Ramble with Storm: Eating fish and game

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Mulling things on my morning ramble with Storm, the family’s mixed Lab.

Freshly caught native brook trout, cleaned, then pan-fried in butter and lightly salted (that’s all) on an open wood fire by a mountain stream is the best I’ve eaten of the outdoors.

My thoughts are often on food when it comes to the outdoors. That’s seems natural enough to me.

This morning it was particularly on my mind because I was pulling together the dove-hunting preview and i was trying to figure where I ranked grilled dove breasts among our local game.

I put it at the top with a couple other things.

A woodpecker hammered a wooden light pole in the outfield of the ball field. I thought I could find it, but it proved more elusive around the lights than I figured.

My favorite local eating fish is perch, scaled, filleted with the skin on, then pan-fried in olive oil and butter. Chunks of clean catfish, breaded and fried, would be a close second. Although spring coho ranks there, too.

I know some would say walleye, but I think of walleye more like mashed potatoes, a sort of basic.

Despite doing an extended ramble, I only flushed and saw a handful of doves. Normally, I see dozens of doves picking grit on the far end of the ramble. Of course, it was hot, maybe the beginning to the hottest day of the summer. Even the photo above seemed to shimmer. But I was also distracted in memories this morning.

The food and game thoughts took me back to a defining moment in my writing life, which was a good part of the distraction.

I was working at my first full-time sports-writing job at Suburban Life Newspapers. It was a wonderful job, but it didn’t pay squat, as in so little bill-collectors were calling.

But it ended up being the stepping stone to the Sun-Times, a story for another time.

While working there, I had my first story accepted by a mid-level outdoors magazine. They featured it as the lead story.

It was the story of my first grouse. I still like the story, it tied together family history, some scene description and some outdoor lore: dropping my florescent orange hat and making ever-widening circles to find the grouse in thick laurel (a trick I learned from reading Outdoor Life).

At any rate, that is probably the greatest meal I ever ate of wild game. I ate it alone, after I stopped in a small town to call and tell my dad from a pay phone at a country store. Remember pay phones?

Eating wild game took me back to that fall evening, now more than 20 years ago.

The check was a good one, by standards then, and nearly a week’s pay at Suburban Life.

A hot morning settled in, which may explain the lack of doves, flying or cooing. Near home, Storm did his obligatory rush to chase a gray squirrel up a neighbor’s oak. It was authentic enough to scare another squirrel across the street and up a different oak.

Some things just go on and on.

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