Field and Stream

Laugh Lines

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Fishermen are born honest, but they get over it. —Ed Zern, circa 1945

I’m not saying that Texas food isn’t tasty, or possibly even nourishing; it’s just that I can’t hit the average truck stop there without the same feeling I had when I boxed—I know I’m going to get hurt, it’s only a question of how bad. —Gene Hill, “Texas Digest,” August 1977

A glance at the newsstand might convince you that High Adventure! is the exclusive domain of buffed, bronzed Boy Toys, of abdominall­y ripped 20-somethings with perfect teeth and body piercings. Naaah. Old Coots can adventure here, too. —Lionel Atwill, “Frozen Balls,” March 2001

Without panfish, I might well have sunk into juvenile delinquenc­y, or golf. —Ted Leeson, “Red, White, and Bluegill,” June 2004

My father scrambled to his feet and clapped his hands together. The sound echoed through the woods like a shot. The gobbler whirled and took to the air, terrified. We looked at each other, wordless with the thrill of the moment. “Well,” he finally said, “we could have shot him.”

“We could have,” I echoed, grinning foolishly. “We sure could.” Especially if the gun hadn’t been back in the car. —Joel M. Vance, “My Father’s Finest Hunt,” April 1973

You can always tell a fisherman, but you can’t tell him much. —Corey Ford, circa 1940

Profanity is as much a part of hunting and fishing as Vienna sausage and wet toilet paper. It is a manifestat­ion of the freedom afforded by the outdoors. If you want to say **** or ******* because it describes your gun or your dog or the deer or fish that escaped you, you may do so. —David E. Petzal, “Oh, ****!” November 2003

The violent strain in Norwegians died with the Vikings, and today’s can kill you only with kindness or cross-country skis. —Scott Bestul, “The Norwegian Mafia,” February 2015

A few minutes later, another tom started walking toward us. He stopped just out of range, stared at me, then turned quickly to his right and moved behind a thick clump of brush. I got ready to shoot, but he was low to the ground when he came out, wings tight to the body, head out, and moving fast. All I could think of was Groucho Marx and his famous duck walk. —Slaton L. White, “Busted,” July 1994

My wife says I should be embarrasse­d, but I can’t help it. In looking at Claude Monet’s classic water lily paintings, I keep asking, “Where’s the Hula Popper?” —John Merwin, “50 Greatest Lures of All Time,” April 2006

In the beginning, there was Walt Disney, and Disney said, “Make some animals in my own image.” And lo, there was Bambi, and Bambi’s Mom and Dad, and there was Thumper and Flower and all manner of cute little chipmunks and dancing birds and cuddly creatures which would, unless killed by the cruel, red-eyed hunter (or maybe a forest fire) live forever, not only on the animated screen, but in the minds of a lot of people who ought to know better. —Margaret G. Nichols, “Alice (and Friends) in Disney Land,” May 1972

Carp fishing is like soccer. The rest of the world is stark-raving mad about the sport. But in the states, soccer rates somewhere between

bowling and cow tipping—or, for that matter, alongside carp fishing. —Kirk Deeter, “Carp Crazy,” April 2008

Hospitals ask you to describe your pain on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being unbearable. There is an 11, and you can experience it on any horseback ride longer than onetenth of a mile. —David E. Petzal, “What’s the Meaning of Life?” December 2019–January 2020

Use your listener’s own momentum against him in a way he doesn’t expect, causing him to fly out the window. Look to the left and right when he asks how you failed to get your deer, as if making sure nobody else can eavesdrop on the profound secret you’re about to reveal. Take a step closer to the person and motion for him to bend in toward you. Take another look around, lean in toward his ear, and whisper so

Stalking along a hillside of broken conifers behind my guide, Michel Quevion, on the first day of the hunt, I’m playing a highstakes version of “Dancing With the Stars.” Maintainin­g my interval of exactly two steps behind, I mirror his every move—Ginger Rogers with a .270 and Muck boots trying to keep up with this Fred Astaire, a Québécois whose English sounds like it has just gone through a garbage disposal. Not that he speaks much. My job is to avoid costing us points with the judges, who are wearing antlers and will vanish at the first misstep. —Bill Heavey, “Castaway in Deer Paradise,” October 2009 softly that even he will not be sure you actually had the audacity to say the following: I missed. The truth, used sparingly, can be the most astounding excuse of all. —Bill Heavey, “The Art of Lying,” February 2004

The most memorable retrieves I’ve seen haven’t been 200-yard blinds for winged ducks, but 15-footers for icy Bud Lights. —Will Brantley, “Teach a Dog to Fetch a Beer,” June–July 2018

When you fall in a river, you’re no longer a fisherman; you’re a swimmer. —Gene Hill, “Gene’s Gems,” January 1993

I get all the truth I need in the newspaper every morning, and every chance I get I go fishing, or swap stories with fishermen, to get the taste of it out of my mouth. —Ed Zern, circa 1977

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