Outdoor Moments: When sentimental attachment outweighs functionality

Friday, June 28, 2019
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Alan Charles
Star Outdoors Columnist

I’ll bet the two young men fishing on the bank probably felt sorry for me. There I was, an old guy in an old boat, and every time I turned the crank on the reel, it squalled and screeched like a scalded housecat. They probably figured maybe I couldn’t afford a new reel.

Actually, I had three other fishing rods in the boat, all equipped with new, wellfunctioning reels. I was using the old rod and reel because I am a sentimental sort of fellow.

A dear friend of mine gave me that reel, not long before he passed away. Jack had developed a penchant for attending estate sales in the little North Dakota towns near where he had settled after retirement. One day, he showed up at my place with a truckload of treasures, including that rod and reel and dozens of hand-tied walleye leaders and spinners.

The old gear was already pretty much worn out when he gave it to me. Despite my tinkering with it and greasing and tightening all the nuts and bolts, it still sang pretty loud. But every once in a while, I like to fish with it, and think about Jack and all the good times we had, and wonder about who owned and used the rod and reel before Jack acquired it.

Maybe you are a bit like that. Perhaps you have a favorite old sweater, a lucky cap, or a threadbare throw you choose to wrap around you on one of those cool autumn evenings.

Sometimes, our sentimental attachment to objects may outweigh their functionality or looks.

I’ve got an old Pendleton wool cap I bought one time in Oregon on my way to Alaska for a caribou hunt. That old cap looks unlike any other I’ve even seen, with ear flaps that actually fit down over my ears, instead of those little half-flaps that usually cover only the tops of the ears.

The cap is gray, just right for wearing in a spread of Canada goose decoys. The bill is just long enough to keep rain and snow out of my eyes. And the smell of smoke from dozens of campfires makes that cap just right for wearing in the woods.

Don’t get me wrong. I take pride in having good equipment, and keeping things well maintained. But there are just some things, and some times, when my heart guides my hand, and maybe I choose the old red-and-white checkered wool shirt with the frayed collar instead of that new green one I got for Christmas, or pull on my comfortable old well-oiled leather boots instead of the new ones with all of the synthetic materials they claim will keep my feet warm and dry.

I’ve got a drawer full of different pocket knives, and occasionally I’ll carry one of the newer ones. But that old Buck knife that I got for my tenth year of teaching hunter education some 25 or more years ago is most likely the one that goes on my belt. I have lost and found that knife at least four different times, each time by returning to a spot where I gutted a deer or elk, or cleaned some upland birds. It has character, and we have shared times afield.

Perhaps, as the years go by, we get more attached to certain things, for all sorts of different reasons. I know that some of the gear I buy now, especially some of the newer outdoor clothing and boots and such, just does not seem to last as long as some of the old stuff.

Maybe that was part of what Jack was doing, looking for good old stuff, like the gear he used to have when he was younger. I know it gets harder and harder for me to throw things away, or clean out my closets and send things to town for the thrift store. I want to hold on to those memories, and sometimes a certain something helps me do that.

I don’t know if those young anglers caught more fish than I did the other day. It didn’t matter. Jack and I and that old rod and reel were having a good time.

Like I said, I am a sentimental sort of fellow, and sometimes the heart guides the hand.

( Alan Charles lives and writes in the Pine Hills.)