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Written by Steve Earsom
Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.Everyone knows what it means to be speechless. You see or hear something that causes that little record player in your head to make that loud scratching noise, and you’re left standing there motionless, dumbfounded, jaw agape, and perhaps with just a small bead of drool at the corner of your mouth. But what’s the equivalent term for writer’s block?

I recently re-read “Escape from Mediocrity” by the waterfowl guru Johnny Lynch, and thereafter my fingers froze every time I got in front of the computer to write a flight log…or an email…or a phone number. Anything I wrote would be smirked at, since it obviously couldn’t compare with how well Mr. Lynch wrote about waterfowl and their habitat.

The funny thing is that Johnny Lynch didn’t write like Aldo Leopold or other well-known scientists of the day, and “Escape from Mediocrity” wasn’t even published until after his death. In fact, the copy of the paper that I have (and I’m guessing many others in the waterfowl community) is a scanned copy of a copy of a copy of the original typewritten version from 1952 with JJL’s initials right there at the bottom. There’s just something about the smudged typeface and descriptions of the duck crop as “Super-Crop, Ordinary Crop, and No Crop a-Tall” that don’t translate when read on a 64” six-zillion pixel screen. Instead, the copy on the hard-core waterfowler’s desk will have dog-eared corners and coffee stains to show that he’s read it many times and the first was probably several years before you did, sir.

My favorite passage is where Lynch describes the “B.O.P.” or Bald-Open Prairie as the duck-raisin’est place in North America,” but which also “…is genuine Prairie, or at least was, until the wheat farmer found out how easy it was to plow this land on account of there were no stumps. On account of there were no trees.”

Quoting Lynch is like bottling the wind – it just doesn’t work. You have to experience it. With that, and in this year where the B.O.P is going to need some help from the bush and parklands for the duck crop, I suggest you do yourselves a favor: find an easy chair, pour…something…over a cube of ice, and enjoy his paper again, or for the first time. Maybe you’ll get lucky and stain your copy with whatever is in the glass.


Nick Wirwa and Steve Earsom reporting on habitat and ducks midway through survey, Sunday, May 15th.Video by Nick Wirwa, US FWS