Archive for July, 2016

All about The RCRGWD&OTTBA

Written by Jim Huckabay on July 29, 2016. Posted in Uncategorized

Tuesday. It was an off-Reecer Creek meeting of the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association (a.k.a. RCRGWD&OTTBA). On the floor were several items of outdoor and community interest, including, but not limited to, current eastern Washington fire danger and related camp use restrictions, the proposed – and likely upcoming – WDFW fishing and/or hunting license fee increases, the relatively quiet status of wolves across the state lately, proposed and pending road closures on the public ground around Paradise, and a question about how soon members would see Kevin Clements’ report on our recent trip to South Africa. Then there was New Guy and all his questions about what it would take to become a fully-vetted member of our little think tank.

We pretty quickly moved through the road access questions, encouraging members to spend some time with the online materials for both the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest road planning efforts and the Naneum Ridge to Columbia Recreation and Access Plan, and respond as needed. The license fee increases are being pretty widely discussed across the state, with our next public opportunity to hear about them coming next Wednesday (5:30 to 7:30) at the Selah Civic Center. Several members committed to attend. Somewhere in there, someone moved that RCRGWD&OTTBA publicly thank all involved in fire safety across the West, and acknowledge the kindness, courage and hard work of the hundreds of local and regional firefighters helping bring our wild land fires under control, and reach out in all ways possible to help those suffering from wildfires. In the middle of debate over wording, New Guy’s questions derailed that conversation.

Given that his questions were the same ones we get regularly get when the subject of our little think tank comes up, members all piled on with answers. Allow me to summarize members’ responses here.

Our name? Well, it reflects the geographic location of the inspiration that led to creation of our think tank. Our founders (we mostly agree there were three of us) sat on the east (or maybe west) bank of Reecer Creek, cooling down with iced malt beverages on a hot July evening late last century.

Our purpose? We organized around a commitment to solve most of the problems facing the World, America, Washington State and Paradise at that time. Our goals included: peace and understanding among all the world’s religions and ethnic groups by 2014 (now extended to 2020); ending world hunger by 2012 (reset to 2021); developing SUVs which last for twenty years, operate pollution-free for pennies a mile and will not allow themselves to be driven across a fragile environment (currently under development); increasing local hay production for export, while returning salmon and steelhead to full runs by 2015 (this is looking more and more like a climate-control issue); and lifting the quality of local outdoor discourse – at which we are having some success.

Habitat? We work for habitat so that our children’s great-grandchildren will know fish and wildlife. We recognize that all living creatures share this planet and this life together, and we want young people to see that they don’t own land as much as it owns them, so that future generations might have less to fight over. (Honestly, we still are not sure just what that means, but it was brought up and approved during an early meeting at the Tav, so…)  We support the breeding of hunting dogs as loving and strong and smart as my Lab Freebe the WonderDog (but not as gassy in a duck blind or car).

Bylaws? Sure.

  • Meetings automatically call to order whenever two or more gather to talk about the outdoors or wildlife or hunting or fishing or whatever – it depends on attitude, time of day, and who’s paying. When you agree to support our purpose and goals you become a life member.
  • We have standing subcommittees for kids’ education, publicity, accuracy in media, science education and poker. Ad hoc subcommittees may form at any moment to handle suddenly urgent issues. I am hesitant to name any of these (or the men and women serving on them), for a variety of reasons, but all members expect to serve on one or another.
  • All members are required to obtain at least one free meal a month. Additionally, board members, to retain their positions, must score two free malt beverages per fortnight.

Funding? We don’t have a funding source or plan. Nobody in the state seems to have one. We do, occasionally, have a successful poker game or pass the hat if our checks haven’t arrived.

Agenda? We haven’t figured out who handles the agenda. Any member may handle it, and put any pet issue before any meeting he or she calls. Sometimes, someone takes notes.

We informed New Guy that he is now a member. “But next time,” we suggested, “please bring refreshments.”

We then finally returned to our motion – made and seconded – to acknowledge and thank firefighters and encourage outreach from all members. Motion carried on a unanimous vote.

After a brief explanation of Kevin’s determination to properly and accurately reflect our African adventure, members were prepared to wait for another week of so for his report.

Meeting adjourned.

Boomer and The Little 20 Go To Africa

Written by Jim Huckabay on July 22, 2016. Posted in Uncategorized

Somewhere around three decades ago, I was the Education Director for the Denver Chapter of Safari Club International. That meant I had a fund for supporting kids’ outdoor camps and for workshops for public school teachers interested in using habitat and wildlife management modules in their classrooms. It also meant that I regularly met with ed directors from other chapters across North America to develop new approaches to outdoor and wildlife education.

One of the directors with whom I regularly crossed paths was a man (Bill, as I recall) from a Florida chapter. He owned a rather large construction company with somewhere around 1800 employees, but that is another story. What struck me about the man was that he traveled with his hunting rifle to every SCI education directors’ meeting – no matter what time of year or where in the country we were meeting. At one point, I asked him about the habit. Bill looked at me and smiled, “Well, you just never know when there might be something to hunt. Mostly, though, this rifle has been my trusted friend for 50 years. If you don’t respect and honor your friends – keep ‘em close – they might not be there when you need them.”

Bill popped into my mind a year or so ago, when Kevin Clements asked me if we ought to take our own firearms with us on our July, 2016, jaunt to South Africa. During my first couple trips to hunt with Safari Afrika and friends Richard and Ruth Lemmer, I had used Richard’s rifles.

Kevin wanted to hunt birds along with a couple antelope. Sounded like fun to me. On our two lists were critters like warthogs, bush pigs, impala, blue wildebeest, blesbok, mountain reedbuck and klipspringer. The birds on those lists included francolin partridge, guinea fowl, mourning doves, Eurasian ring-neck doves and rock pigeons. It just made sense to take our own firearms.

Funny thing, my 7mm Remington Magnum Savage (aka Boomer) has been my trusted friend for 52 years. My little Charles Daly over-under 20-gauge has been my favorite shotgun almost as long. How could I not take them with?

Kevin would bring his 7mm mag, as well, and a sweet little side-by-side 20-gauge double.

That settled, we began the process of chasing the paper needed these days to move firearms into another country – and to make certain they could come back home with us. I took these same two firearms to Spain in the mid-1980s, but we live in a very different world today.

We shopped our airline tickets carefully, making certain not to fly our firearms through certain cities or countries and not with airlines which make it difficult for one to carry personal sporting firearms. After calls and talks with friends, and poring over flight schedules and fares, we settled on Emirates Air.

The first “firearms” step was easy. I made an appointment with the customs officer at Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake. At the appointed time, I carried Boomer and The Little 20 into the customs office, where the officer compared serial numbers, manufacturers, and calibers to the information I gave him. He typed out a couple copies of Customs and Border Protection Form 4457, signed them (as did I), stamped them with an official looking red stamp and handed them to me. I paid my few bucks and came back home. The 4457 is not kept by customs, it simply verifies my ownership.

Sometime in the couple months before leaving the US, Ruth and Safari Afrika sent us an Invitation Letter, inviting us to come hunt in South Africa with them. She also sent copies of South African Police Service Form 520 – Temporary Firearm Import Permit Application – which we were to fill out, but not sign until we checked with the police at the Johannesburg Airport.

At the proper time prior to our flight, we filled out the proper Emirates Group Security forms (firearms ID and ammo weight and number) and submitted them with passport copy, 4457 copy, and the invitation letter from Ruth to Emirates Air. We then received back from Emirates a copy of our Firearms, Weapons and Ammunition Declaration which we would sign and hand to the Emirates agent when we checked in for our flight.

After all that was carefully and properly handled, we checked in our baggage, and our firearms and rifle ammo (shotgun ammo awaited us in Africa) were weighed and tagged. We were quickly and pleasantly led to a secure examination area, paperwork was laid in with our firearms, and we re-locked our gun cases. We headed for security and our loading gate.

After a four-hour stop in Dubai and some 23 hours in the air, we disembarked at Johannesburg. Upon collecting our checked luggage and firearms, we headed to the police office for the next step. After signing the SAPS Form 520, and showing the sergeant all of the paperwork mentioned above, we waited for our Temporary Firearm Import Permits. Richard showed up somewhere in there, we got out permits and a very pleasant “Enjoy your stay!” and headed north to Safari Afrika, near Mokopane in Limpopo Province.

The hunting? I think Kevin wants to tell that story. I will say that it was great – and worth the effort – to have old friends Boomer and The Little 20 in Africa.

Kids and Pacific Ocean Adventures

Written by Jim Huckabay on July 15, 2016. Posted in Uncategorized

While chatting with a couple of my grown Hucklings about the possibilities for Westport Beach, camping and Pacific Ocean play with them and miscellaneous Grand-Hucklings this summer, I kept having flashbacks. “Well,” they insisted, “what could we do? Is it still like it was when we were kids? What could we do with these little brats?” Calling upon those joyful days – with deep gratitude that Oceanside possibilities haven’t really changed much in these 15+ years – I laid out a plan.

“Alright,” I said, “listen to the following menu, because some options have changed. Not really, but here you go.”

“On a late afternoon we’ll set up our camp at Twin Harbors State Park, just south of Westport, and get a fire going. We will enjoy a classic Huckling meal of hot dogs slightly burned on a stick and slapped onto buns with miscellaneous condiments, potato salad and baked beans heated in the can. At some point, as the elder and still unsurpassed Marshmallow Master, I will teach the little brats how a marshmallow wants to be carefully browned. If they behave themselves, I will even teach them the Family Marshmallow Hymn. Somewhere in there we will wash dinner down with carefully crafted s’mores, enjoyed as we gather ‘round the Huckling Camp Hearth. We will turn in with visions of crab pots, sea bass (black rockfish), ling cod and salmon.

“More or less early the next morning, we will wander to the Westport Marina. There we will set up a couple folding chairs on the dock and read, watch fishing boats and wait for 15-minute periods as the Dungeness crabs fight over the fish carcass bait in our ring pots. Of course, there will be others on the dock with the same idea. The crabs will be plentiful, and each time we pull one of our ring pots, it will hold a variety of sizes of Dungeness. About every sixth pull, there will be a legal keeper male, and occasionally a keeper-size red rock crab (always a favorite). In between pulls, the boys and girls – the next generation of Hucklings – will find mussels or other shell critters to use for bait on their fishing rigs to catch the little pile perch and sculpins which will keep them laughing and entertained. Somewhere in there, we will visit with other crabbers from all over the country. At lunch time somebody will take the brats into town for a bite to eat and one of those 150 flavors of ice cream you guys always wanted. By the end of the day we will have three or four crabs large enough to keep, and plenty of stories to tell.

“After steaming and icing our crab, and another gourmet meal of hot dogs chased down with s’mores, the fire will burn down and we will turn in early.

‘The next morning well before daylight we will be on Captain Don Davenport’s Ranger heading up the coast under a perfect sky and on a smooth ocean. After a nice ride, we will be off the coast from Moclips, dropping lines. Our bait will settle into the midst of thousands of hungry black sea bass and lings, as dozens of sea lions on the big sea stacks bark and growl their welcome. Now and again, one or two will swim around the boat, chatting loudly in their north-coast dialect, but they will never interfere with our fishing. We will fill our limits and head for the harbor. What a great day!”

“That evening, we’ll catch a few more crabs, steam them up and enjoy another gourmet meal of stick-roasted hot dogs and s’mores around the Huckling Hearth.

“The next day, we’ll hang out in the Marina and Westport, catch more crabs, do a little reading, relaxing and ice cream eating and find our way back to camp. The kids can go play on the beach while we prepare another gourmet meal and steam up a few more crabs. We’ll turn in early, because the following morning we’ll be back on the Ranger, waiting for daylight as we cruise out to Captain Don’s favorite salmon grounds.

“I will probably catch the first salmon – likely a 25 or 30 pound king – right after we start fishing. Soon, however, the kids will be hooked up and laughing and terrified as they make laps around the boat trying to get their salmon in. They’ll catch and release wild salmon and catch a few keepers. The day will go like that until we all have limits and turn toward port. We’ll see sharks and catch a few odd fish nobody ever heard of and it will be another great day. After we dock, we may go back to camp and play on the beach or some of you may go beach it while others of us stay and catch more crabs.

“After another gourmet camp meal and s’mores, we’ll turn in. The next day, we’ll come back over the Cascades to Paradise and relax a bit. Maybe I’ll take the kids to the Army’s Yakima Training Center to fish that loaded kids’ pond.”

“Well, whadya think?” I asked.

“We’re already packing the van,” they replied.

You gotta love summer at the ocean.

Those #$?! Starlings – Still and Forever

Written by Jim Huckabay on July 8, 2016. Posted in Uncategorized

The little house sparrow was smart, or lucky, enough to build her current nest up under a spot over our deck which was too tight for the starlings to raid. Thus she and hubby have had a relatively peaceful time of rearing youngsters this spring.

That, however, has done nothing to discourage those @#!? starlings from swarming our cherry trees and about anything else they could find. The yard seems to be entertaining more of them this year than any year in the last couple decades. Maybe, as one of my Homeys has observed, we just got lucky this year.

Honestly, I have yet to decide if I loathe them or admire them, but they are always captivating.

Starlings have richly earned their pest status. Around many airports they are seen as “feathered bombs” or “feathered bullets.”  During fall flocking (check out or, a hundred thousand or more of them may literally overwhelm trees or buildings, breaking limbs, and whitewashing walls with feces. Stone, metal and machinery all suffer damage from nests and droppings. The droppings in some areas of the country have been found to contain bacteria, fungi spores and parasites, and nesting materials may host a handful of diseases. A flock of the birds may wipe out entire new growths of garden or farm seedlings. The starling has become one of the most costly and obnoxious birds in North America.

European starlings have long been associated with humans, of course. Aristotle and Pliny described them, Romans taught them to mimic speech and Will Shakespeare greatly admired them.

The charm that captivated our forebears is still clearly evident. Even with raspy voices, they mimic nearly 60 U.S. bird species. In fact, the calls we identify as killdeer, nighthawks, meadowlarks and warblers are often the play of European starlings. Their whistles, squeals and chuckles entertain us. Now and again we may actually hear their own calls – the rising then falling “hoooee…” or that harsh “jeeer.”

There are several stories about how many birds were brought to New York City’s Central Park and how many time it was tried before the birds actually survived. The most plausible story I have found is that of eccentric drug manufacturer Eugene Schieffelin, who released some 60 European starlings imported from England in 1890 and another 40 in 1891. Schieffelin was among a throng of Shakespeare lovers at the time who had the romantic notion to introduce every bird mentioned by Shakespeare into this part of the world. Skylarks, song thrushes and others failed, but starlings’ success is history – and often used as an example of how noble intentions can become disasters when folks mess with nature.

The first confirmed flock reached the Front Range of the Rockies in February 1937. By 1950, they were in Paradise and along the Pacific itself. In 100 years, those 100 birds became 200 million – a third of the world’s starling population.

Starlings are well suited to making more starlings, too. They will lay their four to six inch-plus eggs (pale bluish or greenish white with some brown marking) in a nest in any handy birdhouse or cavity, even if occupied – letting other birds rear their young. Once chicks are feathered, since they resist most any parasite, in most any concentration; more starlings reach adulthood than almost any other cavity-nesters.  They are eating machines; five youngsters may require nearly 300 feeding trips a day. Bachelor males often help out with feeding chores, and guard nests while parents are away. Males may father three broods a year.

The bird is better able to survive winter (and hunt more efficiently year-round) than others, with a bill designed to pry open and separate vegetation. Further, as the bill opens, the eyes move forward, toward each other, providing binocular vision, likely aiding in finding insects and larvae hidden in vegetation.

The Science Education Subcommittee of the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association requires the following. Its scientific name is Sturnus vulgaris. It is blackbird-sized, six inches long, reddish-brown breast, and brown back (winter plumage is speckled). It has a blue-black head and long yellow bill during the breeding season into summer, turning dark brown the rest of the year. It lives everywhere (city parks, farms, suburbs) and eats fruits, berries, seeds and insects. (Everything you ever wanted to know about starlings is at

These are highly prolific non-native, non-game, non-protected birds. Given that status, starling nests and eggs are destroyed, the birds are shot, and flocks of up to a million are treated to loud noises and/or poisoned. Many of those huge nesting flocks are bombed, or sprayed, with soapy water (thus dissolving feather oils, so they die of hypothermia). If they particular vex you, check out DFW’s, for actions you might take – note, though, that however vexed you may be, starlings are not even in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s top 15 pest species.

Best of luck. From now into winter, millions of starlings will be eliminated. Next year, there will still be 200 million starlings in North America.

Happy summer.

Humans, Earth, Spirit – The Wanapum

Written by Jim Huckabay on July 1, 2016. Posted in Uncategorized

Saturday, members of the Kittitas County Genealogical Society took a trip down to the new Wanapum Heritage Center at Priest Rapids Dam on the Columbia River. There, in pictures, dioramas, and words of youth and elders standing in two worlds, is the relationship of the Wanapum to the river, the land, the food and the dominant culture. It is still in my mind.

I keep thinking about The Old Man. He grew up as hungry as most through the Great Depression, learning to scratch out a living. He went to work when his father died – he was ten – and called himself just a “working man” until he went to the other side. He admired people who labored and never seemed to care if they were Latinos, Chinese, black folks or Indians. He loved a funny joke, but as I got older, working around him and other men, I saw that he never put up with jokes based on race or color.

We lived tucked into orchards in East Wenatchee ‘til I finished my sophomore year at Eastmont High School. In that time, our house grew from a capped-off burned-out basement to a full-size house (now under Costco). The Old Man always managed to take care of business, but there was never much left over. I see now how proud he and my mother must have been to have a garden and work to feed and clothe their three growing sons. I see now why he insisted we thank the plants, birds, animals and fish for their gifts.

This was all happening during the time of the Bracero (manual labor) Program with Mexico. My father admired those Mexicans who came every year to work the fruit in the Wenatchee Valley. They worked from daylight to dark collecting food from the trees. They sang. They laughed. They banked money for the year ahead back in Mexico or for land and cattle or a little store. Sometimes he would lend a hand to a worker or a family in a pinch. He spoke of their courage and work ethic.

When he later saw news about inner city race riots, it always upset him. We’d talk on the phone as he struggled to understand why people were pushed to the point that those things happened. “I don’t get it,” he’d say. “We’re all people – we’re all workers – the smartest, best boss the Chinese men and I ever had was that colored man in the WWII shipyards. What’s the matter with these guys who try to make us all different?”

He had a special affinity for Native Americans. I first saw it in the mid-1940s – right after war’s end. We were headed to visit Grandma and Grandpa Minshall in Tacoma. Somewhere over there, we fueled up at a store that sold gas, groceries, pop, souvenirs and all the other stuff such stores sold. In front stood a giant old totem pole; faded and worn, that fierce, protective bird face at the top burned right into me. The Old Man (all of 26 years old at the time) said it was a sacrilege for it to be used like that.

That totem, he told me, held the bird and animal symbols for a native person or family. It honored the family’s wild relations – the ones who brought them food, fortune, or protection. Native peoples would carve their images into big cedar logs, paint them and stand them up outside their homes. I remember the one at the store had a giant raven on top – at least I remember it as one. He was not a religious man, but he put great stock in honoring the food and protection that Earth and Spirit provided. He was kindred spirit to others who did, also.

When he was working on Rock Island Dam, he now and again crossed paths with Indians whose lives and history were tied to the Columbia. He asked about traditional ways and lives. He later passed on a well-paying job building the dam at The Dalles. We were broke, but it would flood Celilo Falls – arguably, the greatest native fishery and gathering place in North America, and at the heart of vast and ancient Native American traditions – and he said he couldn’t be part of something that would damage the earth, the river and a culture that much.

“People call Indians lazy,” he once told me, “but the earth provides for them. They work their butts off to gather what the river and land gives them. They are always grateful. Never confuse laziness with people sitting around in the pleasure of a simple life with family after doing all the hard labor necessary for survival.”

Last century, I often took my intercultural communication students to the Yakama Rez for a history lesson. Elder Johnson Meninick, would spend an hour or two telling the history of North America through the eyes of the Indian People. Invariably, most students would be quiet all the way back to campus, transfixed by a positive and deeply spiritual view of how the land came to be. I was then – and continue to be – struck by the factual way this Yakama spoke of the coming of the Europeans and the disruptions to a spiritual and earth-centered way of life many thousands of years old, yet with a sense of timelessness and patience with no rancor or bitter words.

Feel it for yourself. Wander through the Wanapum Heritage Center. Read the words of the elders. Imagine living in two worlds, and recommit to the spirit which connects you to the gifts of Earth which sustain you and yours.