Al Campbell sent a neat response to my "Gone to the Dogs" article. So
while I am out playing with the bonefish in the Bahamas this week, enjoy
Al's memories — or as he says, "Old friends, human and canine, may they
always live in our hearts and memories." This article first appeared in the
Rapid City Journal. ~ dlb
Maybe it's Memories That Make You a Bum
By Al Campbell
"If you don't quit fishing and hunting so much, and get busy
with your school work, you're going to grow up to be a bum. That's
right, a bum, and all because you're too busy fishing and hunting to
concentrate on your school work. Mark my words young man, this
love affair you have with the outdoors will bring you to ruin."
That's a prediction a teacher of mine made when I was in high
school. I don't think she was very fond of my constant desire to
spend time outdoors instead of doing my homework. You know,
she might have been right.
As I pick up an old rifle for some periodic cleaning, my fingers
run over a deep gouge in the wood stock. An elk antler caused that
one. I was helping Bob retrieve his first elk when I slipped and
damaged my rifle stock. I looked like a bum that day. Unshaven
and dirty from physical exertion, I wasn't a fit sight for civilized
company. It's a fond memory I'll treasure until the day I die.
That scratch on the barrel and the little dent in the scope
happened while I was hunting with Kevin. One misplaced footstep,
and I slid over a little cliff. I was bruised and my rifle was scarred,
but none of the damage was severe enough to worry about. I
wasn't working that day, but I don't regret it.
My rifle doesn't need cleaning. I need to clean it. I need to
spend some time with the many memories of the past that live in
its scarred barrel and stock. I need to clean all my rifles and re-live
the moments that the scratches, scrapes and gouges represent. I
could never get rid of any of them. That would be like burying an
I pick up an old fly rod. It's not the best casting fly rod I own,
but one I handle more than the rest. The top half is newer than the
bottom, a casualty of a bass fishing trip with Tom. I should have
used a heavier fly rod designed for bass fishing. I have one, but
this one is an old friend, full of memories.
That nick in the handle happened when I slipped on a rock
during a three day camping and fishing trip with Gary. We caught a
lot of fish, had a lot of fun, and didn't shave for three days. I'd say
we looked like bums, but I don't talk that way about friends who
have passed on to better fishing streams.
My backpack has a dent in it's frame, the result of a snow laden
tree that couldn't handle the weight. Tom and I laughed 'til we had
tears in our eyes, over that and several other misfortunes we
shared during that trip to Bear Lake. Yup, I took time off from
work for that one too.
There's a piece of wood under the rear tire of my pickup. I use
it to keep my pickup from rolling down the driveway. To anyone
else, it looks like a piece of weather worn fire wood. As I run my
fingers over its sun bleached skin, I can feel the tooth marks of a
gray muzzled black lab that used to play fetch with me. Midnight
discovered that stick on the shores of Sheridan Lake, and we
played fetch until I was afraid she would have a heart attack. Many
hours of my life were spent playing games with that old dog — not
working, not caring about anything else but the pleasures at hand.
It's funny how an old stick can revive the spirit of times past
and memories of an old canine friend. She's resting on a hill north
of town now. She earned her rest. After providing many years of
companionship and play while she lived, her spirit still exists in my
memory ... and in an old stick.
I guess my teacher was right. I'm a bum; sometimes for a day,
sometimes for only an hour or two. Oh, I spend plenty of hours
working, but the times I treasure most are the times I spend
doing the things that prompted her prediction.
As I put the stick back under the tire, I have to pause a
moment to wipe the mist of old memories from my eyes. Buford,
my basset friend, nudges me for a bit of attention. It's a familiar
nudge, much like the ones Midnight used to give me when she
wanted to play. When I look up, I can see a window sill that needs
repair. It'll have to wait, I have more important things to do today.
"Hey, Buford, where's your ball?" ~ Al Campbell
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