Canadian Fly-in Fishing Trip

Last week, I had the good fortune of travelling to Northwest Ontario as part of a party of eight men for a fly-in fishing trip. The fishing (walleye and northern pike) was excellent, the weather was mostly good, and the camaraderie was bloody enjoyable. We fished on Lake Wabakimi, a lake in the Wabakimi Provincial Park. We used Northern Wilderness Outfitters of Ft Frances, Ont. as our outfitter. I recommend them highly.

Here’s the crew:
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From left to right: Bob Dolan of Glendale, AZ, his father (and my brother-in-law) Pat, and his brother John, both of Manchester, IA, then Dave Sproull from Winthrop, IA. That’s me in the hat and purple Crocs. Next is Ed Drummond from Denver, Denis Beaudin from Edwards, CO and my brother Bill Bennett from Parker, CO.

Pat Dolan is married to my sister, Becky. He is one of my favorite people in the world and I have tremendous respect for him. He and my brother are the main organizational forces, acquiring dates, lining up equipment, food, bait, and hotel reservations. He is a damn fine fisherman, too. He is pictured after having caught a 41 inch northern, his personal best.

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Bob Dolan and John Dolan give me hope that the younger generation is not a lost one. Both of my nephews took brides in 2013 and their beautiful wives are lucky gals. They are extremely hard working and uproariously funny. I love them like sons.

Bob and John
Dave Sproull is a longtime friend from Eastern Iowa and the first person we thought of when there were some spots for non-family members this year. My wife (who had the opportunity to go on a trip with him and his wife, Julie) says of Dave, “He catches all the fish, cleans all the fish, and does all the work.” Pretty handy guy to have along, wouldn’t you say?
Dave and Pat
Ed Drummond is one of my oldest and closest friends. This was his third trip to Wabakimi, each about ten years apart (What are you doing in 2024, Ed?). Ed prefers catching northern pike to walleye and has earned the nickname “Snakehound.” Unfortunately, Ed lost a trophy northern when it snapped his line on the third attempt to net it. That happens with monster fish on light tackle. Better luck next time!
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This was Denis Beaudin’s first trip fishing for walleye and northerns, although he is a tremendous outdoorsman and backpacker and trout fisherman. He made his first trip an unforgettable one. One afternoon, Denis and I were out with fly rods fishing for northern pike. I caught several smaller ones, but was feeling a little badly for Denis as he hadn’t caught any. Denis dropped a fly in the mouth of an inlet in about two feet of water and, bam!, a fish hit. Not just any fish, mind you, but a trophy walleye 27 inches long! On a fly rod!! In shallow water!!! Just to prove his remarkable feat was no fluke, later in the trip he caught a monster 41 inch northern. Then, he flew the float plane almost all the way back from Wabakimi to the outfitter’s base on Rainy Lake. Denis will lead a week long backpack trip into Glacier National Park this August. Ed and I (and maybe John and Bob Dolan) are also on that trip.
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No one is more passionate about the fishing experience than my brother Bill. I think he has a direct link to my late father, Buck Bennett, who began taking us to Canada when Bill and I were young boys. Bill is the quartermaster and meal planner. Believe me, we eat like kings! Bill has a great sense of humor and is awesome to be around. I am a lucky man to have a brother like Bill and friends and family like these.
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Too bad I have such trouble relaxing on this trip!

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Fifty Years Ago Today

Today, November 22, 2013, marks the 50th anniversary of the death of 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy. Much reflection is taking place throughout our country to commemorate the life of a man whose life was cut short by an assassin’s bullets.

JFK

JFK

Some say that events take place in ‘threes.’ Did you know that two other famous men also died on Nov. 22, 1963? Yes, English authors Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis also died on that date. Of the three men, JFK is the most well-known by far. But I believe C.S. Lewis has impacted more people for good than the others.

Let me make a quick note about Aldous Huxley.

Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley

He is most famous for the 1931 novel Brave New World, a provocative, futuristic tome that thankfully has not come true. Huxley dabbled in spiritualism and mind altering drugs, but at his death considered himself an agnostic.

Kennedy is, of course, far more famous than C.S. Lewis or Huxley. However, I think Lewis was a more transformative figure than JFK. Kennedy’s 35 month presidency was marred by controversy, from the Bay of Pigs fiasco to the Cuban Missile Crisis to the escalation of the Vietnam War. He is rightfully commended for his commitment to civil rights, expansion of the space program, and economic programs such as tax rate cuts. Kennedy cultivated a glamorous image, and he, along with his enchanting wife Jacqueline engendered a presidency sometimes called ‘Camelot.’ But Kennedy’s personal life was a mess, and he engaged in multiple extramarital affairs.

Lewis, on the other hand, was a scholar of exceeding reputation. Born in Ireland, he became an atheist at age fifteen. A life-long learner, he earned a professorship at Britain’s Oxford University at the age of 24. At the age of 32, and influenced by friends such as J.R.R. Tolkien, he converted to Christianity. What a Christian he became! As an intellectual, his writings influenced many others to accept the rational arguments regarding the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. He gave permission for highbrow seekers to accept the truth of the Gospel.

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis

But he was not just a great apologist; he wrote the Narnia series, the Space Trilogy and the Screwtape Letters which have continued to bring the power of Christ to people of all ages

Posted in Christian, Literature, Politics | 2 Comments

The Wartburg College Choir, Music, Manchester, Mary and other Hodgepodge

Music is the common element of the human condition. Every tribe and culture on earth makes some form of music. Why? I’m convinced it’s because music touches mankind at every level. I’m a proponent that the Bible teaches that man is created in three distinct parts: body, soul & spirit.

When the music starts, the body responds by toes a’tapping, feet a’dancing, hands a’clapping, faces smiling. The soul (all the intangible things that make you, …well, you – your personality, thoughts, decisions) reacts with joy, or sorrow, and/or wonder. And the spirit… Well, let’s just say that music unleashes the spirit to soar. Music is the heart of worship, and is a conduit whereby our spirits actually join with the spirit of God and the spirits of His heavenly host. At least that’s my theory.

Last Thursday night I had the opportunity to listen to the fabulous Wartburg College Choir at Bethany Lutheran Church near my home in Denver, Colorado. I tell you spirits were soaring – both those of the gifted performers and those in attendance. The musicianship and virtuosity of the choir, the percussion and stringed accompanists and the director were more than remarkable. It was an incredibly impressive performance of challenging music, mostly a cappella, and very moving. I love to sing, and am a reasonably accomplished singer who has been in a variety of choirs – some select – but I think the ability and discipline required to be a member of the Wartburg Choir far exceeds my own. I’m in awe. I’m also encouraged. I’m encouraged that a new generation of young people is keeping alive the traditions of classical choral music.

I had the occasion to enjoy the concert and to catch up with Mary Kay Dailey, another Wartburg grad. Mary is such an impressive and accomplished person. She was a member of the Wartburg Choir when Dr. James Fritschel was director and sang with Dr. Paul Torkelson when Paul was an undergraduate at Wartburg. She has had a long and distinguished career in Denver as a secondary education leader.

Here’s another impressive thing: four of the vocalists are from my tiny hometown of Manchester, Iowa! I met and chatted with Hannah Crumpton, Ben Engelken, and Myles Finn after the concert. (I didn’t get to meet Teri Mueller, but here’s a shout out to her, too.) Myles, in particular, had a special role in the concert. I must say I’m proud that my little town can develop such talented – and nice – kids. Boo-yah!

I always feature music in my books. The theme song in Love.com comes from Nature Boy popularized by Nat King Cole. The key lyrics: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love… and be loved in return.”

My latest book, Suicide Squeeze, features a protagonist who, as the nephew of the great American songwriter Johnny Mercer, can play all of Johnny Mercer’s 1,500 songs and little else. Major plot points turn as a result of this quirky talent.

Whew, enough for today.

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The Boston Marathon Attack

If you have read my new book, Suicide Squeeze, you could not help but be taken aback by the eerie similarity between the events in the novel and the attacks that took place at yesterday’s Boston Marathon.

Readers all over the country contacted me to commiserate. Many wanted to assure me that even if the attacks were some bizarre copy-cat event, I was not to blame. One such reader is a Joe Brown of Issaquah, WA.

Joe wrote:

Dear Mr. Bennett,

I recently read your book, Suicide Squeeze, and really enjoyed it. Of course, when the events took place in Boston yesterday I thought of your book, and even though the attack differed I could see the parallel and hoped it wasn’t a diversion like the one you concocted in your book. I heard the police cancelled all other sporting events yesterday, which was good. Anyway, I found a blog you posted on in which you referred to eerie similarities, and where you wondered whether you had inspired anything. I’m no expert, but I think you are not at all to blame. You might recall a Nelson DeMille book, I think Lion’s Game, which as I recall had a plot point similar to what happened on 9/11, as well as a Tom Clancy book involving a jet crashing into the US Capitol. I don’t think either of those guys were to blame or inspired anyone either.

My two bits.

Joe Brown
Issaquah, WA

Here is my response:

Hi Joe (let’s get on a first name basis), Thanks for your kind message, and thank you for reading Suicide Squeeze. May I put you on my mailing list to let you know when the next Mercury Mercer adventure is available? I was sickened by yesterday’s attack. In the fictional account (Suicide Squeeze), the terrorists were motivated by greed. I can understand that. The acts yesterday were apparently motivated by sheer hatred, which I do not understand. Even the school shootings in Connecticut and Colorado and elsewhere, the killer(s) were apparently motivated by achieving a form of nihilistic notoriety. Sick, but understandable. These cowards, on the other hand, have taken great care to avoid being caught. Evil is alive in this world, Joe.

I have read and enjoyed both books you referenced. You’re right, Clancy and DeMille bear NO responsibility for the actions of others. I have come to the same conclusion regarding yesterday’s attack. For one thing, I think it’s highly unlikely these hateful individuals read lighthearted fiction by a still-obscure indie author.

Thanks again for your two bits.

Best,

RW

PS Are you a writer, too, Joe? You know a lot about books and you apparently hang out a bit at Writers’ Cafe.

Joe replied:

RW,

Thanks for your response. I’ve been through some terror-related heartbreak over the past seven months–my cousin Chris Stevens was the U.S. Ambassador to Libya–so I can kind of relate to what all these people and families go through in situations like yesterday’s. I can’t understand what motivates people, I really can’t.

I am a lawyer, and thus am a professional writer, but I’ve not written any books. I’d like to. I found that blog from a Google search I ran to see if anyone else had made that connection (albeit tenuous!) between your book and yesterday. I saw what you had written, and felt compelled to try to help set you at ease.

Take care,

Joe
My turn. I wrote:

You’re a good man, Joe-

Sorry about your cousin. As an interested outsider, it seems to me the State Department and the Administration really screwed the pooch on that one, but no one has been held accountable. From what I read, Ambassador Stevens was a good man, too.

Joe replied with this fascinating story:

Chris was a heck of a good guy. His mother is my first cousin, although he and I were about the same age. I don’t really have any insights on what happened, except to speculate that the only reason we stayed in Benghazi after the Brits and the Red Cross decided it was too dangerous and pulled out was because our pulling out would have been inconsistent with the “narrative”, which would have been inconvenient in an election year. I also suspect there were some ongoing covert operations there which made having a consulate handy. On the other hand, Chris for 20 years had knowingly been putting himself in pretty dangerous situations with his various postings throughout the Middle East, and he knew the risks full well (and we’ve seen he was pointing out those risks to higher-ups), but chose to be there anyway. And, I blame the jihadists for his and those other three guys’ deaths.

Update: At the time Joe and I had that exchange, the suspects had not been identified. Now, the FBI and police have formed a dragnet seeking to capture the second suspect. From what I understand, the perpetrators of this atrocity have become radicalized – another clash between Islam and the Western world. Just like the violence which killed Joe’s cousin, Ambassador Stevens.

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eHarmony vs. Love.com

The business model for Love.com borrowed heavily from eHarmony

Men and women have a deep-seated need to find one another (duh). Whether that imperative is merely biological or is primarily Biblical (“it is not good for Man to live alone”), our souls yearn to find that special someone.
I’m a big fan of dating sites. eHarmony, Match.com and other sites provide a useful and important function in today’s society. (Note: I have not been a heavy user personally of these sites. My wife frowns on me dating outside the marriage. What a spoilsport!) While a majority of singles do marry by age 40 (80% of men and 86% of women) there are now more singles than marrieds in the prime marrying years (25-34). What gives?
Obviously, singles are postponing marriage. So, instead of marrying a high school sweetheart or the college beau, singles are establishing careers or other endeavors. But how to meet that special someone later in life, especially if a job requires geographic relocation? Bars are iffy, at best. Employers discourage workplace romances. Jobseekers have national sites to match qualifications and openings, like Monster.com. Why not sites for people seeking relationships? Indeed, these sites are flourishing, with members creating and marketing personal profiles to advertise availability. We’ve all heard stories about unfortunate dates and experiences, but those occur whether it’s an online date or ‘in the wild’.
I got the idea for Love.com, the fictional dating site and namesake for my well-received novel, Love.com from a Wall Street Journal story on eHarmony. As a business paper, the Journal delved into the economic aspects of eHarmony: its founding, revenues, management, competition and pricing strategy. I came to respect Dr. Neil Clark Warren, its co-founder and spokesman, who became the inspiration for John Underwood, the character who developed the Love.com matching protocols – similar to eHarmony’s brilliant 29 dimensions of human personality. Of course, in the novel eHarmony morphs in the thinly veiled eUnity and Match.com becomes MatchAmerica.com. Like I said, I’m a fan so I treat these companies with great respect.
But it was the Journal’s discussion of eHarmony’s pricing strategy that got my creative juices flowing. Instead of charging subscribers a monthly fee in hopes of meeting someone, my character, the beautiful and talented Marsha Underwood, proposed signing up subscribers for free, and charging only after a successful match is made. After all, she reasons, people love a guarantee. But such a pricing strategy provides too much of a temptation for Love.com’s greedy management not to tinker with Mother Nature, with fascinating consequences.
I actually believe the business model for a dating service as described in Love.com would succeed. But as interesting and plausible as all this becomes, it is the cast of colorful characters and their circumstances that make Love.com such a fun read. A murder mystery/romantic suspense built around a dating service that becomes a worldwide phenomenon: gotta love it! Love.com

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Book Review – The Globe by R. Doug Wicker

The most underrated book I read in 2012 is The Globe by R. Doug Wicker. It’s underrated because it’s not selling particularly well, but should be. It’s a great read. You know when you read a certain book, you just know the author is extremely smart and you would like to have a beer with him? I feel that way about R. Doug Wicker, whom I’ve never met or communicated with, but would like to.

The Globe is a cruise ship, but not any ordinary one. It’s actually a floating condominium, and each cabin has a wealthy owner. Murders take place, and Reynard Chevalier, the erudite security officer must solve them. I love those murder mysteries that take place in a closed environment (the locked room conundrum popularized by Agatha Christie – think Ten Little Indians – and others). There’s a finite number of potential victims and suspects. Reynard is inexperienced as a murder investigator, and the number of plot twists tests his abilities.

Wicker handles all this cleverly with great deftness and an elegant writing style. You’ll be glad you discovered this delightful gem of a book. Find it here. Five out of five stars. Catch up with the author at his site here.

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Character du jour – Joseph (Big Chief) Huff

The Chief forgets his new Buffalo Head tattoos

Absolutely, one of my favorite characters in my new book, Suicide Squeeze, is Joseph (Big Chief) Huff. I think I had more fun creating him than any other character including my main character, Mercury Mercer. The Chief is a pitcher, the ace of the Red Sox’ staff. He’s huge, 6’ 5” and 260 pounds, and 90% covered with tattoos. He claims to be the only Native American in the majors, but he (like a certain Massachusetts senator) likely exaggerates his tribal heritage.

I lifted The Chief’s name from my good friend, Joe Huff of Denver. Joe and his wife, Cheri Kay (a takeoff of Cherokee), are my oldest friends in Denver. In fact, my wife Barbara and I met at their home for a Monday night Bible study some 33 years ago. Cheri Kay does have some Native American blood in her and her father was once head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The Chief and my friend have one thing in common: they are both uncommonly intelligent. The Chief is the smartest guy on the team, and the most irreverent. You’ll get a kick out of him. I plan a future book in the series where Big Chief Huff is a central character. You’d enjoy my friend Joe, too, but for different reasons. Joe is selfless and incredibly wise – a good friend to have in your corner.

Posted in Baseball, Boston, Boston Marathon, Red Sox, Relationships, Suicide Squeeze, Thriller | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life


What happens to your heart when you encounter human need so intense your soul can no longer ignore it? When you find yourself absolutely compelled to respond to the second Great Commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself?” The answer is your life becomes wrecked, but in a way that is both pleasing to God, profoundly blesses others, and gives your own life newfound meaning.

Wrecked is author Jeff Goins’ (he helpfully assists us in the pronunciation of his unusual surname – ‘Goins rhymes with coins’, he says) personal account of a wrecked life. First he lives it, then he writes about it. The result is a story which will encourage and challenge the reader. I can hardly imagine a person who completes this book without resolving to live and act in a more compassionate way.

Goins is an uncommonly wise young man, and a very fine writer. His account lags a bit when he reaches the point in his story when he is also called to be a husband and father, and those demands impinge on his inclination to live Mark 16:17 (preach the Word, make disciples, drive out demons, heal the sick.) Yet one gets the sense that the reason is the story of his wrecked life is not fully told – that he has a stirring sequel on its way. By the way, for middle-aged men and women of my generation, I recommend Halftime: Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance, a wonderful book by Bob P. Buford, but I digress.

I give Wrecked five stars out of five. Goins deserves to be discovered by many and read widely.

As a side note, this book has encouraged me to undertake my own non-fiction project, my first. I am writing a book about Jesus entitled: The Superman Syndrome – the Blessings We Miss from Our Misunderstanding of the Humanity of Jesus, due out in the first half of 2013.

Posted in Book Review, Relationships | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Romney saves baby, economy

Yesterday, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney caught a baby which fell twenty-four miles from space. The baby, Felix Baumgartner, fell out of a capsule, and broke the sound barrier before Romney made a clean catch.

Supporters say Romney will also catch and save the economy, also in free-fall.

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Did the first debate change enough minds?

It’s probably not a good idea for a writer to comment too publicly about politics or religion. However, since I am passionate about both subjects I am going to violate the conventional wisdom. After all, one of my favorite fiction authors, Brad Thor, is an unabashed conservative. I’d say he’s doing alright.

Mitt Romney clearly won last night’s debate. He was forceful, energetic and in command – of both facts and ideas. President Obama, on the other hand, seemed to enjoy defending his record as much as undergoing a root canal. I almost felt sorry for him. Worst. Anniversary. Ever.

The question remains, though – despite the challenger’s win – did Governor Romney change enough minds? Consider this, President Obama beat John McCain by 7.2% in 2008. So Romney, all other things being equal, must win the votes of all the McCain voters plus almost eight voters out of a hundred who voted for Obama last time. Now, other things of course are not equal; respective enthusiasm for the candidates is different as is the makeup of the electorate.

Changing minds is hard. Voters don’t like to admit they made a mistake when they voted for the President four years ago, especially this incumbent. I think a substantial number of voters supported the President because he is black, and took pride that America has evolved to the point that it can elect a black president. Will those voters now admit not only a mistake but fire the first black president for incompetence?

I was fascinated by the Frank Luntz focus group of undecided voters held last night at Colorado Christian University. The group was comprised of twenty-four likely voters who were self-identified as undecided. They overwhelmingly agreed Romney won the debate. At the 3:05 mark, Luntz asked, “How many of you who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 now plan to vote for Mitt Romney?” I counted seven. We weren’t told how many of the participants voted for Obama in 2008, but likely not all 24. Even if all 24 voted for Obama last time, 29% of the group now planned to change their vote. Sounds promising for Romney, doesn’t it?

Not so fast. A majority of the voters who voted for Obama last time are ossified, hard-core Democrats who would vote for him again no matter what. So only the independents and a few Democrats are flexible enough to change votes.

Back to the focus group and why I find it so interesting. I think when you watch an event like the debate in a group setting is different than watching it alone on the couch. The focus group members are more engaged, knowing they may be put on the spot for an opinion. There are also powerful group dynamics in play. When members of the group make it clear they are changing their vote, it gives permission for other group members to do the same. It’s similar to the dynamics in play for members of a jury. Undecided voters who voted for the President last time who watched the debate alone (or with an Obama supporter) may not have yet received permission to change their vote. Certainly the mainstream media will not give that permission. It’s up to family and friends to give permission to an on-the-fence voter.

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