A harder task will be halting those fantasy purchases – buying things we need for the grand adventures that we know will come our way… someday. The first of the twelve steps in the cure, gentlemen, is to accept that the grand adventure train ain’t stopping at our station anymore. It’s gone. Tear up your ticket.
A simpler time of life
Coots, codgers, curmudgeons and cranks, it is time for us to make the transition from the acquisition phase of our lives to the dispersal phase. All through our long years we have paid homage – and a considerable portion of our disposable income – to the false gods of material possessions, and now we are discovering the serenity, tranquility, and freedom that comes with the release of worldly goods.
Simplify, simplify, simply. That’s our new mantra
Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do. Do without.
With this new ethic comes the revival of one of our most cherished beliefs: a sportsman should leave his campsite in better condition than when he arrived. Around our property we take this responsibility seriously, fixing the fences, shingling the storage shed, replacing the cracked and crumbling concrete walkways, putting a load of gravel on the driveway, and (although it’s a hopeless labor) attacking once more that infestation of buckthorn brush invading the hillside oak woods.
That’s an easy mental (if not physical) exercise in the transformation to our new phase, but what about all those toys we love to own and operate? It’s time to admit that the tractor we have now will handle all the chores we need to accomplish in our run down the home stretch. Remind yourself daily: Do not buy any piece of equipment that you can rent. Do not rent any piece of equipment that you can borrow. Do not borrow any piece of equipment that you do not really need.
With a bit of self-discipline we can do this.
A harder task will be halting those fantasy purchases – buying things we need for the grand adventures that we know will come our way… someday. The first of the twelve steps in the cure, gentlemen, is to accept that the grand adventure train ain’t stopping at our station anymore. It’s gone. Tear up your ticket. The mountain camping gear and the rifle we have had our eye on because we will need it for that “someday” elk hunt in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana? It’s time to concede that we are not going on that hunt; neither our creaking bodies nor our leaking bank accounts can handle it now that our stamina is exhausted by a five-mile flatland hike and our income is a monthly Social Security deposit and an annual pension check.
We need to pack up our fantasies, lock them in an iron box, and throw away the key.
Even assuming we can accomplish this conversion to realism – take control of our reckless imagination and not acquire that new 7mm Weatherby Magnum, the outfitter’s wall tent, the sheepherders stove, and the mountain boots – we still face the challenge of reallocating all the now unused stuff we have accumulated over the past fifty years, most of it piled up in the garage, basement, attic and gun cabinet. Tents, travel boxes, backpacks, all-weather clothing, boots, waders, fourteen kinds of hunting hats and caps, five shooting vests, three rifles and two shotguns we will never shoot again, two wall-hanger compound bows, two spotting scopes, a range finder, uncountable fishing rods, three tackle boxes full of once-promising lures and baits, and over a hundred items of bird dog equipment that we hoped would make us the master trainers and handlers we imagine ourselves to be.
You have a boat? Horses? An ATV? Please, I’m not even going there.
The point is, it’s time to search for the next generation of outdoors men and women who can benefit from this stuff, and find ways to distribute it to them. A fortunate few have children, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces who are followers of the blood sports. Some may know other young people who will accept and cherish these gifts and make use of them when we no longer can. For many of us, however, these tokens of our life’s avocation will pass to other hands by means of an estate sale auction. That is not necessarily a bad thing, just a maudlin reflection on the passing of an era when connections with wild and wilderness lands were more common and more valued.
We are told that at the end of his life, Mohandas Mahatma Gandhi owned fewer than a dozen personal possessions, including a pair of eye glasses, a pocket watch, a prayer book, his diary, a letter-opener, a food bowl, plate, fork and spoon, and a set of porcelain see-hear-speak-no-evil monkeys. He had freed himself of material things and the weight they place on our spirit. I doubt I will reach that level of austerity, but if it all came down to one last day afield with my only earthly possessions being a good dog, a double gun, shirt, jeans, boots, a pocket knife, and a whistle, I’d be content with my own notion of the simple life. Okay, I’d want a good book, too, and maybe a final cigar.
More stories about life in the North Country are published in my three collections of essays and two novels, all available through my Author Page on Amazon.com Jerry Johnson Author Page