Minor gods of annoyance

Wool sock booby trapped by Enochli̱tikos – the demigods of annoyances and irritations.

A thorn imbedded in a wool sock has rubbed a raw spot on the bunion on my right foot. The fiery scrape and stab of a thistle’s needle-tip spine is another of the small miseries I blame upon the Enochli̱tikos, minor gods of annoyance whose raison d’être is to inflict irritation and vexation.

Tonight one of them has deftly woven a tiny needle into a fuzzy pill of wool inside the sock, protruding just far enough to prick and rip my tender skin. The intent of the little demons, apparently, is to worsening the agonies imposed by the grander goddess Nemesis: leg muscle cramps to punish my hubris of snowshoeing two miles before I have properly conditioned my body for winter hiking.

Enochli̱tikos, these smalltime pranksters of the supernatural realm, are nasty creatures. Vile and mean-spirited.

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She run off with a Norski


Actress Katheryn Winnick playing the shield maiden Lagertha in the ‘Vikings’ (Credit: History Channel)

She run off with a Norski

Come home from fishin’ and my woman was gone.
She took my fjord horse and every goat on the farm,
But the worst thing is she run off with a Norski.
A six-four Viking with his own long boat,
Broadsword, battle ax, and a bear skin coat.
Lord, I just can’t believe she’s run off with a Norski.

The whole village knows how I treated her good,
Bought her a loom to weave wool, a maul to split wood,
And she give up all that to run off with a Norski.
I told her we was gonna have nine children or more
To help her work the farm, clean fish, scrub the floor,
But she throwed her life away to run off with a Norski.

Lookin’ back I recall she said wanted to be
A warrior maiden sailin’ ’cross the North Sea
Stealin’ gold and slaves and fightin’ like a Norski.
I told her, woman get them thoughts outta your head,
You’re a farm wife born to milk goats and bake bread,
And you ain’t got it in you to run off with some Norski.

But now I come home and the hearth fire is out.
There’s a note on the door so there ain’t no doubt
She’s left me for good and run off with a Norski.
My Pa don’t seem to care and neither does Gramp,
They say, “We told you not to marry that Norwegian tramp!”
“You should have known someday she’d run off with a Norski.”


More essays and stories about life in the North Country are published in my six collections of essays, available through Amazon.com at  Jerry Johnson Author Page

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January morning walk

Clear blue sky, but the thermometer read 5 degrees and a raw 10 mile-per-hour wind was blowing. We went for a January morning walk anyway. The bite of an Arctic wind on face and hands is our admission fee to witness the beauty of the North Country in winter.


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Siren Song of the Southwest

AN ARCTIC WIND carried the first snowstorm of January across the North Country this week, the temperature dropped to six below zero, and our long, steep driveway is a bobsled run of packed snow and ice. Last night, listening to the shriek of the bitter wind in the eaves, I could hear three Sirens sing to me – a lilting, melodious, enticing song: “Come to us, be with us, stay with us…”

They promised me an escape from harsh winter to gentle lands of warmth, excitement, splendor, comfort, and pleasure. They whispered to me their names: Arizona, Utah, Nevada.

Photo image from the website emaze, https://app.emaze.com

In Greek mythology, the Sirens are beautiful but dangerous sea creatures that play enchanting music and sing sensuous songs to lure sailors to shipwreck and death on the rocky coasts of their islands. Artworks from the classical age of the Greco-Roman world depict Sirens as seductive creatures, half woman and half bird, whose exquisite faces and bodies add to their alluring voices and beguiling music to make them irresistible.

Once a Siren song reaches your ear, you are doomed.

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There’s a point (of impact) to all this

Certain that the old Lefever 16 gauge must be shooting low (I missed two shot at pheasants one cold December morning) I spent this overcast January afternoon doing a point-of-impact test to prove the inaccurate shooting was the fault of the gun, not I. The patterning sheets did not vindicate me, however.

My most trusted and most used double gun, a Browning BSS Sporter in 20 gauge, has been reliable this fall, taking most of the roosters Abbey has found and pointed. So it was the “baseline” gun for yesterday’s pattern test. If I could determine where it was placing its charge of shot on a pattern sheet, I could compare that result with the point-of-impact pattern of the Lefever and then adjust the Lefever’s stock dimensions to correct its errant ways.

I hung two pattern sheets on the side of the old corn crib foundation, one for the test of the BSS and one for the test of the Lefever. I backed off about 20 yards, slightly downhill, and using the same step-mount-fire sequence I would use to shoot at a flushing pheasant I fired three rounds from the right barrel of each gun at the center dot of its designated pattern sheet.

The truth was immediately apparent, but I took the pattern sheets into the workshop where I could use a felt tip marker to outline the respective patterns to confirm what I already knew – and eat humble pie. The 20-gauge BSS and the 16-gauge Lefever throw virtually identical patterns to virtually the same point of impact.

Yes, at 20 yards the 16-gauge gun’s pattern measures about 26 inches compared to the 20-gauge gun’s 24-inch pattern. And the center of the Lefever’s pattern is about two inches lower than the center of the BSS’s pattern. But both of those differences are insignificant when shooting at birds in the field.

This was discomfiting because:

1) I now know that any bird I miss when shooting the Lefever will be my own fault;

2) since the Lefever does not require any corrective work I do not have a “project gun” to tinker with this winter.

Maybe I’ll travel south in February and spend some time on sporting clays ranges. That’s probably the “corrective work” my bird shooting needs.


More essays and stories about bird dogs, bird hunting, bird guns, and life in the North Country are published in my six collections of essays, available through Amazon.com at  Jerry Johnson Author Page


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Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice
By the end of the journey the wanderer is not the same,
Changed by burden and circumstance, fate and chance.
All paths go astray, and we fall weary by the wayside,
Unable to go on until one skin is shed, another grown.
The Winter Solstice is the right time to end a journey,
A time of rest and contemplation, life’s longest night.
Awakened and renewed by the rise of a rejuvenated Sun,
A new and different person, we begin another journey.



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Balancing act

After a recent comedy of errors performed in the course of a mid-morning pheasant hunt in the North Country (read Seven shotshells), Abbey and I were due for a karmic balancing act, an opportunity to enjoy an exciting and uplifting day in the wild to offset that dismal showing. Thanks to the efforts of 30-year friend and hunting companion John Beard, our bird hunting universe is back in balance.

Pheasants are scare this year in our part of the upper Midwest, or as the Department of Natural Resources public relations people like to say, “populations are spotty.” One’s chances of finding a “spot” that has a good number of roosters is about the same as rolling three consecutive sevens with the dice, but Old Coot bird hunters are an optimistic lot who believe the next small piece of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) grassland will yield a bounty not seen since the explosion of  Phasianus colchicus in the 1960s.

As we loaded squirming dogs into the travel boxes in the pickup at dawn’s first light, John’s Vizsla Bella and my French spaniel Abbey, John told me that he had done some calling the evening before and received permission for us to hunt some private land that could be the Shangri-La of which we dreamed.

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