His Old Coat
by Len Harris
It is a classic. The padded shoulder and many
pockets for game and shells. Inside the pockets there
are memories. Memories of years past.
As a young boy I always waited for my father to
announce we were going hunting. Usually our dog Ginger
gave out the first alarm when my dad took the hunting
coat off the hook near the gun cabinet.
She would howl and run around like her tail was on
fire. Her body would quiver because she was so
excited about going hunting. My dad would even pump
her up a little. Ask her if she wanted to go get some
Chippies (squirrels) or dirty birds (pheasants). She
howled so much that my mother would kick all three of
us out the door.
We would load up the dog and make an inventory of
what we had in the pockets of Dad's Old Coat. If we
were going squirrel hunting...It was checking for the
.22 shells for Dad and the .410 shells for me. It was
a ritual. We had to have the squirrel call and 2
plastic bags for the squirrels
The same ritual was made during pheasant season.
The plastic bags and the 20 gauge shells for the
doublebarrelled 20 gauge. We usually loaded one of the
pockets with candy bars. Both of us are sweet tooths.
Not to mention the dog.
The coat was also used for many duck and rabbit
adventures. There was one thing that was always the
same about each outing. It was that my mother would
come out to bid us farewell before each venture into
the outdoors. I can still remember her speech.
She would tell me the same thing every time.
"Guns are not toys." "Treat your gun like it is always
loaded." " Always identify your target." "When in
doubt do not shoot."
Mom had a different speech for dad. His speechs
varied from season to season. It usually ended by my
mother looking at my Dad's Old Coat and telling him
that she was going to wash that NASTY thing when he
arrived home. It was a joke between my dad and mom..
Mom knew that if she washed the coat it would take
all of the magic and memories out of the pockets. She
really didn't like the tattered blood stained thing
that my father called a coat......but she knew that
she should NEVER wash it.
Many adventures came and went during my childhood.
I added a few stains to the pockets and I took over
the ritual of checking the pockets as each season came
and past. I kept the coat ready for the next outing
I always pestered my dad about the coat. I
told I wanted one just like it. He would kid me and
tell me that it was one of a kind and that he would
give me the coat when I grew in to it. I remember
showing him a catalog with a coat that looked like his
and telling him that the coat came in my size. He
finally explained to me that he was NOT going to buy
me a coat like his. He said that coats are grown into
not purchased. He had been given that coat by his
father and that I would be given the coat when i grew
in size and hunting skills.
Years flew by. It is 1984. I had just got out of
the Army. I went home to visit my mother. She picked
me up at the airport. We talked all the way home. She
told that my father would have been very proud of me
if he were still around. Dad passed away in 1967 of a
heart attack while deer hunting. I was 10 years old
when he died.
I stayed with my mother for the first few months
after getting out of the army. Fall came and I had the
itch to go hunting. I put my army coat on and took the
410 out of the gun cabinet.. I filled the pockets with
the proper tools. A squirrel call and 2 plastic bags..
I took a couple candy bars from the kitchen and was
headed out the door.
My mother stopped me as i left. She said "Are you
prepared for hunting?" I was little taken aback by the
question. I told her: "Of course." She told that I had
forgetten a key part of my hunting adventure.
We went back into the house. I was little befuddle
at what my mom was up to She led me to the gun
cabinet. She reached to the hook on the side of it and
grab IT. She said " It should fit now."
"I am going to wash that NASTY thing when you get
back." She smiled and sent me on my way.