“Where’s Waldo” Ala Les Kouba

LesKoubaThe first time I met Les Kouba I stood there in awe.   Not only was Les a giant in the field of wildlife art…but his personality and appearance quickly let you know this was no ordinary outdoor character (or “dude” as he called everyone).   In fact, long before today’s popular wildlife artists gained their notoriety…Kouba was making an impression on the wildlife art world like no other artist has been able to duplicate since.

I worked with Les and got to know him personally before his death in 1998.   At the time I was producing sportsman’s calendars and Les’ unique artwork was a logical choice for featuring in those calendars.   His unique artistic style often showed a throw-back in time to an Americana filled with innocence and loads of nostalgia.

What’s amazing is Kouba was a self-taught artist who at the age of 14 took a correspondence course and started to hone his artistic craft quite early in life.   Of course, as with many highly flamboyant sportsman characters, Kouba was such a big BSer that you hardly knew what to believe when he spoke to you.   If he could get you believing some far-fetched story…he would eventually reel you in like a big lunker fish.   He enjoyed life that way and I believe this same fun clearly shows in his art.

I won’t go into much more of Kouba’s fascinating life story today(you can read much of that here), but there is something interesting about Kouba’s art that not everyone knows.   It started years ago quite by accident when an admirer of his art asked him about the significance of always incorporating the number 13 into his drawings.   Truth is, Kouba was unaware that the print in question even contained 13 elements of some kind in it.   But true to his BS form…from that point forward you could almost always locate something in Kouba’s prints that were featured in a quantity of 13.

Most times it was ducks or geese wingin’ through the sky with 13 birds featured.   Other times it would be something more subtle such as seeing 13 rabbit tracks in the snow or 13 trees in the skyline.   The point is most, but not all, of Kouba’s prints had something “fun” incorporated into them to make you look a bit closer.   Soon, Kouba fans were beginning to look at his artwork not solely for the gorgeous image it contained…but also for the “Where’s Waldo” aspect ala Kouba.   Indeed, his talents were truly genius.

Here’s a few popular prints from the Kouba collection that are still available on the market.   See if you can find anything in the images with the significance of “13” in them.   Good luck!


“August In Minnesota”


“Walleyes Feedin’ on the Flat”


“Surveying His Domain”


“Northern Ala Frog Legs”


“Elk Country”


“Corn For Lunch”


“Dark House Action”


“Nature Calls”


“New Year’s Day”


“Northern Feedin’On Perch”

[Blogger’s Note:   Many of these limited edition prints can be purchased through various art markets, including eBay.   Or, you may purchase them direct from the Kouba Gallery]

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

More On Diamond Dog Food

Two weeks ago I first reported on the Diamond Dog Food recall and how sportsmen should be aware of this toxic situation that has killed many dogs, mostly in the Southeast.   During the two weeks since that post, I must say I have received numerous e-mails of encouragement from both dog owners personally effected by the toxin as well as those who are just plain concerned as dog food-buying consumers.

Thanks to one loyal blog reader he passed along this important information to me today.   I found the article quite interesting and it should serve as a great follow-up to what has been learned since that recall notice first hit the news.   Link HERE.

Even though I live in a state that is not directly affected the Diamond recall area…I purchased my first bag of dog food this past weekend manufactured by a company other than Diamond.   Indeed, for the past six years I have been a loyal Diamond customer…but no more.   At least not until I see how Diamond is going to stand up and be accountable for the deaths of 100s of dogs.

The best advice I can say at this point is if you’ve fed Diamond Dog Food suspected of containing the aflatoxin fungus get your dog into the vet immediately for an examination.   If you are one of the unfortunate sportsmen who have lost a dog because of the poisoning, get your dog tested even it it means doing a post-mortem examination.   Now is a time you will want to strengthen your claim so you need all the credible evidence you can possible assemble.

Also, be very careful about carelessly involving yourself in any upcoming legal action.   No doubt about it there will likely be many individual lawsuits against Diamond seeking legal redress for their alleged negligence.   I also wouldn’t be surprised if down the road those lawsuits combine into a single class action lawsuit against Diamond.   Keep in mind, however, that typically class action lawsuits are rarely in the best interests of the party affected (or class member).   Generally the class action best serves the company (who pays a token amount for a signed waiver against future legal claims) and the various law firms who administer the court action on behalf of the entire class.   As a sportsmen and dog owner, if Diamond has caused you to spend hundreds or possibly even thousands of dollars in vet bills OR if you have lost a dog because of the toxin…you need to consult and be represented by your own attorney.

Thanks again to all those concerned blog readers who have taken the time to e-mail me or to post comments on this matter.   As I hear things develop on this story I will try to report on it in the future.   I also appreciate all the information and news tips that are sent my way…keep them coming!!

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.


Let’s Not Overreact…At Least For Now

I remember a time back in college (late 70s/early 80s) when being promiscuous with the opposite sex had its risks — gonorrhea, syphilis or a host of other sexually transmitted diseases, but the cost of such exposure usually meant a visit to the doctor and a prescribed course of antibiotics.   Certainly the risks were unpleasant, but the outcome was generally not deadly if dealt with properly by the victim.

Then sometime in the early 80s most of us started to hear about monkeys passing some scary disease to humans.   Suddenly, many responsible adults realized that having casual sex or even touching someone else’s blood could potentially have dire consequences.   The disease was HIV, or better known as “AIDS,” and the very thought of being exposed to this emerging disease changed the way most folks conducted our lives out of fear — and justifiably so.   Life could no longer be lived as it once was…unless you were willing to accept the risks that went along with sexual promiscuity or being careless with another person’s bodily substances (blood, urine, fecal matter).

In the beginning, it was the fear of the unknown about HIV.   What we knew was that it killed some people who were exposed.   We also knew the disease acted in different ways depending on the exposure.   Bottom line was that in one way or another…the newly discovered disease that emerged into our lives over a quarter century ago has changed the way each of us now live our lives today.

Now let’s look at some recent disease concerns that are spreading through sportsman ranks like wildfire these days.   First it was CWD (or Chronic Wasting Disease) and now we recently learned the first deer in Minnesota has been detected with Bovine Tuberculosis.   Let’s face it…when you take your deer into a registration station and it gets examined for disease in ways like never before…it makes you stop and think.   On one hand research and studies are an important and necessary function in wildlife management, so I accept this.   On the other hand, being a sportsman and living the same old careless lifestyle could have consequences…if meat isn’t cooked thoroughly or handled in the most aseptic manner.

First off, recent studies have shown that eating deer that has been properly handled in the field and in the kitchen represents a very minimal risk to the sportsman and their family.   This is true for both CWD and with Bovine TB found in deer.   Officials are quick to point out that Bovine TB is not a major health concern to the hunter who brings home meat from an infected animal, they just urge continued cooperation by sportsmen to track the spread of these diseases by allowing testing. 

The fact that only one out of hundreds of deer tested this past fall tested positive for Bovine TB should certainly be encouraging, at least to sportsmen.   Farmers and ranchers in Northern Minnesota, on the other hand, might feel more devastated because it could mean quarantined stock and a statewide ban on the export of livestock across state lines.   Moreover, if you’re a state official trying to eradicate the disease by eliminating the contaminated livestock herds…hearing that deer may also be spreading the disease beyond the farm-lot can’t come as encouraging news.   Still, everyone is trying to stay optimistic that Bovine TB can be controlled with the proper measures taken early by farmers, veterinarians and sportsmen in Minnesota.

So, within the past few months we now learn that Minnesota has joined Michigan, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico as states also fighting this respiratory disease.  Michigan, in fact, has already dealt with this TB outbreak for over a decade in their deer population so sportsmen can take some solace in the fact it’s been demonstrated that it can be managed and does not have to severely impact the way sportsmen enjoy the whitetail resource.

If you’re like me, it seems whenever a new disease is discovered or determined to be present in our wildlife population it somehow distracts from the innocence of the outdoor world we previously enjoyed.   I know for a fact it also scares many un-enlightened sportsmen who never take the time to learn that the diseases we hear about in our wildlife don’t have to disrupt the way you enjoy life as a hunter.

Much like we began to learn back in the 80’s…sex wasn’t without risk that could kill us.   Of course, taking precautions by being more selective on sex partners and using condoms to prevent the exchange of body fluids, our society learned to manage those disease risks associated with a changing world.   Same holds true now for sportsmen in an ever-changing world with CWD, Bovine TB, along with other wildlife-borne diseases, such as Tularemia.   By staying informed, acting rationally and taking the proper safeguards in meat handling, sportsmen can not only minimize any disease threats…but fortunately we have to change very little in how we enjoy those wildlife resources for the future to come.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.