Aroostook County Ramblin' from a Sporting Journal Columnist

“Thankful, Not Really”

Thanksgiving is more than a holiday in northern Maine. Just as turkey and stuffing are dining room staples, the fourth Thursday in November also signals the final stretch of deer hunting. Girlfriends and wives in these parts welcome this grand finale with open arms, as camouflage covered beard laden gents roll out of the woods in droves, some defeated, others satisfied by a successful Fall hunt. Still, this dark cloud has a silver lining for most who have spent the last month secluded in the deep Maine woods. You don’t have to hunt long to find something to be thankful for, even if your hunting strategy involves cowering over a wood stove drinking cheap whiskey in wet boots. Beyond family, friends, and good food, Thanksgiving is indeed a time to recognize that life is just and good. These days, I find myself thankful for a stable career, a roof over my head that I can call my own (for roughly $350/month), and a life that draws comfort and success from winding rivers, remote ponds, and the vast forests that consume my daily life. I maybe play only a small roll in this large spinning world, but I will be forever proud that my part is blessed with such grace and beauty.

Poetic prose aside, I have never been too ignorant to acknowledge that the world can be a bitch when you let your guard down. I am nothing if not humble in admitting my own faults and weaknesses, and am certainly not blind to the imperfections of this life; as numerous as they might be. So without further ado, I give you Up’North’s 2012, “List of sh*t I am not thankful for.” Enjoy.

Fish River Soldier Pond Canoe Trip

Enjoying one last river trip in my canoe. Fall Fly Fishing, photographed by Alex Mitchell, edits by Benjamin Rioux

  • Partisan Politics and Fiscal Cliffs: I’ll upset a good many of you with this, so let me get my political rant over with straight away. This will be the one and only statement of this sort you ever read here, so listen up (or go away if you can’t respect my difference of opinion). Our political arrangements are in dire need of a tune-up (in my humble opinion) but America decided that it wasn’t ready for a different direction on November 6th. If most Americans think we can climb out of this hole on our current path, who am I to stand in the way of positive change? While I wholeheartedly disagree with his methods, I hope President Obama and company can deliver on their promise to restore our country and society to prosperous levels. Here’s to hoping I might actually start believing that big government creates jobs and wealth, and that big business is the devil and must be cast away. Here’s to ignoring basic economics in favor of increased spending, masked by meaningless cuts and increased entitlements. Here’s to lowering my expectations, because that direction seems to have worked flawlessly when considering our governments view of the American people. And here’s to all those who disagree, and can’t respect my views. Deal with it, some people don’t agree with our current president. Take my words with a grain of salt, and know that my experience in politics, my research, and my personal views on what government SHOULD BE have helped to mold this (completely bias, but informed) view.
  • Oh hell, politics in general. <————consider this the line drawn in the sand; no more political ranks, sleep well.
  • Fire and Drought: Fire and drought have brought our country (and my small town) to its knees in 2012, ruining lives and livelihoods, and taking a serious toll on national and local economies. Fort Kent lost Nadeau’s House of Furniture and Valley Auto to horrific fires this year, both historic buildings and local staples for nearly a century. Our town is resilient, and thus far has been able to rise from the ashes together as a community. Life has thrown us some serious heat, but we know that things could be worst. The midwest knows all too well the crippling fury of fire and drought, yet people band together in the hopes of rebuilding all that they have lost. Here’s to snuffing out the great fires of our country with determination and good faith. Let the water run clean and clear in 2013, washing away the fires of 2012, and bathing us once again in prosperity and success.
  • War: Our country is torn by war, with fighting in Afghanistan now reaching past the 10 year mark. I have too many friends and family members from multiple generations who have sacrificed so much in the name of freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, with Israel, Iran, and terror organizations across the globe threatening to draw our great country into countless more conflicts, I am starting to wonder where this all ends? Do we pack up ship and move our troops home, or cast costly “nation building” to the wind in favor of an all out pimp slap via drones, heavy bombers, and increased nasty from destroyers and aircraft carriers. Countries don’t seem to remember that our military can make it rain fire on all those who stand against them, so maybe it’s time we show the world? If not, bring our troops home. This slow-moving war is much too costly, and I know more than a few veterans and active service members alike who would leap at the chance to take up arms on our borders to protect us from within. Let the world fend for themselves, and watch how quickly countries come to admit that they have needed us all along.
  • The overwhelming and lightning fast growth of technology: I upgraded Up’North’s technological base this year; a new laptop, smart phone, and various other software enhancements that make sharing my adventures with the rest of you more efficient and convenient. Large sums of money were exchanged so I could keep up with the times, but in this day and age, time moves faster than my wallet grows. The technology of yesterday is outdated today, and tomorrow it goes instinct. I understand that technological advancement is more often than not to our benefit, but I’m not thankful that it will control my spending habits until the day I die.
  • Warm beer (or no beer); Everyone enjoys a frothy beverage from time to time, so keep them stocked, and keep them cold. No one appreciates someone who is incapable of prioritizing, don’t be that sorry chap who is forced to make a beer run in the middle of a good time. It’s the little things in life we grow to admire, and my best friends all know how to keep reserves ready when the occasion arises.
  • Cell phone dependency: My Android may as well be glued to my hand, and I hate it. Well, I love to hate it. I reprimand my students constantly for fiddling with their phones in class, most of the time while I am checking an email or reading a text on my own. The fact is, our changing world has us more connected than what is necessary in most cases. Frank Sinatra sang that he had the “world on a string, wrapped around his finger,” and I’m willing to bet on the end of that string he was swinging a smart phone.” But even Frank could appreciate the simple things in life (beyond fine women and booze.) As much as I treasure my phone, I hold any trip that takes me out of service in high regard. Unplugging and living in the moment adds depth and inspires spontaneous living, and however brief they may be, we can all benefit from occasions like that.
  • Dirty guns: I hate cleaning guns, period. Nothing more really needs to be said on the subject. I consider oiling and passing a cloth both necessary evils, but no one said I had to enjoy the task. Kudos to anyone who does.
  • The death of Hostess and Twinkies: A victim of changing consumer taste, corporate greed, and the entitled nature of today’s labor unions, the death of this American icon in baked treats cannot be blamed on any one entity. Sometimes we need to acknowledge that the blame must be shared, and this is one of those times. The death of Twinkies, HoHos, and DingDongs (sorry, I had to) is a harsh reminder that nothing in this world is constant, and nothing has grown so large that it can’t be dismantled when there are no other options. I mourn for lost jobs and the death of a legend, but I relish respectfully in the fact that this changing world only really ever removes something from the complex equation to add something more dignified and prosperous.
  • Broken Tippets: Back to fly fishing. This season I set the hook on more than my fair share of beautiful fish, but that number would have grown tenfold if my tippets could hold their own in a fight. I won’t throw any company names in the mix, but I experimented with countless tippet setups this season and came up largely empty-handed. My knots all held fast, but my break-off rate climbed higher than American divorce rates in 2012. 2013 will only ever see me fishing Maxima tippet and leader materials. I did the research and discovered what I knew all along; Maxima simply creates products that work best for me in almost all situations. This Thanksgiving I raise a glass to all the trout and salmon swimming in the northern lakes and rivers, with one of my streamers firmly embedded in its upper jaw.
  • One Streamer Left: I will NEVER be thankful for the occasions when I find myself on the river with less streamers than I need to be successful. It seems that every time I find a winning combination, my success is thwarted when I face the harsh reality that I only ever have one steamer in that successful style. I have countless copies of streamers that fail to entice fish, but it seems that I only keep low stock of the streamers that actually tip the scales in my favor. This winter I tie (and buy) more copies of these streamers than I could ever possibly need in a lifetime. They may take up precious room in my fly box, but I vow to never stand waist deep in the river empty-handed again.
  • One too many layers: Why is it that when hunting, I always seem to wear more layers than necessary to stay comfortable? 15 minutes into my walk, I am constantly stopping to shed layers, noisily zipping my pack to stow away shirts and coats that it seems I put on with the sole purpose of taking up space and slowing me down. One day, hopefully soon, I will finally wake up and realize that I run hot when trudging through the thick underbrush of the north Maine woods. That day I will be thankful that I forced myself to learn a valuable lesson. Until then, I remain irritated with myself for continuously making this irritating mistake.
  • The NHL Lockout: Where the hell is my hockey!? A labor dispute in the middle of ass-kicking season? Really? On the heals of an immensely successful Devils season? Really? End the NHL lockout and lets drop the puck, please. Basketball is an annoyance that I could really do without, and football only ever last so long. Bring back the packed arenas, drunk Canadians (if the shoe fits) and slap shots from the top circle. Bring back the NHL!
  • Writer’s block: Death to the days when writing seems more impossible than paying off college loans. 2012 has not been my most successful year in attempting to write anything of substance. I guess we all have our stretches where we feel uninspired and unoriginal, but a year? Really? I seem to be coming out of my slump, and in my defense life has been a little hectic this year, but enough with the excuses. Join me in 2013 for a year where Up’North makes me famous a more accomplished writer, and flip the bird to that little devil on your little shoulder who begs you to put off writing for another second. This will be my year to write endlessly about fly fishing, hunting, life, and absolutely nothing in particular. Buy some new reading glasses you old geezer, I promise it will prove a worthwhile investment.
  • Short Lists: A short list is a lacking list, failed and wasteful in its very nature. Regardless of their nature, assemble lists of substance and depth. Shopping lists, lists of life goals, and anything else that can be written in list form should be handled with extreme caution and care. Never leave anything to chance, itemize and memorize anything and everything that crosses your mind. Dreaming up a good idea is like cooking on a whim; everything might taste fantastic in the moment, but when the last bite vanishes, good luck concocting that fantastic dish in the future. I believe indefinitely that everything happens for a reason, but that as capable humans we create those reasons through making well thought out choices, and taking calculated risks. Don’t leave anything to chance, go above and beyond to make sure that distant memories can always serve as valuable lessons. Write long lists, and follow them until your dying breath.

Thats it, thats all, the end. From all of those who make Up’North tick both directly and indirectly, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving; wherever in the world you are.

Tight waistlines,

-Ben

2 Responses

  1. Pingback: Detecting Strikes When Nymphing Fly Fishing | MidCurrent | MidCurrent

  2. Dale Lauten

    As usual your bantering makes me smile – gobble gobble

    November 21, 2012 at 10:47 am

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