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    Tailfeathers

    Baggage

    TOM CARNEY is an award-winning writer/photographer based in Michigan. You can find him at www.tomcarneywriter.com and on Facebook at Tom Carney-Writer.
    TOM CARNEY is an award-winning writer/photographer based in Michigan. You can find him at www.tomcarneywriter.com and on Facebook at Tom Carney-Writer.

    The final spoonful of oatmeal did me in.

    “I don’t like this low-fat diet at all,” I affirmed.

    “You’re whining again, Tom. You can’t fight father time,” said Maureen, retrieving one of her late father’s favorite aphorisms. It occurred to me that she might have been calling me “old.”

    So I did some retrieving myself, fetching a desire from my youth. I stood up and fixed her with a look that says, “Watch Out! Determined Guy in the House.”

    “Wipe that goop off your chin,” she said. “And what’s that silly grin for?”

    “I’ve decided to take a road trip, Mo. Before I get old. I’m headin’ out. Goin’ up north to fish and hunt for a week or two.”

    For as long as I remember, I’d entertained a dream populated by a few simple components: an extended cab pickup truck and a dog resting quietly on the seat beside me. Packed neatly behind us would be a shotgun and some hunting clothes, the few fishing items I’d need and a bedroll. Self-contained and one for all, we’d tour the land in a grand but focused mosey.

    As I packed for this trip, however, a couple of 21st century realities forced adjustments in both packing plans and outlook. To begin with, I now drive a Chevy Suburban, the only vehicle I’ve found whose cargo area is wide enough to hold two dog kennels. Next, the dog kennels are essential because neither Lizzy the Llewellyn setter nor Abbey the Irish red and white setter will sit still on the seat beside me. And that’s OK because with my three fly rods, two spinning rods, two big tackle boxes, shoulder bag for fly-fishing, float tube, fins and stocking-footed waders, regular waders, wading staff, two shotguns, a gunning bag, the dogs’ hunting gear bag, the dog food storage bag, their food and water dishes, a case of ammo, hunting boots, spare hunting boots, knee-high rubber hunting boots for extreme conditions, the hunting clothing suitcase, the “if I fall in a creek and need dry clothes” emergency duffel bag, first-aid kit, emergency skunk spray kit, pup tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, emergency toilet paper, camp stove, cookware and tableware, six-pack of propane bottles, cooler, map bag and separate cooler full of bottled water, there was barely room in the front seat passenger compartment for my computer bag, camera bag, pillow I can’t get comfy without, hugging pillow, extra-gear suitcase, “nice clothes in case of a nice restaurant” garment bag, separate bag for my toiletries because if you put them in your main suitcase they’ll leak no matter what and three different jackets for different types of weather. Plus a bag of chocolate chip cookies.

    A few minutes later, I slapped my orange Detroit Tigers baseball cap on backwards, cranked up the CD player for some travelin’ music from the “Old 97’s” and fired up the engine for the trip to regain my youth. Maureen sidled up to the car.

    “You forget something?”

    I pursed my lips, closed my eyes and stuck my head out the window in her general direction. Instead of pursing back, she held out her hand.

    “Oh. Thanks.”

    I reached for the plastic pillbox, each of whose seven compartments marked for the days of the week was filled to the brim with my daily doses. She also slipped me the battery-powered Trimmer of Unwanted Hair that Sprouts from Unexpected and Undesirable Places Once You Become an Old Guy.

    I turned down the music, rotated my cap forward, snapped the seatbelt around myself and proceeded with caution from the driveway.

    In the U.P., I met up with my buddy Dan and headed to his family’s cabin in northern Wisconsin for some fishing before ruffed grouse season got underway.

    After the second day, I called home.

    “Hello, Maureen? This is Tom.”

    “Yes, Tom. I know it’s you. I have you on caller ID.”

    “Oh.”

    “Besides, I can tell from your voice.”

    “You can?”

    “YES. Now, how’s your trip going? Are you feeling young again?”

    “Well, I did when Dan and I caught a bunch of bass today. I caught the biggest. Then we got into an argument and my stomach hurts and I need to get some antacids.”

    “That’s never happened before. You and Dan argued? What about? Fishing skills? Favorite authors? Scotch versus Irish whiskey? What?”

    “Well, he said that Cats isn’t really a musical because it lacks a storyline, and I said I thought it was pretty good. Especially how those people all looked like cats when they moved around.”

    “You two argued about Broadway musicals?”

    “No. Just the one.”

    “You know, Tom, maybe it’s time you come home.”

    “Why? I’m on a trip to reclaim my youth.”

    “That will take more gas than you can afford.”

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