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Today is July 23, 2017

Outdoors

Rating the days

Rating the days

With a well-defined sentiment toward antiquity, Kinton feels that turkey-hunting gear should look like this: 20-gauge flintlock fowling piece, shooting pouch/powder horn, haversack and handmade cedar box call. Photo: Tony Kinton

We often rate days. This is commonly done by assigning those simple and generally ambiguous designations of good or bad. And while such an approach can be superficially understood and justified when dealing with the complexities of life, doing so lacks clarity, suffers from a poverty of creativity. I was just contemplating these matters this very morning.

Today is Tuesday, April 4, 11 a.m. It started early for me and my fascination with sunrises and reflection and dew-draped spring leaves and grasses—and turkey hunting! And today, logically, followed yesterday, one of those days that I might say was bad. It really wasn’t, but it began with a stormy-weather drive to my cardiologist and a not-so-encouraging report. However, it ended well—quiet conditions and sunshine. Still, that test scheduled for Friday plagued. As a result, I determined yesterday to make tomorrow, which is now today, far more pleasant.

I found myself at a favorite spot, just as a faint glow began brushing away darkness from the eastern sky. I know this place well, so navigating a logging road minus the assistance of a flashlight was no chore. Additionally, such a contrivance as bulb and batteries seemed an affront to the placid regeneration a new day promised. I stopped soon and sat at the base of a pine. Contemplation commenced.

One genuine pleasure was the approval to pretend, and since I was alone there was no one else to disapprove. My pretense was to shift centuries. I was for the moment in 1770.  

Across my knees, these covered in buckskin leggings that have now seen 20-plus years of hard use, rested an English fowling piece. Twenty gauge and sporting 44 inches of barrel. Flintlock, of course. Moose-hide moccasins, coated in a fresh bath of morning dew, covered my feet.

A long linen shirt went from thigh to shoulder, its once persuasive walnut-hull dye faded and splotchy from sunlight and rain showers and wear.

A big felt hat topped off the outfit, its back pinned up with an extra vent pick. Pinning the hat back up helps when sitting against a tree, and no 18th century long hunter would even consider leaving cabin or settlement without an extra vent pick.   

Dangling from one shoulder was a shooting pouch, this made from subtle, well-tanned leather. It contained the essentials for numerous reloadings, primarily shot and wads. There was also a worm that screwed to the end of the ramrod for removing an errant wad or hesitant powder charge. The powder horn, attached to the pouch straps, rested peacefully on top of that pouch.

On the other side was a haversack. This I made with double layers of canvas dyed in walnut hulls and treated with beeswax for a never-fail waterproofing. It contained water, a piece of linen for use as a face mask, a pair of leather gloves and a handmade cedar turkey call.

Comfortable in this setting and confident in the antiquated equipment at hand, I sat and thought.

One thing that entered my mind was the sobering realization that had I actually been in the 18th century, I would not be where I was. I would have, back then, been gone from this earth by seven months. It was seven months back that my cardiologist, the same one I saw yesterday and would see again Friday, told me I should not have survived. Two 99-percent blockages in the infamous “widow maker” is approaching serious business. For that survival I was and am grateful.

I then found myself thinking with trepidation about this upcoming Friday. Were there more blockages? Would stents or perhaps even more invasive surgery be in order? I recognized that all I could do was wait and see, but just then something caught my attention. It was sunrise, creeping slowly above the horizon, accentuating the woods and fields and undergrowth with haunting but highly decorative fingers of mist that caressed the air with wonderment. All was again good, but that is a too-weak descriptor. No more appropriate than bad. Both are weak.

And then something else. Two orioles chattered and flitted about a patch or brush that was only slightly more than head high with me in the sitting position. I sat motionless, and one approached to little more distance that the reach of that 44-inch barrel of the fowling piece. I marveled at the beauty of this most-handsome specimen. My entire being twirled with delight. This was nature, the real world, and I was privileged to be a silent partner in it all for another day. A crow cawed over in the woods.

Time passed too quickly this morning—as it often does. I gathered my gear and started back to the truck. Work awaited, this column you now read being a part of that work. As I took a sip of cool water and then dropped that little cedar call into the haversack, I had one more contemplative revelation. I didn’t feel particularly well and there was some secret dread of days to come, but I came to see that feelings, while powerful, are not or should not be the ruling force of life. Something much deeper and far more significant should fill that role.

I recognized that my ability and willingness to express gratitude was of far more import than my being consumed by feelings, the entertaining of which can bring despair. And if I were forced to rate this day, it could in no way be labeled as simply good. Its rating would be spectacular.

Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. His newest book, “Rambling Through Pleasant Memories,” is now available. Order from Amazon.com or Kinton’s website: www.tonykinton.com.

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