Alive and well, Penrod keeping busy

OUTDOORS

February 08, 2004|By CANDUS THOMSON

You can kill Ken Penrod, but you can't keep him down.

Chat rooms and tackle shows have been abuzz over the death of the Maryland fishing guide and member of the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame after an Annapolis newspaper printed an obituary for a former Edgewater resident with the same name.

Tributes poured in.

"I'm deeply touched," Penrod says when I call about the mix-up. "But it's highly exaggerated."

As a matter of fact, when I reached him on his cell phone, he was driving home from a stress test, where his doctor gave him a big thumbs up.

The case of mistaken identity was easy to make. Both Penrods passed their 60th birthdays, loved boats and had a Maryland captain's license. The deceased Penrod's family asked that donations be made to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a request consistent with the philosophy of the very-much-alive Penrod.

Penrod was in Philadelphia as word of his demise spread. I asked him whether he was drawn there by that famous epitaph W.C. Fields suggested for himself in a 1925 issue of Vanity Fair: "Here lies W.C. Fields. I would rather be living in Philadelphia."

He chuckled. "My phone started ringing at 6 in the morning. At first, I thought it was a bunch of cranks, but then a guy called and he was all choked up," Penrod says. "This got off on a big old runaway."

Penrod is creeping up on a half-century of guiding -- 20 years full time -- and hopes not to be taking a dirt nap anytime soon. But it's been a busy winter, even for the living.

"By the end of our guiding season, I was so tired of fishing that I went deer hunting for six days a week," he says "Now, I'm at one [outdoors] show after another."

Over a 60-day period this winter, Penrod conducted 47 seminars, including several at the Bass Expo in Timonium.

When he's not running his guide service, Life Outdoors Unlimited, or teaching, he's writing -- six books and hundreds of articles to date.

He's worried that bookings for his guide service will fall off because, face it, who wants to go fishing on the River Styx?

Still, he admits, it's nice to know what people think of you while you're still around to enjoy it.

"I call it dress rehearsal," he says.

In 1997, he was inducted into the Hall as "a legendary guide."

"I told my wife back then, `You don't become a legend until you're dead.' Guess I've done that now, too," he says.

I asked him not to die again on me.

"I promise," he says. "I'll give you 24 hours' notice."

Fast flames

Leo Knight isn't trying to put the Boy Scouts out of business, although he wouldn't mind retiring Smokey Bear.

The Canadian inventor has tinkered his way to what was either the wackiest item or the "gotta-have-it-now" hit at last weekend's Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City.

"Campfire in a Can" is a 14-pound headache solver for car-camping families or retirees tooling around in an RV who want a little warmth but don't want the hassle of finding firewood or making sure the flames are out.

The bright red canister contains two chimney-like, stainless steel tubes that fit together on a metal base. For heat, you prop a manufactured fire log upright inside. To cook hot dogs or roast marshmallows, you fill it with a small pile of charcoal (or even a little wood if you have it).

Once you light the log or charcoal, a natural draft is drawn through the holes in the sides of the chimney and up through the top. Almost instant roaring fire.

A small grill top that holds about a half dozen hot dogs can be clipped to the top.

When you've had enough heat for one night, use the enclosed utensil to nestle one chimney inside the other and then clamp the big metal lid down. Fire out.

Knight, who retired and began full-time traveling with his wife, Sherry, was under considerable pressure to come up with a safe and reliable source of fire for outside their RV.

A grill-fireplace contraption "ate wood like a beaver" and weighed a ton.

Knight got tired of putting it together, taking it apart and stowing it in the motor home's storage bin.

Sherry Knight issued a challenge: "Why don't you build a campfire that suits us? You're smart enough to do that."

The first attempt weighed a back-breaking 55 pounds. The second version weighed half that. Six months later, Knight got it just right.

Their daughter, Nicole Mahon, handles U.S. sales from her Nevada home since the folks are always on the road.

Cost $125. Web site: www.campfireinacan.com.

Campfire in a Can. You heard it here first.

New screenings

Speaking of in the can, Maryland Public Television has started airing a new batch of Outdoors Maryland shows. Last week, the first show of the season included segments about Natural Resources Police and the plight of the yellow perch.

For its second edition that will air 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, OM will have segments on recreational activities at Gunpowder State Park, the bald eagle and Chesapeake Bay songsmith Tom Wisner.

The show will repeat at 6 a.m. Wednesday and 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

Trappers' banquet

The Maryland Fur Trappers Association will have its banquet on March 6 at Harrison's Chesapeake House and Inn on Tilghman Island.

Mike Slattery, assistant director of the Department of Natural Resources, will be the speaker.

Doors will open at 6 p.m., with dinner served at 7:30 (here's hoping there's no nutria on the menu). Live and silent auctions will sell limited-edition prints, artwork, firearms and hunting and fishing trips.

Tickets are $30 for a single and $55 for a couple.

For tickets, call Morgan Bennett III, 410-943-4623; Norm Browning, 443-786-9057; or Richard Garrett, 410-673-2061.

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