Mud Dust Smoke & Snow

By Patrick McGann

On New Year’s Day, I finally got to wondering about resolutions. I haven’t done that in a few years. I contemplated. I ruminated. I Googled. I found Woody Guthrie’s New Year’s resolutions from 1943. He called them “rulin’s.” Isn’t that something?

Among them were pledges to shave, and shine his shoes, work more and change his socks. He pledged to not get lonesome and “keep glad.” There were too many, 33 in all. My favorites were his pledges to dance better, love everybody, make up his mind, “beat fascism” and “wake up and fight.” He also resolved to “wash teeth, if any.”

Woody Guthrie was a man worth emulating. So I have some too. Here are my “rulin’s” for 2014:

I’m going to be the editor of Salmon & Steelhead Journal. My new boss is an old and good friend and a longtime colleague. I’m going to try to help him turn a pretty darn good, young magazine into a great one that’ll live to be old. That’ll take some thinking outside the box on the nature of content, synchronous content generation, asynchronous publication and multiple modes and channels of paid delivery. (Shop talk, sorry.) And, of course, generous applications of old school elbow grease.

I’m going to quit writing general op-ed columns … for a while. So this will be my last column for the Methow Valley News. I suppose that’s a good news/bad news thing. Writing general opinions is a tough racket because most people don’t really understand the nature of published opinion. Too many think there is winning involved. Or persuasion. There isn’t, really. It’s all just little pebbles thrown into the pond to make interesting ripples for people to ponder.

I will appreciate the opportunity it has been to fling columns out to my neighbors in a small community. I hope you’ve enjoyed them even if you didn’t agree with all or even any of them. It’s been fun, educational and at times challenging. And I hope I didn’t annoy too many too much. Thanks, Don. Thanks, Paul. Thanks, John. Thanks, Sue.

Once again I’ll be a nomad, living on both sides of the mountains, running the wheels off and waking up in cheap motel rooms to wander out into the middle of the night to have a greasy breakfast washed down with hot, watery Folgers before “numbling” into a boat. It’ll be a blast.

I’m going to try to take my wife along on as many of those trips as I possibly can because, as I’ve written in my first Editor’s Letter, “My wife is a better fisherman than I am.” And by better I don’t mean more proficient. You’ll just have to read it to see what I mean.

But I’ll also be here. I’m going to keep tending bar up at Sun Mountain for banquets, retreats and weddings, which is something I actually enjoy. Because S&SJ comes out six times a year, plus an annual (Traveling Angler) scheduling should be easy.

I’m going to have to finally pay attention to my camera. Even during my stint whisky peddling, I’ve been a journalist for almost 40 years, and in that time I’ve maintained a strict separation between the professions by largely leaving my lens cap in place. I’ve been advised to quiddit. S&SJ is a slick glossy with a well-deserved reputation for photography.

There’s a whole lot I have to relearn about fish, guides, rivers, knots, regs, boats, biology, biologists and the relaxing, almost Zen-like quality of fisheries politics. It’ll be like falling off a bike (hopefully not a Ducati doing 80).

What about traditional resolutions?

Well, I’m going to try not to worry so much in 2014. I need to re-lose about 25 pounds … gained by worrying too much. (Yeah, that’s it, not butter and fried chicken.) Worrying is fattening, constipating and causes wrinkles. Quiddit.

But, you know, you have to watch it on this resolution stuff. You can just load up your pack until it’s too heavy to carry, resolving to be kinder, a better listener, less shy, more generous, an earlier riser, more productive, less grumpy, a more regular cat box scooper, a less regular cusser, more of this, less of that and more or less perfect.

I’ve pretty much already given up most of my really bad habits and that leaves me with only one or two truly awful traits to give up. So I resolve not to put myself in an even worse predicament of that sort in 2014.

I regret I never got around to writing the column that got me into this MVN gig in the first place, even though it seems every column I wrote (or ever will) I tried. And it doesn’t look like I’m going to get to it now, either. But I can at least summarize. It’s from an old Irish proverb, something no one should forget, no matter how far into the crazy their politics or ideology or philosophy takes them: “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.”

There. That oughta do it.


Patrick McGann lives in Twisp.