November 20th, 2006

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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His Old Coat
By Len Harris (spinner)

It is a classic. The padded shoulder and many pockets for game and shells. Inside the pockets there are memories. Memories of years past.

As a young boy I always waited for my father to announce we were going hunting. Usually our dog Ginger gave out the first alarm when my dad took the hunting coat off the hook near the gun cabinet.

She would howl and run around like her tail was on fire. Her body would quiver because she was so excited about going hunting. My dad would even pump her up a little. Ask her if she wanted to go get some Chippies (squirrels) or dirty birds (pheasants). She howled so much that my mother would kick all three of us out the door.

We would load up the dog and make an inventory of what we had in the pockets of Dad's Old Coat. If we were going squirrel hunting...It was checking for the .22 shells for Dad and the .410 shells for me. It was a ritual. We had to have the squirrel call and 2 plastic bags for the squirrels.

The same ritual was made during pheasant season. The plastic bags and the 20 gauge shells for the double barreled 20 gauge. We usually loaded one of the pockets with candy bars. Both of us are sweet tooths. Not to mention the dog.

The coat was also used for many duck and rabbit adventures. There was one thing that was always the same about each outing. It was that my mother would come out to bid us farewell before each venture into the outdoors. I can still remember her speech.

She would tell me the same thing every time:
    "Guns are not toys."

    "Treat your gun like it is always loaded."

    "Always identify your target."

    "When in doubt do not shoot."

Mom had a different speech for dad. His speeches varied from season to season. It usually ended by my mother looking at my Dad's Old Coat and telling him that she was going to wash that NASTY thing when he arrived home. It was a joke between my dad and mom.

Mom knew that if she washed the coat it would take all of the magic and memories out of the pockets. She really didn't like the tattered blood stained thing that my father called a coat...but she knew that she should NEVER wash it.

Many adventures came and went during my childhood. I added a few stains to the pockets and I took over the ritual of checking the pockets as each season came and past. I kept the coat ready for the next outing.

I always pestered my dad about the coat. I told I wanted one just like it. He would kid me and tell me that it was one of a kind and that he would give me the coat when I grew in to it. I remember showing him a catalog with a coat that looked like his and telling him that the coat came in my size. He finally explained to me that he was NOT going to buy me a coat like his. He said that coats are grown into not purchased. He had been given that coat by his father and that I would be given the coat when I grew in size and hunting skills.

Years flew by. It is 1984. I had just gotten out of the Army. I went home to visit my mother. She picked me up at the airport. We talked all the way home. She told me that my father would have been very proud of me if he were still around. Dad passed away in 1967 of a heart attack while deer hunting. I was 10 years old when he died.

Dads Coat

I stayed with my mother for the first few months after getting out of the army. Fall came and I had the itch to go hunting. I put my army coat on and took the 410 out of the gun cabinet. I filled the pockets with the proper tools. A squirrel call and 2 plastic bags. I took a couple candy bars from the kitchen and was headed out the door. My mother stopped me as I left. She said, "Are you prepared for hunting?"

I was little taken aback by the question. I told her, "Of course." She said I had forgotten a key part of my hunting adventure.

We went back into the house. I was little befuddled at what my mom was up to. She led me to the gun cabinet. She reached to the hook on the side of it and grab IT. She said "It should fit now."

"I am going to wash that NASTY thing when you get back." She smiled and sent me on my way. ~ Len Harris


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