Thursday, December 22, 2011

Twelve of Them

                             Some say that ever gainst that season comes

                                       Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,

                                       This bird of dawning singeth all night long.

                                       And then they say no spirit dare stir abroad,

                                       No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,

                                       So hallowed and so gracious is the time.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

                    Discovering the Altona Grange

                   In the Nick of Time for Christmas

   All my life they were standing out there-- out in the country. I used to drive by one of them out pheasant hunting. Those Grange Halls. I had no idea of what they were beyond their probably having something to do with farming. But, sadly, I lacked the curiosity to find out more about them.
   Then, now, old as I am, the recent meeting of the Gold Hill Club was invited to meet in the Altona Grange, half a dozen miles or so due north of Boulder. And there it was, the ritual building, where I learned what I now cannot imagine having lived this long without. It was a revelation.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The New TV Season

                                        By One with an Agenda

   The most extraordinary thing has happened on prime-time television. We had been watching for the start-up of the new series “Hell on Wheels” on AMC-- about the push West to build the transcontinental railroad. Surely an interesting subject, don’t you think.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


  It’s All Hallows, the day to honor and supplicate all the saints at once. Maybe you would call it economical, but It feels good to me  anyway. You have to admit that the Church really knew how to use the calendar.
  Not to mention that it’s one of those Number One days this  year. 11.1.11 Think of that!  Why is it so impressive, Numbers  are  plumb mysterious….  even to mathematicians, I’m told.
    And tomorrow is All Souls, the day for me to remember and think of and appreciate all my dead. Good souls all. They were my  good luck.
   Thank heaven that Christ Mass is on its way. Though I don’t believe a word of it, I am nevertheless  profoundly affected by and drawn to it. I look forward to the Angels’ singing.
    And speaking of not believing in it, we spent early Halloween at the film Anonymous. All that Elizabethan stuff about the Queen, her lovers, and some jerk named Shakespeare.
   A guy leaving the movie ahead of he turned back to say, ”Bunk, right?” Yup that’s it; the film is sumptuous bunk. It’s a fantasy of Elizabethan politics and scandal with a sub-plot of Who wrote Shakespeare’s plays? Well, it’s the old story: third rate poet, Edward DeVere, Earl of Oxford. He’s characterized in the film as the very model of the romantic, post-Goethean artist, too pure, too tormented, too special, too soulful and rare for this world. His life is a longing for release from his suffering in the act of writing poetry.
    A man like that in Shakespeare’s London would have been so  rare as to be freakish. Shakespeare and his fellows were, and thought of themselves as workmen, as makers of poems, and  plays, and paintings, and dances, and architecture, and statues, and music. We forget that our idea of the artist is largely an idol of the nineteenth century. But we enjoyed the movie, even if it did ask us to believe the blockbuster of historical fiction that the queen’s lover was her own son! The blockbuster continues to bust when we are told that their son was no other than the Earl of Southampton, who is now no longer possibly Shakespeare’s lover, but the “secret son” to whom DeVere  dedicates those sonnets of “his”. How’s that for movie making!
    I read that the movie makers are distributing a “study guide” to distribute in high schools, the better for our children to understand the Shakespeare phenomenon.
   Socrates was made to drink the hemlock for talking sense to the youth of Athens. Today big money is made talking pure bosh to students.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fishing Our Flies on Henry's

                             Naval Discipline in the Rockies

   Back then, In a long lost season, when Bill Woods and I had but a single day to fish the famous Henry's Lake in Idaho, we put to sea in the early morning dark. Bill was captain in command. I was an able-bodied seaman and had been detailed to bring a gunny sack from home to tie alongside the boat for keeping alive three fat cutthroats each, for home and  oven.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Good New Book

              AND THEY WENT OUT

 I have just read a really good book. Eric and Libby Ericson, of Boulder and Santa Fe, have joined hands to present the experience of their early lives together when they deployed their courage and devotion to go far abroad in the professional search for oil, but more deeply and truly into the fundamental strata of the human mystery of family. There were the rocks to probe, dangerous politics, strange diseases amid myriad languages-- and the children, “the boys”.
   It is a compelling look at the geology of oil and family life, all of it told in a most remarkable modesty. They never speak for their competence, but we as readers never for a moment doubt it. The book is a cultural marker showing us a model of what was once possible in America:

      An Oil Geologist Abroad: Exploration with Family:
       Bolivia, Spain and Nigeria  1956-1966   (Santa Fe, 2011)

   Built as the Ericsons have built it, their book is that rare thing, a necessary  book. Its subject has rights. It is to be written and published. It is what writing is for.
   Eric and Libby follow one another with short essay-like sketches, one after the other from field to home and back again, Eric looks for oil in structures of unexplored rocks of Bolivia, Spain, and Nigeria. Libby’s hugely devoted effort is to get that family going and make it prosper.

                       Searching and Breeding

   This book, a vivid portrait of an American family at an historically loaded moment in the nation’s life and a submission of evidence, documenting what now seems an almost magical time in our lives and our culture. It is memoir, history, sociology, science, even romance. I think it must be unique.
   The 1950’s --A time, often decried as a static culture of conformity and lack-luster pursuit of dreary middle class comforts, securities, and regularities, is something quite different in this book. There were those young people back then with a fine new, public education for the professions, who were suddenly presented with the challenge to Go Out, almost in a Biblical sense, to do good and to serve.
   And knowing what they wanted, they were ready to learn fully how to do it. They went out as young families to breed and to spread the good news of their liberal learning and vision in the wildest of unexplored places.
    I write this, of course, in the only way I can, as a man who, like Eric Ericson, was accompanied by a remarkable woman, who was at least as ready as he for anything.
   Libby Ericson, educated in fine arts, gets her say in this book of alternating essays. I think it might be read as a text in early feminism. What proves my point and is so astonishing about the book is the balance between the alternating essays. Male and female created He them.  There is not the slightest hint of male dominance or compromise anywhere in the book. The woman, at this early moment, appears as not just an equal power with her husband, but as one who has always been such. This balance between the essays is the balance between souls.

    Style? The writing is good, clear, economic, educated, and self-edited. I would call it, “American Plain”. Some sentences run urgently on under the buoyant pressure of the essential narrative, and verbs, in their hurry, can fall quickly into the passive. But, it is a style with a draw to it, meaning that it keeps pulling the reader eagerly forward with the narrative. It is rigorously anti-metaphoric, uncolored, forthright, and seemingly unconscious of itself as literature. It is just right for its task.
    But, as I write this, I cannot keep from musing on how this book clarifies and gives a local habitation to what many of us experienced and felt back then, at the center of that magnificent storm of education that was the G I Bill of Rights.
   I see a bit more clearly, from reading this book, where that education sent even me, I see that I too went out into a wilderness of exploration, in no way comparable to that wild, big, brave thing the Ericsons did, but still…. Still, I think that many of us back then (I am a couple years older than the Ericsons) went out, in the midst of what was The American Century and lived crazy, productive lives and sometimes left a mark.
   Ours was the culture of science. Even in the arts, science was a model. Bertolt Brecht, a voice for many of us, spoke of himself as “a child of the age of science”. That’s what I always wanted to be-- like Eric Ericson.
    But today it’s all gone to hell. We are threatened with the leadership of those who want only to live private lives of private wealth, oiling their hinges at the public supply-- all the while preening themselves with their religious suspicions of evolution, global warming, and science in general!
    Bad Luck! They, in their particular, are not the affirmation of humanity we thought they might become when, back then, we were teaching them. We had gone out into the wilderness of the future to do our work and look what we got!
    But, I must not loose sight of what we got in this book, a testimonial to what once was and might be again in the human family.

    Christmas, 1945: Betty and I talked of Upsula, but we didn’t go.

Gordon Wickstrom
September 12, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011








Let them be well us’d for they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the time. 
After your death you were better have a bad epitaph than their ill report while you live.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

1946- 1950

                    for anglers too young to remember

   Under correction, I want to make the case that those four short years of my title, immediately after WW II, were a period of expansion in the technology of angling unmatched in the history of the sport. Never before or since has so much happened so fast. So much and so fast that I hardly know where to begin this narrative.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Frank Brady
July 14, 2011

   Frank didn’t quite make 85, but he took off, anyway, down the mountain ahead of us carrying the load of meat. Don and Bill and I stumble along behind and will catch up all too soon.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Seven Is a Natural

                                           MY DOCTORS
                   Therein the patient must minister to himself
                                                        Macbeth  V.iii

    I have fully seven of them, a consortium of Boulder physicians, minding me in my old age. Seven excellent men dedicated to the care and repair of my human body. The most respected of men along with the clergy, the postman, and the man from Prudential-- and, dare I add, teachers-- even if, in the end, they can no longer deliver the goods. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Midsummer 2011

   A few moments ago at 11:16 AM, MDT, Spring closed down and Summer  opened up. MIDSUMMER Now the action of the days and nights will be ripening and the movement:  toward Harvest,  as the  days get shorter and shorter, darker and darker. It will now be allowable, I am happy to say, to think of the coming of Christmas. It's an important day: Midsummer.
   Sixty-three years ago, at about this exact hour, we were on the first day of our honeymoon, having left Denver for points north to Yellowstone for the fishing. Well past Cheyenne in our 1937 Chevrolet coupe, we began to hear that  worst  of all sounds in all the world: a bearing had burned out in our engine, and the piston rod was trying to hammer its way out of the engine  block. We limped into tiny Glendo and there spent three of the most remarkable days our lives. (Read all about it in Notes from an Old Fly Book.)
   My point is: if you must  venture forth on Midsummer, be cautious. There are strange forces  at work.
   I call to mind J.M. Barrie's highly popular West End and Broadway circa 1900 play DEAR  BRUTUS. In it a fashionable assortment of dreadfully messed-up, unhappy people respond to an invitation to  spend a long week-end at a grand country estate, south of London in  Surrey, the home of  the strange and eccentric  Mr. Lobb. Of course it is Midsummer (Why else would I bring it up? And, of course, Shakespeare haunts this play too.)
   Old Lobb warns his guests that they should not venture out into his Woods that night, that it is extremely dangerous.
   And so, of course, that is exactly what they all do. They go out there and encounter forces that  enable them to go back and relive and redirect their lives away from all the destructive frailties  that ruin our lives. The guests are highly  excited and go about changing themselves. 
   When they come out of the Woods at dawn, they find that they have made the same terrible choices, taken the same wrong  turnings, and  are  still as utterly miserable as they were before this Midsummer night. Old Lobb is full of glee. 
    So, I say, Beware!

                Cassius:  The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
                                   but in ourselves that we are underlings.
                                                         Julius Caesar
Betty and I took our chances this morning and drove out into  the country and had  breakfast  at a country crossroad. We took our chances as we begin our 64th. year of risking it. We have the protective spell of Glendo still working for us.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Writing About It

   It troubles me.  I retired from my life as a teacher and stage director in 1991, fully expecting to be close to the end of Everything. And here I am, twenty years later, at this keyboard, writing-- about angling and, as I have threatened, about everything else. I have delighted in the discovery that most anything can be thinly disguised and stuck into talk of fishing. All sorts of ideas can peak through the remarkably expansive and elastic language of angling.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


   My children think me foolishly optimistic-- almost shallow-mindedly so. They feel that they are doomed to a new dark ages as the powers of darkness sweep over their landscape, social, political, and economic. They cannot trust in their intense liberal idealisms, nor their intellectual acuities, and are in near despair.
   My trust, my optimism, they feel is but the shredded, shoddy remnant of disgraced Enlightenment dreaming.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


                                    May Day
    If I begin today with reference to a famous, though now neglected Czech play from 1921 and appear to be lecturing you on it, please bear with me a minute as I try to build a little essay on a seminal issue of our national life. I promise to keep it brief.
   The play is  RUR-- meaning “Rossum’s Universal Robots” by playwright Karel Capek. It’s about how a futurist mega-industry develops a “race” of robots, slave-like workers for its immense industrial complex. Capek invented the word  “robot “ from an ancient Slavic root meaning enslaving, or holding in bondage. The word caught on immediately and was swept up into the world’s languages.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Prayer at Breakfastime

   I was upset some weeks ago when President Obama spoke at a prayer breakfast in Washington. I was upset when he felt compelled to say how much he depended upon his Christian faith in his life and work. I was upset that he felt called upon to declare any kind of faith at all-- unless it were something like this little speech to the breakfasting prayerful politicians that I have composed for him here. Perhaps it will also make me feel better. Here it is:

Monday, April 4, 2011


  In what furnace was thy brain?

   When things are as bad as they are these days, when even good people line up as Volunteers against the basic human decencies, it is useful to have something immense, remote, and beautiful with which to divert ourselves, something to muse upon without any nervous responsibility for its disposal. I need something crazy and wonderful, nicely beyond my daily worries, something that will in the end take care of itself and leave me to enjoy myself and to ponder, however uselessly, the imponderables.
   I turn to Language for permission to pursue this or that obscurity with questions, questions quite beyond the limitations of my mind. But, I ask them anyway. Language bids me go ahead, ask away, and relax.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

HOW IT ALL BEGAN or How a Nation's Youth May Be Corrupted

    It was after morning recess in Mrs. Winter’s sixth grade class at Mapleton School. I remember the moment precisely, when the boy behind me, right in the middle of the lesson, leaned over his desk and my shoulder to whisper in my ear that if I’d take a nickel down to Woolworths at Broadway and Pearl, I could buy this fishing “thing” with which I could catch lots of fish out at East Dagues Lake.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Another Old Hymn on the Social Network

“I love to tell the story of unseen things above
because I know ‘tis true
…‘Twill be my theme in glory
To tell the old, old story”….
(the same old story)

    My, how we did sing that hymn in church of a Sunday!  …”of unseen things above”. Little did we know how those unseen things would become “ the cloud” up there where every thing from this computer can be networked-- with apps-- into a heavenly storage and returned to us with a blessing. And that, they say, is what everybody is talking about.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


    The old hymn rang out with, “Faith of our fathers, living still /  In spite of  dungeon, fire and  sword.” I remember how gladly we sang  how earnestly. But not any more. The old faith has taken blow after blow in the last half-century and in many places is down nearly for the count.
  Now in Egypt the new digital technology, the Social Network, has come fully into its own. A generation of dispossessed young people accomplished in a week social and political change that in the past would have taken years if not decades to bring about. Those young Egyptians left their father’s faith at home and went “wired” into the streets of Cairo to organize a revolution.  
    The electronic instruments they held in their hands turned out to be the  most democratizing  technology since the advent of the automobile. Those protesters were at all times intimately in touch with each other and under the immediate  direction  of a brilliant  leadership.
    Among our ancient fantasies is that of the magic ring that gives its wearer power over all the world. In Wagner’s immense music drama , “Der Ring des Niebelungen”, a ring made of gold stolen from the Rhine did the trick.
    Oxford’s Professor Tolkien  used the idea in his monumental fiction, The Lord of the Rings. We hold that fantasy in common of slipping a magic ring on our finger and enjoying complete power over our circumstances.  But where to get one?
   When I was a child, the “Little Orphan Annie” radio program at 5:30 every weekday evening, pulled us enchanted listeners into the fantasy by offering us just such a magic ring for ten cents and the seal from a jar of Ovaltine. Following the ring-- now get this-- the program offered a decoder pin, all glistening gold, a star, that we could bravely wear and have ready to decode special, secret  messages sent us by the radio broadcast.  It felt like power, to be hooked up in this way to a great confederation of listening kids like me.
   Just like Egypt.
   I confess, I still have my decoder pin, and can still believe in it-- at least as much as I can believe in my childhood.
   So, little wonder that kids, young and old, are fast in the thrall of these new and miraculous electronic devices.  There can be no doubt but that they give a sense of power and  personal magnitude. They proclaim the order of the day’s march. 
   The kids have high-jacked the technologies of their elders in order to realize the fondest of all the dreams of youth: that of side-stepping those same elders into their own new life.
    The final utterance in King Lear is, “We that are young shall never see so much nor live so long.” Now, in my very old age, I can, all of a sudden, see why this moving line of Edgar’s is both right and wrong. The kids will never know what we know--except perhaps in sudden little insights from out of nowhere. True enough. But. I must believe that those same kids may be entering on quite a new world, opened to them by the great E technology where I can never fully play. I think I must be resigned and keep out of the way.
   In a sense, a sense at once melancholy and thrilling, our children will never come home again. And I say nothing about those terrific Rings which always, in the end, lead to cataclysm. Or maybe to a new Egypt. A new Middle East.

Friday, February 18, 2011


                                    Be Advised
   I had accumulated five hunting stories that I wanted to tell, but had not, because they each contain a peculiar, and personal violence apart from ordinary hunting.  But they finally got the best of me, and I invented a third gazette, after The Boulderceek Angler and its twin The Bouldercreek Actor. The third was to be, as you might have guessed, The Bouldercreek Hunter. I sent out four stories in four paper editions of  this new gazette.

    Now, I am unable to hold back on the fifth story. All of them had been as near truth as I could get them, but this last one, the one here posted on this obscure blog, is not a tale of  killing
deer, antelope, ducks,  pheasants, or  grouse. It is the tale of killing a Man.
                                    Be advised.
In any case, this is the end of my hunting stories. I have no more. It’s enough.

The Bouldercreek Hunter
Hunting Story Number Five
The Death of Ken John

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Occasional Verses

        A Eulogy
On Saturday, January 22, 2011
In the Key of flat/foot

Sad old Saturday newspaper,
The Camera all about itself,
An exercise in public mourning,
A cultural draw-down.
Our dear old Camera,
The jewel in the town,
Local, independent, complete.
A real genuine American newspaper
Daily at my door,
The record of my Boulder life.

Out to the Eastern wastes it flies,
Lost and forgotten out there
In trash offices in trash buildings
Not even space for its morgue--
Its library-- that holds all Boulder.
A computer or two now will do.
No pressmen left down town,
Inked and grumbling about reporters,
No reporters prowling the town.

Now a clutch of stalled young people
Waiting for stories.
Poking at their resumes.
Hoping for escape
To a patch site at AOL
On which to grow a career.

Bred, as they have been
On the soured milk of social indecency
Ignorance, violence, and greed,
They write it down,
Spice it with banalities,
Never too banal, of
Flat-footed local stuff like that.

Get the paper out of town!
Those kids taking down
The Sign of the Camera,
To haul away-- to somewhere.
Some day, odds on, to become
A single sheet inserted weekly in the Post.
Claiming a bright new day of
Public service--meaning corporate profit.
Dear old, poor old, sad old Saturday paper.

Monday, January 10, 2011

At The Club: an Over-Seas Member

                                                   Braving it out at The Flyfishers'Club.
                                                           69 Brook Street, London,
                                                                      October 2019.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Transcription of a Paper Letter from One Old Fisherman to Another

Dear Richard,
   Yup, I agree. There is so much out there to make us feel bad, such a variety of things, so much that we cannot change. I guess that we must resort to a holding action; that is, trying hard to keep as cheerful as we can in the face of it all. Which is to say that we must not let the bastards get us.
   One day last week, two new “fishing magazines” came in the mail. I sat down with them only to end up tossing them away in deep discouragement. It felt to me like our fishing’s gone to the dogs.
   We’re bombarded in every field sports publication by the many and frantic efforts to get kids out there fishing, to teach them, convert them, instruct them even in their school rooms. The movement has gone evangelical, impassioned, and frantic.
   My hunch is that it’s all in vain, that these newer generations will never fish as we have fished, let alone think of fishing as we have thought of it. The new “tackle” clutched in their hands will not be a fly rod, but a blackberry or an iPhone. That kid, standing there on the corner is receiving or sending another text, not dreaming of a way to get out and catch a trout. 
    Still the hue and  cry is to get those damned kids out of the malls and away from their devices and out fishing-- if not for their own good, then for the good their names, added to the rosters and the polls, can do in the ongoing politics of sport-- but even more, for the greater good of corporate profit.
    I think the battle is lost.
   I think the effort to convert kids is at root disingenuous. Our motives are impure. At the deepest level what we want is to recruit kids to support the “industry” of angling: the manufacturers, the shops, the guides.    Already the  “industry” is slipping downward on the graphs of our tough times. We look with dismay at that kid walking the mall who carries the entire world electronically in his hand. He angles the world at will and almost for free. We old-time anglers simply can’t compete and can only stand by and wish we could yank that cell phone from his hand. We want him to memorialize that “barefoot boy with cheek of tan”,* with a cane pole and can of worms sauntering down an old dirt road to the old fishing hole. But that kid is gone forever-- as are his country parents. There is no rural America left where a kid can discover the field sports in his own sweet way.
   We have to realize, I think, that for the first time, perhaps, in the history of human culture, kids do not much want to live the life that their parents lived. You and I may have had our spates of rebellion and wanted things different from our old folks, but their way remained the same safe way of life that we knew and wanted for ourselves. We lived within continuity and tradition.
   Not that these kids today know what it is they want instead of what they have, but it clearly seems not to be the model that their parents represent. Going fishing with Dad hasn’t the appeal that it once had. Other social constituencies have come to understand this, but not the angling community in which thinking about social issues has never been a long suit. The capitalization and incorporation of youth as an important market looks to be  total, with the field sports bringing up the rear
   When we were kids, we lived closer to what we could see was the source of our daily bread. We understood what our dads did for a living to  support us. And we tended to respect it. If Dad fished, it must be a good thing: such was the dynamic of our culture.
   But not any more. So little is actually manufactured, so much is only computed in obscure offices that our lives have tended to become abstracted from a productive, work-a-day substantial reality. We become digital in our satisfactions and leave the rest to China.
   And, as if this were not enough, demographics are running against all the field sports; ethnicities on the rise are not those where commonly a tradition of field sports is honored let alone practiced. I fear that we are in the late days of our angling tradition. 

I am, neverthless, yours,

* John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem “The Barefoot Boy” (1885) defined and immortalized this  fundamental American  symbol.

in the collection of Mrs. Claude Albrighton of Boulder, Colorado