I LOVE OLD things. I love old duck decoys, old boats and canoes, old fishing rods, old hunting clothes, old guns and many other things old. Yes, I love old things.

I have loved one old — nope, not gonna go there — rather, let’s go with a forever young of heart, woman for 48 years. I love all the good dogs with whom I’ve shared my life. 

I have been a reader for as long as I can remember. You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you I was reading children’s books and understanding what I was reading by the age of 4, but if my mother were still alive, she would tell you “Yes, he was.” I have continued to be an avid reader all my life. I read newspapers front to back practically every day; nowadays, mostly online. And I read a lot of spy, mystery, crime, war and private eye novels, along with Westerns.

I used to read outdoor magazines, but when they switched to printing not much else than how-to and where-to articles by writers who presume to know everything about everything, while assuming the reader knows nothing about anything, I quit reading them.

Gone are the days of outdoor storytellers like Gene Hill, Pat McManus and Cory Ford. Living on only in their wonderful stories of the outdoors, along with my idol, Gordon MacQuarrie, are favorites like Robert Traver, Robert Roark and Aldo Leopold, as well as American icons like Nash Buckingham, Jimmy Robinson and Sigurd Olson.

I love reading the stories those masters penned and find it a pity that most American outdoorsmen and women have never heard of many of them, much less read their stories.

It’s probably not surprising that when it comes to the novels I read, I mostly favor older writers like Agatha Christie, James Michener, Frederick Forsyth, Dick Francis, Len Deighton, Lawrence Sanders, Louis L’Amour and others who have brought some of the very best American fiction ever written to their readers.

Granted, there are some excellent novelists out there today and, not surprisingly, given my tastes, most of my favorites are well into or near senior citizen status, writers like John Grisham, James Patterson, Tom Clancy and Dale Brown.

It also is not surprising that I like old memories. I have been lucky enough to experience a lot of great hunts and fishing trips during my years on the planet. The men and women I shared them with mean the world to me. 

My first “big” fishing trip that gave me a memory still burning brightly within me today was one of very short duration. When I was 5 years old, my dad took a long lunch break from work to take me on a fishing trip to Plum Creek.

The creek, back in those days, was home to many trout, most of them native-born brook trout. During that noon hour, he tutored me through my first fly-casting lesson. To be honest, I wasn’t casting a fly, but rather a bare hook with a gob of angleworms on it. A small sinker would take it to the bottom where the idea was that a hungry brook trout would grab it.

I am relieved that there were no such things as cell phones with video capacity back in 1954, because as I recall most vividly, my casts were something short of being things of beauty. I caught tall grass and brush behind me more than I caught trout, but every now and then, I was able to bring the rod straight back over my head and with a great flourish, send the gob of worms into the stream without tangling hook, line and sinker in overhanging tree branches.

Several casts were fruitless. Then, about when I was about to give up, a magical cast hit the water in just the right place, danced down over the rocky stream bed until there was a tug on the end of the line that wasn’t that of a hook lodged in the rocks. At the second or third jerk I jerked back and seconds later, an 8-inch native brookie was flopping in the grass beside me. I caught two more before my dad had to go back to work, but that moment, that special first fishing trip with him has been a memory with me ever since.

My first “really big” fishing trip occurred when I was 12. As soon as school was out that spring, I went to work raking lawns for the caretaker of several summer homes on Plum Lake. In two weeks, I had earned enough money at 50 cents per hour to buy a dandy spin cast combo at my uncle’s sport shop, along with plenty of hooks and lures for a week-long trip to Canada with my dad, cousin Buckshot and Buckshot’s grandpa, Millard Long.

On that trip, we stayed in what purported to be the town of Graham, Ontario, a town that chiefly consisted of a few families living in rustic shacks and a train depot. Millard was somehow or other well acquainted with the depot master, a Mr. Swayze, not sure of his last name spelling.

We stayed upstairs in the depot, lighting the rooms at night with kerosene lanterns, cooking on a kerosene stove and sleeping on lumpy mattresses on home-built cots. It was some of the finest accommodations I’ve ever known.

Dad, Buckshot and I fished almost daylight to dawn every day, catching scores of northern pike and walleyes. Millard spent most of his time with Mr. Swayze, both of them sharing a fondness for Kentucky’s most prized product.

When we needed more minnows, Mrs. Swayze, a lean, tough citizen of the wilderness and one of the nicest women I’ve ever met, seined them with Buckshot and I as helpers. I still remember her taking one end of the seine, and wading out in bare feet and blue jeans into waist-deep water still in the 50-degree range, while Buckshot or I stood on shore managing the other end. She was one tough lady.

For the first time on that trip, I watched Canadian TV each evening when the Swayzes fired up their generator for two hours.

At the end of our trip, we went home with limits of walleye and northern pike, and memories which are still some of my fondest. 

I love those old memories best.