Thursday, February 23, 2012

To The Mattresses!

"No, no, no! No more! Not this time, consiglieri. No more meetings, no more discussions, no more Sollozzo tricks.  You give them one message:  I want Sollozzo. 
If not, it's all out war: we go to the mattresses."  ~ Sonny Corleone

Big bidness men, when confronted with external marketing problems do what bidness men are trained to do, form a committee and schedule a meeting with telling charts galore, standard deviations, stochastics, demographics, psychographics, slide shows and the key, lunch. The usual results, new sub-committees are formed and all are encouraged to share ideas and recommendations via emails and tweets, and then schedule another lunch. (1)

With wise guys, when divisions within the company arise, wise guys do what all business men do, schedule a meeting - although wise guys call them sit-downs and the only externals might be an abundance of cigar smoke. They cut to the chase and  close ranks for the good of the company - it's never personal, it's business, just good business.  From a sit-down the usual results are that a sub-committee of one is selected and assigned  for that thing, you know, that thing.   No emails, no tweets, just a simple phone call , "You know that thing, it's fixed."(2)

Big corporate bidness has its way of solving problems. Wise guys have another way.  Now let's take a look at how small businesses struggle with externals.  For the heck of it, we will use independent fly shops for demonstration purposes.

The good news is that most fly shops are located fairly close to good fly fishing waters,  therefore the demographics are usually good.  Top notch employees are easy to find - young students are always eager for a few part-time dollars and equipment discounts.  Then there is the retired bidness executive (resume available upon request) whose spouse evicts him daily when As The World Turns is about to come on the television - plus, old timers work cheap.  Other benefits, work is indoors with no real heavy lifting,  location is not such that exorbitant rents must be paid, and the events in Greece shouldn't affect the afternoon hatch.

The difficulties begin with the fact that owning a fly shop is retailing  and with that goes another poor man's parable, "The only thing more overrated than natural childbirth is the joy of owning your own store."(3)  Fly shops open the door each morning with a store full of inventory waiting to be turned. They scratch and claw to provide the best product lines with advance commitments  and spending.   When low in inventory,  a Ford dealer calls Ford and says send me some more Fords.  When low in  products,  a fly shop owner has to make many different calls and here lies the rub - some might say, you know,  that thing - they call to order say, waders from a company that is selling said waders directly to buyers via a website, or maybe to a rod company that is selling the same rod on page 42,  of their fly fishing catalog.   Ten years ago the fly shop owner competed with the other fly shop across the river.  Then that fly shop was gone and the main competition became a 40,000 square foot store, if lucky, fifty miles away - then came eBay, then Amazon,  then a friend he used to share a beer with at the Denver show started catalog sales,  and if those events are not stressful,  more and more these days  a fly shop owner is confronted with coopetition, you know, that thing, go along to get along.    

When is enough, enough? What is the diminution of value?  Is there a strategery? 

I'll tell you what I would do - but first let me confess;

"Bless me Lefty for I have sinned. I have purchased fly fishing equipment on eBay, and yes Amazon too and I have even ordered from a catalog."  ... a gentle voice responds, "Say three Hail Whitlocks and and four Our Gierachs,  go forth and sin no more."  

With that cleansing absolution and no skin in the game, here is a Turnip Truck solution for the fly shop owner: 

Form a equity based cooperative made up of as many independent fly shop owners as possible.
  • Create a brand name - shops can still be the Foggy Bottom Fly Shop, but the brand name must dominate.
  • Create a top to bottom branded rod line, a top to bottom branded reel line, an adult to junior branded wader line, a branded fly line (cough, cough) line and a branded apparel line and ensure that all accessory lines are packaged under the brand name. Huge economies of scale and margins.
  • Create a company brand buyers club - annual fee gets the customer annual discounts - steps so far, branding and pricing to attract and keep customers - the annual buyers club fee will provide marketing seed funds, will bring credit vendors knocking on the door and assure competitive pricing.
  • Create an internet store featuring all of the above - remember this is an equity entity, if an order is placed in Manhattan, profits can still flow to Foggy Bottom.
  • Create a percentage of gross, national advertising program..."who are those guys? - I dunno, but they're gaining on us."
  • Create at each store a youth fly fishing team (patterned after the PGA's First Tee). Empower parents not near a store to create a youth team of their own.
  • Create a Guides Program unequaled in value (guidespeak for almost free gear) plus enlist approved guides as commissioned sales reps.
  • Create a 5% of sales habitat environment contribution in conjunction with TU, BFTT, and Federation chapters.
  • Create a Destination Travel Vendor program to be fed clients via the branded shops and/or the internet.
  • Hire a top of the CEO suit type to herd this operation - low starting pay with generous stock options.
  • Retain the law firm of Dewey, Cheetam and Howe to keep notes on that fair trade thing.
  • Finally, when the marketing coffers are at a surplus, fund a Hollywood movie about fly fishing... I'm kidding, I'm kidding! ... I think.
Having confessed my buying sins,  I want the future  to ensure that when the Turnip Truck drives into Foggy Bottom there will be a first class fly shop waiting there for me ... and my branded buyers club membership.

For each bullet point above there are ten pages of whys, wherefores and how to's, and if I coulda, woulda, shoulda scenarios.  I'm sure many(one can hope) readers will chuckle and say, no way could this happen.  Maybe not, but consider that it may just be time for fly shops to become the squeezor and not the squeezee.  You know, fix that, you know, that thing called coopetition ... level the pool ... smooth out the rapids.

Oh, and those extra ten pages per bullet point - available but it'll  cost a cold beer, some hoppers, and umm,  lunch.  

(1) I used to be a bidnessman - a banker, an investment banker and a small bidness owner.
(2) The only real knowledge I have about wise guys;  I learned from movies and television.
(3) Got this quote from my wife - what do men know, right?

For additional reading, look over to the right - Better Blogs - try the links to Trout Underground and MidCurrent.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Hemingway's Longest Sentence

"A writerʼs style should be direct and personal, his imagery rich and earthy, and his words simple and vigorous.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

The River of Sand
 My first exposure to Hemingway began with a high school book report for The Old Man And 
The Sea. I remember the grade in red ink and a cursive "C+ ... Syntax." 

 Next in college, for an english literature course report, I chose For Whom The Bell Tolls.  The bluebook was returned with a "B ... You captured his thoughts but not his style." Style?

Then came advanced infantry training at Fort Jackson and from a top bunk at a pace of about 20 minutes a night I read A Moveable Feast.  Daily, when not constantly chanting - "the two types of people on the battlefield, the quick and the dead!," -  my thoughts would dream visions of being in Paris -  the picture frame -  sitting on a corner curb with a piece of cheese in one hand, a torn slice of bread in the other and an uncorked bottle of wine between my sandals. Alas. 

Fast forward past an entry job, courtships,  a wedding, children, careers, homes, mortgages, grandchildren, and then, next to the final gong, retirement and a new found hobby, fly fishing.

After retirement my fly fishing experiences began to accelerate. The first Turnip Truck became my steed and places that Gierach, Whitlock, Travers, and Hemingway wrote about became landed pins in a map, connected by bright yellow felt tip lines marking the roadways.  Along the way I met a retired professor and a retired wild life officer - both from Michigan and both said  "come on up to fish." Preparations began for a trip to the waters where Trout Unlimited began and Hemingway's Nick Adams returned to heal.

Famous Au Sable River Boat

While planning the trip to Michigan, I decided to visit with Hemingway again.  The most recent historical research had occurred a few years back in Sloppy Joe's Bar in Key West - no substance or style - just 100 proof rum and BFF, well (before fly fishing).  I did not think the Cuban years would add value, so I skipped them.  Idaho was a bucket list trip planned for next year, so those Hemingway years were overlooked.

To connect Michigan to Hemingway I looked to  Nick Adams and the story, Big Two Hearted River.
My goal was for Nick Adams to lead me to river locations where Hemingway may have typed with controlled economy, a line or two.  I wanted to write about this trip.  Thus, I began a simple plan for having the spirit of Papa looking over my shoulder as a perfectly formed cast of my words would come to rest upon a glassy pool of short, powerfully concise and simplistic in style sentences.  I would capture his words once again, maybe even his style.  Well, Ms. Lawton, am I doing  a little better? Ha!  In the style of Hemingway? I know, I know ... put away the red ink pen. 

Could This Be The "Storied" Big Two Hearted River?

The story, Big Two-Hearted River places the reader and Nick Adams in some previously scorched, but recovering pine boughs of northern-Michigan. The only remaining signs of life in the fire-leveled town of Seney are some adaptive black grasshoppers and pooled trout.

The setting of the scene and Hemingway's language of clarity begins.

“Nick looked down into the pool from the bridge. It was a hot day. A kingfisher flew up the stream. It was a long time since Nick had looked into a stream and seen trout. They were very satisfactory.”

This is pure Hemingway, concise, simple and controlled as the paragraph continues.

“As the shadow of the kingfisher moved up the stream, a big trout shot upstream in a long angle, only his shadow making the angle, then lost his shadow as he came through the surface of the water, caught the sun, and then, as he went back into the stream under the surface, his shadow seemed to float down the stream with the current, unresisting, to his post under the bridge where he tightened facing up into the current.”

Whoa! ...Hemingway wrote this? Seventy nine words, eight commas and a period...have I just read Hemingwayʼs longest sentence?

I was fascinated. I keyed a Google search  ...”hemingwayʼs style” find a link to his own words: 

“A writerʼs style should be direct and personal, his imagery rich and earthy, and his words simple and vigorous.”

Yes, but, seventy nine words? I Googled again...”hemingwayʼs longest sentence”... only to discover my count to be dwarfed. Hemingwayʼs longest sentence appears in his Green Hills of Africa with four hundred twenty four words.  

The heck with style I thought, enjoy the story.  With word research complete and the story read, I continued preparations for my trip into early Hemingway country having formed these thoughts:

We rejoice in nostalgia and comfort as we return to familiar waters, we all wade into trout streams with a history, both good and bad, and our collective thoughts and skills are often interrupted by a fluttering heron or a soaring osprey that triggers the darting escape of a sought-after trout. We may laugh or curse, yet we do wade in again.

Pinpointing spots on the Big Two-Hearted also proved elusive. There is a Two Hearted River, but it is not the flow fictionalized by Papa. If you ask a Michigander, youʼll hear, “Oh, it was the Boardman he was talking about.” Another will state, “it was the Betsy,” or “I know it was the Jordan.”  Historical societies have reached a consensus that the river described was the Fox, with the name Big Two-Hearted chosen for both Hemingway's and the reader's romantic tastes. 

Hemingway provided for our detailed visit to the river to frame Nickʼs cleansing. The exact location mattered not.

Snook on the Pere Marquette River
Six Mile Bridge~Little Manistee River


I ventured off to Michigan and fished historic streams, the Au Sable, The Manistee, the Pere Marquette, the Little Manistee, and the Rogue.  My host's shared their rivers well. Many fish were released.   

To a fly fisher of moderate skills, a river with two hearts is one that allows a dayʼs catch or not. There is nothing more simple than that. With Hemingwayʼs Nick Adams it was a simple existential sentence that cradled the story of a two hearted river, and by far, one more analyzed than my discovery of seventy nine words; 
                                                               “The river was there.”    

 Simple and vigorous.  


A Well Cast Fly To The Sound of a Rise
Ask anyone familiar with the Grayling area and they will all tell you that the local waters are far better for having Rusty Gates (R.I.P.) steward their protection. He launched just behind us on a Mason Tract float and we jokingly exchanged positions throughout the day. Fish were caught but the real privilege was to share the river with someone so respected for his actions.  He assembled some very fine results oriented residents who continue to both promote and protect the trout habitat of Northern Michigan - Hemingway country. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Whatcha' Seeing?

Goose Island State Park, Texas - Facing Aransas Bay

 Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.

                                    ~ Mark Twain ~

During my  formative (some would say I'm still in them) years, my rambling years and then my bidness years, I was fortunate enough to land in some part of all of the lower 48 states. Traveling then, sometimes by Greyhound, by car,  by rail, and as a frequent flyer,  my impression was that travelers largely moved around un-noticed. Phrases and thoughts then varied from, "We're hungry - Daddy, I have to pee - to  wondering  what my commission would be."   Sightseeing was restricted.

Fishermen know when they encounter a curious stranger, whether stepping up on the dock or at a trailhead, they will always hear, "How'd you do?     Now, when traveling to and from in the Turnip Truck I have discovered that local interest is piqued and almost always creates a smile and the question:

                          "So you travel all  'round in that thing ...  Whatcha seeing?" 

Big 'Uns

Georgia:  Pronounced Jaw-Ja.   Where the Turnip Truck Driver graduated from college and learned with certainty that all iced tea is sweet.   Has the best song, 'specially when sung by Ray Charles.

North Carolina:  Livermush, biscuits and cream gravy, country ham and red eye gravy, and heart attacks.  Birth place of the Turnip Truck Driver, yet no monument exists.

Delaware:  Couldn't find it.

Rhode Island:  Where you hear from everyone (the sample was 100%) the departing words, "Have a good one." 

Wyoming:   Where in the East,  coal trains are longer than the last three minutes of a 
NBA  game. In the West it is The Tetons or as Al Bundy would say, "Big 'uns."  Then there is Jackson Hole where even money says you will buy a tee shirt.

Along the Snowy Byway - Wyoming

New York:   Manhattan - Go there in August - the 212s are gone.  All the rest are either Upstaters or Islanders, and it goes something like this, "Oh, you're from New York?" The reply, " No, no ... noo, I am an Upstater."

Vermont:  Where a tie-died tribe from Haight Ashbury wandered America for 40 years  to finally end up in Brattleboro.                       

Otter Creek - Vermont

Florida:    For the Keys,  Tarpon, Bonefish, Permit and cheeseburgers in paradise. Miami is a freshly painted Havana with new cars.  Central Florida has traffic, Didneyworld and more traffic. In
North Florida, if you're traveling north from the rest of Florida,  "Hi Y'all and welcome to the Sowth!"

Louisiana:  The Book of Job

District of Columbia:  A vortex where all dollars go to disappear.

Nebraska:  The birthplace  of the phrase, "Are we there yet?"  I suppose that Nebraska was also the test market for those famous Burma Shave signs.

Arkansas:  The Turnip Truck's  home waters.  Tailwaters and lots of trout - Dry Run Creek, the best fishing for a kid, ever - a great guide, John Berry and a great fly shop, Dally's Ozark Angler, and the best fly fishing camping ever at Denton Ferry RV Park.  If you've never visited the Ozarks, contact me and I'll introduce you to the area's finest ... and would love to share a cold one with you.

Texas:   Where some high school football stadiums have corporate sky boxes.

Tennessee:  Starting in the Smokies - Jelly and Brookies.  In Knoxville, if anything positive happens, even a traffic light turning green, you'll hear a loud chorus of Rocky Top.  Nashville is best known for inventing line dancing and ironically where Country music died, but traditions remain.  In  Memphis you can experience the world's best Bar B Que, and you can visit The Turnip Truck Driver. 
Brookies in the Smokies

Idaho:  One tater, two tater, three tater, four. Do not miss the Brown Drake hatch on Silver Creek.

Montana:  All fly fishers pilgrimage to the Madison River, where guides purchase collision insurance for their drift boats. To borrow a Yogyism, "No wonder folks don't fish here anymore, look at all the drift boats."

Kansas:  Everybody in the country waves, especially those driving a tractor.

States In White Should Prepare For The Arrival of the Turnip Truck
'cept Maybe Hawaii

Do not despair if your state was missed. The Turnip Truck will continue to travel and experience this wonderful country ... and comment to a country with a great sense of humor. 

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.  ~  Maya Angelou

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Blog, Blogger, Bloggier

Comparatively or Superlatively (cough, cough) speaking………

Turnip Truck Chronicles began as Notes on Facebook and  posts were shared privately.  Friends and family responded nicely, as friends and family should will do.  Due to an expanding number of friends on Facebook I began to discover their blogs and their recommendations for related readings.  I discovered a plethora ( some $2.95 words, too) of very entertaining web sites and blogs.  

With prompting and encouraging words from Jackson, I decided to give blogging a try even though I knew Jackson just wanted to see some new rivers for new stories.  Jackson, a Chocolate Lab, became the editor and house grammarian.  Too many commas, dangling participles or an incorrect idiom, blame Jackson.  To discover more about Jackson, look to one of the more popular stories, Tying The Jackson. It is a story not quite rivaling Old Yeller, but will bring moisture to the eyes to a grown man in freshly purchased wading boots with felt soles.

Turnip Truck Chronicles is a lot like Google and Facebook. We provide our staff with free meals,
 unlimited healthcare, even shots and chew toys. Long afternoon naps are promoted.

My first challenge was to determine who would be my reader,  other than close friends and relatives. I decided that I wanted my readers to be the same people I have met in a river , or stream side when resting a pool, or at take out parking lots. I valued most that these friendships began with a handshake, a smile or laugh and became cemented with tales and stories.  I started this blog a month ago - its purpose, to duplicate a live visit waterside. Expect  a handshake, a smile, a laugh and a story.  My goal is not to pen the equal of a great american novel - my desire is for the reader to think, "I'd enjoy fishing with that guy."

Turnip Truck Chronicles posted the first blog on or about the first of the year, 2012. I'll admit the blog would have never been posted if I had to know what the young geeks call code.  If HTML had been required, I would be a better fly tyer for it. I started with Google's Blogger.  The  templates seem to practice the KISS principle rather well. Also, the Blogger Blogspot site provides the poster with interesting feedback statistics and as more stories were posted, views increased and other bloggers of similar interests linked their readers to the Chronicles. Some friends told their friends and statistically the number of viewers began increasing at an increasing rate (a $2.95 economic theorem). 

Bar Chart Illustration Taken From a Politician's Estimation
 of Economic Growth - Not Representative of the Actual Performance
of Turnip Truck Chronicles
By the time you read this blog, Turnip Truck Chronicles will have experienced over twelve hundred views - I'm hoping many of those viewers actually read a story or two.  The stories posted  have been read in eleven separate countries, well only ten if you leave out Russia, which I am told real bloggers do.The largest referring site has been Facebook, then a recreational vehicle forum site, IRV2, and at third was Google search feeds.  With no former references by which to judge these statistics, I can only think, not a bad start. Friends and family are still saying nice things, the Outdoor Blogger Network featured Turnip Truck Chronicles and urged a visit with positive comments,  and I have even received a "well done" or three from some great blog writers.

Jackson raised an ear and cocked his head as he noticed that my normal stride had turned into a rooster strut. Clearly, the success of the Turnip Truck Chronicles will be known for the retention of the readers - views do not equal appreciation.  I have enjoyed  penning and posting  the stories and anything that keeps me from watching the news on tee wee or incessantly ($2.25) following the shade around the house and  keeps Jackson from dropping a throw toy at my feet every thirty seconds,  is a blessing.  I'll try to keep writing and keep Jackson editing  when we are not flinging a line and trout spotting.

Russian views notwithstanding, I remain (cough, cough) humble. The preceding sentence was inserted for my friends and relatives.

I thank you for reading or referring the Turnip Truck Chronicles and welcome any and all feedback.  At this time this venture is unfortunately  purely non-profit.  Here's the deal, when Turnip Truck Chronicles reaches Facebook subscriber numbers, we'll do an IPO and Jackson will ensure that the early subscribers will be cut in on the action. If you act within the next forty-five minutes and agree to tell a friend, we'll double your action.

Plus, if you subscribe  you will not miss a single future story.*  The teaser titles include:

Vermont Is Not Just For Liberals ...... uhh, Vermont

Hemingway's Longest Sentence? ...... Michigan

Rochinante Was Taken ....... Travels With Jackson

Fly Fishing The Parking Lot ...... Everywhere

Dry Run Creek Is For Kids, but  adults enjoy  it more ...... Arkansas

"Oh, They're Just Searching For Illegal Gringos" ...... Mexico

There Is No Such Thing As A Secret Honey Hole ..... Everywhere

* Good titles, huh? Stories alluded to above are subject to being finished.