Sporting Life

Desk Diving

Fond memories under a rolltop

    Don’t throw the past away

    You might need it some rainy day

    Dreams can come true again

    When everything old is new again

             – “Everything Old Is New Again,” by Peter Allen

By Tom Bryant

Many years ago, my bride, Linda, gave me an ancient rolltop desk for Christmas. It’s not the big kind, only has drawers on one side, but it fits perfectly in the corner of our den, not far from my favorite leather chair, and close to the fireplace. I’ve spent many restful hours roaming from the desk to the chair, occasionally stoking the fire.

I don’t know how it does it, but it seems as if the desk has a mind of its own and can cause all kinds of interesting stuff to materialize that I had considered long lost. Usually on a miserable rainy or snowy day — after hunting season, of course — I will slide open the rolltop, pull my desk chair in close, and begin to rummage through items that would be like new to me.

I did that recently at the insistence of Linda when she happened to walk through the den at the same time I opened the top. “I don’t see how you can find anything in all that mess,” she said. “Why don’t you take a couple of weeks and shovel through it?” Sometimes Linda can be right funny. She went into the kitchen chuckling.

I did take her advice, pulled the trash can closer, and prepared for an afternoon of fun and cleaning. In the back of the desk are cubbyholes and a couple of small drawers. Immediately, I found a box with a Remington pocketknife in it. It was a gift from George Puckett, a neighbor friend who passed away several years ago. He spent his entire working life with Remington and toward the end of his career, was the manager of Remington’s ammunition plant in Arkansas. I first met him one morning as I went for a walk around the neighborhood. George walked every day, the same route, except when he was scheduled to play golf. We got to know each other pretty well, and I was amazed at the depth of his knowledge about the gun manufacturer Remington. He was especially interested in my outdoor writing, and we had many conversations about enjoying nature, hunting, fishing and camping when times were a lot simpler.

I put the knife back in its cubbyhole, opened the mini drawer next to it, and pulled out a card written long ago by George Atherholt. What a pleasant surprise.

I met George at a Southern Pines Rotary Club lunch meeting where he was the speaker. His talk included an 8-millimeter film of a polar bear hunt in the Arctic, where he was the chief participant. I don’t remember if the hunt was successful, but I had never met anyone who had hunted the frozen tundra of the North, and I wanted to know him better. We became friends and had many conversations about his adventures in the outdoors. I even did a column for The Pilot about his hunting prowess

George was a member of the Sheep Grand Slam Club. To become a certified member, a hunter must harvest all four wild sheep species — the Dall, stone, bighorn and desert sheep — an almost impossible feat today. There are only 1,500 Grand Slam members in the country.

George passed away in his late 90s, and his wit and knowledge are missed around the weekly breakfast tables of the Sandhills Rotary.

The next interesting item I found in the cubby was a license registration for my vintage Bronco, frayed with age and dated 1977. That was the last year Ford made the small jeep-sized vehicle. I bought the little SUV shortly after my partner and I started a weekly newspaper. The compact, small truck served me well for many years. Right now she’s sort of like her owner, slowed down a little but still ready to go. She’s resting in our garage waiting for new adventures.

The fire needed another log, so I went to the wood pile to replenish the hearth supply. In no time, I had a good blaze going again, and I was back at the little desk to resume my meandering through memories.

It’s funny how what goes around comes around. My Bronco, for example. Over 40 years ago, Ford decided to stop manufacturing the small size, and now they’re making them the same dimension again. Chevrolet, not to be outdone, has resurrected the old Blazer, which they had stopped producing many years ago. Toyota ceased manufacture of the FJ Cruiser in the ’70s only to bring back the brand in 2007, then stop production again in 2014. The FJ has, almost overnight, become a collector’s item.

Back in the corner of the desk under some old newspaper articles I was saving for some reason, I found a pair of shooting glasses given to me years ago by my good friend Rich Warters. I had forgotten all about them. Rich, an amazing individual, without equal in the outdoors, has moved to Connecticut, and we surely miss him around the halls of old Moore County.

Rich has a passion for bird dogs, English pointers to be exact, and he owns the national champion. He and I spent many hours in the woods turkey hunting. I felt like a neophyte at the feet of the grand master, and although we never got a turkey, I learned a great deal about the sport listening to and watching Rich.

Ironically, a couple of years after Rich moved, I bagged a big gobbler in the same area he and I had hunted when he was still here. I emailed him a picture of the bird and still remember his reply: “I’m glad you got it when you were out there alone. It’s something you’ll never forget, and the memory would be different if I had been there.”

I kicked back in my desk chair and thought about all the many days afield, and experiences and great friends I’ve accumulated over the years and the many I’ve yet to meet. I gently placed the items I had rummaged through back in their desk places, softly closed the rolltop and moved to my leather chair near the fire. The trash can was still empty. I found nothing to throw away and remembered that everything old can truly be new again someday. PS

Tom Bryant, a Southern Pines resident, is a lifelong outdoorsman and PineStraw’s Sporting Life columnist.

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