with nature.  At my home and at my work.  It is a blessing to be sure.  It seems to me that the people in the big cities must feel disconnected from nature in a way that makes a person want to protect, treasure and guard it.  I think that experiencing it in this way doesn’t leave many people with a true understanding of nature.  At a very basic level I wish that everyone had to go out hunt, kill, clean, cook and eat an animal.  Honestly I believe people would have a greater appreciation of their daily sustenance.

Mandrill at the San Francisco Zoo.

In my firefighter days, many years ago, I worked with a fellow from SF.  He had never left the city before to spend any meaningful time in a rural environment.  He was a very capable guy and after we left our fire training camp I was stationed in Redding and he in Ogo.  Ogo was a fire station West of Redding and was well known for it’s great population of rattlesnakes.  A few days later, both our crews responded to the same fire.  He seemed a little tired, but otherwise in good spirits.  About two weeks later the Redding crew was on a fire with the Ogo crew again, but I didn’t see my friend.  I ask about him.  His other crew members told me he hadn’t been sleeping well because it was too quiet at night, but when the coyotes would howl in the middle of the night he would fly out of bed in a panic.  After about ten days he couldn’t take it anymore.  He packed up and went home.  I never saw him again and the old Ogo Fire Station is long gone.  He never took the time to get comfortable in that setting.  It was sad, but maybe I would have trouble making the same adjustment to living in the city.

I saw this log truck rolling through the Bay Area. Just a little reminder of where wood comes from.

I wish folks from the cities in California trusted our land managers more.  The people I work with love nature as much as anyone and take great pride in the job they do.  Instead, in a time when the science and technology have reached a point that we can accomplish amazing things in the woods, politically we are forced to do a more and more mediocre job by trying to create conditions where no one can make a mistake.

Unfortunately, the desire protect the natural environment by stopping land management is resulting in loving our forest to death.  Death by uncontrollable fires and bark beetle epidemics.  People need to view land management as a tool to improve our forests where people are part of this ecosystem and not as an obstacle to a healthy forest.


Blaze impatiently waits for her driver.

Blaze rode with me for years.  She loved to go to work and hated to be left at home.  When I would go into my office in the morning she would find the highest point on the truck and intently watch the backdoor impatiently.  She would wait for me to come out so I could take her to the woods.  If she could have driven the truck herself she would have, and I would have been left behind.

She was a tremendous AKC Hunt Test competitor and loved to work.   I painted this of her when she was actively running events.  She would sit in the yard and stare at me refusing to come in until I would come out and train her.  In this watercolor I was trying to capture her intensity and joy of the hunt.

A happy girl.

We logged a lot of miles together a chased a lot of squirrels.  Well, she chased the squirrels.  She was amazing companion and I miss her dearly.