Here are a few examples of my new rules for the outdoors:
Fish only if the temperature is above 55 degrees with a light breeze.
Sit in a deer stand only if there was a critical meat shortage at the house.
Do not go duck hunting under any circumstances.
Play golf only if the thermometer is going to reach sixty.
Do not use a chainsaw for more than fifteen minutes in a twenty-four hour period.
Do not drink alcohol.
Go to bed at 10:30 and sleep at least eight hours.
If you wake up tired or sore go back to sleep.
There was a time in the distant past when I was pretty sure that no one was tougher than me.
At 20 years old I would get up two hours before dawn, head to the swamp and tromp through ice to go duck hunting. After that was over I’d go get the dogs and walk 10 miles in search of quail. After lunch I’d jump on the bush hog and work until sundown. I’d then head out to the party, come in late, get five hours of sleep and do it all over again.
Even up to about 20 years ago. I’d go fishing or hunting regardless of the weather and play golf if the temperature was above 40 degrees with a wind chill factor of 30 degrees or so. I could still party (though not as hard) and if I got six hours of sleep was still good to go the next morning.
Oh, how things have changed.
Over the last few years I have been forced to put some strict guidelines in place regarding outdoor activities, alcohol intake and sleep schedules. I’ve found that these procedures work exceedingly well if precisely adhered to, but if I stray from my program, there is hell to pay (See rules).
There have been a few times when I’ve broken these rules and the results are always catastrophic.
Notable exception No. 1: Lost my mind and went deer hunting one extremely frigid morning over a bean patch that was reputed to hold loads of trophy deer.
Result — No deer sightings, three fingers and two toes with severe frostbite and the onset of rheumatism, arthritis and iron-poor blood.
Notable exception No. 2: Agreed to go on an early morning striper fishing trip to Lake Hartwell in January like an absolute fool.
When we got to the ramp prior to sunup there was ice hanging off the boat dock.
Result — No stripers, the remaining digits of my hands and feet were traumatized beyond repair, there was stuff running out of my eyes and nose that was not what I would call your standard secretions, and I had the flu for a month.
Notable exception No. 3: After making the only hole-in-one of my life I partied much too hard and had to get up early the next morning for a family event.
Result — Nausea, vomiting, and high fever followed by a five-hour, slobber-filled nap upon returning home. Additionally, my sleeping and gastric routines were disturbed for the next several days.
Notable exception No. 4: In an effort to make my wife proud of me I determined to clean up a patch of woods near our house in order to get an unobstructed view of the lake. This exercise required the use of a chain saw.
Result — Skinny muscles that felt like they had been run over by a dump truck, a crick in my neck and back that required a month of physical therapy and the realization that if she wanted a clear view of the pond she would henceforth have to walk down to the edge of the water to get it.
Yesterday, the saga of notable exceptions continued. My fishing buddy and I had waited until the weather was in an acceptable temperature range to check on the crappie behind my house. It was what we considered a balmy 60 degrees. Unfortunately the fish didn’t cooperate until the last hour before sundown and we stayed till the bitter end. It was 55 by that time and what with dipping my hand in the bucket to fetch minnows and taking fish off the line my hands got bitterly cold and the rest of my body was in a similar state. I had to take a steamy 45-minute shower, drink hot chocolate and back up to the fireplace to restore order. It was a shameful state of affairs and I hate to admit it but it’s true.
I think I’m going to have to revise my rules again.
Alvin Richardson is a contributing writer, retired educator, and public speaker. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.