15 November 2012

The Things We Keep...

I don't think I am alone in this.

The keeping of things that have since been improved upon, newer models, some vastly superior in function over the old yet we hang on to them anyway. Sometimes for sentimental reasons, sometimes because we don't like to change from what we are comfortable with, and sometimes just because. One of those things for me, among probably too many, is a compass.

I'm a bit of a compass freak for a lot of reasons. Beyond the pure functional use of a compass they also represent something more to me, not just to navigate from A to B and beyond, but symbolically as well. A man has a moral compass, a spiritual compass, or a navigational compass. The common thread herein is a device be it mechanical or something inside that points the path into our future, to a destination we cannot see but only imagine. For this reason I tend to put more into a compass, attach to it something beyond the pure function. It's a tool garnished with history and the wisdom and knowledge of those before me.

My Grandfather did my raising, a man who walked a bridge between two centuries. Born in the early 1900s he saw the dying of an age and the birth of another. The horse passing and the coming of the automobile, the dust bowl, two world wars, a great depression, and a country coming of age. He had a gift for communication, for reason, and a love of the outdoors I've not seen matched in my lifetime.

In the early 1950s he purchased a Leupold & Stevens Sportsman compass from a hardware store somewhere in southwest Virginia. A constant wanderer of the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains, he hunted and felled timber through holler and ridge alike for most of his life. That compass came to me as a young man also enthralled with the woods and streams of my youth.

It's not liquid dampened, it's not cutting edge, it doesn't have the attributes of many a modern compass, it has something else though. Not only will it tell me a heading, the history of the man who carried it before me helps to keep me on a path through life that he would be proud of, that I can be proud of. Much like my Grandmother's cast iron frying pan that I lug into the Boundary Waters annually, this compass is a link to a time, a place, to people that I do not wish to forget.

So what do you keep that's dated and has been improved upon repeatedly, that you just won't part with for whatever reason? I'm fairly confident I'm not the only old stubborn fool with a sentimental attachment to things old and irreplaceable.


  1. An old set of ice fishing traps that belonged to my great uncle- 2 of the 5 only work 30% of the time, but they are still the traps that I take out.

    1. Good stuff, there's more to a thing than the thing itself. Sometimes the way we do something, or what we do it with is just as if not more important. That whole journey and destination thing.

  2. Unfortunately no.
    In my familyhistory I am one of a kind. You are blessed with having had someone like your granddad.

  3. I hope that your great grandchildren will one day use this compass and understand its' significance, of keeping memories and lessons learned alive, to be passed down to their children and grandchildren.

  4. A lot of my gear is older, some items are half-a-century old, but they're not handed down, just military surplus or flea market fixer-uppers. There was an old-time sportsman or two in my family, but I don't have any of their gear, apart from some bomb-proof binoculars from the 40s.

    Great story about your compass and granddad!

  5. I think i do have few things that are more valuable due to their sentimental value than anything. Just like the leuku that i posted a story some time ago, the Marttiini leuku from sixties, that belonged to my grandpa and my dad, not to mention my old "OSY" water/coffee/tea pot, from early sixties or late fifties, that is also rarity but more than that, sentimentally important. I do own and sometimes, at home, use old puukko from my other grandpa. I am in to vintage generally but these things that have been in my family are far mora valuable. As a kid, i owned my grandpas old scoutpack that also served in wwII, but sadly, i have lost it at some point. I ve been such a moron, for few years in my life, when i thought that hitech hiking gear s the only real way, and during that time, i went and traded a good few old bits to get modern soul lacking junk.....I do really know, how you feel about your compass, being a lot more than "just" a compass, man.

  6. I got my old spring clip key chain. I don't clip it to my belt loop no more, my keys just go into my pocket. It was the first thing I bought on my first liberty at Navy bootcamp in San Diego in January 1990. I got Saturday off after graduation and the first things I got were that keychain, a slice of pizza, a Pepsi, a pack of Camels and a Bic lighter.

    I also just got my Dad's old backpacking water kettle, one of them aluminum Svea ones I believe? I remember him cooking noodles in it for us on our first multi-day trip when I was 12. I don't use it much myself but it sits on a shelf like a historical piece and means a lot to me.

    I also got "The Family Rifle", an old Marlin 336 in 30-30. Grandpa, Dad, Uncle, and me all took deer with it. It needs a bit of love right now though.

    My Dad is 71 now and going quite strong. He don't spend much time on the ground anymore though and rides motorcycles from motel to motel. He has a ton of old gear though, and while bitter sweet, I'll end up with it sooner or later.