Sea Change

appointed places set in motion like seasons. We are like salmon
swimming against the mutation of current to find
our heartbroken way home again, weight of red eggs and need.

— Gloria Bird, (Spokane), from “Images of Salmon and You”

I grew up on the Pacific. 21 years ago I moved to Idaho. I thought I’d work and live to a riper age here than it appears I will. We’re moving closer to the salt, lucky to have found work, but leaving the easy access to chukar we’ve enjoyed for so long. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad to imagine next opening day far away from the high desert. It’s been the best part of each year for more than two decades now. I won’t get nearly the same number of days in the field bitching about medusahead, seeking jouissance through the sight of a pointing Brittany’s ears barely visible above the bunchgrass just below the ridgeline. Inflections or innuendos? There are lots of ways to look at this. Most of them are good.

So we have to move, sell the house and shop we’ve caressed and the soil we’ve cursed while praying for sprouts (let me know if you’re interested!). Never in my wildest dreams, before I moved to Idaho, did I think I’d live on 5 acres with a view of 5 mountain ranges, where I could hit a 4-iron across my property, or where we could let our dogs run around and eat all the horsepoop they could and not worry they’d get flattened by a Hummer. We’ll miss the nearby Weiser River Trail where our dogs’ pads get an almost year-round, traffic-free conditioning, complete with quail and grouse and turkeys (and the occasional bear, mink, and otter). The brewery will get packed up, too, and I’ll miss that until we can — at some unknown point — take it out of storage.

A good home for a bunch of years
The sky’s the thing here, even though it’s only Idaho
We’ll miss this view
So will Peat

Chukar Culture will continue. I keep thinking of Frank Zappa’s gem, “Jazz isn’t dead, it just smells funny.” I don’t know how that connects, but it does. Maybe it means what I want to post here will smell funny for those who’ve enjoyed (or tolerated) our weird diet of chukar-scented prose. Fishy, maybe? Leslie hopes to head east with the dogs often to look for birds (hopefully not in the same way seen in Guterson’s East of the Mountains). And we’ll have the new pup, Bloom, to work into the mix, which is very exciting and promises to provide some interesting narratives.


In the meantime, we pack and strategize and plan and hope and argue and make up and hike and walk and run and fret and eat and drink and look for places to live up there (there aren’t many, sort of like here). Just so you know.

30 Replies to “Sea Change”

  1. Best of luck with new adventures! It is quite a surprise to learn of your decision to move. At least it is a great time to sell with people moving to ID in droves. Will look forward to future installments.

  2. Headed to Washington? Hit us up come bird season, we would be happy to show you two a place or 2 to get started exploring around here.

    Best of luck on the move.

  3. I can’t imagine moving to the left coast mentality. I left Los Angeles and all the craziness to a more rural life like yours 50 years ago. I would never go back.

  4. Well, never saw that coming. The posts by both of you have been entertaining and enlightening. We’ll all miss the antics of you & your dogs. Good on you for enjoying your time in this corner of the chukar world. Also, good luck matching the thrills of unmatched social distancing opportunities, while hunting over pointing dogs 50 times a year. Hopefully, the salt will be able to provide similar stimulation. Have fun!

  5. Wow, Bob, this is a sea of change, in which I wish you fair skies and following seas. I too prepare to move my residence from Albuquerque to Jackson, Wy…I have been thinking of my move as sneaking up on chukar. There is, of course, way more to it. Best wishes!

  6. Sorry to see that you all have to move but that’s life.
    I’m sure that there’s a silver lining in this for all.
    I know how you feel when we left Idaho some 11yrs ago. But life goes on. I’m very happy to see that you have another Brittany 🤗
    Good luck with the new job and hopefully you’ll be able to find a good place to live just like the one you’re leaving.
    God Speed to you and your family.

  7. Your stories have been glorious, provoking, inspirational, and have moved me on many an office day when I wish I was on a hill with shotgun, husband and our 2 GSPs.

  8. First, the Cambridge school system must be filled with idiots to let you go. Secondly, my heart breaks to think of Leslie and you leaving your vast piece of heaven. Thirdly. I get to decent chukar territory within a two-hour drive from Seattle. Fourthly, whevever you land you can always go on Google Maps, zero down to the graves of your dogs, and live precious memories. Healing will come. And when the first covey breaks from the rimrocks on the Eastern side of the Cascades, and you miss, you’ll know you are home.

    1. Thanks, Mark. I’d hoped to teach in Cambridge ’til I retired when I’m 70, but the world changed fast, didn’t it? I’m sure the birds around here will appreciate a break from me and our dogs, too, so there’s that. 🙂

  9. Bob and Leslie

    Wishing you the best in your new endeavors. Thank you both for your hospitality and friendship. All of our group who were privileged to have visited the McMichael “chukar & brew house” will greatly miss the opportunity to do so again. I assume you will be keeping the camper and traveling east to spend time with boots on favorite lava rock and cheat grass hills. Maybe I’ll see ya’ll on the Missouri someday.

    I always thought you gave a lot to the local community and your efforts were greatly appreciated. Now, other people will benefit from your knowledge and passion for dogs, birds and beer.


    Cliff Rexrode

  10. Bob and Leslie

    Wishing you the best in your new endeavors. Thank you both for your hospitality and friendship. All of our group who were privileged to have visited the McMichael “chukar & brew house” will greatly miss the opportunity to do so again. I assume you will be keeping the camper and traveling east to spend time with boots on favorite lava rock and cheat grass hills. Maybe I’ll see ya’ll on the Missouri someday.

    I always thought you gave a lot to the local community and your efforts were greatly appreciated. Now, other people will benefit from your knowledge and passion for dogs, birds and beer.

    1. Cliff, one of the sadnesses for me is missing the ritual of your group’s arrival in the fall. You’ve made our experience here richer, and it’s no mystery why you leave a wake of gratefulness wherever you and your dogs and generosity of spirit tread. But our paths will cross again I’m sure, possibly on the Missouri. Keep an eye out. We’ll be in touch!

  11. Bob & Leslie – it must be both heartbreaking and exciting to be moving. I wish you both the best. Thank you for your blog, I look forward to every one of them and glad to see that’s not coming to an end. After our random meeting in Hells Canyon I just new we would be reconnecting, hopefully over one of your beers, talking about all the common things we enjoy. Sorry that didn’t get to happen, but there’s still time and space.

  12. Bob and Leslie
    I wish you the best in your new adventures ahead. Since I met you in Hells Canyon – I was always hopeful to meet up again for another hunt or swing by your place for some Hells Canyon beer on the way to somewhere. Probably a life lesson their to make things happen sooner than later. I’ve enjoyed reading about both of your successes and struggles in the crazy pursuit of chukars! Your writings have provided encouragement, reflection and humor. I could always relate to the love of your dogs and the motivation they bring to get you back in the hills looking for a point. I look forward to reading about your new places with that new dog. As I was reminded how small the world is when we met in Hells Canyon and learned I at one time worked with your brother … it gives me hope our paths will cross again. I wish you the best!


  13. Very moving entry.

    As an aging resident of the Rocky Mountain Region who has lived here my whole life, more and more American life strikes me as a series of compromises based on errors, broken promises and broken dreams. I’m not sure if this is always true, but a lot of it is.

    Growing up I watched the promise of money=happiness take entire generations away, most often to greater wealth but also to dubious satisfaction. Those of us who stayed compromised between staying and taking what work was available. Generations after mine were outright sold the prospect that real happiness meant “moving up” and “doing better than your parents” and that meant moving to cities and abandoning things and people, indeed, often abandoning the people you formed attachments to in those new localities if they held you back from “moving up”. Later on, they’d return for cramped two week vacations and the like for a sample of the old life they’d “moved up” on.

    I don’t know that its getting any better. I tend to think not. Indeed I fear our regional leadership pretty much has the view that the entire region should become the Greater Denver Metropolitan Area, and that’s somehow good for everyone and everything.

    I guess its the agrarian in me that has the sense of “being native to this place”, as Wendell Berry would have it, and what that means, and from reading this blog (I rarely if ever commented) it’s pretty clear that’s what you did with Idaho. I’m sorry for you to have to move on and hope the best for you where you are going. Maybe you can manage that transition there as well, while retaining an attachment to where you’ve been for the past 21 years. I hope so.

    1. Pat, what a wonderful, thoughtful comment to greet me this morning. I agree with a lot of what you say, and am increasingly of the mind that “place” is more mental than physical. I feel betrayed by Idaho and caught more and more in awe of the staggering idiocy of its power-brokers on every level: school boards, city councils, county commissioners, state and federal legislators, “important” citizens… This state seems hell-bent on destroying everything that makes it uniquely great, which starts — and ends — with the land. So when that goes, place — if you can find a good one — has to come from inside. Yet, you gotta have some place to “be” inside, and I can’t stay in this place any longer. This is one time that running away from a problem is not the best solution, but the only one. It’s gutting, but opening the door to an adventure that wouldn’t have happened under status quo. So…

      1. The power brokers you speak of Bob, were put in place by the population at large, so fundamentally, it would seem that your grievance is really much more than just the “power brokers”
        I think I understand your angst….basically, it’s hard to watch a society that has gone off the rails when it comes to honesty, critical thinking and shows such intolerance for opposing points of view.
        It is fair to say that “the curtain has been pulled back”, and what was behind it is not what we thought it was…basic tribalism and adherance to political dogma has become the norm…..maybe it always has been…but I’m in my 60’s and that just doesn’t square.
        You only get so many bites at the apple in a lifetime…be mindful that you got one hell of a big juicy bite in your time in idaho. May your next bite of “something” be just as juicy…

  14. Sad to read this but, what are you two running from? You’re going to leave Idaho for the Left Coast? Don’t make sense

  15. Sorry to hear of your move, but glad Chukar Culture will continue on. I’m a native Idahoan and can’t imagine living anywhere else. We’ve never met, but hopefully you’ll be back for more hunts and we’ll get a chance to meet.

    Wish you the best and looking forward to more stories.

  16. Surprised to just read this.

    I knew I should have visited you two last season! Darn.

    I am guessing you no longer need those Hells Canyon GPS waypoints……..

    Good luck in your move and your lives. I know you will still find birdy places no matter where you end up.


  17. Good luck with the move! You will treasure your hunting trips all the more and discover more great country. You will earn birds again.

    I’ve got a new pup here myself, and may be up that way for work. Moses Coulee seems worth checking out.

    (Only the truly obsessed have read East of the Mountains, which I read before heading up to Wenatchee one time. Kudos 🙂

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