The older I get, the better I was

The older I get, the better I was

I have
always enjoyed the company of old people.  I just never thought I’d become
one.  Older people have the most, if not the best, hunting and fishing
stories.  My cousin Sonny certainly has the most and, if not the best
stories, some pretty good ones.

Over the
holidays I saw many friends and heard a lot of hunting stories, many repeated
at different parties we attended.  I also became aware of a recurring sub-theme, “I’m not as
good as I once was.”  These were stories of new aches and pains,
echoed by most of  my friends . . .
swollen knees, other knees with torn menisci, adult on-set diabetes, torn rotator
cuffs, hips in need of replacement, lack of stamina, and on and on.  Then
the common chorus, “when I was young, I could trail a deer all
day…uphill.”

Before, we
men used to talk of heroic deeds of stamina and skill.  Now, we older men
talk of the lightest, most comfortable seats we can carry in the woods.
 The tree hammock seems to have been the winner at one Christmas party.
 What did the old Irish Spring soap commercial say, “Manly yes, but I
like it too.”

Brother Kirk and me on one of our first hunts

One thing
is for sure, God does have a sense of humor.  I’m convinced that aging is
some twisted gift that, one day, allows us to stand humble before God.
 I’m living proof of that.  Fortunately and unfortunately, I’ve been
blessed with a pretty good memory.  Fortunately, I can fondly recall a
fair amount of my happy childhood.  Unfortunately, I can also remember too
many stupid things I said, or did, or uninformed thoughts I held as a youth.
 I remember riding my father because he wasn’t active enough and boldly
stating that I would never be heavy or out of shape.  I was wrong.  I
recall thinking little of “so-called” sportsmen who used scopes to
hunt.  When my vision started to deteriorate from 20/15 to needing to wear
bifocals, I ended up buying scopes for all my rifles.

They say
that youth is wasted on the young.  I used to think that that meant that
young people were not smart enough to appreciate that they were having a good
time and enjoying the freedom of being young.  At the time, I didn’t buy
that.  I thought I did appreciate being
young.  I think “youth is wasted on the young” has a more
fundamental meaning that cannot be appreciated by the young.  Youth cannot
know what it means to wake up with the normal aches and pains of getting older.
 Youth cannot appreciate the physical limitations, some minor and others
more profound, placed on the more mature outdoorsman.

One thing
I have always treasured, whether young or in my current state of being
“not young,” is the hunting stories of older outdoorsmen.  A
younger sportsman’s stories just don’t have the right sense of setting,
development, or timing.  (This may be, in part, because they haven’t had
the opportunity of retelling them for 20 years.)   They are also missing
the nostalgic glint in the older storyteller’s eye that brings the listener
back to another time and place.

So here
is to all my older friends, family, and mentors.  I never really doubted
the hunting prowess of your youth.  Thank you for still making the effort
to get outside and enjoying the company of others – whether or not your efforts
result in success.  And thank you for the great stories of past hunts and
past trips.  Let’s hope there are many stories left in years to come.
 And to the not-yet-old, we are delighted at your passion for the outdoors
and thanks for listening to all our stories…some of them are even true (at
least in part).

Happy days afield.

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