Friday, June 29, 2007

Old Friends

There is nothing like objects that are what I call "old friends". A well worn, but, reliable tool. A bit from the past that makes you wonder where it's been and whose hands have touched it. Maybe it's some thing that reminds you as Henry Ford once said "change is not progress".

All through my youth I and other budding outdoorsmen my age all lusted for a Garcia Mitchell 300 fishing reel. Usually seen in the possession of our elders, almost always attached to the requisite blue fiberglass rod. Alas, Lust is not reality for most money strapped teenagers. I settled for a green open faced Zebco, attached to a blue fiberglass rod of course. The Zebco gave several years of reliable service. Still it wasn't as smooth as the Mitchell 300. Time found the Zebco replaced by a Daiwa ultralight rig. After about 8 years of light duty the Daiwa graphite rod just exploded right at the molded in ferrule. The always reliable Zebco had been passed on to my stepdaughter for her use. This left me without a fishing rig. Or, did it? About 3 years ago my paternal grandfather started giving me stuff. In this stuff was a old gunny sack full of ratty fishing rods and an old tacklebox. I never paid much attention to the sack contents beyond the bamboo flyrod that stuck out of it. The flyrod went into my gunsafe for future restoration, the gunny sack went into a corner of the garage, kept out of respect for grandpa. A year after the gift, grandpa much to our suprize suddenly passed from this world. At that time the gunny sack was checked out a bit closer. An old white with red trim fiberglass rod with an odd french open faced spinning reel. The reel was beyond repair. A pair of old blue fiberglass rods, guides seriously rusted, but, holding the holy grail of our youths. Yup! Garcia Mitchell 300's. Dusty and making a strange noise no longer smooth operators. Two weeks ago I decided to try and clean up one of the old Mitchell's. A bit of windex on a toothbrush, some flitz to polish the chrome bail, a few drops of Balistol for lube. After an hour the old girl was back to her former glory. That white and red rod, well it's guides were still nearly perfect. I took the windex and toothbrush to it too. Before I knew it I held the perfect fishing rig. Took it fishing that weekend. Threw casts much further than that ultralight rig ever did. Put those casts just where I wanted them too. Caught my first fish on it a couple days ago. A little bluegill too little to eat. Coulda swore I heard grandpa's laugh behind me as I threw the fish back. Just the wind, or was it a new old friend trying to tell me it's story?

Another old friend. Back in those same teenage years, I bought myself a good axe and a good bowsaw. A country boy can always make pocket change cutting firewood and selling it roadside. The axe a "Craftsman" purchsed from Sears was a true workhorse for many years. Cut I don't know how many christmas trees and face cords of firewood with it. Cutting firewood is a rough way to make money though. Only got to keep and sell half of what I cut, the other half going to the guy that owned the woodlot. After my lumberjack experience I started hitching rides with a friend and his dad. His dad had a couple ancient dumptrucks, that he would drive down into NY's "southern tier", or when in a bootlegging mood into PA. A trip with them would net me $25.00 and lunch. Stacking wood inside a dump truck is a much easier gig than cutting wood. It took a week to make $25.00 cutting wood. After a few trips riding down I showed up one morning to find a 56 Ford F600 sitting in thier driveway beside the even older Dodges we had been using. Suddenly I found myself being taught how to back one of the old Dodges into tight spots. More lessons on how two speed rear ends work in hilly country and soon I was making $50.00-$75.00 a day driving. Trucks with 26,000lb GVW's aren't exactly compact things when driven in the woods. Sometimes things need to be moved so you can get where you need to be. Soon my trusty axe was riding with me, it's handle bobbed to a convenient if not efficient 24 inches.
Several years later found me moving away and storing a bunch of my tools in dad's garage. When mom and dad moved a few years ago My old trusty friend was found in a corner, missing it's handle. A handle was purchased, but never installed. A little incident with a former girlfriend found my car with a broken window. Seems she thought she'd make a point with an axe handle she found in the backseat. Needless to say, I never again dated a redhead. A few weeks ago found me in a little country hardware store buying bits for my ancient yankee style drill. While there I wandered around and window shopped. Lo and behold one dusty corner held three double bit axe handles. All three dead nutz straight, one fire tempered hickory. I didn't even know you could still get fired hickory handles. Today I went back and dropped a whopping eight bucks, then spent 45 minutes fitting it. Soon I'll sand off the varnish and give it a dose of linseed oil. Then I'll sharpen the old girl up in preparation for the next big snowstorms downed limbs. Hefting her I hear a voice, a husky drawling country girls voice. She say's "What took you so long".

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