May 11, 2012, 8:39 AM EDT
By Bill Miller
Regular “Around the Campfire with Bill” blog readers may have read the story already, but it’s something my dad told me that’s really stuck with me through my entire hunting life. He said, “Son, when you come in from a days hunt you take care of your dog, your game, your guns and then yourself –in that order.”
Specifically he was talking about taking care of and appreciating the things that made a great day in the field possible. In the big picture he was telling me “take care of your stuff and it will take care of you.”
Okay, fast forward to my 12th birthday. What does an adventure loving, outdoor-crazy 12 year old need and want for his birthday? His own sleeping bag of course. So for that milestone birthday, that’s what my parents gave me. It was a Coleman model with a light cotton canvas outer in medium brown. The inside was cotton flannel with a print of bighorn sheep on it. The insulation was nondescript and not very thick since this bag would be used far more for summer camping and sleepovers than it would for Arctic expeditions – at least my wise parents knew that even if the imagination of a 12-year-old did not. That sleeping bag was presented to me on May 5, 1974.
Fast forward again to May 7, 2012. I and a couple buddies are up at the hunting cabin my wife and I own in South Dakota’s Black Hills. We are spending a few days turkey hunting and just hanging out at “Writer’s Retreat.” The cabin is wired for a generator and has a gas cook stove. It also has a gas heater if things cool off, but in early May, we don’t even hook up the tank because it shouldn’t drop much below freezing at night.
We have four bunks at the cabin – two lowers with thick, cushy real-bed mattresses and two uppers with camp pad mattresses. I always allow guests to take the lowers and I take an upper. I bring two sleeping bags and make a spacious sandwich to sleep in.
The sleeping bag that’s on top in that bunk – at the very moment I’m writing this – is the same one I was presented with 38 years and two days ago! The flannel’s worn through in several spots on the inside, but for that long it’s in amazingly good condition. Even in these adult years, it gets used a good bit. It has seen a lot of cabins and tents across North America. You can still read the faint “Billy Miller” name in green permanent marker on white Coleman label.
I guess it’s lasted so long because I followed the spirit of Dad’s advice. I never put the bag away wet or exceedingly dirty. At the end of any trip it gets hung outside for at least 12 hours in the sunshine and fresh air. Because it was one of my prized possessions as a 12 year old, I took good care of it even back then.
Today at 50, I still love that bag. It’s a wonderful tie to my mom and dad and the security they always tried to provide. Another of my dad’s sayings rings in my ears. He brought this one out whenever we were sweating away in the garden or making firewood: “No matter how bad things get, this family will never go hungry and will never go cold.”
America should heed a lot more of that kind of double-edged wisdom today. Our parents knew what they were talking about!
More Top Posts
- None found