Tuesday, December 22, 2015

First Annual Reelfoot Duck-Blind Rodeo

Nobody goes hungry in a Reelfoot duck blind. It’s part of the deal. Your guide works the duck calls, coaxing in mallards or teals or gadwalls. Come time for breakfast or lunch, he'll take a break and get the frying pan to sizzling.

Hunters should be prepared for plates loaded with sausage-egg biscuits, bacon sandwiches, cinnamon buns, cheeseburgers, or fresh catfish rolled in Nona Belle’s Golden Fry. A fan favorite is fried baloney with American cheese on Wonder Bread. (Don’t knock it until you try it. Everything tastes better in a duck blind.) If you're lucky, your guide's wife might have sent him out with a loaf of her banana-nut bread. 

All good eats, but it’s a lot of food over a two-day hunt. And that food needs to go somewhere.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Cloud Atlas

It's the year 1637 and Kevin's ancestor Thomas Spencer and ours, Thomas Root, are living a mile from each other in Hartford, Connecticut. They're as close as Kevin and I are living now, next neighborhood over.

In 1654, my Thomas Root moves away from Hartford, 30 miles north into Massachusetts. Now here in this century, Kevin and his family have moved about 30 miles away, to Brownsburg.

It feels like the shadow of a pattern that repeats itself. 

The "what-if" in this story: what if in the year 2393, his descendants and mine, living in adjacent settlements on some distant planetary outpost, discover that their ancestors Kevin and Joe knew each other back on the home planet, in the state they called Indiana.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Little fräulein

Anna reflected that Michelle would have been age 46 yesterday, if not that Michelle will always be 21.

Summer 1990

She was a 20-year-old Indiana University nursing student in 1990, recently diagnosed with leukemia, and a patient on 5 East Oncology at St. Vincent. After scoring a remission, Michelle had relapsed, and wasn’t too happy about it. The one thing that seemed to cheer her up was the idea of another remission and getting strong enough to make her first skydive.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Harry Potter is a wizard and I am not

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Hagrid kicks down the door, introduces himself to Harry by giving him a birthday cake, and tells Harry his dad was a wizard.

Our “Hagrid” was my cousin, Daniel Root, who kicked down our door in the spring of 2013 when he shared some family history with the rest of us. He pointed us to a book published in the late 19th century:

Daniel had sketched out a guide to help us trace our family’s specific bloodline, drawing a line through the 500+ pages and thousands of names listed in this 145-year-old book. Our line started with Thomas Root, who came to the colonies in 1637 aboard the ship Increase, through to near-modern day with David Anson Root, born 1849. One of Daniel’s comments caught my eye:

Thursday, March 5, 2015


Dave sat at the light, corner of State and Southeastern, and watched three guys loitering on the stoop of a building with “The Puff n Chew” painted in crooked letters on its cinder block wall. Dave checked his door locks.

He looked in his rearview at the old woman he’d passed a block back. The sidewalks were piled deep with snow and she walked in the street. “Walked” might be an overstatement. Her legs seemed not to know each other. Take one step with the left leg. Then a pause and the right leg took a turn. Left. Right. Left. She stopped, took a little rest, and took a few more steps. She wasn’t gaining much ground.

Princeton: Buffalo Hides and Buffalo Trace

Mike brought out the old flintlock rifle and Louie decided he just had to have it. Louie wasn’t the only one. That muzzleloader was getting a lot of attention from guys in the “gun room” – their name for the meeting hall in the scruffy and threadbare Days Inn just off the interstate in north central Illinois.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Coyote Hunt

We set up in a tree line along the Salamonie River and it was obvious my eyeglasses weren’t going to cut it. It was just after dawn and my every breath rose with its heat, mixing with the 20° air and fogging my lenses. So off came the glasses. I’d just have to deal with less-than-perfect vision as we sat, watched, and waited for coyote to emerge from the surrounding woods.
USFWS Mountain-Prairie, Creative Commons

I sat with my back against a bare maple, the tree masking my outline. Mike was thirty yards to my right, and began calling. Rifle across my lap, I let him do his work.

Saturday, February 21, 2015


In 1778, militia colonel Benjamin Logan was alone when he
encountered a small party of Shawnee warriors outside his settlement near present-day Stanford, Kentucky. Outnumbered, Logan fought them off, but not without cost. With multiple wounds and his arm broken, he escaped to the safety of Logan’s Station, and eventually recovered.

To depict this event, frontier artist Andrew Knez, Jr., borrowed a friend’s hammer tomahawk to use as prop for his painting, “Encounter.”

Sunday, February 8, 2015


Once or twice a year, 30 or 40 men who’ve known each other for 20 or 30 years rendezvous at a Days Inn just off I-80, surrounded by central Illinois farmland. If you look it up on Google Maps, the place appears with the caption: “Simple hotel with free breakfast and a bar.”

Don’t bother vetting this Days Inn on TripAdvisor – I’ll tell you right up front that the wallpaper can be found peeling, the pool is empty of water in the middle of August, and the décor is heavy on 1970s-era wood paneling.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Comrades, Come Over

Kameraden! Treffen sie uns!

“What are those cabbage-eating bastards saying now?” said Sergeant Trevor MacAllister, 1st Coldstream Guards.

The prisoner, his hands bound and his English passable, said, “His words are ‘Comrades. Come meet us.’”