The War Department is already in full Christmas shopping mode, being what it is. These days, drivers from Amazon, UPS, USPS, or FedEx show up at our door with alarming regularity, bringing cardboard boxes that I will eventually have to dispose of.

I’m thinking that whoever sends these oversized boxes, filled with other boxes that could have been sent without the giant containers, should be responsible for picking up the empties and returning them to their source.

Recycle! Recycle!

So not long ago, I pulled our bins out to the front curb and happened to sit on the porch to watch long enough for the truck to arrive. A guy hanging off the back jumped down, picked up the blue recycling bin, and dumped it in with the trash and they sped off, likely hoping no one had seen their transgression.

Our recycling went to the dump, after I’d carefully flattened the boxes, and put them in with the sorted cans and bottles. Now I don’t care any longer. I just dump bottles and cans, etc, in with the trash and am done with it.

But on the same note, city officials keep urging us to recycle the plastic grocery bags, but not in the blue bins. “These bags can’t be recycled. They should be returned to the stores, where they have special bins for their disposal.”

Government “officials” shouldn’t put the onus on the consumer, but rather the companies that insist on using these bags we see flying across the highways in high winds. Now don’t get me wrong. I think this California ban on plastic straws is ridiculous and does nothing but make certain groups feel good about themselves.

Which brings me to the main point of this column, and that’s cleaning guns.

Hang on a minute, and you’ll see.

When I was a kid, October was the unofficial time to clean our rifles and shotguns, and we did that when the first frost killed the grass and vegetation. The Old Man would get up on that cold morning, with condensation running down the inside of my grandparent’s kitchen windows and doors, and produce a can of 3-In-One oil, and several recycled rags.

Those rags were once good shirts, or pajama bottoms if he needed softer flannel. They were usually old washcloths, hand towels, or the occasional threadbare bath towel used for so long they barely held together.

“Go get the guns.”

That was my cue to look behind the bedroom doors, or in the closets, and produce whatever long gun lived there throughout the year. One by one, we’d take them apart, run those same oily rags down the barrels and peer down the long cylinders one by one to make sure we hadn’t missed anything.

While we worked, he always sipped my grandmother’s ironman-strong coffee boiled in a saucepan on the stove. She made it by filling the palm of her hand to some mysterious level and dumping it in after the water boiled. Then she’d turn off the fire and wait a few minutes before pouring it up.

No other coffee has ever tasted so good, and when she bought a Mr. Coffee when I was grown, I knew the end of an era had arrived.

Dinner bubbled on the stove while we worked, filling the kitchen with the wonderful smells that usually made my stomach rumble before we were finished.

Once the barrels were clean, he took the mechanisms apart, depending on the firearm itself. Shotguns received less attention somehow, while he broke the .22s and a couple of other long guns down to more basic parts. One reassembled, they operated with that smooth, metallic, oily click that shooters and hunters find so satisfying.

The least dirty rags made their way over the exterior surfaces, applying a protective coat that would repel fingerprints, rain, sleet and, occasionally, snow.

The best times I can remember were those days when we cleaned guns as geese flew so low over that little farmhouse we could hear them complaining about the weather.

That happened just this week when a raft of geese traveled over our house, honking so loud we could hear them long before they arrived. I walked out into the backyard and watched them head toward a “lake” not far away. Minutes later, a vee of ducks hissed by, and my mind was back in that little farmhouse, watching the Old Man clean guns while the odor of that wonderful miracle oil filled my mind.

Which reminds me, I need to work on my girls a little. We loaded the grandkids up in our “golf cart” on Sunday and went down to the lake to see the geese. They were there all right, but one ornery gander wanted to run us off. Lowering his long neck parallel to the ground, he charged, causing twenty-nine-year-old Taz to squeal in near hysterical laughter, while my fearless grandchildren pointed fingers and giggled. I offered the gander my boot, which he successfully ran off, and we left, but not before I had to get out and pick up a plastic grocery bag tumbling across the grass.

Bringing us back to the origin of this story. Recycling.

Merchants, please don’t put containers with handles such as milk and liquid laundry detergent in plastic bags. That’s why they have handles. I’d prefer that you place more than two items in a bag.

Wait, how ‘bout this. Don’t use “disposable” or “recyclable” plastic bags at all. Paper bags decompose and you seldom find them hung up in fences along the road. I used paper bags under my guns when I cleaned them the other day. Then used those same oil-stained brown bags to start a fire in the pit that night, the same way we used the grimiest, oiliest cleaning rags to start campfires when I was a kid, while the newer oily rags went into the “cleaner box” to be used the next year, after which they’d ignite fires.

It was our version of recycling, or what they now call “repurposing.”

You can’t do that with a plastic grocery bag.

Reavis Z. Wortham is an award-winning outdoor writer with family ties to Lamar County. He is the author of “Hawke’s Target.”

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