Last night we got home from a trip to South Dakota. The return tripwas uneventful. The two flights on our return itinerary went offwithout a hitch. Our luggage arrived in Oakland without any new,remarkable dings, scrapes, or cuts. This is in complete contrast tothe trip out to South Dakota. Before we even left the gate inOakland, United delayed our flight to fix a malfunctioning coffee pot in oneof the airplane's galleys. After that, we got to Denver and sat aroundfor five hours in the terminal. The problem was that United Express,which operates the flight between Denver and Sioux Falls, doesn't have agood grasp on which replacement parts they have in stock and which partsthey don't. Finally, after looking for a part that they thought theyhad, and that they didn't, United Express' mechanics gave up and we got anew plane. Of course, at that point, the pilots were outside theirflight time window for the day, so we had to sit around another hour until anew group of pilots came in on a later flight. Finally, we got onboard a "new" plane, with "new" pilots and flew to SiouxFalls. By the time we got to Watertown, our final destination, we wereonly five hours late. And who says that airlines don't care abouttheir on-time performance? While we were in South Dakota, we did some pheasant hunting. We sawplenty of birds, but failed to bring down even one. Most of our poorshooting could be attributed to taking too little time setting up theshot. I'm pretty sure that I bracketed birds with shotgun pellets (oneshot behind the bird and one shot in front of the bird) nearly every time apheasant got off the ground.

While I didn't get any pheasants, I did get a good sized rabbit. Myfellow hunters gave me plenty of grief about not only shooting the rabbit,but also taking it back to town, having it cleaned, and planning on eatingit. They were unswayed by my having eaten rabbit in a restaurantbefore. Nor were they impressed that the folks who cleaned the rabbitfor me agreed that rabbits are "good eatin'."As such, perhaps myfellow hunters could benefit from some of the rabbit information found onthe web.- The cottontail is the most popular game animal in the UnitedStates. Cottontail meat is excellent eating and the fur is used in theclothing industry. It is an underused game species in South Dakota,despite a long season, September 1 through the end of February, and generousbag limits. Early American Indian cultures used cottontails as food,especially before the development of the Plains Indian horse culture. Archaeological sites in South Dakota, dating from 10,000 years ago to about400 years ago, indicate that both cottontail rabbits and jackrabbits wereimportant food items. Rabbit drives, which probably were conducted in timesof high rabbit numbers, are depicted in some early American Indian rockart. - Rabbit meat is easy to digest and naturally low in fat andcholesterol. - Thecottontail rabbit is important as a game animal across its entire range. Inthe United States, deer are the only game more pursued by hunters than therabbit or hare. In Nebraska more pheasants, quail and doves are harvestedeach year than cottontails, which may indicate that rabbits are an underutilized resource. Since the mid-1980s an average of 150,000 cottontailshave been taken by approximately 26,000 hunters each year. Sarah packaged the cleaned, frozen rabbit carcass up in a cooler with iceand Styrofoam, and then put that cooler in a box. We put the box inUnited's less than capable hands, and hoped for the best on the returnflight. Despite United's best efforts, however, the rabbit cooler camethrough the travel to Oakland virtually undamaged. The box probablysat on the reasonably warm and sunny tarmac in Denver for two hours, and inthe Sioux Falls airport for nearly two hours. All in all, the boxspent just short of twelve hours in room temperature or warmerclimates. Despite all that timespent away from refrigeration, the rabbit and ice were still just as frozenas when Sarah packed them up in Watertown. Now we just have to decideon how we want to prepare our little South Dakota delicacy.

Well, it was nice that the Yankees didn't win the World Series. Itseems that a good portion of American sports fans were cheering for ABTY(Anybody But The Yankees) this year.

Baseball contraction: Could it be handled worse? The ownersvote to eliminate two teams, but they're not telling anyone which two. What do they in the time between the vote and public disclosure of thecontracted teams? Sell season tickets, of course. Morons. Who do they think is going to buy season tickets for any of the potentialcontraction victims? There can't be more than fifty or sixty cluelesssports fanatics who are willing to tie up several thousand dollars formonths on the off chance that their team won't be contracted. Duh. Strap on a pair and tell the world your decision already. Delaying public disclosure of a decision like this is pointless and does noone, except the fat cat owners, any favors. Contraction itself isnothing more than baseball punishing fans for the owners' greed. Baseball ownersthink contraction is necessary because they expanded the league tooquickly. Why did they expand the league? To get expansionfees. Why are baseball owners now going to contract the league? Todecrease the number of teams splitting what is basically a fixed amount ofmoney, thereby increasing the amount of money each team gets. Why dothe owners of contracted teams allow their teams to be contracted? Because they get paid. Carl Pohlad will probably get a payment inexcess of $250 million if the Twins are contracted. It's the perfectsituation for Pohlad. He gets a significant return on his investmentwithout having to go through the motions of selling the team. Pohladvoted against contraction (the vote was 28-2), so he can claim that he"fought" against having the Twins contracted. Almostregardless of what happens, Pohlad has the possibility of coming out of theTwins being contracted smelling like roses. Sad, but true.