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HOME RANGE: Notes on Literature, Nature, Working Dogs, History, Martial Arts, Other Obsessions and Sundry Annoyances by Henry Chappell

Time, Gravity, Entropy

A little forced inactivity reminds me of what looms in the not-too-distant future, and of the preciousness of time.

Back in April, I noticed that when I tilted my head back, mild pain flared up in my left shoulder. Meh. Old age and all that. Nothing a few Advil and healthy hardheadedness wouldn’t cure. My grandson Cade and I took up Krav Maga and fished a couple times every week, all summer. My shoulder ached, but after a little warm-up, I felt fine and could pump through 40 pushups, and a bunch of burpees, and throw punches and elbows with little or no discomfort.

Okay, the problem worsened, a little, but, see, my first belt test was scheduled for September 23. I’d deal with the issue afterward. The test, a grueling three-hour ordeal is designed not only to find out if you’ve acquired the requisite skills, but also to test your resolve. How much do you want to move to the next level? (You know it’s going to be rough when there are designated puke locations.) I got through the test fine - the oldest geezer in the group - although I hadn’t known that kind of fatigue and pain since my college football days.

The strain didn’t help my shoulder problem. Now, I had intermittent tingling down my arm, and a hell of a lot more pain. I took a couple weeks off, then showed up for my first Level II workout. After an easy jog around the facility, we came in and plopped down for push-ups. I nearly fell on my face. My left arm had no strength and now ached from the mild exertion.

Turns out, I don’t have a shoulder problem, I have a neck problem. Stenosis caused by a “significant” bulge between C6 and C7 pinching the nerve that serves my left arm. The problem would likely go away in a year or so, but I’d lose a lot of arm strength in the meantime. Never mind the everyday pain and interference with hunting, fishing, and fighting. Oral steroids helped slightly but only temporarily. Now I’m scheduled for a cortisone injection on November 8. If that doesn’t work, there will be a second injection, then, as a last resort, surgery, which will fix the problem for sure, but I’ll be pretty restricted for three months or so.

Hunting season has arrived, but it hurts to look up. This might not be a problem if I were a deer hunter sitting in a stand instead of a squirrel and bird hunter. Fishing is great in North Texas in early fall, so I’ll be pumping up the old float tube (one-handed), feeling grateful that my casting arm works just fine. And I’ll kick the heavy bag, do my squats and crunches, and try to remember not to take good health and the gift of a day for granted. I have friends who’re facing challenges that make this one seem like nothing but a minuscule aggravation. If nothing else, this little setback serves as a reminder of what looms out there in the not-too-distant future. Time is precious. I regret every second I’ve wasted even though I’ll surely waste more.
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Why They Fight

I am a reader, not a viewer. I have little use for television, and, with rare exceptions, movies. (I started to write "cinema," but that seems a little precious given the fare coming out of Hollywood nowadays.) But, every now and again, I run across something that moves me.

I'm not holding up "Why We Fight" as high art, but I've found it awfully good compared to most documentaries, or the vulgar offshoot we call reality tv.

We get the story from the point of view of Zac, a promising young boxer who has derailed his career with an addiction to prescription pain killers. He gets a chance to get clean and to travel the world and meet different kinds of fighters. In the first episode, he goes to Mexico to fight an "opponent" to prove he deserves this opportunity. His later meeting with his desperate middle-aged opponent is about as powerful a scene as I can recall.

The second episode features two young women preparing for an MMA bout. Zac is clearly developing feelings for one of the gals, but the scenes are handled in such a way that the average man won't roll his eyes and switch to football highlights. (Trust me; this emotionally stunted Sasquatch never felt tempted to skip ahead to the fight.)

Now, about the the fighting. It's brutal. John McCain's description "human cockfighting" isn't without basis. Yet people have their reasons, and there's no disputing their courage and athletic ability. As an old man-in-progress who has recently and improbably (and perhaps stupidly) taken up an especially physical and brutal style of martial arts, I can't help but admire the ability of world-class MMA fighters and boxers. If some people find the chance of brain damage and other injury terrifying, others find the prospect of living too long and sitting in front of the television, snoring, mouth wide open, more so. There's more to life that safety. Still, I wouldn't encourage my grandchildren to go into full-contact martial arts competition. I would encourage them to train in martial arts, however.

So, here's the trailer. You can watch the first two episodes at New episodes come out on Wednesdays. (Warning: lots of F-bombs, so use ear phones when younguns are around.

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Lean Pickings

Cade and I fished one of our favorite ponds from late afternoon until dark. Caught lots of little farts. This rascal ate my #4 deer hair bug just before sunset. Not a hog, but I was sure glad to see him.
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Wyman Meinzer's West Texas

This has been out a few years now, and it still blows me away every time I play it. If you enjoy it and would like to be able to play it anywhere, please support Wyman's work and purchase the DVD at

Wyman Meinzer's West Texas from Wyman Meinzer on Vimeo.

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Words I Wish I'd Written: From "The Land Ethic" by Aldo Leopold

Back in the 1980s, when I joined the Isaac Walton League, I received as a new member gift a paperback copy of A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. The volume also contains several additional essays, most notably "Wilderness," and "The Land Eithic." Leopold is often called "the father of modern wildlife management." Like most hunters and anglers, I had heard of him, but, in by my late twenties, hadn't gotten around to reading him. I read the book in two or three sittings, and have read it through at least half a dozen times since. My old copy is marked up and falling apart, but I still reach for it, even after the good folks at The Sand County Foundation sent me a beautiful new hardcover edition a few years back.

Though written prior to 1948, this passage addresses our primary environmental issue. I cannot see how any current environmental concern can be uncoupled from the issue of human population. We lack a politics to deal with the issue. During the decades following publication of Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb, the pro business and pro-natal Right scoffed at the issue of over population. Mathus's predictions hadn't come to pass and Ehrlich hadn't accounted for agricultural advances, therefore, human population was a non-issue. Republican leaders, many of them philistine by nature and forever concerned about economic growth, still don't care about the issue. What has changed is that the environmentalist Left, blinded, cowed, and silenced by ideological commitments, can no longer be counted on to sound the alarm. Population growth in the United States is almost completely driven by immigration, therefore it must be a net good, and, in any case, so the reasoning goes, we can no longer afford to be so provincial as to worry about our own country, let alone our own back yards. But buy locally while supporting global initiatives.

But here's the great Aldo Leopold:

"The combined evidence of history and ecology seems to support one general deduction: the less violent the man-made changes, the greater the probablility of successful readjustment in the pyramid. Violence in turn, varies with human population density; a dense population requires a more violent conversion. In this respect, North America has a better chance for permanence than Europe, if she can contrive to limit her density.

"This deduction runs counter to our current philosophy, which assumes that because a small increase in density enriched human life, that an indefinite increase will enrich it indefinitely. Ecology knows of no density relationship that holds for indefinitely wide limits. All gains from density are subject to a law of diminishing returns."

Not surprisingly, as early as the 1980s, Leopold was accused of "Enrivonmental Fascism," because the ideas expressed in "The Land Ethic" might lead to the submergance of the individual by collective glorification of nation or region.

I'm not optimistic, even though Aldo Leopold would be amazed by the enviromental progress made since he wrote "The Land Ethic." Certainly, we hunters enjoy more game than I could've imagined as a teenager. Likewise adaptive species sometimes reach nuisance levels in suburbs across the country. Yet, when J. and I moved to Plano, in 1983, quail, meadowlarks, roadrunners, and harriers were common. One of my most treasured memories is of Dad sitting on our little back porch, whistling to a bobwhite cock perched on our backyard fence. In the late 1980s, I trained a bird dog pup on wild bobwhites that eked out a living in the strips of cover in a neighborhood park and the surrounding pastures. You rarely see meadowlarks or roadrunners or harriers nowadays. I haven't heard a bobwhite call in Collin County in nearly 20 years. They don't exactly thrive in subdivisions. Oh, we have raccoons and coyotes and bobcats aplenty, but they don't quite make up for the loss of those grassland birds.

How many times can the process be replicated? Perhaps I'm a hypocrite for asking; after all, J. And I moved from Kentucky to North Texas. But I'll ask anyway.

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