James Card

Freelance writer and magazine editor based in Wisconsin

Paddle By Design

Crafting American perfection.

BY JAMES CARD

The Drake, Fall 2014

At the end of Little Trout Valley Road in Minnesota’s Driftless Area, rain patters the rooftop of the Sanborn Canoe Company. It’s been a cool, wet summer and a hint of autumn is in the air. The workshop is filled with the smell of wood shavings and strong coffee. Todd Randall, passes an enamel camp mug to Zak Fellman as they reflect on how two buddies—who are also first cousins—were scrambling around five years ago to find direction in their lives, and now operate as business partners making a living crafting high performance canoe paddles.

 The door opens. In comes Fellman’s wet-haired seven-year-old daughter. “Daddy, can I shoot the bow and arrow?”

 In the corner, next to his fly rod hangs her small bow and a quiver of arrows. Fellman, took up fly fishing while living in Colorado for two years, fishing the South Platte and high mountain creeks.

Read the rest in the Fall 2014 issue of The Drake.

I’ve been finding old axes and hatchets with rusted heads and cracked handles and buying them for a buck or two. With some grind and polish, a new handle (or haft as it is called), and some paint and varnish, I’m able to bring these old tools back to life and put them to work.
"America was a new world of unending wood where a man armed with only a felling axe could enter the forest and survive. With his axe he could clear the land of trees, cut fuel, build a bridge, a house, and furniture. With his axe he could fashion snares for game and, in a pinch, use it to protect himself against marauding Indians or wild beasts. No wonder the first settlers carried axes in their belts and treated them with a respect like that of a soldier toward his sword or side arms."
From Eric Sloane’s “A Museum of Early American Tools”

I’ve been finding old axes and hatchets with rusted heads and cracked handles and buying them for a buck or two. With some grind and polish, a new handle (or haft as it is called), and some paint and varnish, I’m able to bring these old tools back to life and put them to work.

"America was a new world of unending wood where a man armed with only a felling axe could enter the forest and survive. With his axe he could clear the land of trees, cut fuel, build a bridge, a house, and furniture. With his axe he could fashion snares for game and, in a pinch, use it to protect himself against marauding Indians or wild beasts. No wonder the first settlers carried axes in their belts and treated them with a respect like that of a soldier toward his sword or side arms."

From Eric Sloane’s “A Museum of Early American Tools”

It’s official. He is now a turkey dog. He flushed the flock, waited for them to regroup, held quiet until the shot and retrieved the biggest bird of this life.

It’s official. He is now a turkey dog. He flushed the flock, waited for them to regroup, held quiet until the shot and retrieved the biggest bird of this life.

Ruffed grouse and woodcock hunting in the Wisconsin northwoods. The finest time of the year is when the autumn colors are peaking.

For a quick afternoon hunt, we visited one of the anonymous potholes in my portfolio of unnamed potholes and we left no trace except for some feathers on the water.
"To this day, Johnny’s pot-hole is known to only a few hunters, which is nothing unusual for pot-holes in northern Wisconsin. When you have some 5,500 lakes, many of them unnamed, there are bound to be some places that the boys just don’t find. The business of concealing these places can be high art."
From Gordon MacQuarrie’s Stories of the Old Duck Hunters & Other Drivel.

For a quick afternoon hunt, we visited one of the anonymous potholes in my portfolio of unnamed potholes and we left no trace except for some feathers on the water.

"To this day, Johnny’s pot-hole is known to only a few hunters, which is nothing unusual for pot-holes in northern Wisconsin. When you have some 5,500 lakes, many of them unnamed, there are bound to be some places that the boys just don’t find. The business of concealing these places can be high art."

From Gordon MacQuarrie’s Stories of the Old Duck Hunters & Other Drivel.

The first water retrieve of the 2014 waterfowl season.

The first water retrieve of the 2014 waterfowl season.

I stopped by Lambeau Field earlier this year to visit the Packer training camp. This fence on Shadow Lane is across from the stadium in Green Bay. First painted in 1984. The first verb phrase is the running game doctrine of Packer coach Vince Lombardi.

I stopped by Lambeau Field earlier this year to visit the Packer training camp. This fence on Shadow Lane is across from the stadium in Green Bay. First painted in 1984. The first verb phrase is the running game doctrine of Packer coach Vince Lombardi.

I remember eating smoked carp in college. I would pick some up up at a small grocer in Prairie du Chien as I passed through town along the river road that follows the Mississippi. It was delicious and I haven’t had any since.

So when I was fly fishing a local river for trout, I accidentally caught a couple redhorse on a pheasant-tail nymph. And then I thought of that smoked carp from years ago. Redhorse were close enough in the family tree to common carp and I slipped them into my creel. After some smoking on the Weber they came out better than I thought they would. And people call these trash fish.

Giving some old iron new lives. I restored two vintage Griswold cast iron skillets and put a fresh seasoned finish on a Lodge Dutch oven and fry pan. I experimented this time with lard and peanut oil and let them soak the heat in a 400-degree oven for an hour. All of them came out looking like new but one Griswold skillet had a surface as smooth and glossy as a black diamond. You can almost see your reflection.

Giving some old iron new lives. I restored two vintage Griswold cast iron skillets and put a fresh seasoned finish on a Lodge Dutch oven and fry pan. I experimented this time with lard and peanut oil and let them soak the heat in a 400-degree oven for an hour. All of them came out looking like new but one Griswold skillet had a surface as smooth and glossy as a black diamond. You can almost see your reflection.

Early autumn on the river. Just for a couple hours. This is the best time of the year and time cannot be pissed away inside.