As a kid growing up there was a time when a simple game of chance raised the heart rate a bit whenever I had some money burning a hole in my pocket.  My grandma would take me to the corner store a stones throw from her duplex apartment in downtown Westfield to get my hands on some of that sweet chewy and gooey stuff that your mother would always remind you will rot out your teeth.   Candy wasn’t a regular thing in my house, so when a trip to Grammy’s house was in order I always knew there was a chance we might make the trek to the sugar mecca of delight.

Penny candy was an amazing thing as a kid, for a couple dollars you could walk away from the store feeling like you actually got your money’s worth, something that seems all but a thing of the past in todays world.  I can still remember walking out with an overstuffed paper bag full of goodies; Everlasting Gobstoppers, Root beer Barrels, Mary Janes, Atomic Fireballs, Swedish Fish, Dubble Bubble(worst bubblegum ever made), Lemonheads, Squirrel Nut Caramels, Bit-O-Honeys all come to mind.

Although the candy was the primary focus, collecting change became the highlight.  Yes change; you know those shiny metal objects of varying sizes that are worth differing fractions of a dollar bill.  Those things that some people just toss in that cup next to the cash register at any establishment.  Most convenience stores that cup consists of pennies to round out a dollar that usually irritates the younger crowd waiting in line behind you when you actually pay with real money.   It is true, physical currency seems foreign to most in todays world as it is readily apparent most people want everything streamlined and quick preferring to slide the plastic or tap to pay these days.  Currency almost seems taboo in todays world where we can do and get anything at the tap of a finger.

Counting change  has become a much more difficult task as I have experienced that on a regular basis whenever I have paid with such.  It often happens when I begrudgingly decide to get a coffee at the drive thru on a roadtrip fishing, hand the person at the window the two dollars for that hot cup of coffee that astonishingly costs $1.95.  Instead of getting my nickel back they close the window and assume the nickels their tip.  Sorry folks, but hey I’ll take my nickel thank you.  It’s not like you just served me a 5 course meal at a restaurant, besides I may have entertained your tip if you didn’t assume I was going to automatically give it to you.

But once again I digress, oh yes back to this little game.  You see Grammy would always like to find those older vintage coins in that mix of change whereas I was always in search of that shiny newly minted coin in typical kid fashion.  Never quite understanding why Grammy wanted those old battered and beaten coins; maybe it brought her back to her youth, or they were synonymous with the many hardships she endured raising a family of six in a post depression/World War II era.  I never did ask her this but I can only assume as she never judged my longing for those shiny new objects over that weathered and forlorn piece of metal, but she did manage my change of heart on them.

Over time I too became more fascinated with finding coins minted from a time much longer ago.  Today my youngest daughter has grown fascinated with change, and whenever we get some she quickly reaches over and checks the year they were minted. I can’t help but think my Grammy is with us in spirit everytime this happens and it makes me smile, which leads me to the point of my conversation.  When I was in my teens and early twenties I like many kids that age was always excited to get new gear, I mean, who isn’t?  But I quickly started to recognize that sometimes shiny new objects can be the brunt of others jokes.

One day while out in Utah fishing the fabled Green river with a close friend,  I was the brunt of a few anglers jokes.  There I stood, knee deep in a riffle, brand new waders right out of the box to be exact.  I heard the voices of a few people behind me as they became increasingly louder.  It seemed harmless at first but then I started to hear the conversation clearly; the three folks working their way towards me were not only irritated by my presence in the section of water they wanted to fish, but had used my new waders as a means to start throwing some shade.  “Look at this f*$%ing guy, looks like he just walked off a Simms poster; clown, poser, noob,” were a few of the choice phrases inherently thrown my way.

Being a bit younger than I am now, and recently out of college and into the real world, these three had no idea what they’d done, and I don’t fault them one bit.  Little did they know they decided to throw digs towards a guy who never talked trash whenever he stepped onto the playing field, opting only to let his actions speak louder than words in true sportsmanlike form.  These three decided to drop in within earshot of me and my close friend, and unfortunately for them we got the last laugh.

Counting fish was never my forte, but on this particular occassion it was the case.   I think we were somewhere around the 6th or 7th consecutive cast with a fish on when the three stooges couldn’t take it anymore and asked for help.  You know, “hey what are they biting on?”  Quickly I fired back sarcastically, “Butter midges dude, you got some?  Or do I need to reach into my new waders and get you one?”   The response was scripted bs, they weren’t eating those, and no I did not have any nor would I have given them any.  From then on I never liked my gear to look new.

So in short order I really became fond of older worn and used gear, heck today I even jump at the chance when I can kick the dust off of some of my stuff from when I was a teenager and take that old keepsake out for an evening on the water.  I guess you could say that I appreciate dirty cork handles, tattered waders(when I actually wear them) and my baseball caps sunbleached, torn and falling apart like they’ve been engaged in some sort of long battle.  Used gear exudes experience and time out there actually doing something; it speaks for itself.  The constant mixed messages sent daily thru todays network of communication vastly misrepresents how things really are.  Shiny new gear isn’t reality for those who make a life in the outdoors, it is only new for a very short time before it has the look I prefer; battered, bruised and torn.

I say farewell now to you all for the remainder of the summer, in a matter of hours I will be driving in a westerly direction at zero dark thirty, driftboat in tow with a good friend who was so gracious enough to provide some company.  We will finally settle in somewhere in the state of Montana where myself, some other friends, but most importantly my wife and kids will join me for some much needed adventures in the open air, big sky and plentiful outdoor playgrounds that Idaho, Montana and Wyoming provide.  To say I am feeling like a kid with excitement is an understatement.  The adventures on this trip will most likely provide some fond memories that we all will cherish and I look forward to visiting some places I have been in the past as well as all the new places to me that I plan to visit.

As some of you have already figured out the fly store is there, but you are unable to purchase anything at the moment and will remain that way until the end of August when I return.  I currently have work thru the month of October so I will leave you with this; if you are looking for bugs this fall/winter and next spring, I would check back later next month to get that order in as the waiting list is still about 8 weeks out.  Until then, have a great rest of your summer and I will see you upon my return.  Be well.

-RS, July 23, 2022.