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Today is December 13, 2019


Memory stick

By Tony Kinton

Memory stick

The Memory Stick already contains a large collection of memories, and plans are for many others to be added before the stick is retired.

Memories are an integral part of life. Some may be less pleasant than others, but all combine to tell the stories of living. These memories are generally collected in one form or another. Photo albums, videos, letters or simply remembering — all these, and perhaps others, are tools that remind us.

Over the past decade, I’ve come to use a rather unusual system of gathering memories. This I call a Memory Stick, a hiking stick to be more exact. It began life as a cypress limb that I trimmed green from a recently cut tree. The limb rested quietly under a shed until it was completely dry and was then peeled and rasped and sanded and shaped into proper proportions, multiple coats of polyurethane sealing the grain. I added two leather wraps, spaced so as to make a two-hand hold possible when more leverage was required. Rawhide and sinew were used to cover the toe of the stick and short turkey feathers dangled from a beaded string attached to the upper wrap. The gathering of memories began.

These memories are identified by hiking badges, little metal units that are available at practically any park or trailhead or other venues where one might go and take a walk. Attached to that stick, they are most handsome. And they bring to recall some marvelous adventures.

While using the stick recently, I saw a badge from Petit Jean State Park; memories began to flow. I recalled a spectacular waterfall that demanded a strenuous descent into a creek basin to reach. That waterfall poured over a rock wall overhead and crashed into an otherwise quiet pool near where I stood. It was breathtaking. There were four of us who opted to attempt that descent, and we did it. We knew we had seen something that many others never had nor ever would. What we didn’t know, however, was that one of those four would no longer be with us for a planned return the following year.

And there, near the top of the stick on the back, was a badge from Yellowstone National Park. That one brought to mind a late evening at Dunraven Pass, 8,878 feet elevation. A storm was coming. We stood as long as we dared and faced the wind, a biting, treacherous and foreboding thing that spoke forcefully of power and the need to take shelter. Facing storms, in those various persuasions that life elects, can help us become stronger, help us persevere. The following morning, much lower down that mountain, was a perfect covering, its whiteness blinding, its welcome gentle.

I remember it well and long for it often.

There are many memories collected on that Memory Stick.

Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. Visit for more information.

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