IT’S A FUNNY thing.

When the year 2020 ended, I was a mere 21-year-old child. Now, as we head into 2022, I find myself four months beyond my 72nd birthday. How does that work?

I look back at all the years that have passed since 1949, when I made my entrance into this world and I find it’s hard to believe so many things, good and bad, my life has passed through.

I look at my parents’ mortgage on the home my dad built in 1949, and I see the bottom line on the loan read $2,500. Then, I look at the mortgage on the home my wife and I had built for us in 1980, and the amount reads $35,000. To build the same home today, I would imagine the figure would break into the six-figure range.

I think about my growing-up years, and I see Republicans and Democrats during the presidency of men like Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy coming together on common ground to get things done for the good of the country. Good luck in finding any of our current politicians on either side doing that.

I bought McDonald’s hamburgers on Clairmont Avenue in Eau Claire at 19 cents each during my first year of college there in 1969. You couldn’t buy just the bun for that price now.

Room, board, books and tuition ran me a hair less than $1,000 in 1967, when I began my college career at Stevens Point. I can’t even guess what that grouping would cost me now.

Yes, things have changed dramatically during my 72 years of living on planet Earth and yet, some things haven’t changed at all.

Chief among them would be my love of this part of north Wisconsin which I have called home for essentially my entire life.

I still hunt, fish, ski, and hike a few miles out and back through favorite woods haunts on a regular basis. I still take great pleasure in sleeping under the stars on a summer night, albeit in a small camper rather than a pup tent, and I still think there are few things better to do in this world than sitting around a campfire on a starry night.

Holding a beautiful native brook trout in my hand still dripping water from the creek where it took a liking to the offering I tossed at it is still one of God’s most beautiful creatures, and my appreciation of it is as great as it was when I cradled the very first brook trout I caught from Plum Creek right below the old fish hatchery that once straddled the creek.

Long ago, I first experienced the thrill of holding a duck in my hand that I somehow managed to hit with a load of No. 6s, and that thrill has never subsided after 60 years of hunting ducks and successfully bringing home hundreds of them after hundreds of successful hunts.

Some of the greatest joys of my life were the years when, before they were out of toddler stage, I instilled in my children a love of camping, fishing, hiking and simply lying on one’s back on a summer night looking at stars far above. At least I like to think I instilled that love in them.

I grew up a downhill skier and then, at about the age of 30, morphed into a cross-country skier. I’ve never been on downhill skis since, but boy oh boy, have I ever put my many pairs of cross-country skis to good use.

Rather than hide away in a warm, cozy house during our long winter season, I clip on my skis as many times each week as I can, whether it be for a 3-mile quickie or 34-mile slog over the Birkebeiner trail each February.

Having finished 20 Birkies, the last at the age of 70, I’ve now adopted the Kortelopet race at the Birkebeiner which is a short, easy 18-mile slide. Short and easy for some skiers maybe, but still a long hike for me.

I did several Kortes during my Birkie years and this February, I’ll be on the Birkie trail to do my seventh.

Sometimes, as I down a few ibuprofens after a few hours of rowing a boat, paddling my kayak, snowblowing my driveway or just picking a few quarts of wild raspberries, I start thinking about giving up or at least cutting back a tad on some of my outdoor activities.

I think about how slogging through the muck and mud, and cattail jungles of North Dakota prairie ponds is for younger guys with younger legs, but each year, I am back at it and likely will still be at it until I no longer can walk on my own two hind legs.

About halfway into pulling my canoe on a wheeled roller to reach a long-favored small lake in this neck of the woods or my adopted loves of Bayfield and Sawyer County lakes, I sometimes wonder why I’m putting my poor, old decrepit body through such torture. Then, I think of the ultimate reward for doing it and I just keep on keeping on.

I think about a lot of such things as I contemplate the miracle of advancing from 21 years old to 72 years old, all in one year, and always my final thoughts are that I wouldn’t have ever done it differently and never will give up trying to do it the same way forever.