“I have been writing the weekly Hunting/Fishing Report way longer than I thought I ever would. What began as a lot of work has become a joyful weekly undertaking. This week, however, I’m in Colombia, South America, joyfully working on a good suntan. I can’t say Colombia has been on my bucket list, but the opportunity presented itself, it is 79 degrees in Bogota, and frankly, I need some vitamin D. Perhaps the following essay will explain. I’ll be back next week.”
After a recent ice fishing trip, two friends and I stopped off at a local eatery for lunch where the attractive cashier reminded me again that I am a senior citizen by giving me a 15 percent discount on my meal. I would have rather she commented on my after-shave or asked me where I got my snazzy, knee-high insulated boots. That would at least have indicated she noticed something about me other than my white hair.
The medicine cabinet in my bathroom is another reminder I’m not getting any younger, and I’m not just talking about the mirror that reflects an image of someone I barely know. Not that long ago, this medicine cabinet held nothing but Band-Aids and aspirin, but this morning, when I looked for a spot to put a bottle of multivitamins a friend had given me, I had to move the ibuprofen to a drawer to make room
I hope it’s just the cold weather. I hope all these aches and pains go away in the spring when the turkeys are gobbling and there’s a good evening hatch on the Clark Fork River. I’ve long known that winter sports are not for sissies. Anyone can wade a river when it’s 65 degrees outside, but it takes someone special to stare five hours down an ice hole or hunker in a duck blind when the temperature is 65 degrees below comfortable.
For years, I have avoided old age, ever aware it is lurking in the bushes. I’m wondering if it is now ready to pounce and if I’ve become too slow to fake left and go right. In addition to pills, my medicine cabinet is overflowing with lotions, potions, salves, Ace Bandages and heat packs. I have spray-on liniments, eye drops that take the red out and ear drops that take the wax out. Unfortunately, these don’t improve my hearing, and neither do the $4,000 hearing aids on the same shelf. Fifty years of shotgunning have given me the auditory discrimination of a turnip.
I’ve taken my old springer spaniel, Gus, pheasant hunting a fair number of times this winter despite the shortage of birds. In a bottle next to the mole skin for the blisters on my heel is his empty tube of hot-spot medication. I was supposed to be applying it to an irritation on his back, but it disappeared mysteriously and just now reappeared. I suspect I used it on myself for a persistent case of athlete’s foot. If so, it worked. The athlete’s foot is gone, but I sometimes find myself staring wistfully at Gus’ Milk Bones.
I have never liked taking pills, but in a determined but perhaps pathetic and somewhat paranoid attempt to fend off the physical afflictions (present and future) manifested by a cold winter, the passage of time, and many hours afield, I’ve lately been swallowing down enough each morning to choke a horse.
This morning I ingested 13 pills. Two were prescribed for high blood pressure, but the others were over-the-counter preventatives – two glucosamine/chondroitin tablets for my joints, a baby aspirin for my heart, a multivitamin because a friend thinks I don’t eat right and seven green barley grass pills that smell like a bale of hay because another friend who also has arthritis swears they help. Tonight, I will take seven more. I suspect my friend likes the smell of horses. I rather prefer the smell of wet dogs.
If these remedies don’t work, I always have ibuprofen, but my doctor tells me ibuprofen is not good for one of those nasty, quivery things inside me – I think he mentioned either liver or kidney. If the joint pain is severe enough and a steelhead fishing trip is impending, I take it anyway. It is easy for my doctor to be judgmental – he’s still in his 40s and he doesn’t hunt or fish a lick, not in the winter anyway. He’s never had a 20-minute wrestling match with his long underwear in the morning because he couldn’t bend over far enough to get a foot through the leg hole.
I’m sure you’ve noticed the many television ads geared toward aging Americans. Pharmaceutical companies spend millions advertising products that will make me regular, shrink my prostate and keep me from wetting myself. What I want is a product that will allow me to sit on my bed and bend over to put on my hunting socks.
My medicine cabinet is full because fishing and hunting are an important part of my life. Sometimes, I think they are the only things in this crazy world that really make a lot of sense. But I don’t want to have to ask for help to get my socks on, I don’t want tendinitis so bad I can’t shoot a shotgun, I don’t want another muscle spasm in my back. I want the spongy lump on my elbow and the bone spur on my heel to go away, and I want to chase grandchildren and puppies and keep climbing mountains and wading rivers and exploring new places to fish and hunt.
The pharmaceutical companies are offering me more life – improved life, through over-the-counter chemicals – and I’m buying into it because I have a lot of things left to do. If just some of their products work, if just some of their products mask the aches and pains and keep me happily afield, the expense and the clutter in my medicine cabinet will be worth it.