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Reflections on the Descent into Old Age

I n August 2003, your web host went on a rather foolish wilderness bike ride. Later, in an email to a good friend from childhood, he complained of advancing age, and described the cycling adventure. The following is an excerpt from the email that came in reply.

August 11, 2003

Dear Tony,

It was good to read that you are still among the living although, gathering from your wilderness cycling adventures, your continuing existence was in some doubt for awhile. Our bodies have a habit of tricking us into going on roads better left untrod. On my morning perambulation I’ve learned, through bitter experience, to quit while I’m ahead and turn back while still feeling relatively “unknackered”. Otherwise my arthritic feet begin to cause grief...or a hip joint acts up...or my bad knee. In any case the journey home becomes a painful hobble. I should take my hiking stick with me, I suppose, both to aid in walking if necessary and to fend off the black bear that has been seen on the road a number of times. Said bruin is, apparently, becoming quite used to people. I have no desire to have an Encounter of the Ursine Kind.

Your “Adventures in Wildland” clearly proves that all the talk I’ve heard over the years of “mind over matter” is nonsense. In our heads still dwell young jockeys full of vim, vigour and vitality. Unfortunately the horses we’re riding are ancient creatures due for collection by the pet food factory! The ordeal your treacherous inner child led you into reminds me of a Calvin and Hobbes episode in which the little boy in the strip is trying to learn to ride a bike. After many crashes he gives up in disgust saying, “I think my brain is trying to kill me.” Geezerdom...the time of life when that old saw about a willing spirit and weak flesh becomes depressing truth.

Life is pretty quiet at the moment...summer doldrums I guess. Watched the Rolling Stones (or as some so cruelly put it, The Strolling Bones) SARS benefit concert the other day, and was delighted to see some young ladies, perched upon their boyfriends’ shoulders, naked from the waist up. It did my lecherous old heart a power of good. “Good on yer!” says I. “Flaunt it while you’ve got it my lovelies, ‘cause it doesn’t last long.” Things begin to sag with the passing years. Try going topless after a certain age and the goodies would drop right out of camera range! “Would someone please pick those up and flaunt them for the camera.” she sez as her aging beau turns purple from hypertension and pees himself with the effort of holding his sweetums on his sagging shoulders.

Are deer flies a problem in the Manitoban outback? They certainly are here! The pesky little brutes buzz around you for a bit then land quietly on the back of your head and deliver a nasty nip. A simple walk in the country becomes an absolute ordeal as one is pestered beyond endurance. (Whom the Gods would destroy they first make mad?) Although, I suppose, all the arm waving and swatting makes for a wonderful aerobic workout. Ah, but there is relief for the embattled hiker in the form of Deer Fly Strips. A wonderful invention, you simply stick one of the patches to the back of your hat or cap and go about your outdoor activities in total disregard for the tiny pests buzzing about you. Their ingrained preference for attacking the back of the head leads them right onto the patch which acts like fly-paper and holds them fast. Because you know they aren’t going to be biting you the flies are no longer a nuisance. This seems to be a particularly bad summer for them (well not for the flies I guess) and on a recent forty minute ramble I bagged twenty-eight of the little buggers!

Anyway, if the rotten little beasts are a problem in your neck of the woods do get some patches.Then the next time you are lying battered and exhausted in a bramble patch somewhere in the least your last minutes will be spent in relative peace.


<signed by my friend from childhood>