By Tank Hoover
He struggles, wading knee deep in the rolling trout stream. He’s in his mid to late 70’s, body thickened from a lifetime of hard work, grimacing from arthritic pain, slowly, cautiously maneuvering upstream. Gripping both fly rod and aluminum walker with red, swollen hands, the walker occasionally “clacks” against hidden river stones. His breathing is deep and heavy from the exertion of trying to stay upright in the swift current. Decked out in shorts, fishing hat and vest, his face is distorted in a battle of pain and pleasure. Forcing the pleasure of fishing to outweigh the pain of wading the stream, he continues.
And this is my favorite poster. Below, in bold letters, the words NEVER GIVE UP! It’s a powerful picture capturing grit and determination. I refer to the poster whenever I start to feel sorry for myself.
Our spirit stays strong as our bodies eventually fail us. It’s why mankind has pursued the “eternal fountain of youth” endlessly. Hey, it’s a privilege to grow old, but we can make it easier on ourselves dealing with the aches and pains. Know what I mean? Once we peak, bit-by-bit, year after year, we lose a step, some strength and stability. We need to modify how we do the things we love, to keep doing them.
Year’s of shooting takes a toll, just as a life of hard physical work. Let’s be honest here, folks. Is shooting that heavily loaded magnum still fun? Or are you just trying to prove to yourself you can still handle it? Are your hands and wrists sore after shooting your favorite blaster? Not going to the range as often? Maybe it’s time to evaluate your shooting, eh?
As time passes, we all get less resilient. Frankly, recoil starts to just, plain hurt. Muscles weaken, arthritis knocks on our doors, testosterone drops, while hopefully — we get smarter. We need to shoot guns with less recoil, or download the big boomers we enjoy, to avoid the pain now associated with them. It’s that easy. And then you can keep shooting the guns you enjoy most.
Now we’re talking.
As a handloader, it took me awhile to realize you can reduce your loads to make shooting more enjoyable — and you quit beating yourself up. Does it make sense to waste powder, while punching paper, aggravating arthritic hands? Me thinkith not, as my editor might say. Reduced loads will get the job done as you maintain and perfect your shooting proficiency while you save yourself some, um … misery. Keep it fun. Shoot at a slower pace. Go for quality instead of quantity. Enjoy your day at the range.
Tank believes in enjoying each and every moment of the hunt, or the
range or family or friends. Even if that means a quick nap…
Half A Century
I discovered something when I cracked the 50 year barrier. When doing fun activities, once I have my fill, I stop. Once you start aching, or become uncomfortable, why continue? When fatigue, a tight back, or discomfort pops up, simply stop and move on to another activity. I may cast or load for 20 minutes if it’s hot, or I may go an hour.
Lets see how it feels.
On hunts, I’ve learned the skillful art of napping, and enjoy it, not worrying if I miss any critters creeping by as I slumber. Good for them. It keeps the hunt enjoyable and I still stay out all day, enjoying nature’s brilliance. Now understanding why my Pap and uncles would laugh and joke about napping on their stands, as I would stare at them in disbelief, with red, tired eyes. “Sleep on the stand? Huh? How could you do that!”
I’ve observed something at my local shooting range. Those in the graybeard brigade are black powder enthusiasts. I ponder this observation, finally asking. I’m told the same story — repeatedly. It’s more about atmosphere. Loading their front-stuffers is a rhythmic orchestration of rituals, it takes longer, slowing their shooting pace.
But that’s the point.
It gives them more time to relish each shot as they absorb the sights, sounds and smells. Basking in that white plume of powder smoke, they grin, feeling alive.
Shooting flintlock muzzleloaders is basic and simple, requiring skill, competence and expertise to consistently make them shoot reliably. These guys are up for the challenge, as they stimulate their brains.
Flintlock: Black powder boomers, like this flinter, make you slow down
and enjoy the process rather than just make noise and empty brass.
Maybe those old guys are onto something?
Are you, while you shoot? Or are you just making noise and empty brass?
Other “seniors” are just as happy plinking on the firing line with a favorite .22 handgun. Wanna see a huge smile? Watch them bring a grandkid or great grandkid to the range for the first time, patiently explaining how to shoot. Ol’ Tank gets teary-eyed at such tender moments — moments only other shooters understand. “Great shot Billy! Boy, you’re doing great! I’m so proud of you!”
Can you see it? Do you know what I’m talking about? If not, you’re missing out.
They have smirks on their face as they soak up the atmosphere of a typical day at the range. Hobbling down the line, they stop by, chat, watch and reminisce, absorbing everything. Watching a younger, unknowingly serious shooter stress out over his quest for the one-hole, Holy Grail group, these guys smile as they tell the struggling offender, “One day kid, you’ll understand, and learn to relax, and enjoy it.”
Motivated by their spirit, I smile in awe, watching them approach the firing line. These crusty crabs are the epitome of “salt of the earth” and demonstrate what growing old is all about to me. Conquering mere obstacles to continue doing what they love. They may not be able to do it as fast, or as long, but by golly they know how to savor it! And they know, come hell or high water, they will never give up.
Gettin’ old ain’t for sissies, no sir. And I’ve never seen one of these seniors in that category.
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