Grounded from their normally hectic travel schedules due to worldwide COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders, Ramsey Russell and photographer Lee Kjos recount meeting while duck hunting in the epic, 1870s-like Rio Salado Argentina duck hunting destination, but having formed a brothers-from-different-mothers bond over shared appreciation for classic rock music. Like duck blind conversations are apt to do, they fall off into a time-warp conversation.
Lee Kjos, Classic Rock and Other Topics During COVID
Traveling Duck Hunters Sheltered-In-Place During COVID
Ramsey Russell: Man, what a beautiful day in Mississippi it is today. The grass is growing, the flowers are blooming. The weather is spectacular. American flag flapping gently right there in front of the house. It’s just a gorgeous spring day. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think the world was normal, but it’s not. This COVID thing is weighing down on everybody. If you hadn’t noticed, I’ve got a whole bunch of recordings done that we’ve been running on Monday, stretching back. Practically everybody in the world I know is sitting at home and hunkered down. Business and life has slowed down, if not grinded to a halt. Just reaching out to some friends of mine, and we’re doing some recordings and talking about the situation, talking about nothing at all. Today’s guest is my friend Mr. Lee Kjos. How are you, Lee?
Lee Kjos: I’m doing good, man. How are you?
Ramsey Russell: I’m good. What’s the weather like in Minnesota?
Lee Kjos: I bet we haven’t had a day this nice since early October. It’s 53°, sunny, no wind. It’s gorgeous. It’s as good as it gets. And then you think about what’s going on in the world today, and it’s almost a surreal feeling, how good I feel right now, right here at the farm. But, man, there’s a lot of bad shit going on.
Ramsey Russell: Surreal is as good a word as I can think of to describe the current situation. The last time I saw you, Lee, the world was normal. We were at Dallas Safari Club, and the vibe was just unbelievable. Wow. What happened? Out of nowhere, in the last couple of weeks, it’s like a dream.
Lee Kjos: It’s a nightmare.
Ramsey Russell: At least, if bombs were dropping, you’d know what the heck was going on. But to walk outside and pedal down the road and watch TV and wake up—the simple things. It just seems normal. But there’s something floating through the air. Has COVID reached Minnesota? Is it going on? Is it active? Y’all got cases and stuff like that?
Lee Kjos: Yeah, I think I read this morning there’s something like five hundred and some cases here now, and a handful of deaths. Part of the surreal thing I’m talking about is when you read an article, or whatever, early in the morning, and they’re talking about what these numbers could look like in two or three weeks from now. And I’m like, “What? Is that even possible in our country? Is that real?” Then I get like, I can’t even— I don’t want to start a grease fire here, but I am so disappointed in our government. I’m so disappointed. Don’t tell me that in this country, in the year of 2020, that we should not be prepared for a virus. I can’t even fathom that we’re not prepared.
Ramsey Russell: Of course, the political parties are never going to let a crisis, big or bad, go without being politicized. They’re not going to miss the opportunity to politicize everything. But I really don’t point to a president or a presidential administration. A lot of these government agencies exist and persist forever. I read a story last week where Mr. Steve Forbes hung it squarely on the shoulders of the Centers for Disease Control. That’s their job. I don’t think it’s any one body. I think what we’re looking at, in terms of our government and other governments, is just the fact that these government agencies are so big and so bloated. I just imagine a big, old, fat, gray tick and little, old, bitty legs where, like a turtle on her back, they can’t move. They can’t respond. They can’t move quickly.
But I really, truly have believed and seen and let myself believe that this particular Trump administration had mobilized pretty goddang thing quickly to try to respond and try to get an upper hand on this thing, inasmuch as you can in this day and age. But like yourself, I’m flabbergasted that we’re, that anybody’s in this situation.
But I remind myself—and it’s really no consolation, Lee—this isn’t an American thing. Every person I know on earth is affected by this right now. Their governments are reacting similarly. Their protocols are similar. Nobody’s leaving their house, but to go to the grocery store. Nobody’s leaving their house to go to the beach. Most people are staying home from work. It is an absolute global—everybody. Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Peru, South Africa, Netherlands, Sweden. Everybody I know. Azerbaijan. Everybody’s affected. Everybody.
Lee Kjos: Yeah. This one’s going to get everybody. This is going to touch everybody. Like I said, the whole thing seems surreal to me right now. I read—this is staggering. Deborah Birx, the doctor who’s on a lot, I like listening to her. She said, “If all things go perfect right now, you’re still looking at 100,000 to 200,000 deaths.” And that’s if things go perfect. Dude, in the whole Vietnam conflict, we lost 58,000. Oh, to me, still, that whole Vietnam thing just kills me. Which we could get into, all kinds of— you wanted to talk rock and roll and John Prine and stuff like that. I think of Vietnam all the time, when I think of that era. But 58,000 in that conflict, right? And we’re talking about 100,000 to 200,000 if it all goes well?
Ramsey Russell: The crazy thing, Lee, is here we are, Mississippi— Well, let’s take the national survey. A couple of thousand folks, 2,300 died, seemed to be a certain demographic. Predispositions and different things like that. Last week, we had Dr. Sam Pierce on. He’s on the COVID frontlines, in Mississippi, dealing with it. He shed some light on how it affects what it does, but the maddening thing is how insidiously slow it is. It’s like this little-bitty interest rate, just growing incrementally. It’s only 2,000, then it’s 3,000, then it’s 9,000. Now, they’re predicting 100,000. And I hear folks— Everybody is coping and grappling and trying to get their mind around it in their own way. And it’s just, you can’t. The common flu killed 68,000 people, one year, but this is different, somehow. I’ll share this with anybody listening. Especially you guys that know my medical history. I’m vulnerable, and it’s scary. Now, I’m not a Chicken Little, “sky is falling!” When the Good Lord says it’s my time to go—hello, Jesus, here we come. But still, I’m not really ready for it. I’ve had several physicians contact me and tell me to exercise extreme caution because of how this virus makes one’s immunity respond, and inflammation. It was described to me that, basically, whereas my day-to-day existence is a thunderstorm—Mississippi in July, a thunderstorm’s liable to break out at any time. This would be Hurricane Katrina crawling right up my ass. So it just makes me a little leery, but, at the same time, I’m still plowing ahead and doing my thing. But, Lee, it’s very, very hard to get my mind wrapped around it. Normally, this time of year, I’m traveling in Duck Season Somewhere, you’re—God only knows where you’d be, right now, if the flights were flying. I know you had to lay off a lot of projects. While we’re able to talk right now, like we are, it’s just—surreal is as good a word as I’ve heard to explain this.
Lee Kjos: Yeah. It’s really quiet right now. We were talking about, where would I be right now? I’d be photographing and hunting snow geese somewhere. The photography, the big client work, the travel work—that obviously got shut down a long time ago, and I’m thankful for my wife and I and our family. I have the farm, and I do a lot of work, still, here at the farm. But it’s so different than what a normal year is.
Ramsey Russell: What’s your daily routine right now? Have you kind of fallen into a home routine?
Lee Kjos: Oh, yeah. I’m about as relaxed as I ever get, ever. We have an island, Bonnie and I do, in northern Minnesota where we grew up. When I get up there, after a couple weeks I can really start to unwind and chill. And that’s kind of what it’s like here on the farm right now. I draw every day. I do things that I haven’t done for a long time. I sketch with a pencil a lot. I work on ideas. I work on new things for clients that I can bring to the table, and, hopefully, when and if we get out of this, I think we will. So, I don’t know. I just try to stay upbeat and positive.
Ramsey Russell: Tomorrow is going to come. Yeah, that’s all we can do. All we can do is what we can do. Lee, it’s funny you used the word “relax” because that’s kind of how I am right now. Normally, in between trips, in between Duck Season Somewhere, I had intended on being home for about seven weeks, and that’s enough time for me to get relaxed. And a longer stretch in time than I would have been home for years, but now it’s even longer, it looks like. Man, I have fallen into a routine. I’m with my wife, two of my children are home. We’ve just kind of fallen into a routine, and we’re a family, and we’re enjoying catching up, and we’re doing things. Anita’s piddling around the backyard with her garden, and her flowers, and her bulbs, and all that mess. I go out and help her sometimes. Once a day, I put on my headphones and get on a bicycle, and I just go hammer out a bicycle ride to get some fresh air. I feel good. I’m just relaxed. You know what I found myself doing is— I’m no photographer like yourself and Jake Latendresse—but I used to take pictures, and I have found myself with the time and wherewithal to go and dig through the boneyard. I’ve been on my computer, I’ve been digging up pictures I haven’t seen in lots of years, I’ve been catching up with social media, I’ve been catching up with my web page. I’ve been reaching out, talking to friends I haven’t talked to in ten years to see how they are. It’s really kind of a relaxed crisis mode, if you ask me.
Lee Kjos: I tell you what, too. My mother and father—they’ve been gone quite a while—they were from what Brokaw called America’s Greatest Generation. They were Depression-era kids. And then World War II—Dad was in World War II, and Mom worked in a war factory. How they lived, and how they took care of things, and how they didn’t waste—I got to tell you, man, for the first time in my life, I look at things I’m wasting. I know, that sounds crazy, right? But, like paper towels, right? I wash my hands, it seems like, a hundred times a day right now. And it’s just, hey, don’t use all that, use this one. Then you look at food differently, and then you think about this on a large scale. We have this doctor, probably a lot of the listeners are aware of who he is, Dr. Michael Osterholm from the University of Minnesota. His whole deal is pandemics, right? Or chemical warfare. He’s into that. He said a thing the other day that I thought was really, really good. He said, “People need to stop looking at this on a daily, or day-by-day, basis, and really think about what your life is going to look like in six months from now.” That helps me get away from reading the news early in the morning. Where it says, “In Minnesota, there’s a handful of deaths right now.” But then, when you hear whatever the big-time players—with Trump, on TV or whatever, Dr. Fauci and Birx—they start throwing out numbers like 100,000 to 200,000. That’s where the surreal part gets to me. I hear that, and I’m like, “How do we go from here to here in two or three weeks?” I can’t even imagine what that’s going to do to the country. So I look at things way different.
Ramsey Russell: What is it going to do to the world, Lee? We are truly blessed. We are blessed to live in America. It’s made me very thankful to be an American, to live in America. To live in our economy, to live in what the abundance of that economy affords us in terms of freedom, in terms of research, in terms of health care. As I talk to European friends that live in the European Union—what they’re going through, as compared to us. When I talk to some of our mutual friends, Lee, down in Argentina. I hear on our news them talk about a shortage of ventilators and a shortage of medical staff, and it concerns them. And it concerns me. But, then, when I talk to friends down in Argentina— Dr. Sam Pierce said last week that there were 200,000 ventilators in America. That we’re going to need more. Okay, so the American government goes out and commands General Motors to start making them. Works with Ford, start making them. Has worked with Carnival Cruise to mobilize mobile hospitals. Has got 3M making bacterial masks. Has got the pillow guy, or somebody, making face shields. There’s all these industries stepping up and being mobilized to respond. Then, one of my favorite countries on earth, Argentina— Fourteen million people live in the city of Buenos Aires, and there’s about six hundred ventilators. They don’t have our economy. They don’t have our ability to respond. And even if you could call up another country to get them, guess what? They’re in the same boat you are. They haven’t got them to spare, right now. Worst case scenario is— I’m a very imaginative guy. I’ve got a rampant imagination, and I can imagine, six months from now, seeing my friends down there for the first time and hugging them like we’re just emerging from war. It’s hard for me to get my mind wrapped around it, based on where we all were just a couple of months ago, at convention.
Lee Kjos: Unbelievable. I’ve been to Argentina, like you, a number of times, and hung out in B.A. quite a bit. I didn’t know those numbers. I didn’t hear that one. But, knowing what it’s like there and how densely populated that area is, that doesn’t sound good at all.
Ramsey Russell: No, it doesn’t. They’re on an absolute scorched-earth lockdown. I say scorched-earth, they are unlike us where—come on, man, we’re American. We’re Americans. We have our freedoms. You think about the American cowboy. The American cowboy is one of the most iconic symbols for freedom, worldwide. John Wayne, baby. Other people don’t have that freedom. People are being arrested for leaving their domiciles and going anywhere other than the grocery store in a lot of these countries. We’re not. We’re American. And it could be good, it could be bad. It cuts both ways. I got to tell you this story. Lee, you and I went down and hunted ducks at Rio Salado Argentina. Rio Salado is like stepping back in the mid to late 1800’s and duck hunting. We had such a great time. I enjoyed hunting with you. I knew you, but I had never met you, never hunted with you. To share a duck blind with you, it was like meeting my long-lost brother from another mother. Really, Lee.
Duck Hunters Connecting Worldwide Through Classic Rock-N-Roll
You and I are getting to be a couple of old dinosaurs in the music world. We ain’t getting no younger, either. It’s like I’m in a time warp. I feel like I’m in this time warp when it comes to music. I could drive from here to your house and back, five times, and never hear the same song on my iTunes twice. But it’s mostly all the same music I listened to since high school.
Ramsey Russell: Where I felt like we really connected at a personal level was music. That’s where I felt like we really kind of connected. You may remember, when we got done hunting, it wasn’t just pack up your bags and go. We had a lot going on. We had a lot of ducks to round up, a lot of shotgun shell hulls. It was going to take us an hour, and I turned on my iTunes.
Lee Kjos: Three of my very favorites came on, back to back to back, and I’m like, “Damn, this guy, he’s got it going on, man. This guy is like a long-lost brother of mine.” I don’t know if you remember who it was. It was Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker, and John Prine.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right. See, when I grew up, we didn’t have iTunes. Of course, a lot of folks listening remember. Speaking of digging through boneyards on my computer— You and I are getting to be a couple of old dinosaurs in the music world. We ain’t getting no younger, either. It’s like I’m in a time warp. I feel like I’m in this time warp when it comes to music. I could drive from here to your house and back, five times, and never hear the same song on my iTunes twice. But it’s all the same music I listened to since high school. It’s the same music. Now, my kid turned me on to some new music, but those guys ain’t going to be around like these other bands are.
I think my musical evolutionary trajectory plateaued at Kid Rock. That’s kind of it. What made me think of this topic was I got this—and I’ll share with you, again—I got back from Azerbaijan, this coronavirus. Okay, you know, bird flu, swine flu, Ebola. No, no, no. It’s very hard, as a business owner that has poured every waking moment—and sleeping moment, for that matter—for the last twenty years into a business like GetDucks—you’ve got to be a realist. You’ve got to say to yourself, “Wait a minute. This could compromise every single thing I’ve worked for. You let them crank down the American economy, and us Americans, like they have in some of these other countries—like they’re doing in Netherlands right now—this could be the end of life as I know it. Completely, entirely. And I’m no pity party. I can tell you that, buddy, I’m going to fight to the bitter end. Anybody who knows me knows that.
But I’ll tell you this one. I’ve got an outfitter down in Argentina named Diego. He’s another brother. This guy is a Croc-wearing— Boy, he cusses like I do in a duck blind. He is a duck killer with three-inch fangs. We connected at a different level. But, again, on music. You get in the car with him, and it’s my music. It’s Guns N’ Roses, it’s Lynyrd Skynyrd. Now, he and I and Martha, a lot of my Argentine folks, we’ve been talking, carrying on. I have a daily conversation with all my outfitters worldwide. Every week of my life. Out of the blue, Diego sends me a YouTube clip: Kid Rock, “Born Free.” I’ve heard that song a million times, and I punched it, and I played it. I went inside and I got my headphones and I put it in, and I played it again. Well, screw this YouTube stuff. I went to listen to the song on loop for about twenty minutes, and it put me in the place I needed to be. Born free, chasing dreams, racing Father Time. You know, Lee, I left federal government, midway through a government career, totally bored to tears. I’d either drink myself to death or committed suicide if I had to see it out for thirty years. I’m just not cut out for that line of work. The day I loaded my last box and put it in my truck and said goodbye, never to return again, to that boring ass office, I came home, I took a shower, picked up my wife—we stopped and had barbecue ribs—and went and saw Kid Rock. And he hit the stage playing “Born Free.” It became an anthem of sorts because I knew, in that moment, I had done exactly the right thing by taking destiny into my own hands. So, I don’t know. It’s just funny how music affects you like that.
Free, like a river raging
Strong, if the wind I’m facing.
Chasing dreams and racing father time.
Deep like the grandest canyon,
Wild like an untamed stallion.If you can’t see my heart you must be blind.You can knock me down and watch me bleed
But you can’t keep no chains on me.– Kid Rock, Born Free
Lee Kjos: Oh, yeah. I can give you one right now. I think I sent you an article, yesterday, when I saw in Rolling Stone magazine, or a tweet from Rolling Stone, that John Prine was hospitalized with coronavirus, and he was in critical condition. I was like, “Oh, no.” Not that—lots of people are going through that, right? But then, every once in a while, something affects you. Well, my wife and I—John Prine is, like, the deal. He’s our favorite of all time, and it’s not close.
The first time we saw him was, I think, Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis in 1978. We were eighteen years old, then. Then we saw him through the 80’s, and then, most recently, a couple years ago—and he was older—we saw him at the State in Minneapolis. No, it wasn’t the State, it was Northrop Auditorium on the U-Campus. Man, he was never better. I’ve seen—well, you and I have talked about this a number of times—I’ve pretty much seen them all. From the late 60’s and the 70’s, those bands? I’ve pretty much seen them all live. When you see them late in life, they’re—even though you love them because they’re your bands—they’re a shell of what they used to be, of their former selves.
Not Prine. It was the most emotional live performance I’ve ever seen. Then, at the end, he’s playing “Lake Marie,” and he starts to dance in it. He just dances off the stage. Friends our age and stuff like that—I guess you’d call Prine’s following—it’s almost like a cult following. Like, you were just talking about how music made you feel great at that moment. This one, what happened yesterday when I heard Prine was sick, made me feel bad. But I think that’s the power of the music that you’re talking about. It has the ability to do both. Then I just saw a notification in here, an hour ago, and now his wife said that he is in stable condition, so he must have turned the corner. And I’m like, “Oh, man, that’s awesome.” So if you get the chance, ever, to go see him, you have to travel to go do it.
Ramsey Russell: Believe it or not, I saw him with a good buddy of mine, now deceased. The late Banker Man, we called him. We saw him in the Jackson Auditorium. A small, little, perfect for an acoustic concert, auditorium here in Jackson. I’ve been listening to John Prine, since junior high school.
Lee Kjos: Almost fifty years.
Ramsey Russell: It’s folk, it’s kind of country. As I got older, what I realized about him, as an artist, is—to see him in concert—he was just so human. That’s it. He was so down to earth. I cannot imagine walking up to a window to get a cheeseburger and a milkshake, and bumping into John Prine, and him being anything other than himself, getting a cheeseburger and a milkshake. He’s a red-blooded American. He’s a poet of sorts. To be in that music, you got to be a poet. He’s a philosopher, he’s a poet. And his music— It’s been among a handful of—first albums, then cassettes, and then CDs, and now iTunes—it’s just been a handful of music that I’ve always had on hand to listen to.
I can’t remember the word Jake used. A song came on—we were listening to music when he was in Mississippi, a few months back—and he said something, I can’t remember what. “Is that your secret stash?” Or, “Is that the music you listen to with nobody around?” I can’t remember what he called it. I said, “No, man, that’s John Prine. Are you kidding?” It really kind of brought this freaking invisible virus home that an American icon, like John Prine, had fallen prey to it.
Lee Kjos: Prine is much like the singer-songwriters from that era. They all had something to say, back then, and most of it centered around anti-government and the Vietnam War. Most of it did. If you listen to their music, it comes screaming in that. I look at this period, for us, right now here, we’re at war right now. I don’t mean that disrespectful for those who have served, and I mean that seriously. I don’t like to use the word war, or battle, or any of that because it’s disrespectful to those that served. But I do look at this and in one sense it’s like, regardless of what side of the aisle you’re on, we’re all in this together right now, man. All of us. It don’t matter, dude. It’s us against that thing, right now. So that is the way I look at it.
Ramsey Russell: I’ll say this. Since high school, that time warp I’m in, the Eagles—
Lee Kjos: You just saw them a couple of weeks ago, didn’t you?
Ramsey Russell: Oh, I did, God. Let me tell you how I ended up seeing the Eagles. My wife—who is just my soulmate, golly, man, I’m blessed to have a woman like that in my life. But she, a couple of years ago, maybe it was just last year, she wanted to go see Elton John, Sir Elton John. I’m like, “Get out of here.” Never mind the fact that I know every word of every song he plays. I’ve heard it a million times. I mean, it’s Elton John. Come on. I would never have gone and seen him in high school. But I went because that’s what a good husband does. You go and do things with your wife. And we loved it. It was awesome. It was a great performance. I didn’t realize till I saw him on stage out there how short he was. He’s old. It’s like this little eighty year old man, but, oh, when he hit those piano keys. And that started something, Lee, it started something because that was his last performance. That was the last time I would ever be able to see him live. I’m glad I did it. It was a great performance, and I have not been to concerts since at least college.
So twenty-five years, I have not been and seen a live concert. Boy, has that environment changed. Smoke-free entirely. No lighters. Everybody’s holding a cell phone instead of a lighter. Then, you can buy liquor—it’s expensive, but you can buy liquor—you ain’t got to bring your own in. Here’s what gets me: everybody in the audience is my age. There’s not a bunch of young hellions no more, with long hair. It’s just my age folks, you know? So I said, “You know, that was kind of cool.” I’ve always wanted to go see— Well, I heard Kiss was making a tour. In 1979, I saw them in Jackson, Mississippi. First rock concert I’d ever been to. I cannot imagine turning my twelve year old kid, with his twelve and thirteen year old buddies, loose at a rock concert. But back in those days, you could.
Lee Kjos: So you saw Kiss in full dress in ‘79.
Ramsey Russell: I did. But guess what? I saw them last year, again, in Birmingham. These guys have got to be in their 70’s. There was this big, massive curtain hanging, and the music started, “The Hottest Band in the World.” When that curtain dropped, the fireworks and the cannons and everything just, “Bam! Bam! Bam!” started, and those dudes come down in their full regalia. Gene Simmons—he spit blood, he blew fire, and Paul Stanley floated across the crowd. My sides hurt, the next day, from laughing and having such a good time.
Then, I said, “Okay, let’s go see Bob Seger.” I always want to see that dude. Kiss, Bob Seger, the Eagles, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Those five albums there—live versions of those five albums—since high school, at no time, in a truck, have I ever been without those five music sets to get me through. And John Prine, you can throw him in there. I’ve always had them for when I’m driving. I’ll turn it on. And depending on how late it is, and how tired I am, depends on how loud I’ll sing along with them, if I’m by myself in a truck. That’s my music, man. That’s my go-to.
So we went and saw the Eagles, and that was what was so crazy. I got back from Azerbaijan, we were home for a few days, we drove down to Dallas, and, I can remember, it was an incredible concert. But my wife— We got a rule about this little concert stretch we’re doing here lately. She don’t tell me how much the tickets cost because, if she does, it’s going to ruin the experience for me. When the Eagles did their big, final farewell tour with the original members, I was in college and I refused to go because they charged an obscene amount of $75 per ticket. And that was absurd, I had never paid more than $14 to see anybody, and that was just highway robbery. I refused to go see them. And I regretted it, when Don Henley died. When he died, I said, “Man, you screwed up there.” But we went and saw them. It was funny because I didn’t see nobody under thirty years old. It was an incredible concert. They did a really good show.
Vince Gill and Glenn Frey’s son were both on stage, and they were incredible musicians. Everything what I’d hoped it’d be. But I can remember, it was sold out, of course. They were at Maverick Stadium, it was sold out. Even up and down the aisles, we were kidding, “Don’t be coughing on me! Ha, ha, ha.” It was all just a joke. It ain’t a joke no more. I wouldn’t get in that crowd, right now, to save my soul. But I’m glad I went. I’m glad I got to go see them. I hope, one day, the world will regain normalcy, and I can go see some more of these cats. I hope that John Prine recovers and tours again, so I can go see him. You know, I’ve seen Marshall Tucker a bunch of times. Their band has been reincarnated so many times, I think their total band member list is in the high thirties or low forties, with how many people have come in and out of it. But what’s some of your go-to, default, listened-to-a-million-times music?
Classic rock music just brings you back to a time and place where things were just a lot different, a lot simpler times. – Lee Kjos
Lee Kjos: Well, there’s a big difference between studio albums, or live albums, or seeing people live. I always go back to Skynyrd, Tucker, Zeppelin. Some live concerts, I remember, that were just outrageous was, like, Sabbath in ‘75. I was no more than fifteen yards from them and those speakers. And, oh my God, dude, were they loud. My ears hurt. So I would have been fifteen, that was summer 1975. I think it was Parade Stadium in St. Paul. It was Sabbath, and, I mean, my ears hurt for weeks. Damage, but, hell, back then in the seventies, I had damage from all kinds of stuff, you know?
But then I saw Skynyrd like four times live. They were my favorite live band to see. They were a great live band. You mentioned something like, Anita got you to go see Elton John. It’s been a while now, probably ten years, twelve years or so, thirteen years or something, maybe. I was in Saskatchewan, hunting, for a month, and Bonnie, my wife, called me and said, “Come home, I bought tickets to see Simon & Garfunkel.” And I’m like, “Come home from Saskatchewan? Really?” And I’m like, “Oh, whatever.” I did, I came home, I think it was around Halloween. I came home and, honest to God, when we got in there, and they started playing, it was, for sure, one of the best things I’ve ever seen in my life, live. I think what it does, classic rock music just brings you back to a time and place where things were just a lot different, a lot simpler times for me, then. It’s just music in general, though.
Oh, here’s a good one. It was in Duluth, Minnesota. It was ZZ Top, it was the Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers Tour. It was Tucker, J. Geils Band, and ZZ Top. It was really cool. Then some dudes came up into the bleachers there and gave us backstage passes, and we went back there and hung out with them after that. I don’t know, that was ‘76, I think. Something like that, summer of ‘76. Oh, yeah, it was super cool. But those old shows, those old concerts— Back then there were bands. There are no bands anymore. They’re gone. They’re dead. There are no bands. So back then, they were all bands, and they all toured. And when they toured, that’s when they made their money. They didn’t make money on studio albums. The record labels made that money. They made their money when they toured, and they all toured. So every couple weeks, there was some band playing. Right? Could have been Ted Nugent. I remember when Boston first hit the scene. Then it was the Eagles, then it was Lynyrd Skynyrd, then it was Zeppelin, then The Who. They all played. And what were they, $8?
Ramsey Russell: I paid $10 to go see Kiss in 1979. $14 to go see Foreigner in the mid to late 80s. It was a different time. I guess the internet and digital age and Napster-type stuff is what killed rock bands. I guess technology is what killed it.
Lee Kjos: What changed it? I don’t know. Maybe. But it changed how people, for sure, listen to music. Do you remember the album covers? We knew who the band members were because we read it. We read everything there was to read about them.
Ramsey Russell: It was just a whole different time and a whole different place. Hindsight is 20/20. It’s kind of how I guess my grandparents felt looking back at Norman Rockwell drawings on Life Magazine, or something. It was just a whole different time. But I don’t know, it just died. You want to talk about a buzzkill, we left that Eagles concert, called an Uber, and went to the hotel. Our Uber car pulls up driving a tiny, little old car. He got his hair gelled up like a shark fin down the middle, and we get in. I don’t know what he’s listening to, it could have been Justin Beiber. I don’t know what kind of music that was, if it was music, but he called it music. Turned on the radio and it started, and it was like, what is this? How do you leave the Eagles concert and step into this? “You need to turn that radio down, sir. You’re just killing the whole vibe here,” I told him. What passes as music today is anything but music. It’s just noise.
Lee Kjos: It’s awful. I find some that I like, here and there, but I always go back to the old stuff.
Ramsey Russell: You and me could hem-haw around a lot about the old Southern rock classics and stuff. That’s really kind of my thing, too. First time I saw Kid Rock—I’ve seen him twice—he came onto the stage in Jackson, Mississippi, and I really was a tad embarrassed, hate to say, to go see him. Because I’m thinking, “Man, ain’t going to be nothing but a bunch of young whippersnappers up in here.” Uh-uh, no. It was all people my age up in there, mostly. We’re a big lot, we’re busting out. And he came on stage with—the opening sound was “Free Bird.” Right in the middle of “Free Bird,” he transitioned and went through all his set. Then, about midway, he picked back up with “Free Bird” and he transitioned more into his music. Then he ended with “Free Bird.” And, buddy, let me tell you what, you want to talk about a glow inside that Coliseum. There were some lights going on that. Of course, there were some rednecks—we’re in Jackson, Mississippi—they had some lighters going, too, and their phones. But that was an incredible performance. He really did a good job. He kind of fits that genre. I know he goes through some of that stuff, but he really kind of fits that Southern rock mold. Not too bad, for a Detroit boy.
Lee Kjos: Nope, he loves it.
Ramsey Russell: Have you seen? On Netflix, they’ve got a ZZ Top documentary. It’s pretty darn good.
Lee Kjos: No, what is it?
Ramsey Russell: I don’t know. Just go through the documentaries. It’s ZZ Top. I guess they called it ZZ Top. I thought it was pretty good. I learned a little bit about them, I really did. Their biggest claim to fame was an album that came out my senior year in high school, 1984-ish. But I really like the old ZZ Top, that was the stuff I like. The old bluesy ZZ Top, that’s what I got into. Still do.
How Did COVID Affect Traveling Duck Hunters?
But you’ve got to believe—as a duck hunter, as a human, as an American—there’s going to be a tomorrow. I just know there will be, and I’m just going to keep on working. That’s all you can do. – Ramsey Russell
Lee Kjos: Right. Oh, me too. That first one was fantastic. Well, what do you got coming up?
Ramsey Russell: Lee, I don’t have—
Lee Kjos: You can’t travel?
Ramsey Russell: No. I’ll tell you what, I always complain, “Oh, man, I can’t wait to get home and get off the road.” Well, I’ve been here three weeks, and I’m starting to feel like a free bird in a cage. I’m ready to stretch my wings. I’m comfortable, I’m relaxed. But, really and truly, right now, we’re in a very unprecedented-type mode. We have met, over the last couple of weeks, with all of our outfitters in South America, New Zealand, Australia. I’ve got a couple of them coming up for a scheduled podcast. I’ve even reached forward far enough into January, February, early March, into my Mexican outfitters. We have all developed a contingency plan of action to take care of clients.
We sent out a big email blast—you might have gotten it—that just told everybody, “Hey, look, we’re aware of COVID. Who isn’t? Take care of yourself, take care of your business, take care of your families, take care of your health. And when the health situation and the quarantine situation and flights eventually begin to resume, your hunt will be redeemable. There’s no penalty, no nothing. The world will return to normal, and we look forward to seeing y’all in a duck blind.” You know, Martha’s husband made an observation the other day, and I had not thought of this. Rio Salado, 130 square mile marsh. You remember how good all those ducks were down there last year? Consider this: an entire year without a shot fired in that marsh. And ducks beget more ducks beget more ducks. It’s, potentially, going to be something worth waiting for.
Lee Kjos: You got to admit, it’s pretty much like that, right now. They don’t see anything down there.
Ramsey Russell: But just imagine, all those tens of thousands of ducks that don’t get killed, this year, having babies. It’s going to be full to the brim.
Lee Kjos: That place is really unbelievable.
Ramsey Russell: But until then, Lee, I’m really taking advantage of the opportunity to be at home for an extended period. When you own a business and you do stuff like this, there’s always, always, always something to do. And so, slowly but surely, I’m making rounds through GetDucks. Our website has probably around 1,800 unique pages, and I’m just making the rounds. I’m going through and building a work list, going through and updating photos and updating copy and updating keywords and fixing broken links. It’s a very massive undertaking. But you pick at it.
And I’ll say this. It’s very easy—and I believe that nearly everyone that might be listening to this recording, they, or someone they know, is being affected at some level by this pandemic. We’re no different. I’m no different. I worry. I’m a worrier. It’s the nature of my business, my personality. I worry. But I remind myself that GetDucks.com, as the world knows it, was born and forged and built ten years ago in the last down cycle. That housing crisis was economically—not all this quarantine stuff, but economically—it was far more severe. Especially under the current presidential administration that let it languish forever. It was far more severe and far-reaching, economically, than this is, so far. Yet, we were able to build it and to weather the storm and to emerge on the other side. I’m going to use this opportunity to catch up and re-fortify the wall, so to speak. It’s like I’m driving a big old ship. I’m just going to patch the sails and caulk the boards and just make this thing a little more seaworthy. That’s all you can do. But you’ve got to believe—as a duck hunter, as a human, as an American—there’s going to be a tomorrow. I just know there will be, and I’m just going to keep on working. That’s all you can do. How about yourself? Are you out there helping Bonnie with the hostas?
Lee Kjos: No, sometimes I get out there, but, no, that’s her bag. That’s her duck hunting. That’s her deal. Her farm and her gardens, and that’s her bag.
Ramsey Russell: It shows. It is one of the most beautiful yards I have ever seen. She has got one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen.
Lee Kjos: Oh, yeah, she’s good at it. No, like you brought up, I go through old images. I have shoots and shoots, raw shoots, to go through, and I go back and revisit them. I make art for magazines and work on covers that I never really get to work on much. Do that. There’s always Boss stuff. I work on Boss every day. Work on original art for Boss, like a drawing. Working on new programs that are coming up that I can launch this summer, early fall. I don’t know, just, like you said, keep on keeping on. We’re going to get up. We’re going to come out of this. One thing I’d like to work on, on a personal level, I need to work on is being tolerant and patient.
Right now, I think the whole world needs a whole lot of that. Common decency and reaching out to those that we can help when we can help. Hell, it’s America. There’s always something that we can do here. We’re Americans, and we come out of things like this on top. – Lee Kjos
Ramsey Russell: We don’t need a president with a bad hairdo to make America great. All Americans need is a crisis, and Americans are great. I have found that one of the best ways to help myself is to help others. It feels good, and it’s productive to help others. To pay it forward, so to speak.
Lee Kjos: There are other things like that, that are coming out of this, that I look at, that I find really refreshing, in an odd way. One of them is, I don’t listen to the president. I listen to the people, good people, that he’s surrounded by, or other people that are out there. I don’t listen to the president. I don’t miss sports one bit. I find it refreshing that I don’t have to hear from Hollywood people on what their opinion is, or what they think, because this is far larger than anybody’s opinion. Don’t you find that refreshing? I haven’t heard from Oprah. You don’t hear anything. Nothing. All we do is hear from experts. That’s who I want to hear from.
Ramsey Russell: One of the best main-type things that I have seen around social media in the last few days is how, finally, the world realizes that what actors and Hollywood and all those celebrity types think, don’t make a phooey. The people that are pulling us through this right now are farmers and medical workers and teachers and firefighters and first responders. They’re finally getting the credit for holding the fabric of society together that they deserve. Not all these freaking pop musicians and all this mess.
Lee Kjos: Yep. That’s what I’m talking about.
Ramsey Russell: Go get on the stage and entertain me. Play a song, boy. Go throw the football. It ain’t important. I agree entirely with what you just said. I agree entirely with that. But, Lee, we’re going to make it through this. You just got to tighten your belt and plow through it, man. That’s all we can do.
Lee Kjos: Okay, so I’m going to get the white elephant out, right here, right now. So, on a selfish note, are we going to be okay by duck season?
Ramsey Russell: I don’t know. I really think so. I think so, Lee. Heck, I’m a duck hunter. I’m an optimist. I’ve been through those dark places that I’ve been through the past. I’m an optimist, and I say light at the end of the tunnel. Yeah, we’re going to be through it. I think we are. I really, truly think we are. The downside of flattening the curve is it takes longer. There’s two axes. A Y axis, and that’s the number of people being affected, and there’s an X axis. I may have them backwards, I think I got X and Y wrong. But you’ve got two axes. You’ve got the number of cases and you’ve got duration. If you mess with one, you affect the other, right? And if you push that curve down, it lengthens the timeline. I think late July, mid-August.
Now, I heard Birx, this morning. What I heard her say was—either she or Fauci—one was saying we’re probably going to hit the peak in three weeks. She said two, I thought, or three. It’s been about three weeks. Okay, so let’s just say, three weeks or four weeks. Let’s just round up and say in four weeks we hit the top of whatever that curve is going to be. Then let’s say six weeks on the backside. So ten weeks, let’s say. I’m just making stuff up here. Let’s just say, ten to twelve weeks out, we’ve tapered off. Okay, here we go. Now we’re looking at three months: May, June, July. We ought to start emerging. But, now, what I wonder is, a physician that called me the other night just gave me a long, educated explanation of what he called cytokine storms. Which is how your immunity responds to this, by generating cytokines, which are inflammatory media in your body, and how this virus elicits a big cytokine response. But, besides that, what he was telling me—he knows a lot more about it than I do, everything I know about these kind of viruses would fit in a slap-full brand-new snuff can on top of the tobacco, which is to say, not much.
What he said was, “Look, this thing is not going away, ever.” He said, “But what you’re going to see is that it will continue to evolve. Maybe it will continue to be as contagious, but the symptoms and the effects will continue to evolve away, to become milder.” You think about this, Lee, just imagine this. Imagine this novel virus came out of nowhere and it killed its host. Well, then, if we all locked ourselves up for thirty days, everybody it had affected is dead. That disease is dead. You see? It’s run itself into extinction. So he believed—and I’ve heard the same, if you read around, and I don’t mean Facebook, kind of read around and try to get some credible intelligence, listen to podcasts, whatever like that—they believe it’s going to evolve itself. It’s just going to kind of sort itself out to become less worrisome than it is right now.
I do believe that whether it’s two weeks, two months, whatever, I do believe that, on the other side, our health care systems, globally, will be better prepared for the big one. I just ordered a book yesterday. A close friend of mine—gosh, I have been buddies with this guy, Ian Munn, for thirty years—and he wrote me out of the blue and recommended a book by an author named John Barry who wrote about the big flood. It was a book called Rising Tide about the big 1927 flood in Mississippi when the levee broke. Very good author, John Barry. Very detailed kind of guy. He wrote, also, a book about the Spanish flu, called The Great Pandemic, that I ordered. That’s my kind of reading. Trying to educate myself a little bit more on the subject. But I don’t know, Lee, I don’t think it’s going to hurt duck season, but I can tell you this. Can you imagine the waiting line at just the local restaurants when people can stick their heads back out?
Lee Kjos: Oh, yeah. Oh, I think people are going to be out in spades, man, when we get through this. People are going to not take anything for granted. I think they’re going to go do things. I sure hope so. That’s what I’m looking forward to. I’m not looking forward to this next three weeks, I’ll tell you that.
Ramsey Russell: No, I’m not either, but I know we’ll get through it. And on that note, we were talking about our buddy John Prine, and one of my favorite songs he wrote was “Souvenirs.” I like the metrics of it, it relates to me. The lyrics in that song talk about memories can’t be bought, it can’t be won for free at a carnival. It takes years, it takes a lifetime to earn those souvenirs, and, eventually, they just slip away into the past.
I’m going to kind of leave this long podcast we’re recording, I’m going to leave it at that. Because I’ve always kind of substituted “scars,” the word “scars,” for “memories.” It fades, it’s in the past. We earn these memories. We earned all those little battle scars over time. I’m an optimist, and I believe, guys, that at some point in time, months from now, we’re going to look back, and it’s going to be just another souvenir you can file away. We all went through this COVID thing together, the whole world did. That’s what’s blowing my mind. The whole entire world. Every person on earth went through this thing.
Lee Kjos: Oh, boy, isn’t that the truth? Like I say, we’re all in this one together.
Ramsey Russell: Lee Kjos, I’m going to call you in a couple of weeks. We’re going to get you back on Duck Season Somewhere podcast, and I know you, man, we’ll come up with something else good to talk about.
Lee Kjos: Hopefully, not this.
Ramsey Russell: Hopefully, we’ll get to talk about it in the rearview mirror. Guys, I appreciate everybody for listening. I appreciate your time. Thank you all. Mr. Lee Kjos, Boss Shotshells and Lee Kjos Photography, is on the line. I appreciate y’all’s time for listening. And, hey, if you get a chance, subscribe. Rate us. Comment. Hit me up in my inbox @RamseyRussellGetDucks. Let me know if you got a future topic or what your thoughts are on some of these upcoming podcasts. Thank y’all for listening. Duck Season Somewhere. We’ll see you next time.