2010 July

GEAR

Posted by | Fatherhood and venison jerkey, In the woods, On the water | 5 Comments
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Ahhh, mid-summer. The prelude to fall…my favorite time of year.

Cicadas have begun to echo their rattling song in the lush heavy-ness of a quickly approaching August. The day’s heat is trading its oppressive edge for a longer shadow. All the busy-ness that’s accumulated since the winter is passing in one great, final exhale right about now, and a modest measure of free-time is quietly making its way back, like the unconditional love of a good hunting dog.

While this free-time lets me get back to some much-needed fishing, it’s also when I’m able to get my bow out, stand twenty paces from a 3D target and wake up the shooting muscles that have been asleep since last season. The kids love when my free-time returns, when all my hunting gear starts appearing again from the barn. They know dad’s going to be taking them along for the ride. Aleida’s about the right age for her first bow. Cam’s not far off.

It could be that I just celebrated my 20th high school reunion this past weekend. It could be that we hosted a surprise party for my dad’s 60th birthday this past weekend too – I’ll get back to these. But when I pulled my bow out of its case at the range last night, it struck me just how much my dad has handed down to me, specifically as an outdoorsman.

There’s the obvious: All three bows I’ve hunted with, including the Mathews I shoot now, were dads previously. My first shotgun, a bolt-action 12 gauge Mossberg, was his as a kid, and I hunted with it until its retirement a couple seasons ago (there’s a story for another post). There are brand-new boots that just didn’t fit him right, hunting jackets, Pendleton shirts, my first tree-stand, fishing lures, rods and reels, knives, flashlights, a thermos or two. The list goes on.

Handing down the tools of the trade, so to speak, was his way of making sure I had what I needed for a good start, and would get me out in the woods with him at least once. Where I took it from there would depend on my own moxie. I’ve always valued these gifts because they were his and because I know how much he loves the outdoors. But the gear is only part of the inheritance. The stories and lessons, friendship and time together…those are the real deal. That’s a hand-me-down that’ll still be there when all the gear has worn out.

As I said, my 20th just went into the record books, as did my dad’s birthday. Sunday afternoon a handful of my friends made their reunion-exhausted way, with spouses and kids, over to our place for one last cookout. We turned the kids loose on the pool, sodas and chips and simply relaxed in the sun. Watching the kids and how they interacted with each other was like watching little versions of us. They weren’t perfect, but if there was an issue, they managed to figure everything out and get back to getting along.

The next day, my dad’s shin-dig brought out a bunch of his old buds from school…folks who have known me since I came home from the hospital some 38 years ago, brand-spankin’ new and carrying my dad’s first name. At one point, the boys were telling one of my dad’s friends, an avid outdoorsman, stories about catching bass and getting to shoot a .22 for the first time. Excited and proud as all get-out, you’d have thought just discovered Disneyland in their backyard. My dad’s friend looked up, winked at me and said, wonder where they get that from.

Exactly.

1985

Posted by | Fatherhood and venison jerkey, In the woods, On the water | 9 Comments
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I was in 8th grade.
Live Aid and We are the World.
Reagan was sworn in for a second term.
The first WrestleMania went top-rope at the Garden.
Somewhere in Canada, a brand-new, black Ford F-150 Stepside rolled off the production line.

Some twenty-five years later, the new version of We are the World failed miserably, the Cold War is now hot-as-Afghanistan, WrestleMania is bigger than all of us, and that pickup found its way South to my driveway in Upstate NY.

It’s been a while since I last owned a truck. Incomplete doesn’t quite describe how I’ve felt all these years. Borrowing my dad’s is OK, and I’m grateful for his generosity, but the logistics tend to be a pain in the ass. Drive my car over to their place, get the truck, use the truck, clean the truck if I make a mess of it, put gas in the truck if I drove it any distance, take the truck back and drive my car home. And the projects I undertake – whether landscaping, hauling trash, hunting or fishing – always finish up at times when I’d much rather park the truck, then park my butt, have a beer and relax.

Having a truck again simplifies things. Having an old truck (oh yea, 25 years old puts it in the antique category…crap) with an indestructible straight-six engine allows me the ability to get my hands dirty instead of making appointments and paying someone else to change the oil, plugs, wires and all that good routine maintenance stuff. I can tweak, tune, repair, replace and generally mess with it till my heart’s content.

I can fill the bed with topsoil, mulch, firewood, plants or powertools. The kid’s bikes and sports gear…hell the kids themselves (for short rides anyhow).

I can throw a kayak or canoe in the back, tackle boxes, poles, coolers, waders, boots, tree stands, ground blinds, decoys and whatever I pull out of the water, carry from the field or drag out of the woods.

No roof rack. I’ve got bungee cords and tie-down straps.
Forget camp chairs. I’ve got a tailgate.

I can put a sticker in the back window of Calvin peeing on a Chevy or Dodge logo (don’t hold your breath for that one), or for Ducks Unlimited, Air Assault, Canandaigua Lacrosse and a list of other gear companies I hunt, fish and camp with. How about this one: My kids can out fish your honor student.

A truck is a new perspective: accomplish more by slowing down. It’s not the destination anymore. I’m enjoying the hell out of the drive there. Much like my decision to spend more time this year hunting, fishing, enjoying down-time with the kids and simply paying more attention. I know there’ll be a time when my kids won’t sit up on the bench seat next to me anymore and go for a ride, as cool as the day is long. These moments are not sitting around waiting for me, that’s for sure. So, until then, we’re going to put that new antique through its paces and get back to slowing down.

25 years has gone entirely too fast.
Thank God for trucks.

The new antique