Johnny Carrol Sain's blog

The color of March

Spring's first hues are its most brilliant
Photo: Johnny Carrol Sain

Though drab grays and browns of winter still cling to the land, shamrock, Kelly, and emerald are the colors everyone thinks of when they think of March. Even where leaf-out is still weeks away, there’s a longing for change in this month that straddles two seasons. This collective anticipation is tinted green. To my eye, though, the tone of these teaser weeks is a bit more vibrant. It’s also tinged with yellow.

To the bone

We are all caught up in the music, the song is inescapable
Photo: Johnny Carrol Sain

I’m a little squeamish when it comes to eyeballs and brains. You’d think that after dismembering hundreds of carcasses — cutting into both warm and cold body cavities, pulling out intestines, livers, kidneys, hearts, lungs, etc. — I’d be more stoic in the matter. But those eyes, the window to the soul as Shakespeare said, and that gray matter where the soul (or what we think is a soul) resides, trigger uncomfortable emotions.

The raggedy old collar

A story about a dog named Jake
Photo: Johnny Carrol Sain

The raggedy old collar resurfaced while cleaning up the back room. As I sat down on our kindling box and traced a finger over the orange nylon, an afternoon sun illuminated one auburn hair wedged in the buckle. I thought about my friend. His name was Jake.

Red in tooth and claw

Wilderness at home
Photo: Don DeBold / cc by 2.0.

We got our first laying hens for a couple of reasons: free-range chicken eggs taste way better than store bought (it’s not subjective, there is no comparison) and for organic pest control.

A nearby faraway

Standing outside the wood, peering into it, became ritual
Photo: Johnny Carrol Sain

“When I call to mind my earliest impressions, I wonder whether the process ordinarily referred to as growing up is not actually a process of growing down; whether experience, so much touted among adults as the thing children lack, is not actually a progressive dilution of the essentials by the trivialities of living.”

The snake advocate

Catching of venomous snakes by nonexperts is stupid—monumentally stupid
Photo: Johnny Carrol Sain

Serpent encounters are part of growing up in Arkansas. My first introduction was through Sunday School, in the pages of an illustrated Bible, with the depiction of a serpent wrapped around an apple tree. This was pre-kindergarten age. I learned that snakes once had legs and could speak before being driven onto their bellies to eat dust and rendered dumbstruck simply for offering Eve an option. Sure, the option was directly opposite what the Almighty had commanded, but I never viewed the snake as an archetype for evil.

How to save the world

First, you'll need a mason jar
Photo: Johnny Carrol Sain

For seven days and seven nights the rain came in drizzles, downpours and late-winter mist. When the sun finally appeared on the first of March, the golden rays summoned a dramatic transformation. Spring had been waiting just on the other side of those rains as the first wave of tentative green blanketed the neighbor’s horse pasture. Spring beauties and bluets had popped up in the yard while trout lilies glowed like an ethereal promise in the somber woodland behind our home. And from the freshened rivulets and filled forest potholes came the melody of frogs.

The new front in the war on public lands

Congress' latest, shameless handout to big business is one you probably haven’t heard of
The North Umpqua is one of the nation's most beautiful river and is known for its steelhead and salmon runs. 34 miles of the North Umpqua have been designated as a BLM wild and scenic river and this section has been set aside as fly-fishing only (photo: Bob Wick/BLM).

The sellouts are tremendously talented at coming up with clever naming. Who could be opposed to citizens uniting or a foundation dedicated to our heritage? Likewise, who among us dare say we oppose resilient forests? What sorry SOB could possibly be against a bill that claims to protect our woodlands, a bill with that pluck and hardiness, that quintessential American tenacity baked right into the label — the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017, AKA H.R.2936, 115th Congress?

Me. I’m the sorry SOB opposed to it. And you should be as well.

I don't like the word sportsman

It's a primal thing, not a sport
Photo: Ray Gadd

Bullfrog tadpoles are big, easily fat as my thumb and a little longer. They’re obvious while resting on a pond’s mud flat or among the rocks in a tumbling creek. They wear the typical cryptic olive-brown camouflage you’d expect to see on an aquatic creature that can easily slide down any number of gullets, but their sheer size makes them conspicuous, or at least to me it does. I don’t see how any green heron or kingfisher could ever miss them.They look like plump, lazy little morsels, easily captured by even the sloppiest of attempts.

But they ain’t.


This is not where you put a massive, manure-spewing industrial hog farm
The Buffalo River (photo: Johnny Carrol Sain).

I’d lamented about rained-out local creek smallmouth fishing all summer long. High water had made fish tough to find and often posed a wading hazard. But just an hour’s drive north of my home, the crystalline cool flows of the Buffalo National River resembled something closer to normal summer conditions. Ever since the fly rod — an elegant tool for a more civilized angler — found its way to my hand last fall, I’d dreamed of a trip to the iconic Buffalo River.


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