"It's yours, use it, protect it, share it"
"Niagara's Premier Outdoors Website" 

  "Most informative and up to date outdoors website on the planet"


"Old Pants"

By Joe Ognibene: 51 year veteran outdoor writer

This story about Old Pants was written Sunday March 30 2008  


      About 25 years ago I wrote a column about an old pair of hunting pants that for years had hung on a nail in the cellar. I mentioned how they had served me well until the waistline had shrunk a bit and the rips let in the cold and the stains got worse. That’s when I hung them on a nail in the cellar and forgot about them for years.

         It was about five years later that I noticed them hanging there all dusty, covered with sawdust and mold on what used to be leather patches on the knees and seat. I got to thinking, “those pants served me well and shouldn’t be just hanging on a nail.” I found a respectable hanger, brushed the dust and sawdust off, turned the worst stains to the wall and re-hung them near some deer racks taken while wearing the old pants. I wrote a column about those old pants in 1982 that the late John Long said he very much enjoyed reading about “Old Pants.” I ran across “Old Pants” the other day while in the cellar and was surprised when he greeted me, “Hey, you old geezer, I see you’re still on the right side of the grass.” I had to smile and then said, “I see you’re holding your own and don’t look a day older than back in ’82.”

       That’s when I really looked Old Pants over and got to remembering. Remembering days gone by when the whole world of hunting and fishing stretched out in front of me like a never-ending highway. Back when working the second shift, grabbing a couple hours of sleep and heading out to a goose blind by 4:00 a.m. was not unusual. Back when I insisted on driving deer so the “older guys” could sit on a watch. Wading an ice cold Wiscoy was not a problem, afternoon naps unheard of, no hill too difficult to climb and snow, ice, rain and wind were minor things taken in stride. Those were what I called my halcyon days and I thought they would never end, as many of us thought the same.

        Back then Old Pants had a waistline of 30 inches and wasn’t a bit snug, His knees and seat were double with a leather covering to turn away thorns, thistles and briars. I crawled on my belly after geese, waded icy creeks to retrieve downed ducks and bulled through briars without a thought to what was happening to Old Pants. They were my favorite pants and I wore them constantly. Ideal for helping dig a flower garden, change oil in the driveway, shoveling snow, shingling a roof or gutting out a deer. That’s where the first serious stain came from, an eight-pointer taken when Old Pants was almost new. Then oil changes in the driveway added a few more and the first rip came when my north end was too high while wriggling under a barbed wire fence. I figured the bloodstain could be called a badge of accomplishment so I never did bother to try clean it.

         As the years rolled by the rips became more frequent and I noticed Old Pants was beginning to show his age. It seemed to me that his waist had shrunk and the many rips I had tried to sew were letting in the cold chilling legs that weren’t getting any younger. That’s when I replaced Old Pants and relegated him to the cellar. I mentioned some of the things we had done together to Old Pants, heard him sigh and then he said. “Well, we both had us a time didn’t we?” “Now that we’re octogenarians is as good a time as ever to look back with a smile or two. Think back to those great days on the top of Cameron Hill, the farm in Lyndonville chasing wild geese with “Bud” McCabe, the poker games at the Gasport Conservation Club meetings and getting lost in a briar patch outside Arcade.” “Yep,” he said, “those were good days and I told you then you would never have a pair of hunting pants that could replaced me.” Old pants was right, I never have found any that fit as well, could take the punishment Old Pants did and feel as though they were a part of me.

       Old Pants told me one of the things about getting older is that your memories of things that happened grow fonder. Thinking back now the Wiscoy was cold, damnably cold, and wriggling on my belly to shoot a goose couldn’t have been fun. Getting hooked on barbed wire meant a trip to the emergency room for a tetanus shot and slopping hot oil on my legs while under a car meant a rap on the head when backing away. That’s when Old Pants said, “ I see you’ve got more than 50-years of writing in back of you now, but then, you always were long winded.” He said, “I told you back then Father Time was creeping up on us and he’s going to be the winner.” I thought then of the fellows I hunted with on the top of Cameron Hill, Al, George, Bernie, Woody, “Butch” Ramming and a few others whose names escape me. My long time deer hunting partner, Harold Rhinehart, is gone along with Leonard “Bud” McCabe and many of us still miss John Long and his crinkly smile. Most of all, I miss Mary, my wife of 35 years and the joy of being married to her and the fun times we had.

         She repaired Old Pants many times after some of my escapades. We tramped all over the country together, climbed mountains in Montana, fished the Bow River in British Columbia, tented in the bush in northern Ontario, caught sockeye salmon in Alaska, ate Mexican food in Albuquerque, fished the surf at Cape Hatteras and generally raised hell from one end of the country to the other. Now I’m glad I was a photographer and have photos galore of our life together along with some of the fellows who were also a part of my life.

        Old Pants then said, “With any luck at all we’ll both last a few more years and our memories with only get better and more treasured.” I told him that I suppose that’s some consolation, but it sure would be nice if we could start all over again.