Sunday, February 03, 2008

Toys Of A Lifetime


Everyone collects something. Writers collect information, baseball fans collect cards of their favorite players, and hockey fans collect sweaters of favorite players or signed hockey-pucks or sticks.

My mother collected old Mason canning jars and hid change in old pill bottles. I go through enough pill bottles, but have precious little change to save. Besides, I prefer what money I have to be in my pocket.

People have been known to collect string, wire and tin foil. Most of my collecting has related in one way or another to fishing, hunting or trapping for the past 50 years. I even have an old bear trap found while Atlantic salmon fishing in New Brunswick. My guide once trapped black bears in that Canadian Province.

The world of fishing and hunting is rife with things to collect. My brother collected old Michigan-made fishing lures and black-white postcards, especially those with fish on them. I helped him locate lures and he helped me track down old fishing and hunting books.

A buddy collects old double-barrel shotguns while another friend collects only Belgian-made Browning rifles and shotguns. Still another collects duck decoys from some of the old master carvers, another collects bamboo fly rods, and many others collect the bear, deer and turkey patches.

One man collects miniature fishing and hunting books. These tiny books can be as small as two inches high. There aren’t very many of such books, but most are very scarce.

Although most of my older traps have disappeared, there are still some No. 1 and 1 1/2 long-spring and jump traps used for muskrats, coons, mink and fox. I still have a few of the old metal stretchers we used to dry our muskrat hides prior to the sale.

I have a small collection of very low-numbered fishing and hunting licenses as well as some metal seals for deer, bear, moose, wolf and wolverine. Something makes folks like me collect such things. I have a number of old fishing and hunting digests dating back into the 1940s.

Mom did her thing with Mason jars and tinfoil. Dad loved western novels, and especially those published in the 1940s and 1950.  He also had a bunch of the Dell map-back novels, and many are scarce and desireable to old paperback novel collectors, often for their covers.

My guess is we feel closer to our chosen pastimes of fishing and hunting when we are engaged in collecting some of the memorabilia that accompanies our passions. I also have a small knife collection, including an old Marble Arms Company Boy Scout knife.

Are any of these items worth great sums of money? No, they aren’t. I used to reload shotgun shells, and somewhere along the way had the chance to pick up some Winchester-Western 12-gauge AA plastic shotshell cases. Some people are looking for them because they were a great shotshell to reloaders, but one wonders what I’ll do with them.

It’s obvious to most people who read these daily blogs that I collect fishing and hunting books. Why, you ask? Because it’s difficult for us to determine where we are going if we don’t know where we’ve been. The books give me a wonderful idea of what has gone before, and besides, I’m a hopeless romantic when it comes to old fishing and hunting gear.

Over many years my hat collection has grown. There is a story behind every hat, and I still remember most of the stories. Some involve fishing and hunting while other relate more to friends who enjoy the same things that wind my clock. The collection numbers about 400, and each has a story to tell.

I have an old Marble compass and match-safe I’ve carried while hunting since I bought my first hunting license in 1952. In my pocket is a Remington jack-knife that is older than I am, and I well remember always having a pocket knife on my person from the 4th grade on.

Every boy in school carried a pocket knife, and no one was ever cut or stabbed by one, and having one in your pocket wasn’t grounds for being expelled from school. My knife helped me stay focused on what I think are important issues about the old days and life itself, and sadly, those days have ended and a knife—even though used to trim fingernails or sharpen a pencil—now results in an unfriendly chat with the police and probable expulsion from school/

I well remember years ago when our father was a member of the Special Police in Clio where we grew up. Brother George and I bought Dad a pair of pearl-handled .22 Derringers for Christmas one year. We were kids, but the local chief of police knew us, and OKed the buy. That wouldn’t happen now. The kids, and their unwitting father, would likely be arrested: the kids for buying firearms and Dad for letting us.

Some little nicknacks line my shelves. Old bottles of Citronella (an insect repellect), leader tins for storing fly-fishing leaders, an old bottle of Hoppe’s No. 9 that I open several times each year to savor an aroma as distinctive as a 12-point buck or a wedge of decoying mallards.

I bought a set of maps published by the DNR many years ago. There are hotspots marked on those maps that showed the way to old fishing hotspots, some great grouse and woodcock coverts, and the neat thing is they show old trails and two-tracks that are no longer visible. Search those maps, and it’s easy (sometimes) to find an old lane that when followed will help us restore some great memories of yesteryear.

Some people have asked me: “What good is all of that old stuff?” They only see the flotsam of one man’s life while I see this stuff as being pretty important stuff. Anything that can bring the old days back to life, if for only a few minutes, may be junk to some but it’s one man’s treasure to an old goat like me.

Posted by Dave Richey on 02/03 at 10:03 PM
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