I like old things, and things made like old things. And I guess that means old timers too. Back when I was a young pup, nothing suited me more than spending time listening to old hunters or woodsmen. They had seen so much and lived in exciting times. Now there aren’t many of them left.
A couple of Christmas’s ago I was given a L. L. Bean waxed cotton rucksack. It brings me great joy just to see it hanging on a hook in my office. It looks like it should have been made in 1912, not 2012. I know the same exact one, made out of modern synthetic materials, weighs half the amount, but it wouldn’t look or feel the same. I’ll carry the extra weight.
And I love an old Marble’s brass compass, even if I do have trouble reading it, pinned on my vest. It’s just too close there. It needs to be pinned on my wrist for me to focus on it, but we know how well that would work out.
I don’t own any plastic boats, but a couple of wood canoes, a wood duck boot, and a wood Rangeley guide boat. In my shop sits my grandfather’s canoe, with its canvas stripped off and waiting for restoration. That was built in 1906, when he was fifteen years old. Show me a fifteen year old that can do that today. I still have both of the paddles he made. It’s amazing how a hundred plus years of drying can lighten a spruce paddle.
Up at Camp Grouse, we have an old pack basket hanging on the wall. It’s great for hauling things on canoe trips, not that we take many, but it looks super hanging there. Once a year I turn it upside down to dump out the dead flies.
I do have an old cane fly rod, but seldom use it. It is in mint condition, but I’m spoiled by the quicker action of graphite rods. The traditional New England fly patterns, like the Parmachene Bell, Gray Ghost, and Edson tigers, fascinate me, and I use them periodically, but catch little. Another old New England fly, the Black Ghost, serves me well though.
Most of my guns were made a long time ago. The only new ones are both doubles, which is, of course, a long time proven type. There’s a couple of old pumps and even an early Model 1100, but, other than for deer hunting, none of them come out of the safe often.
The first gun I ever bought was an old Ithaca side by side, and the next gun an even older Parker. That Parker, born in 1902, still sits in my safe. Every once in a while I take it out and wonder at the stories it might tell. I know there’s a few that involve me.
The last firearm purchased was an old Savage Model 99, in 250 Savage, a time tested rifle that shoots an almost forgotten cartridge. It is a pleasure to just look at it and also enjoyable to fire, with very little recoil. I’m too old to get beat up by repeated punching in the shoulder.
I own Gor-tex lined clothing, but all of my favorite coats are waxed cotton or wool. Slipping on any one of them, I can feel the adventure starting. Filson waxed brush pants are the best in my book. But I will admit, Gor-tex lined leather boots are one of the greatest inventions of all time.
There’s only one old grouse hunter that I see with some regularity. He isn’t doing too well and his days in the woods are done. Usually I hear the same stories over again, but the details are jumbled and not always the same. I can see the twinkle in his eye though, as he remembers the good parts, and he’s always asking how the birds are. There is still lots to learn from his tales.
As we become the old timers, and there is more time spent tending our gear than actually using it, there had better be a whole repertoire of stories in our heads. Every year there seems to be a young hunter or two coming long, and they all expect to hear a few.