Memories reflect lifetime outdoors

I'm convinced! Extraordinary things happen to ordinary people at the most unsuspecting times. All we have to do is avail ourselves to positive thinking, strive to live right, and embrace a full, active life. And, a little luck along the way sure helps.

I guess I've known this subconsciously for quite a while, but only recently have I thought it through. Not long ago, a friend and I spent a day fishing a favorite stream. It was a long, hard 10 hour day, getting up at first light, man-handling a jon boat, holding the boat in the current while one of us un-snagged a lure.

We caught several fish, but the memory was the main "keeper." Both of us proved long ago we could catch fish and harvest game. The main point of the trip was to build another memory.

I pity those who grow old without a storehouse of memories. They are the ones who tell the same old stories over and over. Sitting in front of the TV won't be remembered - nor will the mornings you roll over and go back to sleep rather than facing the cold deer stand or damp duck blind.

Speaking of memories, I have some dandies. Like the Montana elk hunt, where we lived in a wall tent for 11 days, hunted during three blizzards, and had the supply tent flattened by snow.

I vividly remember passing up two dandy mule deer bucks while stalking two five by five elk bulls.

The time in Colorado I drew my bow at the largest cinnamon black bear I've ever seen at the point blank range of 10 yards. I had failed to buy a $50 bear tag, so I let him go, but the memory is just as strong as if I'd let the arrow fly.

Seeing a band of mountain goats grazing below me as I stood on a high mountain peak, a stiff breeze in front and a 10 o'clock sun warming my backside is still a fresh memory.

I remember the emotion stirring within me as I marveled at the beauty of a high mountain lake in the California Sierras. A campfire on the bank of a similar lake in Idaho, shared with new-found friends is similar.

I could write a book about memories of high adventure. But memories of ordinary things at ordinary times in ordinary places are sometimes just as pleasant. Some of my favorites come from experiences when I was a youngster. Perhaps because my senses were more acute then, or maybe because my experiences were limited - it didn't take much to turn an experience into an adventure.

Some of my favorite summer memories include lying awake at night, listening to the whippoorwills and bullfrogs outside my open window, while I languished in the cool night breeze.

Awakened by Mom's old rooster crowing from the top of the hollow fence post at the corner of the garden - the one with the bluebird nest inside, I often wondered what the nestlings thought about being so suddenly awakened by the rude antics of the "big bird."

I'd prop up on an elbow and watch the bluebird parents out hustling insects from the garden to feed the yellow mouths, ever-gaping, ever-hungry. I relish the memory of feeling dew on my bare feet, the smell of ripening corn and green cotton bolls glistening in the early morning dew.

The woodlots of West Tennessee where I grew up were all small, but not ever having set foot into "big woods," they represented trackless wilderness to a country boy.

I fondly remember sitting under a hickory tree in the pitch black dark. There was no hint of morning, except the quieting of night sounds. Everything waited, almost without breathing, for the coming morning.

They - as I - knew it was coming, not so much from obvious sign, as from faith. They could sense a tinge of fluorescent glow, swishing of a tree limb, dark form of a gray squirrel carefully taking a measured jump, not sure of the distance in the dim light.

The sound of hickory nut pieces hitting leaves below, along with falling dewdrops, were hard to tell apart.

I remember the pungent smell of squirrel, gun powder, and leaf litter, the sound of 9:30 cicadas singing in the mid-morning breeze, signaling that squirrels were napping in the September sun - time to go back to the house.

There was the aroma of wood smoke, fried eggs, biscuits, brazed squirrel and gravy (the grease and flour kind, West Tennessee style).

Some people live only in the past - but though I treasure old memories, I want to make new ones while I still can.

There's no way to predict what each new day afield holds in store. A hike up that mountain may be just a relaxing - or tiring - ordinary day. But who knows, I may find yet another "keeper" or two.

Now, let's see - pack, water, camera or gun? Oh heck, I think I'll travel light this time.

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