The basement eventually needs to be cleaned. It’s an unavoidable fact of life. A task of a mere few hours, really, but way more if you take the time to reflect.
I don’t mean reflecting on the occasional mouse carcass or such that you might come across. You cared little for that mouse, probably.
It might have startled you as you dug through your Christmas decorations, but, ultimately, you put out the D-Con that led to the mummified form in your dustpan. You probably have no emotional tie.
Basements often contain rare treasure, however.
Mine contains, among much else, archives from none other than the late Ced Vig, well known Northwoods resident and longtime outdoor columnist.
My wife, Cheryl, recently spent more than 10 hours looking through and organizing the materials, which I received shorly after Ced passed away about two years ago.
Apparently, Cheryl thought I wasn’t going to get to it myself, despite the very specific time-frame I’d given for completion of the project: “At some point.”
I knew digging through Ced’s archives would be a pleasureable and time-consuming distraction while deciding what to keep, what to recycle and reading far more of it than intended. Cheryl would soon realize what I was up against.
“I can’t stop looking at all of this stuff — it’s so interesting,” she said on several occasions.
Indeed it is. Though I was not the one truly diving in, I got caught up in it nonetheless. I discovered that I, really, wanted to keep about 99 percent of it, though it was not realistic or necessary to do so.
Most of it was Ced’s version of the Internet. Archives that were his research into the many things he found fascinating about the Northwoods, specifically, but the wild world in general.
Good stuff, but information available now by simply employing an Internet search engine. It’s probably best that Cheryl went through it — I’d have gotten nowhere.
Of course, Ced wrote “Wisconsin Woodsmoke” for many years, and there were a couple of drafts of the weekly column stuck in the numerous file folders. I’ll hang on to those.
And lots of maps. I love maps.
Various booklets, describing things such as how to field-dress wild game and various fish and wildlife and even early info about wolves coming back to Wisconsin will make it to my own archives — such as they are.
As she worked, Cheryl was setting aside items that she thought I might find useful or especially interesting. I was then to pare these down into a manageable load. I did pretty good, too, staying on course with the task, hardly finding anything to distract me.
Well, there was an occasional memory that would pop up and lead me slightly astray, I suppose.
Mr. Vig became an acquaintance of mine late in his life. He knew my dad, who told him about our hunting camp. Of course, Ced was interested in visiting our camp.
Not a big hunter himself, Ced was nonetheless interested in anything having to do with the wild world and the interactions within it. We introduced to our own ‘wild world’ on Oct. 22, 2005.
My dad, our friend, Paul, and I had spent a night at camp eating, drinking and being merry.
The following morning, Dad headed to town to pick Ced up. Ced came out to our camp and enjoyed a rather fancy breakfast of eggs, sausage, fried potatoes and trout.
Our camp, like many others, is a rather cluttered collection of any number of oddities and trivial treasures. Antlers, tags, a bandolier of .50 caliber shells, posters of various beers being promoted by lightly-attired ladies. The usual stuff.
“There’s something to see here anywhere you look, isn’t there?” Ced said, grinning. But, careful recorder of history that he was, Ced was especially interested in our camp log, which contained years of our hunting and camp history.
He read portions of it, sometimes aloud, and asked questions — mostly asking for explanations on how various nicknames came to be. We were happy to fill him in.
Ced found a special delight in everything Northwoods, whether it was a chickadee at the feeder, someone out fishing or even a hunting camp. He was a delightful guest. We always meant to have him back out.
When I heard much of what he had accumulated researching his columns was available for the taking two years ago, I had to take it. Thus, I had this enjoyable but rather exhausting chore in front of me. Luckily, my wife needed room for frivolities of some sort and had eyed the space the many boxes of files consumed. She led the organization thereof.
I was glad to lend a hand, though.
Of course, distracting me from the distraction that was Ced’s archives were some of the other several million items stored in our basement.
I gave a little consideration to my well-organized heap of ice fishing equipment, for instance. The equipment wasn’t even in Cheryl’s way as she went through Ced’s papers. Not most of it, anyway. I squeezed in there to peruse. Soon ice will cover the lakes, you know.
So I carefully picked at various items in the pile, such as one of my tip-ups. I let the memories of many silent hours spent staring at it and its mates on frozen lakes wash over me. I could almost taste the beer slush and feel my fingers falling off as I retrieved the frozen-in tip-ups at dark.
I could even hear the hollow howl of the winter wind. Or at least the protests of some woman that apparently felt she was somehow in danger of an ice-fishing equipment avalanche.
At one point, I heard clearly the words, “Don’t you have work to do?”
I thought to myself, “Of course I do. Who doesn’t?” and rolled my eyes disdainfully before attempting to free a jig pole from a lawn chair leg or some similar task.
The task proved difficult, so I extricated my hand, steadied the pile and retreated to my work bench, where I could sort through some of the stuff that Cheryl had put aside for consideration.
Luckily, there is both TV and computer at my work bench, so I had plenty to distract me from the distraction at hand. I’m a fair hand at multi-tasking.
“You’re watching TV and Netflix?” I heard a voice say some time later.
Distracted by my multiple tasks, I responded somewhat slowly. So, I prefaced my response with an expressionless stare, which is a good method of getting one’s thoughts in proper order.
“I’m going through this stuff,” I said, eventually, as my eyes scanned the room to see where I had set the ‘stuff’ down.
I pointed at the stuff.
“Yeah, well here’s more you need to look at.”
The truth is, it took only a glance for me to know I was going to keep all of what Cheryl had separated out. It was important to Ced, and it was important to me. Good stuff to ponder. Obviously, Ced was the kind of guy that knew the importance of stopping to smell the roses.
It’s good to allow your life’s philosophy to incorporate the rose-smelling metaphor, no matter where it is you are and no matter what you’re doing.
Even if those roses, at times, happen to be on a television or computer screen.
Really, though, Ced had the right idea. He enjoyed everything and everybody. He sought to know something about everything in the natural world around him, including the human role.
Craig Turk may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.