Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lost In The Woods Interview

From the world of business to the world of fly-fishing: Grant Carter lives the dream

Grant Carter is no lazy retiree.
He admittedly spent some time “following the shade around the house” after he left the working world, but that did not last long. With a new lakeside house near his granddaughters, daughter, and son-in-law, Grant began to convert the family into fishermen.
Fly-fishing, Grant’s sport of choice, was not readily accessible in his new home of Germantown, Tennessee. And that made his decision to start traveling very easy. Armed with his first RV and a yen to cast his fly rod, Grant took to the road.
I recently talked with Grant about his RV, Turnip Truck, how he started traveling the country, and his adventures on the road. For more about Grant, check out his blog, Turnip Truck Chronicles.
What was your day job before Turnip Truck?
My bio says it was following the shade around the house, but I think you mean a paying job, right? I began as a country banker, segued to an investment banker and finished up by owning my own construction company. Now I am after the big money – writing a fly-fishing, travel blog: Turnip Truck ChroniclesThese blogs do make money, don’t they?
What is the Turnip Truck and how did it earn that name?
Rocinante [Don Quioxote’s horse] was taken. After reading Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley, I knew that one day I too would receive the finger salute on a narrow two-lane road.
What made you decide to start traveling the country in a motorhome and how long ago was that?
After moving from Florida, my home trout fishing waters were in and around Cotter, Arkansas on the White and Norfork Rivers. On a weekend property shopping trip, I discovered some wonderful RV campgrounds right on the rivers and I had a V-8 moment…let’s see, no taxes, no lawn mowingand I would still have a river front location. Locations made the decision easy and Turnip Truck I was purchased. Turnip Truck I turned out to be too small for my wife so I upgraded to almost the biggest motorhome one can buy – even had a washer and dryer. Yet again, too small. This week Turnip Truck III arrives and is actually smaller than the first one and is configured for boondocking – camping off the grid.

The new Turnip Truck III
A lot of my friends ask me how I travel so much with the wife at home. Some even phrase the question with envy.  I respond, “First, find a claustrophobic woman, then make sure she is much more understanding than is her fear of small places.”
What has been your favorite trip – so far?
Trips are like your kids or dogs – each is different but you love everything about them. The worst occurrence was having GPS Jill on a cold, rainy night turn me up a dead end road with no turn around.
Tell me about the next trip you are planning.
How much time do you have? The next trip will be large. The first stop will be into the Driftless area of Wisconsin. Next stops: the Black Hills to the Big Horn River. Then, a week’s stop in Livingston’s Paradise Valley, and then on to Glacier National Park. A stopover on the Missouri in Craig en route to Twin Bridges (son-in-law will fly in for a week of fly fishing) to Yellowstone to the Grand Tetons into Utah’s Canyonlands into Arizona, the Grand Canyon and maybe Las Vegas (wife may fly in for a few days to rough it at the Bellagio.) Working my way to home waters, back to Cotter, Arkansas.
By my count, you have already been to 39 states – and I love your post that describes each one. Of the places you have not been, what is your dream destination?
Dream destination? I’d love to be able to boondock around 42nd Street in Manhattan and plant a camp chair and watch people all day.
Are your travels limited to fly fishing destinations or do you sometimes travel simply to travel?
Fly-fishing creates a heading that combines with local music, road food and history – I’m a “C” student of the Civil War and the migration West from Lewis and Clark to present day pilgrims like Ted Turner.  Local art and music plays a big part [in my travels] although I can’t carry a tune and can barely paint by numbers – Zydeco in [Louisiana], bluegrass in the Smokies, opera through Nebraska, and great songwriting in Texas. Though, when traveling through Nashville, I listen to talk shows … I’ve never cared for the music produced by hedge funds.
What I find the most interesting is that you have gone from being fully involved in the “bidness world” to a life spent totally enjoying what you love in nature. How do these worlds contrast for you and what have you gained from indulging your love of fly-fishing?
The bidness world is, for good reasons, much more competitive than fly-fishing or traveling. When you leave the axiom of “some days you eat the bear and some days the,” … well you know, stress, the best way to interface with life is to engage socially. Not Facebook, but actually hearing laughter.  The biggest gain?  Friends – lots of ‘em.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Turnip Truck Film Festival

It has been raining possums and armadillos here in Cotter. Jackson pulled out his stash of treats, nosed a box of DVDs and suggested we watch some films ... mostly modern films, you know those with great effects but no substance. While watching a car roll eighty seven times I thought of my old favorite films and decided to share - the emphasis is upon comedy. You want drama, watch    Mrs. Miniver

......." ten to twenty million, tops."    Best Drama, err Comedy Performances By an Ensemble

......." gamble along."     Best Dramatic Scene That'll Make You Smile

......." endeavor to persevere."    "Best Humorous Dramatic Scene In A Western

......." you mean I'm going to stay this color?"    Best Comedy Of All Times

......." don't touch the hair!"     Second Best Comedy Without Trying To Be ... the best comedy

......." the only musical performance by an artist."  Best Song and Trivia Question

......." Yeah!"      Best Performance For Floor Seats To Laker's Games

......." it was awful - its hands! - its eyes."    Best Horror Comedy Now, But Pee In Pants Scary When Ten

......." music and laughs, not original"        Best Laughs (not the laughtrack) in a Fly Fishing Movie

Join in - name your favorites.

Also, keep laughing!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The River White ~ Reviewed

The River White  A Confluence of Brush and Quill

You know Oh Shenandoah - you know Across The Wide Missouri - you know Old Man River - but you may not know The White River of the Ozarks.  

The River White - A Confluence of Brush and Quill will allow for you to  experience a guided float trip upon the White River - the visuals accompanied by lyrics will be there comfortably resting in your lap.  As you travel down river with Duane Hada's  watercolor views and Ken Hada's lyrical poetry,  it is only for you to add the symphonic sounds of heron squawks, riffles, water falls and the ever present caws from crows as they cross the river from pasture to pasture.

A river begins
and we will follow,
we will marvel together -
the birds and I, 
broken limbs, 
fallen leaves -
hands of God 
And will you travel
with us too
You can - if you
learn to see, if you
listen to see, if
you listen and 
promise to leave
her unblemished.

The River White melds the brother's images - images formed from the Ozarks' unique history, images from kids walking miles of river banks in muddy tennis shoes, images of the seasons on the White,  images of a brown trout sliding sideways to capture a sowbug,  

Feeding Brown

I came to the White River late in life, uneducated of its past.  I came as a new fly fisherman.  The river captured me and became my home waters. Claiming the White my  home river allows me to tell other visiting pilgrims which flies to use - sometimes they work.  

To the Hadas the river has been a  mother's hand and a father's instruction of  woods and water.  Together they are giving back. The River White, with every page, expresses their affection so clearly.  The watercolors place your eyes in the bow of a river boat and lyrical poetry is your guide's voice as your travel through the cliffs of the Ozarks to the flatlands of the delta where the Mississippi River welcomes the White.  I am particularly fond of the stretch of river with its special seams between the Bull Shoals damn and the quaint town of Cotter, the Trout Capital, USA.

Historic Cotter Bridge

I have friends who will appreciate the beauty and the trout takes on their favorite stretch from Shipps Ferry through Rim Shoals.  Duane and Ken have captured the flow well.  Downriver from Rim the fishing pressure abates somewhat but the beauty grows and the confluence of brush and quill continue to deliver the reader to undercut banks and overhanging Sycamore trees.There is not a fly fisherman in the area that does not love the additional fishing that the Norfork  River provides as it flows to the White.

Accompanying the Hada's interpretations is Gregg Patterson's excellent historical perspective on the White River. His narrative begins at the origin of the White River, and then glides over the nation's oldest mountain range, the Ozark Mountains to share the steps of growth - the good, the bad. He chronicles  the additions of the dams that created the famous trout tailwaters that we cherish and band together to protect.  The River White will aid in that protective adoration.

         See the fisherman
         lining the ripples
         mending to a spot
         they see, a spot
         that allures them,
         holds them entranced
         beneath the seraphic sky,
         the voltaries flush
         with line and fly,
         shriveled in attention.

Duane Hada is an artist who guides or maybe that is reversed - ask him and you will either be double hauling or buying a book or painting - he is that engaging. Duane is the owner and can be reached at the Rivertown Gallery in Mountain Home, Arkansas.  For those ready to own The River White this is the link to visit.

For more about Ken Hada visit The Writer's Almanac 

Walk like a Heron

Walk like a Heron
my brother tells me
as we sneak into
flat water to cast
a green soft hackle
without a ripple.

Walk like a Heron
fish like a Heron-
live like a king.

The River White is now in the Turnip Truck Library. I recommend it for your collection.  For my RVing friends, even though you may not fly fish, I urge you to pinpoint the Ozarks, especially Cotter, on your map. One of the best RV parks, Denton Ferry RV Park and Resort , you'll ever find is on the banks of the White River. Here you will see the beauty penned in The River White.  

If you fly fish, sooner or later you will visit the White River - the experience is a must for any fishing bucket list.  By reading and enjoying the The River White your desire to make it sooner  will prevail. This wonderful book as published  evolved from forty five original watercolors that are now in a private collection.  The works are stunning and you may view them on  display at Dally's Ozark Angler in Cotter, Ar.  For newcomers to the area planning to attend the Sowbug Roundup on March 22, 23, and 24, 2012,  visit the fly shop to view Duane Hada's originals for the White River, plus you will find the timing perfect to fish a spring caddis hatch and visit with and observe some of the best fly tyers in the country.

At the Sowbug Roundup I will be Tying The Jackson on Thursday morning and volunteering at the booth of Friends Of The Norfork National Fish Hatchery in the afternoon. Please stop by and say hello.  I'm always looking for suggested locations  for the next Turnip Truck trip.

The First Edition, 2011, The River White by Duane Hada and Ken Hada is copyrighted and no part of this review may be reproduced, performed, recorded, or otherwise transmitted without the written consent of the reviewer, the authors, and the permission of the publisher.

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.