I was a new and nervous reporter, my first minute on the job at the Orange County Register, still trying to figure out office etiquette when working in a long row of cubicles so small and close together and with walls low enough that I could see the stubble on the back of the neck of the reporter in front of me. Just as I silently sat down, that neck swiveled to reveal a smiling face.
“Hey. I’m Marty. Welcome. It’s good to have you here. If you have any questions or need anything, let me know. ”
Long after we left the Register, Marty and I remained writing friends and, huge caveat here, fans of each other’s work. I invited my writer friend to stop by the backyard to tell you about his new nonfiction book, “The Wild Duck Chase.” It’s about the obscure Federal Duck Stamp Program and the strange and wonderful world of competitive duck painting. Weird? You betcha. It’s a highly entertaining book that’s a perfect fit for our outdoorsy, michikusa–centric focus here at the Backyard Sisters. Best of all, it invites a reader to tackle stereotypes.
Welcome, Marty. It’s good to have you here.
Just back from a fly-fishing trip to the Bighorn River in Montana, and was struck again (as I was while writing “The Wild Duck Chase”) by the depth of knowledge that dedicated outdoorsmen and -women have about the natural world. Robert Bealle, the 2009 Federal Duck Stamp Artist, was able to tell the specific stretch of the Potomac River where the duck he’d shot had been feeding, because of the unusual type of freshwater clams he found in the duck’s craw. One of our fishing guides on the Bighorn put a tube down the throat of a brown trout I’d landed and suctioned out the contents of its stomach to see which type of flies and worms it had been feeding on that morning (so he could choose the proper fly for my next cast). Another guide noticed a nasty wound on another fish I’d landed and deduced that the little fella had a recent brush with a spike-beaked blue heron. Still another spent at least 10 minutes trying to revive a lethargic but still-living brown trout by washing water through its gills. Now, I’m not a hunter, and not much of a fisherman. But after two years of research on the book and my accumulated experiences among hunters and fishermen, I no longer have much patience with those who dismiss them as exploiters of wildlife. They are, for the most part, mindful custodians of a world the rest of us appreciate primarily in theory.
Marty, (that’s Martin J. Smith to you) will discuss his new book and sign copies at the
Big Orange Book Book Festival in Orange, California at 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21. If you’re not interested in what many consider the single greatest conservation initiative in human history, or the quirky annual art contest at its center, or a cast of characters that includes a guy who keeps 15 dead birds in his Sears Kenmore freezer, then perhaps you’ll be tempted to attend by knowing that Marty will reveal the name of the artist who managed to paint an entire passage of incredibly filthy porn movie dialogue into his entry, which was then soberly displayed by oblivious federal officials who take this stuff VERY seriously.
Marty will also be reading at Barnes & Noble in Huntington Beach, 9/18 at 7 p.m.; Book Soup in West Hollywood, 9/19 at 7 p.m.; The Book Frog in Rolling Hills Estates, 9/22, time TBA. If you happen to be in Ogden Utah on 9/28, Marty will speak and sign books in the Weber State library at 3 p.m. right after the first round of judging for this year’s Federal Duck Stamp Contest.
Still not sure? Read a witty review of The Wild Duck Chase here.
In addition to telling you about a great book, and a kind writing friend, I leave you with one more lasting bit of Backyard Sisters wisdom. Writers who are supportive of other writers (and editors) sure make the world a kinder gentler place. Have you given a shout-out to a writer you admire today?
With high regard,