The previous entry detailed Adam's discovery of an interesting piece of footwear alongside one of our favorite early season haunts. I think the shoe makes for a good story insofar as it makes for a unique story. I am absolutely certain that I could poll every fisherman in New York state, and not a single one would report the same opening day experience. What makes the story even more interesting is that it didn't end with the shoe. Neither did the story begin with the shoe. No, the shoe appeared in medias res. The story starts with a green Stanley thermos, a road sign and a farmer. More later on the sign and the farmer.
"God loves the infantry," or so my company commander used to say. Like several of the men in my family, I was a soldier. The colloquial terms are "bullet stopper" and "canon fodder." I prefer "grunt." I was infantry; I carried a rifle and humped a ruck. I was and still am damn proud of it. There isn't day that goes by I don't think about the Army. My time as a soldier informs every decision I make. In some small way, I owe every success with which I've been blessed to my time in the First Infantry Division (if you've got to be one, be a Big Red One). Thank you Captain Moyer, wherever you are.
I mention this by way of explanation. Soldiers, especially infantry soldiers, live on a strict diet of caffeine and nicotine. Three days sans sleep aren't so bad so long as there's some coffee to help take the edge off. Nodding off in a foxhole, cigarette smoke envelopes you much like the loving arms of a grandmother. It's true.
It's also true that my addiction to these two substances has lasted years beyond those I spent in uniform. I recently quit smoking, seventeen years after I started. Drinking coffee, however, will always be with me. I've had at least one pot a day, every day since I was in boot camp. UPS delivers five pounds of Dunkin' Donuts whole bean coffee to my door at the first of every month. More often than not, I have to purchase an extra pound to see my way through to the next delivery.
Much of that coffee has found its way into my Stanley thermos. This trusty transport of South American ambrosia, has been with me since my first visit to the PX (the military version of Walmart). I purchased the heavy, aluminum and stainless-steel Stanley rather than other, more contemporary models, simply because I remember my father having one. Thanks Dad. Stanley has survived a fall from a three story window. He's been run over by a tank (true story), and fallen off the top of the car at least a dozen times as I pulled out of rest areas. Stanley has been to nearly all fifty states. He's seen the Battenkill in Vermont, the Madison in Montana, the Tongue in Wyoming and the Thompson in Colorado. He's been with me on every opening day since 1996.
That is to say that he's been with me on every opening day except the most recent. Adam and I left my home at 4:30 in the morning, giddy as a pair of school girls as we anticipated the day. I pulled away having forgotten Stanley, undoubtedly leaving him hurt and dejected. For ten hours he awaited my return, and stood morosely alongside his cousin the coffee maker. When I finally returned just before three in the afternoon I think he must have been happy to see me. The coffee was still hot. God bless you Stanley. Next year you're the first piece of equipment in the car. I promise.