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    Losing My . . . Stuff

    The medical community calls it dementia or worse – Alzheimer’s – with the latter supposedly being more debilitating. As I understand it, dementia is when you walk into a room and then don’t remember why. Alzheimer’s is when you can’t find your way back out of the room. Thus far, despite a family history, I’m pretty sure I don’t have Alzheimer’s, but it is an inarguable fact that I am slowly losing my … stuff.

    Friends know I have been losing my stuff for years, but I think it really became obvious last April when the wild turkey season opened. To hunt turkeys right, you need a lot of gear. I have a turkey vest weighted down with six different kinds of calls, two camouflage face masks, camouflage gloves, shotgun shells, a compass, a knife and two plastic decoys – or, I should say, I used to have those things. But every time I go out lately, I leave something behind.

    For me, there is more cause for concern in leaving something behind than in losing it. When I lose something, it suddenly isn’t there anymore; I have no idea what happened to it.  But my tendency to leave things behind worries me because it indicates a new interruption in brain function. This is in addition to the loss of brain function brought about during other periods of my life by too much orange Kool-Aid, too much rock and roll and too much exposure to members of the female persuasion, which usually also included too much exposure to fermented grain and hops.

    Lately, when I get home from a bird hunt, I take inventory, notice an item is missing and immediately know where it is – or at least where it was when I last saw it.

    For example, last week, I left a practically new cartridge belt on a rock above the Snake River. It was a nice belt, too, full of my favorite hand-loaded, 1-ounce, no. 6 shot, 20-gauge shells. I can see it now, lying atop a big piece of basalt at the top of a draw on the edge of a wheat field where I sat for a half hour eating my lunch. I had taken it off to be more comfortable. And because I didn’t get a shot the rest of the day, I hadn’t missed it.

    Even with the hand-loaded shells, I can buy a new cartridge belt for less than it would cost for a round trip to reclaim the one I left behind. If I don’t get back there this year, I hope someone else finds it before everything is ruined by the weather.

    The great outdoors has become one giant swap meet for me. Not only do I lose stuff and leave stuff behind, but I also find an almost equal number of items lost or forgotten by others. This is comforting, as it makes me realize the disability is not mine alone.

    Many of the items I find are related to bird dogs – e-collars and nylon water bowls and pliers for pulling porcupine quills – but there is other stuff, too – sometimes very expensive stuff. My best find so far was an extremely nice, though slightly rusted, over-under 28-gauge lying there on a grassy hummock near a fly-in lake in Alaska where I had been dropped off to hunt ptarmigan and fish for pike. I almost felt guilty bringing it home, but the pilot had received no reports of a lost gun, and under the circumstances, it was not likely to be reclaimed. To somewhat compensate, however, I forgot my Neoprene chest waders on a rickety dock where I caught the floatplane that flew me back to the lodge on Lake Iliamna.

    One April morning, I was preparing for another turkey hunt, but I couldn’t find my hen decoy. When I mentally backtracked, I couldn’t remember picking it up when I left my blind on the hill two days before. I was going back to the same spot anyway, and sure enough, when I crested the knoll, there it was … almost.

    Good turkey decoys are not cheap. This one, in fact, was as good as you can get – a taxidermy mount. I was not likely to be able to afford another soon, and for years I had kept it dry and clean and handled it gently. And then I had walked off and left it in the middle of a logging road in the middle of the forest. The good news was, I wouldn’t be forgetting it again, as it had been discovered – perhaps by a coyote, perhaps by an overly amorous gobbler – and looked like the aftermath of a pillow fight.

    I brought it home and buried it in the trashcan – a new way to lose my stuff.

    Wolfe Publishing Group