For Auld Lang Syne

Blog Post - New Years EveAnd there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

            From the traditional Scots folk tune
            Auld Lang Syne, by Robert Burns (1759-96)

For Auld Lang Syne

Come New Year’s Eve, I will honor my Scots heritage by taking a cup in friendship, singing Auld Lang Syne, and reminiscing about times, people and places gone by. While the clock ticks the final minutes toward midnight, symbolic ending of one year and beginning of another, I will sit by the woodstove with my wife and some friends, wineglasses in hand and a pair of sleeping bird dogs at our feet, and allow myself some melancholy thoughts about the torrent of tears and laughter that has tumbled me through more than five decades afield in the North Country.

Yes, I know that life is best lived in the present. Today, this moment, is the only time we really have. We risk losing our enjoyment and appreciation of this day, this precious time, if we too often dwell on the past (whether with regret or gratification) or incessantly look toward the future (whether with anxiety or hope).

On this New Year’s Eve, my thoughts are not locked away in a nostalgic past, nor soaring into an imaginary future. Sunrise on January 1, I will go forth with positive attitude and good intent, knowing this new year will bring, as every year before has brought, a balance of good times and bad, defeats and triumphs, happiness and sadness, gain and loss – another perilous voyage on that river of laughter and tears. It is an uncharted journey, and I will dare to live another year of it in expectation of adventures of all sorts.

But tonight I will inevitably settle into a maudlin and morose mood, as befits an old curmudgeon on a long, sub-zero night. How to explain this brooding? In my dotage, I do not much care for many things that have come to be, and I greatly miss many things that used to be but are no more.

I have lost two dear friends in the past two years, and I miss them terribly. Even the best days afield are a little sad because they are no longer here. Charter members of the Crazy Old Coots Association, they were true old timers who learned the craft of hunting in the era when knowledge and technique were earned through hours of study and practice. Like me, they were bemused by the modern-day hunter’s rush to technology, substituting money for learning, buying gadgets and gear instead of investing the time and dedication necessary to master the lore of the hunt.

Also, I miss those days in the field when the sport was more simplistic and less complicated. Of course I miss the strength and stamina and quick reflexes of my youth, too, but I have come to terms with the slow loss of these graces as a natural part of the hunter’s lifespan. I am less accepting of the diminishment, the disappearance really, of the serenity and contentment that are the soul of the hunt.

Was it really so long ago that we trained our dogs without electric collars and kept track of them in the field without GPS units? That we went out in bad weather without miracle-fiber-insulated and waterproof clothing? Took birds on the wing with shotguns that had fixed chokes, not changeable choke tubes, and shotshells that were standard loads, not heavy charges or super-high-speed loads? Killed deer with bolt-action rifles in mundane calibers like .270 Winchester or .30-06 Springfield, not today’s magnums or those horrid military assault rifles? Conversations on cell phones in the wild? Ugh!

I miss the days when we wore simple brown canvas jackets and bib overalls, before regulations forced us to dress in garish orange garb, looking more like baggage handlers on the chaotic tarmac of an airport than hunters in a peaceful wilderness. I miss walking a peaceful half-hour before daybreak to my hunting spot, back in those more tranquil days before hunters mounted on four-wheeler all-terrain vehicles made a raceway of woodland trails. I miss hunting vehicles that were normal-sized pickups and station wagons rather than today’s monstrous SUVs the size of city buses.

One this New Year’s Eve I miss the time, long ago, when hunting was a season in the truest sense, an annual rite of passage and affirmation in our lives. I miss those better days of hunting. I rue the loss of many things that used to be.

So permit me a few hours of melancholy memories while I share a cup and remember treasured friendships and wonderful times afield over the course of many decades. Before the night is done and the sad strains of Auld Lang Syne fade away, I will have taken good measure of the years gone by and will begin looking forward to times of happiness in the year ahead.

Auld Lang Syne: The literal translation of this traditional Scots song title is “old long since.” A more idiomatic translation would be “days gone by” or “for old times’ sake.”

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

(chorus):
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

(chorus)

We twa hae run about the braes,
and pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin’ auld lang syne.

(chorus)

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin’ auld lang syne.

(chorus)

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

_______________________________________________________

More stories about upland bird hunting and life in the North Country are published in my collection of essays, Crazy Old Coot, and my novel, Hunting Birds. Both are available in Kindle and paperback editions at Amazon.com.

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About Jerry Johnson

Curmudgeon. Bird hunter and dog trainer; indifferent wing shot. Retired journalist and college public relations director. Novelist and short story writer. Freeholder: 50-acre farm with 130-year-old log house. Husband, father, grandfather. Retired teacher, coach, mentor. Vicious editor. Blogger.
This entry was posted in Bird hunting, Friendship, Hunting Memories and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to For Auld Lang Syne

  1. Thom Hickey says:

    Thanks Jerry. Everyone needs a good look in the rear view mirror from time to time! I’ll raise a glass in your honour … Regards Thom.

    • Jerry says:

      Thanks, Thom, as I shall do for you. Most fitting after enjoying your 12 days of Christmas music positings, which inspired this ‘For Auld Lang Syne essay.’
      Best wishes for the New Year. – Jerry

  2. Dan & Carolyn says:

    I gave my husband your books for Christmas. We both are enjoying them greatly, especially since we share so many of your sentiments. We live almost straight easy of you in Allamakee county. Our log home, however is only 14 years old.

    • Glad you like the books. As North Country neighbors, you may recognize some of the ‘characters’ in the “Hunting Birds” novel. Please do not call this to their attention 🙂 Best wishes for the New Year.

  3. David Meier says:

    As always it great to read your blogs & as always it brings laughter and tears to me thinking of all the great times we’ve shared . You have such a wonderful gift writing the way you do. Happy New Year from Kapoho

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