Thursday, February 28, 2013

Be Careful What You Wish For

Well, we've been looking for the Candy Striped Boar for a few nights now and last night...we found him. What a night! Ugh.

Around 4 AM, we were awoken by what sounded like trees being uprooted, limbs cracking all sorts of hellish destruction. Think of a pack of King Kongs running through the brush. Jumping out of my tent, I saw that Victoria and Runt were already out, Victoria grabbing her gear and Runt running back and forth through the campsite trying to decide which direction the sound was coming from. Just as Victoria was loading her rifle, out of the shadows charged the mad-eyed monster, knocking her on her ass. It's eyes and tusks gleamed in the moonlight as it charged towards Powell's tent (where he was cowering inside, I imagine). 

Runt in the Carnage
In a flash, Runt was on the beast. Leaping onto it's brightly colored back and grabbing hold of it's mighty tusks! What happened next seems like a dream. A really bad dream but a dream nonetheless. The forest erupted with wildlife, animals charged into the clearing bewildered and running for their lives. Runt was riding the monster like a monkey on a Brahma bull and the porker was thrashing about, crushing our tents, impaling frightened animals on it's boar-blades...blood was flying everywhere! Victoria was trying to get a clear shot with her rifle, a tranquilizer dart at the ready, I was hoping it was a strong one, but Runt was on that thing like snot on a beard. It was a blur of fur, teeth, midget and hooves! 

WHAM! In a split second the great pig ran headlong into a tree, tossing Runt off into the brush, head over heels. Thrashing it's head back and forth it loosed itself from the huge oak, it's tusks buried deep in the wood. In a flash, it turned towards Powell, who was out of the tent in his skivvies and trying to climb a tree like a squirrel on acid. POW!! Steelheads rifle cracked and the dart found it's mark, a beautiful shot, deep in the left pork butt. The wild pig-creature oinked in agony and did a back flip, landing on it's legs and staring at me, it's breath whooofing out of it's shiny snout like a steam engine. Then.... just like that, its eyes crossed, its legs shook and the thing dropped to the torn forest floor like a ton of Christmas hams. 
Powell's sketch of the beast, covered in Runt-blood

Daylight was beginning to show it's faint light as we gathered around the monster. Runt crawled from the brush into what was left of our campsite. Carcasses of dead animals littered the clearing and our tents were in shreds. Thinking fast, Powell grabbed his sketchbook and captured the thing on paper. We had no idea how long the tranquilizer would last so we had to act fast. I took some hair samples from its gorgeous coat and was about to draw some blood when the thing leapt up and knocked me ass over tea kettle. It shook itself like a dog after a bath, glared at us and ran headfirst into the underbrush...and into the annals of history. 

It was about 6 AM but I was ready for a drink...a stiff one.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Deep in The Arkansas Sticks

Well, it's a couple days now since Powell, Runt, Veronica Steelhead and I set off into the bush to look for the Candy-Striped Boar. We've got a nice campsite set up and have been making forays each day into the surrounding hills. At night you can hear the grunting, thrashing and general havoc of these wild little porkers but damned if we've gotten a glimpse. During the daylight hours they're as elusive as a Skunk Ape. I'd make some night trips but we've had trouble with our night vision gear. I poked my head out of the tent last night when I heard one that sounded awfully close but this is all I got on camera:

I guess Veronica heard him too. Needless to say, I quickly ducked back into the tent. I don't want any "uncomfortable situations" between me and my crew. That Steelhead pitches a mean tent. I'm thinking I may have to chain Runt to a tent pole each night, he's young and has the manners of one of these boars we're after.
Powell's sketchbook
The days have been surprisingly chilly and wet but we've been out in it anyway. Powell continues to make field sketches and we've come across some interesting critters out here. The Ouachita wilderness is home to a diverse variety of strange wildlife' Here are a few of them:

Spotted Dorkmouse
Here's a close-up of the Spotted Dorkmouse. Probably one of natures dumbest creations, the Dorkmouse is known to wander aimlessly through the woods hoping to stumble across a bug or worm so it doesn't starve to death. They're prime targets for predators but they have an awful aftertaste and due to this, they survive to this day.

Double Stingered Stag Beetle
Red Bearded Antenna Crow
The Double Stingered Stag Beetle is a mean son of a gun. Very aggressive, they'll leap from the trees just to put the pinch on you. The two stingers serve to protect it from an unsuspecting foot and believe, me if you step on one of these boogers, you'll feel it. One would be wise to have some good, solid soles on your boots in this area.

One of the more pleasant creatures in these woods is the Red Bearded Antenna Crow. They're a constant companion at lunchtime and have no qualms about joining you at your table. A very patient bird, it'll sit on a nearby rock and stare you down until guilt drives you to toss it a piece of bologna. They like mustard, not mayo.

Elephant Mole
The Elephant Mole spends most of it's time underground in search of grubs but you'll occasionally see it's proboscis extending from a small hole in the underbrush.This is probably the most interesting aspect of the Elephant Mole: It actually uses it's "trunk" as a lure. An unsuspecting bird, mistaking the pink proboscis for a worm will find itself in the clutches of the mole's mighty forepaws to be dragged beneath the ground, never to be seen again. Screaming in agony as it's devoured, torn limb from limb in the inky blackness of the grave-like tunnel. Other than that, it's a pretty cute little critter.

Until next dispatch,


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Jack Proves He's a Hard Ass

Stopped last night on a sandbar near Blue Hole Lake so Attaway could "stretch his legs". Attaway has a thing about going "number 2" on the boat if he can help it. The guy spent way too many years in the bush with my grandfather and a hole in the ground suits him better than the porcelain honda. Go figure. Well, it's weird little quirks like this in life that get us into hot water. You're not gonna find trouble unless you go looking for it (mostly) and well, Attaway found it last night. 
Two-Headed, Tiny Thorned Tortoise

I guess, he'd found "just the right spot" (picky bastard that he is) and he scooped himself out a landlubber's latrine to lay some cable in. Well wasn't he surprised about what popped out of that hole when he lowered his afterdeck down to lose some ballast: A Two-Headed, Tiny Thorned Tortoise! Damned if he didn't sit right down on all four of those sharp little horns too. Yowch. The horns actually have a bit of venom on their tips but Jack is a tough old bird and he forgave the little mutant. He pulled the sucker up, finished his business and came back on board with our new specimen.

In addition to the two heads, the thing had some other "stuff" going on with it. It was looking pretty sickly and it was sticking it's tongues out like an Orange-Tounged, Tufted Min-O-Spinner. I figure his mom and daddy must have hung around the nuclear plant downriver near St. Francisville and got "romantic" in some of the runoff. Oh well, two heads are better than one, right? I guess so in this instance...just one wouldn't have stopped a Hard-Ass like Attaway. Saved the little guy from a different type of toxic waste.

Anyway, we'll put him in a holding tank until we're back near the rest of the collection in a few months and he'll probably find a home in the McFinn's Museum someday.

Oh yeah, cookie decided to celebrate and made us some of his famous JalapeƱo Turtle Bread. Here he is, cracking his old joke.."Look! I'm a one-eyed Turtle!". Salty old dog.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Heading Up The Mighty Mississippi

We've made the decision to forego the land expeditions and take the Frankie Anne III upriver a bit and head into the sticks from there. The Hooligan needs some engine work and I've got  the Hansen Brothers working on that while we're under way.

Runt, who apparently grew up with very few clothes (2 pair of underwear in 20 years??) and has lived his entire life without ever owning a shirt was thrilled to receive his very own Gill McFinn's East Texas Red Thugfish shirt the other day. The fish seemed appropriate for our tough little man. He's a scrapper, that's for sure and is fitting in well.
Horned, Snaggle-Backed Gatorlizard

So, things are going rather smoothly for now, not much to report. Powell's been checking out the critters that inhabit the banks of the southern Mississippi and has been sketching away. He's found some strange critters here and there. I was really surprised that he came across the Horned, Snaggle-Backed Gatorlizard the other day. They're not easy to come by. The little boogers are only 6" long thank God... any bigger and they'd take off your arm.

Mississippi Mudtoad
Spotted Snake-necked Snorklenose Terrapin
Another funky little guy you find in these parts is the Spotted Snake-necked Snorklenose Terrapin. A rather neurotic breed you find around here along with the Mississippi Mudtoad. I have no idea what their problem is but one look at these things and you can see they could use some therapy sessions.

So, that's the report for today. I'll let you know what we find up ahead. In the meantime, I'm going to try some casts for Channel Cats and whatever I can catch. I think I'll start out with a Pork Plugg....

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Lately, we’ve been heading into the wilds of Southern Arkansas in search of the illusive Candy-Striped Boar. So far we’ve not had much luck but have had some interesting run-ins nonetheless. The backwoods of Upper Louisiana can get pretty sketchy and you never know what you’re going to come across out there. I’ve seen woodchucks the size of bears and mosquitoes that could carry a fat baby off into the tall pines, wailing for its mamma.

But…I’ve never seen anything like I’ve seen today. Never. Somehow the Gods were shining on us and we were delivered a bounty from the badlands.

Victoria, Powell and I were working our way through some rough country in our 4- wheeler, The Hooligan when we came around a corner and found ourselves at the edge of a river. As we were deciding where to ford, I stepped out to “drain the lizard” and thought I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. Damned if it wasn't a group of bear cubs across river from us playing in some underbrush. They were cute little buggers so I called to Powell to come take a photo. Just then, we heard a blood curdling scream and a deer leapt out of the woods going hell for leather across the river towards us. I was trying to get my head around the idea of a screaming deer when everything I’ve ever known was blown to smithereens as a huge bear lunged from the brush in pursuit of the deer. Weird enough for you? Get this: Atop of the bear rode a swarthy, stoic-faced, bare-chested midget!

Seeing us, he came to a stop on our side of the river and stepped off of the panting beast. He swung his stubby legs over its back and waddled over to us and stuck his hand out. “Call me Runt!” he said, grinning like a wild man.

To save you all the details, camp was made, beers were cracked and in the light of a roaring fire that night, we welcomed Rob “Runt” MacKelpie onto the crew of the Frankie Anne III. The Ship’s Midget!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

We get "Voodoo-ed"

Sketch of the Voodoo Giant
Last Friday night I thought try out this new bar I'd heard about off of Pirate Alley. They had Absinthe there and I'd had a bad day and figured I needed to see things from a "different perspective". So. I dropped in and had a few. At about 11 o'clock. in walks this 7 foot tall black dude wearing a top hat and a ratty overcoat. He had huge, yellow eyes that wandered to and fro as if they had a mind of their own, sweeping the room constantly. Of course, he sits down right next to me. Well, we got to talking (this is sort of a stretch, he seemed to be in a trance) and of course the conversation turned towards fishing. I thought I'd throw out the old line and see if he new of any interesting spots I might want to check out. I mean, the guy didn't look like much of an outdoorsman but, hell, you never know. Damned if he didn't sit straight up in his chair and start reciting this "legend" to me, his eyes, now steely still, gazed into my very soul as he spoke: 

"Outside of New Orleans in an undisclosed swamp near Lake Pontchartrain there lies a pool surrounded by cypress and draped with Spanish moss. Dark, dank and stinking, buzzing with flies it lies in constant shadow, it's surface still. But if one looks closely, underneath the oily surface of the water ...something moves. At first you see their eyes, ghostly white and then, perhaps their teeth. Woe to the occasional ignorant raccoon who stops by this pool for a drink or to wash its paws. The bottom of this pool is said to be littered with the bones of many beasts. And men. Legend has it that a Creole fisherman sold a bad bass to the great Marie Laveu at the local fish market causing her to spend Fat Tuesday locked in her outhouse. When she'd recovered, the voodoo priestess Laveu put a curse on that fisherman's favorite spot for eternity and now the Largemouth Zombie Bass forever lurk beneath it's waters." 

When he stopped, the bar was silent. Everyone was staring at this guy with a look of sheer terror in their eyes as he stood up and walked out the door. In a moment, the music picked up, folks shook themselves out of their stupor and the place was filled with conversation once again. I was just finishing my drink when this fella comes up to me and says "I know where that place is and I can take you there, but it's gonna cost you, big time". I was hooked. 

The next day, we picked this guy up over off of Tchoupitoulas Street and we headed for Pontchartrain. The guy's name was Stewie Prima and, by the look of his gear he looked like he knew his way around a lake. He seemed really nervous though and he wanted the money up front. Down here in the Big Easy they take this voodoo stuff pretty seriously. I've never been too superstitious myself. Although, I was bringing my "Little Devil" along because it seemed an appropriate lure for this little venture. 

Let me tell you, I wasn't disappointed.After a few hours of slogging through some pretty fetid swamps, dodging gators, swatting flies, we found ourselves in a dark corner of nowhere. The place was eerily quiet and the air was still as we topped a small rise in the swamp and came across this:

My skin was crawling and my heart was beating like a hammer but somehow I went into "auto-pilot" and, in a wink my lure was in the drink! 

BANG! Did it hit hard! I yanked on my pole with all my might, but it was like a lead manatee had sat on my lure so I pulled harder. All of the sudden the thing leaps from the water an hits Stewie right in the chest knocking him on his ass. Powell is snapping photos like a madman and Stewie is screaming "Get it OFF!!! Get it OFFFF!!!!!" when the horrid thing flops on the ground twice, looses itself from my lure and pops into the pond. A crow cackled at us from a branch and flew away. 

We got Stewie under control and calmed him down but the poor guy was pretty shook up. He was babbling about voodoo curses and mumbling to himself as we made our way out of there back towards Pontchartrain. I kept telling him he'd be fine, that voodoo was a nonsense but he was having none of it and, the tell you the truth, I was feeling a bit creeped myself. But I kept at him and he started to come around and by the time the swamp started slipping away and the light of day began to appear he was looking pretty good. 

Click here to order this baby!!!
Stopping for lunch, we sat on the banks of Lake Ponchartrain and, after a beer or two we had our tackle out and were laughing and fishing like nothing had happened. Powell was taking photos and Stewie was actually in great spirits. He was wading into the waters and casting when...out of nowhere, this huge bear rises out of the water like a ghost and devours him, Whole, then sinks back beneath the depths as if he (or Stewie) had never been there. 

Powell and I stood up, grabbed our gear and walked back to the truck without saying a word. When we got back to town, I headed back to the ship and Powell found the nearest Catholic church. I don't think I'll mess with that voodoo stuff anymore. 

That night, Powell drew this as if he was in a trance. You can buy this one on a shirt also, in memory of Stewie. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Trouble in Paradise (A Minor Setback)

We made landfall in New Orleans yesterday evening after a smooth trip into the gulf (got me that Sea Bass I was looking for with Dafari's grub!) aboard the Frankie Anne III. The crew were itching to hit the town and spent the latter part of the day scrubbing their faces and washing their skivvies. Mom was scowling at every one of them. She knew, as all mothers have some sort of weird-o sixth sense, that trouble was brewing. New Orleans is an easy place to find trouble.

The Frankie Anne III at the New Orleans dock
Everyone of us has our favorite watering hole in each port. In The Big Easy, I like to go hear some jazz over at Nina's, the Hansen Brothers go for O'Brien's and drink those huge hurricanes, eventually throwing up in the fountain. God knows where Petrus goes, I don't ask! Cookie, he likes Big Benny's on the waterfront. I've been there a time or two with him and, if you ask me, he's sweet on Benny. She's about three biscuits over 275 and stands a good foot taller than ol' Cookie but he likes 'em big and that's okay with me. Whatever floats your boat is what I always say. I imagine that's how he got to be such a good cook, fattening up his broads. Well, Benny isn't a slouch in the kitchen either and she's actually a little famous for her fried oysters and a few other eats she serves up at her joint. The problem with their "romance" is just that: food. Both Cookie and Benny have a pretty high opinion of their skills as culinary commandos and when they get to talking grub, things can get ugly. Uglier than both Cookie and Benny put together.

So, after we set anchor we all jumped in the skiff and headed to town. We dropped Cookie off first and pulled around to a dock, tied up and went our merry ways. It was a beautiful evening and the smell of beignets  was wafting from the French Quarter as I made my way down to Nina's. Just for the hell of it, I dropped into O'Brien's and had a (small) hurricane with those troublemakers to show them I had no hard feelings after chewing their asses out yesterday for flooding the hold again. After that, I was on my own. Good to get away from each other every now and then, that's for sure.

Well let me tell you "Bones" Mahoney was on fire that night. I could hear him tickling those keys from half a block away and the sound washed over me like a warm Hawaiian wave as I walked in. He had Jack "Heavy" Jerkins on the tenor sax playing along and they were bouncing riffs off of one another like those chicks at Wimbledon last year. It was fantastic...'round midnight when Powell pops his head in and tells me we had a rescue mission to run.

Apparently, he'd had a hankering for some of Benny's Oysters and hung with Cookie for the evening. I guess they were having a pretty good time and Cookie and Benny were getting pretty touchy-feely (sorry Powell had to see that) until something about food came up. I don't know exactly what was said but Benny didn't like it. I guess things heated up pretty fast because Powell had to tell me all of this at a run as we high-tailed it for the skiff. I guess Cookie had locked himself in the head (that's bathroom for all you landlubbers) and Benny was pounding on the door with her butcher's knife. Problem was, the only way out of the head was through a window out back, over the water.

I took this photo as we pulled up to save Cookie's skin. Love is a fragile thing!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Rounding The Cape of Good Hope

Heading back to the States now. This weekend, while all of you landlubbers were watching football we were rounding The Cape of Good Hope in some fairly rough seas. Most of us are accustomed to this type of thing but there are those among us (cough...cough...Powell) who are a little "sensitive. You know these artistic types. I caught this flattering photo of him feeding the fish. He was out there for a good 15 minutes and I had to send Dafari out to tie him to the deck. I didn't want him in the drink or I'd have to send one of those damn Hansen brothers out to get him. A Hansen brother I could lose...Powell is one of a kind.

If you look closely you can see the cape in the background. After we'd all had a hearty breakfast of Octopus sausage and Albatross eggs, Cookie was preparing crab cakes for dinner and the scent was wafting through the ship as the Hansen brothers played poker and smoked cigars in the Mess hall. I don't know what sets Powell off sometimes. He's got the stomach of a little girl.

Usually, it's pretty smooth sailing aboard the Frankie Anne III and while us manly types are on deck doing all sorts of manly things (Veronica may be the most "manly" of all of us to tell the truth) Powell is usually down below drawing away in his cabin. Using a combination of photos provided by Petrus and his own memory , he begins with a series of rough sketches in his books, eventually working towards a finished "portrait". I snapped a couple photos of the Snogfish as he was working on it last year. Here's the finished sketch:

Don't ask me why, but he works in watercolors which is a stupid idea in my opinion, seeing as we're aboard a SHIP . I don't know how many times I've heard his screams when one of his paintings gets wet and ruins the damn thing. Go figure...Water? On a boat??? Anyway, he starts all over again and isn't satisfied until he's got it right (which is good, seeing as I'm paying him). Here's the painting of the Snogfish"

When he's done with one of these beauties, it goes to our land crew and our archivist, Professor Thorstenson (a distant relative of Thor Heyerdahl himself!) files the original away and sets to work getting it ready for print for our shirts and other outdoor gear. Did I mention you can buy gear from our store ? Please do! It's for a worthy cause. Building the upcoming Gill McFinn Museum is an expensive task and let me tell you, gas for this boat ain't cheap either!! Creating our shirts and other gear is a lengthy process but it's worth it, you folks deserve the best and the Gill McFinn crew doesn't cut any corners ! 

So, now we're heading towards the gulf coast and hope to be in Louisiana after all the Superbowl fans have cleared out. We'll stop in at Pat O'brien's and have a couple Hurricanes at before we outfit ourselves for a trip into the bush in search of the rarely seen North American Candy-Striped Boar! 

Until then!