Words to live by

By Steve Galea

The other day, I was perusing through the 1960 issue of Sportsman’s Guide, a defunct magazine once mailed out by the people who also produced Sportsman Cigarettes.

OK, I’m a little behind on my reading.

Nevertheless the old magazine is a wonderful bit of nostalgia that and primarily deals with fishing for brook trout, back country camping, and other wholesome pursuits. 

“Wow, that’s an old magazine,” Jenn noted. 

“There is a lot of practical knowledge and wisdom in these old outdoor magazines. Those old-time outdoorsmen knew their stuff,” I replied.

“Give me an example,” she said. 

I opened the magazine randomly to page 30’s list of Bush Travel Tips. Then I scanned down to mid-page, silently read a couple of sentences, and said, “Never mind…”

Sensing a moment of weakness, Jenn took the magazine from me and read the advice that I didn’t want her to see. 

It said, and I quote, “Do not try to kidnap a “lost” bear cub. Its mother might not be far away, and the results – to you – might be painful.”

She read it, looked at me, and said, “Sage advice indeed.”

“Well, you don’t get that kind of wisdom in The New Yorker,” I replied. 

But Jenn just smiled smugly and shook her head.

I’ll admit that tip was something that sounded like it came straight out of a fortune cookie, but what Jenn didn’t know was this was cutting edge outdoors wisdom in 1960. Before that tip was published, hundreds of well-meaning outdoorsmen were mauled every year by angry momma bears who wanted their cubs back – I’m guessing. And I told her as much.

She just chuckled quietly and walked away.

“Like you knew that,” I muttered.

“I actually did,” she said, as a parting shot.

So did I. And no doubt you did, too. 

But that’s only because this important bit of outdoors lore is now etched in our collective psyches, thanks, in no small part, to magazines just like this one and the people who were thoughtful enough to remind us. 

Bear lore like this doesn’t come out of thin air you know. And it certainly didn’t come from the people who tried it, may their souls rest in peace. 

My point is, Sportsman Guide magazine was known for this high standard of outdoors education. Unless I’m mistaken, in the 1958 edition, their experts advised us not to poke each other in the eyes with sharp sticks while roasting marshmallows – something so obvious now that its hardly ever written about.

 That’s why I was also interested to read another little-known tip right they divulged. It said, “Do not sit on the bare ground. It is harmful and might cause sickness. If caught out in the rain, it is better to sit on one’s hat and to go bareheaded than to sit on the ground.”

Let me say a couple of things before I move on. First, I never knew my mother read outdoors publications. Secondly, I now owe her an apology. Because when she told us this, we thought she was a little crazy – and now I also understand why she always sent us out with two hats.

Jenn laughed at this one too. She said she it was another ridiculous statement. 

But I am not so sure. I mean when was the last time a tobacco company steered us wrong?