This time of year finds me with a lot of time on my hands that eats at me until I can’t stand myself. So to soften the days, I reach for old friends, in the form of books I’ve read and re-read; usually during days of self-pity like today. Before anyone reading this wants to send me the name of a good shrink, let me say, I’m not depressed, I’m just bored. There is a difference.
Gene Hill, is perhaps my favorite outdoor writer and has been since a friend put me on to him some 40 years ago. Hill wrote a column for several different out-of-doors magazines. The column was called “Hill Country.” It was a monthly piece located in the front portion of the magazines and had no particular intent other than take you with him while he dissected everyday things we take for granted; outdoor related, of course. There are a series of books, mostly a collection of his columns, and I think I have most of them if not all. And I read them on days like this, which usually means from mid-January to mid-March.
I think the reason I associate myself with Hill’s banter is, he has a way of making the mundane relevant. When he talks about pocket knives, I think about my first pocket knife that I was allowed to have – even though I sort of appropriated it from my dad’s stuff – without really asking. I think he understood what it meant for a boy of 10 to have his own pocket knife. Of course I wasn’t allowed to carry it, only when fishing or camping. But there was some sense of being closer to being a man if I was trusted to cut my own marshmallow roasting stick.
The idea Hill captured my imagination with, was, that even average and below average people could have as good a time and experience in their outdoor pursuits as the Davey Crocket types who could catch fish with a safety pin and piece of string. Or, be so adapt at everything, they just naturally had the latest and greatest stuff, because that was what was needed to have fun and success.
Hill reminded me that guys like me who couldn’t afford the latest and greatest “stuff,” weren’t bared from the joy of “being there.” It was the doing and getting that made the experience, not the insurance value of my rod or gun.
Don’t get me wrong, “She Who Must Be Obeyed” will tell you I’ve spent more than I should have on everything from shotguns to fly rods to boots and even for dogs. But when I did, it was because I wanted to and not because I believed I couldn’t have a good time with less expensive shotguns and such.
“Hill Country” gave me an appreciation of fine double barreled shotguns and bamboo fly rods, but never the presumption that I couldn’t catch fish with a Shakespeare glass rod or bag a grouse with a Savage gun.
The dog is another matter. Seamus is worth the money ten times over.