Sunday, December 14, 2008

Toys Of A Outdoor Life

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My baseball card collection disappeared when I was 18 years old. My mother decided that our (twin brother George and I) were quasi-adults now, and what did we need with 5,000 or more cards from the 1940s and early 1950s.

We lamented the lost cards then, and feel their loss even more now, but what’s past is past. I moved on, and over a period of many years, began picking up outdoorsy things that I like. Fishing and hunting books topped my list (and still does), but there were many other items to collect.

Much of my “stuff” was stored in cardboard boxes for safekeeping, and much of it has now been found again. Imagine going through a box and finding my old Marble’s Boy Scout Knife. The handle is wrapped in rawhide, and the blade is big enough to slay bison singlehandedly.

And right next to it was an old Marble compass from the late 1950s, It still works, and has been put away in a safe place. I was thinking I hit the jackpot until I laid my hands on a Winchester Model 61 .22 rimfire magnum pump rifle. After high school, I worked for two years at Water Wonderland Sporting Goods, at the junction of Dort Highway and North Saginaw Road, about three miles north of Mt. Morris.

It was legal back in those days to hunt whitetails (very few of them were in our area) in southern Michigan with a .22 rimfire magnum. They also came in handy for shooting red foxes, and some of my old fox-hunting buddies like Max Donovan, G.V. Langley and others had one. I wanted one so I could run with the big dogs.

I saved my money, and bought the rifle. I was prepared to go out and run with my buddies now. The rifle was purchased during the winter, and about three months before the firearm deer season would open, the Department of Conservation outlawed the use of a .22 rimfire magnum for deer hunting.

I’d lost my baseball cards but still have that rifle. I potted a few fox, a coyote or two and an abundance of woodchucks with it over the years. I still shoot it on occasion, but looking at it now brings back memories of buying it to hunt deer only to have it made illegal for that purpose.

In another box was my shotshell reloader with all the powder and shot bars, crimping tools to seal up paper and plastic shells. I found a great, huge box of Winchester AA plastic cases. Some had been reloaded two or three times, but many had been fired only once.

Two years ago I was visiting an old friend, Fred Houghton, formerly of Clio where we grew up, and he mentioned he still had that rod and reel I’d loaned him 45 years before. The rod was an ultra-light Wanigas fiberglass rod made by famous Trout Unlimited co-founder Art Neumann, and a Cargem Mignon spinning reel came with it. This rod and reel had been a favorite, and thanks to Fred’s honesty, I now have it back.

I’ve always had a thing about pocket knives, or as we called them back in our youth, jack knives. Brother George had given me a Remington two-blade pocket knife 45 years ago. I’d lost track of it, and now it’s back in my pocket where it belongs. The blades have been sharpened so many times, and the steel is so great, that I often use it to fillet bluegills. It was a treasure that had been lost and found again.

Deep in the box was a round metal tin of Mucilin that we used years ago when fly fishing. There also were a half-dozen No. 1 traps that I used 55 years ago when running two trap-lines. They brought back memories of days when prime muskrat pelts sold for $6. each, and we’d often catch five or six ‘rats a day, and some years we made more money trapping than our father made in a week of cutting hair.

There was an old Jones-style hat that had traveled North America with me. It was half rotted, and I thought it had been thrown away, but there it was—as ugly as ever—and it brought back grand memories.

Then I found a small pocket knife with the likeness of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on the handle. Next to it were two rusted knives I’d found sticking in logs where some hunter had probably field dressed his deer, drug the animal out of the woods and forgot the knife.

There were a couple of old wood duck decoys I’d found in the cattails while jump-shooting ducks in the 1950s. Their decoy anchor lines had broken, and they had drifted off during rough water. George and I found 50-100 old wood dekes many years ago, but these were all that remain.

One might think this was a collection of junk, but not me. I looked at all these things, and counted them as wonderful memories from a bygone era when hunters knew enough to keep their paper shotgun shells dry. If they didn’t, they would swell up and it was nearly impossible to get them to fire or get the swollen shells out of the shotgun.

Those were the days, my friends, we though they’d never end. And they haven’t because fishing and hunting is still great fun for me.

Posted by Dave Richey on 12/14 at 06:49 PM
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