Taking Charge of Your Year – 2020

Written by Jim Huckabay on January 8, 2020. Posted in Uncategorized

Once the prayers, joy, and chaos of Christmas in Denver died down, I found myself in a rather grownup conversation with several of the Grand-Hucklings. A couple of the “tweens” and teens noted the rather unsettled – and unsettling – family/local/state/national/ international year about to pass into history, and fretted that there seemed to be so little that they could control.

“So,” I suggested, “you can’t really control much of anything outside yourself in this life. Maybe, instead, you could think in terms of being in charge of your life and experiences. Maybe just put together a list of things you really want to do – things you might plan, and really do, and toward which you can focus energy… Make sure a good number of them get you regularly outside and on the ground. How many times have you already seen that time outside on the ground helps your spirit – helps you feel stronger and clearer and safer? These actions won’t put you in control, but they will help you feel more in charge of your own life and business… So what do you want to do? Or, what might you do?”

Interestingly, their first ideas were about more thoughtfully doing the everyday chores and activities of their lives. “Well, we already spend time outside taking care of the horses and dogs, and riding and playing with them. And even when we get mad about having to take care of them, we feel better when it’s all done, so maybe we could just sort of be more in charge and think of that stuff as our part of making the world better…” Those simple attitude adjustments seemed like a big step forward, to me, and I agreed with the concept. But what about some special plans they might make for the months ahead?

Almost as one, my Grand-Hucklings started rattling off things they felt they actually could plan. The list started with the two older teens’ spring trip to the Nevada Front Sight Firearms Training Center for a four-day defensive handgun course with me, their Aunt Anna, and Uncles Edward and Jonny. I hadn’t even set our course dates yet, but they were already filling in details, and a couple of the tweens were already suggesting dates – and coming years – for their training.

Then there were a couple summer outdoor bible camps they now planned to attend. And at least two summer fishing trips with some of the adult mentors in their church family.

At some point, I realized they were actively planning a large family trip to Washington – to Paradise – so that Grandpa could take them camping and fishing by the ocean. They would have to get their mothers on board, but were pretty much settled on mid-August for that one. They suggested that I probably needed to get my gear and time squared away before they arrived.

At some point in the chaos of planning, one of the twins stared at me for a moment. “Wow, just talking about these plan ideas seems pretty cool, Grandpa. But aren’t you the one who tells that funny story about making God laugh by telling Him your plans?” I had to admit to one of my favorite lines, then responded with something like, “Yep. But what if that laughter is a happy chuckle over us actually using our free will to take charge of, or better manage, our lives in the midst of the world’s confusion?”

Their questions about my own plans for 2020 caught me a bit off guard. One benefit of reaching my number of life decades is that I almost automatically have years of plans. Let’s see…

The year will kick off with helping Homey Wes Clogston find an elk, just as he gave me a hand with mine in December. Then, there is the new Roger Browning novel, “The Reckoning of Rance,” which our Reecer Creek Publishing will have in print and e-book form by late February.

Before summer, I’ll hang out with my Safari Afrika friends at a couple sportsman’s shows in Portland and Long Beach. Somewhere in there, we will get those Grand-Hucklings trained on a well-supervised handgun range near Lost Wages, Nevada. Then, Son James and Son-in-Law Chris and I will wander to Texas for a spring wild hog hunt.

Fishing will start with spring Chinook on the Columbia River with Shane Magnusson. That should be a good tune-up for an early summer trip for sturgeon near the Lower Columbia with a couple favorite homeys. I haven’t been told yet, but I may have to go to Alaska for sockeye.  And about that time, I reckon I’ll be arranging fishing and camping for the invasion of Colorado Grand-Hucklings.

In late August, we will be providing HAM radio support for the 100+ runners finding their way through the Cascade Crest 100-Mile Run. Labor Day weekend will find family and friends camped near Ilwaco, preparing for our annual tuna fishing trip.

Come fall, of course, there is that every-year deer and antelope safari to Wyoming, followed by armed walks through the hills, sage, and forests of Paradise for elk and deer.

I’m sure that, somewhere in there, other plans will develop. It’s all part of a personal commitment to being in charge of my part of making a settled life on this occasionally unsettled planet.

And, yes, from somewhere way up there, I do hear a very deep, loving, chuckle.

Here’s to 2020!

Family Handgun Shooting at Front Sight

Written by Jim Huckabay on December 18, 2019. Posted in Uncategorized

A time back, Edward and I planned another trip to the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute between Pahrump and Lost Wages, Nevada. This time, his sister Anna and younger brother Jonny would be joining us for our Four-Day Defensive Handgun Course. We picked a Friday through Monday class set to start a week and a half ago. I set about arranging transportation, lodging and ammo (our only costs as lifetime members of the Institute). Anna and I would fly into Lost Wages from Houston and SeaTac, respectively. Jonny would fly from Denver to Los Angeles to meet up with Edward. We would assemble at our hotel in Pahrump Thursday evening.

As it turned out, Edward was called back for another day of shooting on a new TV show – a 911 spinoff – and would miss the first day of our class. Jonny then caught a bus and three of us somehow connected in Vegas. Edward joined us a day late, thus unable to partake in the shooting and instruction. Anna, Jonny and I were the family’s active students.

At 6:15 a.m. Friday morning, we drove onto Front Sight ground, in the desert between Las Vegas and Pahrump. Anna and Jonny had a bit of handgun handling experience, but nothing like the more formal, rigorous, and great fun family adventure to come.

After check-in, gun inspection and ammo pickup, we joined other like-minded men, women and youngsters in the classroom for welcome, orientation, introductions, and signing of various releases. We then assembled at the ranges to which we were assigned.

Twenty-six of us (most new, some previous students) moved out to Range 3, to meet our Rangemaster Cope and his training team. Our cohort included a group of nine family and friends, a family of six (a 12-year-old boy, two teenage sisters, a young adult brother and both parents), a family of four with young adult brother and sister, two husband-wife couples, and my gang.

Our instructors explained the skills we were to gain, starting with safely loading/unloading, chamber checks, and presenting (drawing) our guns from the holster. We would be in two relays of 13 – alternating shooting and coaching. Jonny was teamed with Don, a very skilled mid-40s guy, and Anna was my partner. Silhouette targets would be shot from 3, 5, 7, 10 and 15 yards.

The course involves a lot of shooting, of course, under the watchful eyes of our Front Sight team – some 650 rounds over the four days. However, it also involves several critically important presentations and discussions about aspects of gun ownership and use. After our Day 1 lunch, we examined legal liability issues, and heard a lecture on levels of mental awareness (finding an always-alert mindset).

After that it was safety discussion, skills review, “dry practice” (handling and presenting an unloaded firearm), more on dealing with types of malfunctions and reloads, and shooting from various distances. After each shooting round, we examined targets, got coaching and taped holes. The last hour was a lecture on moral and ethical decision-making in using deadly force.

Days 2 and 3 started at 7:30 with supervised dry practice, then skills review and live ammo practice. Timing was introduced to our shooting. After-lunch discussions covered hearing protection, criminal and civil liability, and proper behavior after presenting a gun in public or actually shooting, and the tactical movement principles involved in clearing a home. Work on safety skills and shooting filled out both days, with each student given an opportunity to practice clearing a mock house with shooters.

Day 4 started with supervised dry practice, then prep for the timed skills test over all the skills practiced and learned. The test led us to lunch, after which we worked on dealing with multiple assailants, decision-making in the chaos of gunfire, and an exercise involving precise shooting of our final six shots. After a bit of frustration over several inconsistent shooting rounds, those six rounds were my best of the course. (Whew…)

It is easy to describe our daily schedule. It’s another thing to describe the rich pleasure of safe and accurate shooting among all those family members coaching and encouraging, as each became more skilled and confident. In our group, Anna was a great coach and a fine shot, Jonny was a top three graduate, and Edward supported us all. (Who raised these guys, anyhow?)

We worked with a well-tuned Front Sight team. Rangemaster Cope and every coach or employee we met was skilled, professional, supportive and smiling. (If you want to know more, Gary Brown at 509-607-0084 can help you figure out how to get involved with your own Front Sight.

In our cohort, by the way, we had one distinguished graduate (perfect score on the skills test), five graduates skilled enough to qualify for advanced handgun training and 20 of us skilled enough to earn certificates of achievement.

This experience is not about knowing how to grab a handgun and start shooting. It’s about having enough confidence and presence of mind to take in an entire situation and make a conscious decision about whether or not to turn to that handgun, knowing that you have the skills and knowledge to use it properly, if necessary. It’s about confidence. Wisdom. Training.

Gang Hunting – for the Perfect Christmas Tree

Written by Jim Huckabay on December 11, 2019. Posted in Uncategorized

You may have heard, or read, that a shortage of Christmas trees across the country is driving prices up significantly. There are several reasons for the shortage, starting with the major effects of the 2008 recession and ending with recent drought and forest fires. During that recession, a big drop in sales led to prices so low that tree farmers were selling their suddenly-overabundant yule trees for less than the cost of growing them. That led to fewer trees being planted and – now – fewer trees available across the country.

We in Washington, of course, are luckier that most regions of the country. We are surrounded (almost) by “perfect” trees, and the cutting permits are only a fin (half a sawbuck) each. This is a perfect year to start a new tradition or add onto an existing one. If you and your family generally purchase a tree, why not plan a family fresh air excursion into the National Forest ground around us? If you already make that annual family tree hunt, why not plan to include a neighbor – or the whole neighborhood – on a Community Christmas Tree Hunt?

This “tree hunt” is an inexpensive and simple endeavor. Think about it: the USFS Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Christmas tree permit is close by and five bucks; the trees are within a 10 to 30 mile drive of your home; you likely have the vehicle for the weather; a saw or axe; hot chocolate, coffee, hot cider, snacks and sandwiches are always handy this time of year; and you have now rounded up your winter clothing. This is an easy and joyful opportunity to celebrate the Christmas season.

Start by selecting your group – family or friends or both. Then obtain the number of needed $5 permit/tree tags. Get them online or over-the-counter.

Pick up permits at: Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce, 609 North Main in Ellensburg; Cle Elum Visitors Center, 312 West First Street in Cle Elum; Mac-A-Bee Gifts of the Southwest, 1401 Airport Road in Cle Elum; Pioneer Coffee Company, 121 N Pennsylvania Ave in Cle Elum; Sportland Shell Mini Mart on Hwy 903 between Cle Elum & Roslyn; and Basecamp Books and Bites, 110 W Pennsylvania Ave in Roslyn. [Remember that your fourth-grader can get a free tree permit by presenting their Every Kid Outdoors Pass to all federal lands, or the voucher available at everykidoutdoors.gov/index.htm.]

If you prefer, make online purchases on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest webpage at www.fs.usda.gov/main/okawen/passes-permits.

Next is the simple process or deciding where to go hunt your tree(s). Each year, on our “tree hunt” our family and entourage heads for a small pocket of perfect Douglas firs in the Upper County. There we wander from perfect tree to perfect tree until each tree needed has received proper approval. Other friends swear by an area up Table Mountain, or some hidden stand of trees somewhere up Manastash. Maps of National Forest land (all open for Christmas tree hunting) around the area are handed out with each permit. For PDF maps of open areas across the forest, the simple rules for cutting, along with videos, photos and coaching, however, you might spend a few minutes on the forest webpage. Look it all over and pick a spot or two.

Once you get out there, you will likely have choices of tree types. My family always goes for a Douglas fir, probably because The Old Man – my father – insisted that this was the only true and genuine Christmas tree. The grand fir, noble fir, Pacific silver fir and subalpine fir also make beautiful trees. Poke around the USFS webpage, above, for photos and characteristics, then choose the tree that wants to celebrate with you.

This tree hunt can be a lifelong family and friend tradition. Many decades ago, at some point in December, we would head up to Uncle Ed and Aunt Evy’s place on the Little Chumstick, out of Leavenworth, Washington. Somewhere on those hillsides was the perfect tree, and only a unanimous vote would get it cut. Tree after tree received a split ballot, but over time my younger siblings would grow weary of democracy, and some perfect young Douglas fir would get a unanimous, teeth-chattering, “Aye!” The Old Man would thank God for our family and outing and the tree for its gift of holiday cheer, and cut the tree.

Years later, from Denver, I would take my Hucklings and their mom on a drive into the Pike National Forest foothills southwest of the metro area. In a conga line of hundreds of chained-up rigs, we would snake our way along the designated one-way trail. About two hours out of our driveway, we’d pull off the trail and pile into the snow. After a bit of “Up there, dad!” or “Over there, mom” we would achieve a unanimous vote, and inaugurate our Christmas season.

Again, probably this week, we will gather family and our permits and head up the County. We all still need the fresh air and the celebration of the hunt for this icon of the season. Decorated with the trappings of faith and family ways, surrounded and filled with gifts, the Christmas tree – with its scent filling the home – is still the focal point of most of our family celebrations.

Pick a day, grab the gang, clothing, tools, food and drink, and go find your tree!

Local Christmas Gifts for Your Outdoor Nut

Written by Jim Huckabay on December 4, 2019. Posted in Uncategorized

How difficult it must have been to watch your less-disciplined friends and family succumb to the lure of Black Friday, as you awaited the local list of hot gifts for 2019. Thanks for your patience; the Gifting in Support of Homey Businesses Subcommittee of the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association acknowledges you.

Here are local – Kittitas County, Washington – stores, but the gifts suggested will be found most anywhere outdoor nuts gather.

Starting at the western stretch of our Kittitas valley, and up the hill a bit, is Three Forks Ammo & Reloading on the main drag in Cle Elum. There is a broad selection of gift ideas among the 12,000 items in the store, and you will be hard-pressed to find any store within 150 miles carrying more or better reloading equipment than Three Forks. In store are top of the line Forster and Dillon brand equipment and tools, and the popular Hornady Lock-n-Load Classic Reloading Kit ($275, with a 500 bullet rebate). Individual reloading classes are free, on demand. The store holds more bullets and live ammo in more calibers (plenty of .22) than ever, with deep discounts on case lots of handgun, .223, and other ammo. A big supply of muzzleloader and cap and ball pistol supplies and arms (no federal paperwork needed) are available for the holiday, along with pellet and BB guns, including the Daisy Red Riders. John and Chris have it or will find it. Check out www.threeforksreloading.com or call 509-674-2295.

Toward the other end of the valley, Kittitas’ Sure Shot Guns & Pawn – once again voted the Best of the Best Gun Shops in the County – has a big selection of new and consigned firearms of all types. Dozens of stocking stuffers for all ages of outdoor nuts, including stripped lowers for DIY folks, utility knife tools and gift packs, suppressors, youth .22 rifles and Woodhouse Smoked Meat packages. A good supply of bulk .223 and 9mm ammo is specially priced, and targets range from clay pigeons to exploders designed for several calibers. Badland clothing and packs carry lifetime warranties. A variety of gun safes are available – always out the door with no sales tax. Todd and Melody and crew have an easy quick set up to handle background checks for purchasers of most firearms, and other restricted items. There is never a charge for special orders, which usually arrive in 2-5 days, and gift certificates are available for any amount. Your questions are always welcome at 509-968-4867 or www.sureshotguns.com.

Nika Mihailov and his Kittitas County Trading Company crew on Main Street in Ellensburg have pulled together an excellent selection of shooting and outdoor gifts. Now is the time to pick up any semi-auto rifle (all calibers) before new rules come into effect. AR-style handguns, rifles and semi-auto shotguns are in good supply, along with a wide selection of ammo for all calibers. In store, you will also find good quality used outdoor gear, game cameras, and self-defense handguns (with needed concealed-carry accessories). Of course, the Trading Company is the only place in the region with a real selection of M-1 Garands and other military surplus items. Nika is still paying top dollar for gold and silver (check your old or broken jewelry) – a good way to start shopping with a pocket full of unexpected cash. If you are looking for something in particular, or have a question, call the crew at 509-925-1109.

Ellensburg Bi-Mart sporting goods pros Mike and Ron are determined to have what you need, with a big selection of gifts and stocking-stuffers you might not expect. This Christmas’ stocking stuffers include trigger locks, headlamps, keychain and “shot shell” flashlights, .22, BB, and pellet gun ammo, special winter outdoor socks, ice-grippers for shoes, and several name-brand knife sets. Under-the-tree gifts range from boy and girl .22 rifles to on-sale handguns, shotguns, and long guns for the bigger members of the family. Add in a number of smokers (and the supplies to go with them), that new Stinger Challenge airsoft pistol “dart board” game, a variety of men’s and women’s outdoor winter boots, and insulated under layers for outdoor time, and you will likely find what you need to get through the coming winter – inside or outside. 509-925-6971 will get you to one of the Bi-Mart sporting goods pros.

Fishing and/or hunting licenses? See Bi-Mart, Freddies, or fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/#/login (you will need username and password online). Any license will fit nicely under the tree.

Then there is that parent-kid – or whole-family – gift which will last through winter and beyond. The 2019-20 16-week Light Rifle Class League starts a week from tomorrow at the Valley Rifle and Pistol Club on 15th Avenue in Ellensburg. If you are unsure about joining, remember that a first time tryout can be free – the range folks will have a loaner .22, ammo, and coaching. If you decide this is for your gang, you pay one small fee for the entire household, then bring your own rifle (or there will still be a loaner handy) and ammo. The Club will supply regulation 10-bull NRA targets, a modern heated range facility, the direction of a qualified range master, and great league-long coaching. What better gift could you give your children and family? Learn the responsibility and discipline of safe shooting and firearm handling while enjoying week after week of the simple pleasure of putting holes in paper exactly where you want them. Mel Goudge at 509-925-4285 or Hal Mason at 509-962-3002 will help you get your household in the game.

One final thought for this episode: if one or another of the women in your family is receiving a handgun, make that holiday gift complete with a one-day safe shooting and handling class just for her (or them). Or maybe you just want her/them to learn safe handgun handling. In either case, contact certified instructor Marilyn Mason at 509-962-3002.

Buy in Paradise. You’ll find virtually everything your outdoor nut needs close at hand.

Joyful gifting and Merry Christmas…

Thanksgiving History and Food Traditions

Written by Jim Huckabay on November 27, 2019. Posted in Uncategorized

For one reason or another – parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and whoever else might have shown up – I have in the back of my mind a nearly-constant conversation about food and food traditions this time every year.

It all moved to the front of my mind as we opened our Checkerboard Partnership at the Swauk-Teanaway Grange a bit over a week ago. The Partnership is working to create a community forest of land around and near Roslyn in the Upper County. That meeting of a couple dozen active citizens, officials, agencies, businesses and organizations began with self-introductions and an “ice-breaker” question.

The question each was to answer was something to the effect of “What food must be a part of your Thanksgiving dinner celebration?” While several of us voted for turkey and cranberry sauce or dressing or pies or whatever, the most popular response was “mashed potatoes and gravy.”

Out of that brief go-round, came a bit of conjuring with the question of how far, or not, we have come since that fall, 1621, feast at Plymouth Colony. That is the harvest meal which we recognize as the first “Thanksgiving” in what became the USA. It is pretty easy to find a summary of the foods eaten on that day, but I like the piece Megan Gambino wrote for Smithsonian.com on Nov. 21st of 2011. (No mashed potatoes and gravy, by the way.)

Wildfowl (waterfowl, grouse, turkey), shellfish, squash (pumpkins), along with corn – used for bread and porridge – and venison were on that early menu. Ms. Gambino made note of the two surviving references to that harvest celebration shared by the Pilgrims and Wampanoag at Plymouth Colony. One was a letter to a friend in England, written by Edward Winslow: “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others.” The governor – William Bradford – noted that “…besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. …[N]ow since harvest, Indian corn.”

[Find more about that first celebration (good family then-and-now discussion, actually) at www.smithsonianmag.com/history/what-was-on-the-menu-at-the-first-thanksgiving-511554/#UP7KBeO2JArJRzm2.99.]

Following that first feast, Thanksgiving became an annual custom throughout New England. In 1777 the Continental Congress declared the first national American Thanksgiving following the Patriot victory at Saratoga. President George Washington, in 1779, became the first president to proclaim the holiday – Thursday, November 26 – to be a day of national thanksgiving for the U.S. Constitution. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to be a national celebration on the last Thursday of November. Franklin D. Roosevelt moved it up a week, but recanted after much protest. On November 26, 1941, he signed a bill into law officially making the fourth Thursday in November the national holiday of Thanksgiving Day.

It occurs to me that my family and I have enjoyed any number of Thanksgiving traditions reminiscent of that 1621 feast. Venison and gamebirds have regularly accompanied our turkey and stuffing centerpiece. Admittedly, our food is prepared differently than the boiling and fire roasting common in those earliest days, and they certainly did not have pies (no wheat flour and crusts), but there are nods we all make to that first feast. And, I think we still find a moment to be thankful for the “harvest” of the gifts that make our lives whole.

Consider the life value of being thankful for what we have – and celebrating the pleasure of food. A couple decades back, psychologist Paul Rozen and some of his grad students at the University of Pennsylvania, interviewed over a thousand people (primarily in America and France) about food. What they found suggested that the better French health (even with a much richer diet) may have had a lot to do with state of mind. They found that the French associated eating with pleasure, while Americans tended to associate eating with health and nutrition – and fretting.

This idea of gratitude, joy, and health from eating is not new. Julia Child often spoke of health and joyful eating. Several of my Yakama and Nez Perce friends speak of prayer over food, to be joyfully consumed, as making the food “medicine.” I like praying over the plants and animals which honor me with the gifts of their flesh.

So, here’s to giving thanks for blessings and traditions. Here’s to food made medicine with gratitude and prayer. Here’s to your good health from joyfully consuming gifts of the earth.

May your traditions warm and sustain you through the coming season. Happy holidays.