Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cool Old Stuff

When they read the title, the wisecrackers among my close friends will probably immediately think this post is about myself.  Sometimes I feel like Rodney Dangerfield around them (I don't get no respect).  Having said that, this post is not about me, it's about my old stuff.  More than that, really...it's about the memories that this stuff evokes.   And, fortunately for me, the memories that the items in this post bring to me are all good.  The best, really.
My father was not much of an outdoorsman.  He was a cost accountant, what can I say?  But he tried, knowing my early interest in the outdoors, to get me "out there".  I don't have much in the way of stuff representing those times, though.  His father, my grandpa, was a different story.  It seemed to me that he lived to bird hunt and fish.  When we visited his home in Syracuse, NY, I would spend hours in his basement handling the boxes of shotgun shells on his shelves, admiring his worn hunting clothes, checking out his fishing tackle.  The stuff mesmerized me.
His two best bird dogs, English Setters Prince and Jimmy, were gone by the time I arrived on the scene.  But I do have the original photo that my grandmother took of them on point. Guys didn't worry about high-tailed points in those days and there's now a Holiday Inn where the pheasants that the dogs are locked up on huddled.  Her photo won the Syracuse newspaper's Photo of the Week competition.  Can you possibly imagine a photo of pointing bird dogs winning that sort of competition anywhere but in the hook and bullet press today?   The photo has to be pre-1950 (the year I was born):
I mentioned his boxes of shotgun shells.  I have a few of his, and have gathered a few more that have neat graphics on them.  The paper shells take me back to his basement.  Pardon the dust.  Our housekeeper (well, Bridget's housekeeper, lol) knows that she would be taking her life in her hands if she started playing around with this stuff.  I do vacuum it every couple years, whether it needs it or not.
Besides interests in bird hunting and fishing early on, I also liked to be around, and use, tools.  Again, my poor Dad didn't know which end of a hammer was up, but we had neighbors, in the 1950's and early '60's, in a suburb of Buffalo, that took me under their wing.  I helped build garages, pour concrete and was generally allowed to participate in many different home improvement projects in the neighborhood.  And they gave me tools.  Mr. Lyman lived two doors down from us.  He was a master plumber.  I don't remember the exact circumstances, but he gave me this 12-inch level (Stanley, made in the USA):
I can't fathom being able to buy, new, a level of this quality today.  Sliding brass covers for the glass, such substantial construction.  If you could buy it, imagine the cost.
After my grandfather passed away, I received a few of his tools.  He built the house he and my grandmother lived in for more than fifty years; it was a good house.   I've never used this spoke shave.
I use this little square and the mallet often, wondering how many projects they squared up or knocked into place for him.
Of the little projects I made as a kid, two survive, thanks to my mother and her incredible inclination to save all things family.  I made this pump-handle lamp in 8th grade woodshop.  So I would have 12 or 13, I suppose.  It shows the stains of her watering the plants she kept in it.  I like them.
The other survivor of my youthful woodworking endeavors is this wall-mount key hanger.  And again, thanks to my mom, I know exactly what year I made it.  That's her handwriting.  I was 10, and my parents had just given me a jig-saw for Christmas.  A real one.  Not from Toys R Us.   I have a hard time imagining many parents of a 10-year-old giving that kind of gift today.   Surely there's a virtual cabinetry app available so we don't make a mess or hurt ourselves, eh?
Looking at the key-holder, I'm reminded of the time, somewhere between the ages of ten and sixteen (when the hormones really started to kick in - forgot all about woodworking for awhile) that I decided I needed some sort of table saw thingy.  Out in the garage, I clamped an electric motor that I found somewhere to a bench, figured out a way to attach a seven a quarter circular saw blade to it, and let 'er rip (all puns intended).  No table that would expose just a portion of the blade, no guards, no nothing.  Just a blade whirling away at 1,750 rpms.   I don't really think I ever tried to cut anything with it (that's a good thing, is it not?).  My hands are pretty beat up after 50 or so years of working with them, but at least I still have them.  Guess I just wanted to see if I could do it.
But I digress.  The key-holder hangs in our kitchen, where lots of other cool old stuff hangs out, mostly thanks to my mother and her mother (and to Bridget, because she likes - and uses it - too.)
We like waffles.  Not a fan of Teflon or other space-age coating where cooking is concerned.  And no new stuff could ever make waffles like my mom's waffle iron.  It gets used a couple times per month, and makes the best waffles ever.  Well, I mean to say that it does again after a certain someone decided it needed to be cleaned differently than it, well, than it should be cleaned.  It is now off-limits to any operator other than myself.  Which seems to be OK with everybody.
And made in the USA.
As I said, I'm no fan of Teflon.  There's nothing like cooking with cast iron.  It's all we use.  These were from mom's kitchen.  And, of course, made in the USA (Seeing a theme here?  Quality stuff, years and  years old, still perfectly functional....and made in the USA. 
We have some cool old stuff in the cutlery department, too.  Again, thanks to my mom and her mother (who worked as a cook).   I can't tell where this antler-handled carving set was made, but I'm guessing it wasn't Taiwan.  That sharpening steel puts an incredible edge, quickly, on the knife.  Try that with stainless.
These spatulas and fork get daily use.  They are years and years old.  The paint is gone from the handles on the spatulas, but that's probably a good thing.  They are definitely from before the days of lead-free paint!  Oh, guess where they're all made.  right.
This is simply the most-used knife in our kitchen.  By the looks of the curve on the blade, it was likely the most-used in my mother's and grandmother's kitchens.  I think the close-up shows where it was made.
The last cool old bit of stuff from the kitchen area is a thermos jug.  Although it rarely gets used these days, I'm just happy to have it.  Of all the old stuff on this post, it probably evokes the most, and most pleasant, memories of all.  I can almost taste the homemade lemonade my mother filled it with, especially for our journeys from Buffalo to Haliburton, Ontario for a week's vacation.  All puns intended, that jug, made in American, is just full of memories.
Books make great old stuff.  I don't have a kindle and don't read books online.  Old-fashioned? Sure. Resistant to change?  Highly likely.  I just like looking at books, in my hands or on the shelf.  A bunch of stored electrons or bytes or whatever just don't get it for me.   A real book does.  Like this first edition Hemingway with my mother's book plate in it.
And I love old salmon fishing books.  A few from my small collection.  Great stuff.
The inside covers can be a wonderland of discovery.  Guys writing, in their own hand, comments and dates...you can see where the book has traveled and who has enjoyed it.  I'd love see how it was passed around.   Internet "signatures" pale in comparison.  Yikes, what a curmudgeon I've become!
I have some other cool old stuff that wasn't passed down to me.  Rather, because it was "new when I acquired it" but that was a long time ago or it was already old when I got it, it takes on cool old stuff status.
In 1968 (I was 18), a buddy and I made a camping trip to the Haliburton, Ontario area I went to as a kid.  I had always wanted a real Hudson Bay blanket - don't ask me why, I just think they're cool - and I wanted to obtain one on this trip.  I found a store in the village of Haliburton that sold them; they even had the green one that I wanted.  Problem was, though, that it was twice as big as I wanted (or could afford).  No problem.  The nice saleslady got a pair of shears, folded the blanket in half, and made one small cut at the fold.  She then ripped the blanket in half!!  I got the half with the label (ever the status seeker).   It cost me twenty-eight dollars.  And it has never unraveled in the slightest bit along that ripped edge.  Now that's weaving.  Oh, and by the by, a 4-point Hudson Bay blanket will set you back $399 at LL Bean these days.
I look at this blanket (I sleep under every night in the winter), and I remember back to the most incredible lightning storm I've ever been in...it was part of the same trip to Haliburton.  Some other pleasant memories associated with sleeping under it, too, but that's another story.
 Just as cool as an old Hudson Bay blanket is original Orvis Battenkill luggage that was made in the USA - NOT the new off-shore stuff, which has no soul.  I think I have had every piece of it that they made over the years, and still make my trips to Salmon Camp with it.  Wouldn't leave home without it!  This suit bag carried a lot of suits over the years.  Now it carries fishing shirts.  Just the way it should.
Someone once asked me why I leave the remnants of so many flights attached to the handle.  Why wouldn't I?
My brief case was as much a million-miler as I was...and shows it, I suppose, just like I do.
Now it carries stuff back and forth to Miramichi Salmon Association board meetings.  Much better use of its time.  I even found an old business card in it when I went to take its photo.  That job was fun for several years.  Then, not so much.
If you look inside an old Orvis rod bag, you'll find this tag.  Today, I don't think so. Pity, really.
The rod bag thought brings me to fishing's cool old stuff.   I fish mainly for atlantic salmon these days with two-hand rods.  I used to use disc drag reels when I was fishing single handers, but when I moved on to the long rods, it seemed only appropriate to switch to one of the great salmon reels, The Hardy Marquis Salmon.   The sale of no longer needed gear has allowed me to obtain two Salmon 1's and two Salmon 2's.   Each size balances a different rod for me, and love the way they scream when a good fish is taking line.  Definitely hold a place in salmon fishing's cool old stuff category!
And I love my old line winder!

Old stuff.  Well-made, lasting products that evoke the memories of a life, hopefully, well-spent.  The items in this post were made in either the U.S, Great Britain or Canada, proudly, I'll bet. My old stuff is of a pretty modest nature; I know there are collections of far grander stuff than mine.  I hope that stuff brings as much satisfaction to its owners as mine does to me.  Good old stuff.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Miramichi Salmon Camp - September, 2014

You can click on the pics to see the larger version.
Bridget and I headed up to Boiestown, NB and Bullock's Lodge (www.bullockslodge.com)  at 8:30am on Saturday, September 13, 2014.  Now, my usual departure time for that trip is 4:30am, but, well, you try getting her going that early!  With a stop in Fredricton for provisions (read: adult beverages.  I knew McCloskey's in Boiestown would be closed by the time we got there), we got to camp about 8:30 Atlantic time.  The sun was setting on a very low Miramichi river.
Home base for us was the Log Camp, owned by Vin Swayze and leased for the fishing season by the Bullock's.  Its my favorite of the three camps there.  It's just a cozy place to call home for a time.
Started fishing Sunday morning with Dan Bullock.  Must have been a long trip up to NB; Bridget slept in and I didn't start fishing until 10a.m.   A cloudy, breezy morning.
My buds Dick (second from right) and Walter (right) were staying at the Bullock's camp on their Home Pool and came out to give Dan (left) and me a send-off for the morning's fish.  Those boys rarely get on the river before 11; guess they've figured out how to slow down and smell the roses, so to speak.
I started fishing with a Green Picasse (designed by Marc LeBlanc), and got one subtle tug on it.  That low, slow water just looked perfect for a Sneaky, one of Mike Boudreau's creations.  Sure enough, it was game on shortly after the fly change...a big, wicked quick hen took the fly.  She wasn't a jumper, but she could surely boogie around Home Pool!  A beautiful salmon.
During the mid-day break, my pal Brian Cuming from Fredericton stopped by for a visit.  Brian has been incredibly generous to the Miramichi Salmon Association, donating dozens of his flies to their fund-raising efforts.  As a little thank you (I'm on the MSA board), I was giving him a batch of the little fly display stands I make.  Brian is a tough guy to return favors to!  He showed up with two bottles of yummy red wine and this lovely River Helmsdale classic fly for my collection:
We had a great visit.  I enjoy it so much when any of the friends I've made on the river stop by.
During the evening's fishing, I hooked a grilse, staying with the Sneaky.  He slipped the barbless hook at the net.  Friends Walter and Dick were in camp, too.  Dick landed a 7-pounder and Walter a grilse (also on a Sneaky) that evening.  A four fish day at Bullock's Lodge...not bad for a river that the pundits were claiming had no fish around!
Monday was cloudy most of the day, temps in the 50's, the colors of autumn starting to show.
The fishing was slow that morning, one of those "just good to be on the river" kind of days.  I was having leader problems, and decided to head downriver to see the lads at Doak's (www.wwdoak.com)for a solution.  Bruce Waugh and I were discussing the ins and outs of the various poly leaders on their rack, when Jerry Doak came out from his office with a little package in his hand.  He set it on the counter, telling me "give this one a try."  (LOL, Jerry will probably kill me for telling the rest of this story, but I can't resist)  I said, "Sure, how much?"  His reply, with a big smile on his face: "It's on me...but don't tell anyone that I gave it to you...they won't believe you anyway!"   If you know Jerry, you'll get that one.   But seriously, it turned out to be a great 15 foot, tapered to 8 pound, Maxima Chameleon leader, tied by Jerry.  Maybe if enough people start asking him about them, he'll make a few for sale.   That was one of the most enjoyable visits I've had to the shop.
This bad boy greeted Bridget and I upon our return to camp:
Monday evening and Tuesday continued to be tough fishing.  Always does my heart good to see the ladies (Renate and Bridget) heading out for a fish, though.  I do seem to have "missed the boat", eh? 
Wednesday was a better day, fish-wise.  For once, the wind decided to calm down, which made life with the two-hand rod much easier (and safer!)  I landed a nice grilse on a Park Shrimp in the morning:
That was my first fish on a Park Shrimp (designed by Ross MacDonald).  The colors and flash seemed perfect for autumn...guess so!
Lunch that day was a special treat!  I always bring up a big brick of  Cabot's Extra Sharp Cheddar (made in Vermont, of course) in hopes that Michele Swayzey (one of Vin's two delightful daughters) will use it to make her incredible Macaroni and Cheese casserole.  Well, she whipped up a batch, and Bridget and I headed to Vin's home (all of about 75 yards from our camp) for the treat.  I wasn't bright enough to get a photo of that casserole, but I did get some pics of Vin and his latest wine.  He and Renate both like to go to a place called WineKitz (I think that's how its spelled) in Fredericton to sort of make their own wine.  Anyway, he likes to give cool names to his wines, and Michele makes labels for them.  This batch was a Gewurztraminer.  Vin's boat is named the FTG (if you were at his "roast" a couple weeks ago, I revealed what that stands for, lol).  Well, here's the label he and Michele made up.  The wine is much better than the two mugs on the label, luckily!
We had a blast that afternoon.  Anyone that thinks salmon camp is all about the fishing really needs to rethink their position.
Bridget got a good tug on a Celtic Beauty that evening, and I rose a fish to a Blue Bomber, but nada to the net.
Thursday was another one of those tough days on the river.  I'm always impressed at how comfortable Bridget has become in the river.  At the end of a shift I have to practically drag her out of the water!
She's gotten to be an effective caster, too.
While I'm on the subject of Bridget, I need to discuss her "outfits."  And I don't mean fly rods and reels.  She is a very successful business owner, and likes to pride herself on her grasp of risk management and efficiencies.  Well, I have to say that she has transitioned those skills over and into her day-to-day preparations for her time on the river.  That is to say, she has reduced the likelihood of pissing me off by taking too long to get ready to go fishing by doing this:
That's right.  She has a pre-selected, pre-packed outfit, consisting of complementary inner and outer scarves, fishing shirt and hat for every day of the trip.  The camp is a two-bedroom affair; she appropriates one of them as her dressing room.  The scarves are hers, the hats and shirts used to be mine.  And I must report that before Bridget started going up with me each September, there were just two little mirrors above the sinks in the bathrooms.  There is now a full length mirror behind just about every door.   I'm good with that.
Back to Thursday:  the evening fish wasn't anymore productive than the morning's.  But all was not lost!  Danny and Renate Bullock often host a "Guide's Party" at their guest camp, where Dick and Walter were staying.  Our hosts at work in the kitchen:
And then the entertainment starts.  Renate is a wizard with her accordion!
She's so good Vin even dances with Dan's Brittany, Tucker!
Walter joined in with this crazy music stick:
Life is good.  At least that night.  The next day, not so much, owing to a brutal up-river wind.  Thank goodness for hoodies and hot coffee!
We fished for awhile, then retired to camp to weather the storm.  A cocktail or two helped warm body and spirit.
Saturday was to be our last day on the river, and it was still pretty windy.  But I tied on my trusty little low-water Celtic Beauty, and gave 'er a go.   I hooked up...
...and a  nice grilse came to hand and Danny gave my new Nikon AW110 Waterproof camera a chance to show off:
That fish was it for our day.  But wait, there's more!  Bridget had a pretty tough week on the river, nothing more than a couple tugs and pulls to show for all her efforts.  Vin to the rescue.  He came over to our camp and asked if we could stay one more day; he had a little surprise fishing for us.  A quick check with Dan and the camp was still available for one more day.  Bridget cleared her schedule back at the office (have you noticed that I never seem to have a schedule to clear?).  Sunday morning we packed some gear and goodies and headed upriver to a lovely pool, still on the Main Southwest Miramichi. 
We could see numerous fish showing, some out towards the middle of the river, which is very wide and boulder-bottomed at this particular point.  Vin looked at me and said, "See that boulder way out there?"  I did, sadly.  He told me if that I was very careful, and stayed on the tangent from where we were standing to that boulder, I wouldn't go in over my head.  Fine.  Away I go, trusty wading staff in hand.   And there were BIG fish out there.  One even jumped and landed on my line.  And another even did me the courtesy of making a mild pass at my fly.  Back on shore was another story.
Vin set Bridget up in about a foot of water at river's edge, next to a fairly perceptible trough in the river.   A few casts, and she landed a grilse.  On a little Celtic Beauty.  I was too far away (I think I was in Never Never Land, I was so far from, well, safety, lol) to get a pic.
I saw her rod bend several times more after that, but didn't see any netting activity.  Then I heard a happy shriek, saw what looked like a rod bent double, and figured, even though I was having so much fun watching fish jump all over my line, that I'd try to get a little closer for a look.  Got some video, and yup, its a little shakey, but hey, you try and balance yourself on two greasy bowling balls and hold your hands steady!!
I was never worried about her landing the fish.  She's good at it, and she had 64 years (that's as many years as I've been drawing breath on this planet) of licensed professional guide on her shoulder.  How cool is that?
The A Team:
In all, she tightened up on seven fish.  I call that a good day.  I was glad for her. No, really, I was!  I mean, I like seeing other people hook fish all day as I fear for my life trying to get to and from the spot my alleged friend and guide sent me to, don't you??  Kidding.
And the "After Party":
The flies that worked for us this week: The Park Shrimp, Celtic Beauty, and Sneaky:
Another great week on the Miramichi.  We had a blast, and our deep and abiding thanks to Dan and Renate Bullock, Vin Swayze and Manley Price for ensuring that we had the fine times we enjoyed. This year we missed incredibly the company of Bob and Linda Warren in camp, who had to stay home and fight the good fight concerning Bob's health issues.  We thought and talked of them often during the week.
But they'll be back next year, and so will we.  Cheers!