The Way I Am

Updated: Apr 25


I get fun poked at me by some acquaintances for the way I am with certain things in my outdoor activities. It is a passive aggressive way of letting me know that I am outside the norms of the modern outdoors world. Usually, people who tease me are assuming that I am being cute, elitist, or instagood.


I try to distance myself from those folks, at least a little. It is draining to hear other people's negative opinions on things that I like. From the time I was young, I have simply wanted to do what I want to do. Period. I suspect that you feel the same way.


This attitude has, very often, not worked out to my benefit you understand. Frequently, it has been self-destructive. It is called stubbornness. Stupidity even. Whatever. As long as you are reading this and know that I know that I am flawed, we can proceed.

 

RETRO

This is the first thing that usually gets the haters in my life fired up. They automatically think that I am trying to be hipster.


I don't even know what hipster is, not lying. I've never looked up the definition, and I am not going to do so for this piece either. There is no question that I am definitely not trying to be that. I am not even sure why it would be a bad thing to be considered hipster? Is it a bad thing? I don't know...it simply isn't why I adore the retro items in my kit or closet. I am also certain that hipsters don't own the fashion of 'vintage' either, so I give myself permission to go there.


I like retro because it almost always stirs my imagination. I like to wonder where the 1950's Japanese-made fly rod carry box has been over the past 70 years. What about that antique brass skeleton fly reel that is so old and obscure that I simply cannot find any information about it online? I have no idea who first purchased these products or where. I often do not know where they have spent all of the past decades, in an attic or garage shelf? Proudly displayed in someone's home office? Or did they spend a good amount of their time, doing the things they were designed to do, in the outdoors? The reel and the fly rod box both have stories to tell I am sure. I do not hear these stories, I simply feel them. I sense the history. The feeling is romantic and pleasant.


The ancient fly reel was meant to feel the tension of a panicked trout, in a deep pool of a rock-strewn canyon stream.

These items are almost never terribly valuable either, so I cannot be considered a collector. I use them all, often, and without special treatment. The ancient fly reel was meant to feel the tension of a panicked trout, in a deep pool of a rock-strewn canyon stream. The old wooden fly rod box was meant to be thrown into the back of the truck, rattling down a dusty backroad towards some small spring creek, filled with hungry fish.


Retro or vintage items are almost always well-made. There was a time, and I remember it, when things were built to last. All things. Nana's old International Harvester refrigerator is still running to this day, and it is likely 60-70 years old. We've gone through three fridges here in the farmhouse in the past 12 years! Consumers today want new, full of gadgets, the latest style, and cheap! I prefer good, and useful. My family makes fun of me for saying, almost constantly, about everything, that the more options there are on something purchased, the more things there are to break down and fix. Logical, and true. This logic applies to everything from trucks to plaid shirts.


1940's Japanese fly rod case...loaded with bamboo.

The brass machinist who assembled the reel over a century ago, along with the woodworker building the box, couldn't possibly imagine their workmanship lingering this long in its intended purpose. How can you not feel some sort of enchantment with these types of thoughts?


From a practical, non-romantic standpoint, these articles of gear and clothing are usually inexpensive. They can almost always be found at garage sales and thrift stores, antique stores and ebay. Because of the pride of manufacturing from days past, they are replaceable with other similar products. At some point in the future, when, at my hands, something breaks, they will achieve the reverence needed to be able to retire to a shelf in my office. They will have attained Valhalla, a glorious death on the battle-field.


1980 Suzuki GN400, heavily modified. 1967 John Schneider, also heavily modded..

TAKING THE ROAD MORE DIFFICULT

Here we go. I have been dreading talking about this subject, because it is so difficult for me to put into words properly. In this regard of making things more difficult for myself, I feel like I am special. That's the word I'll go with, special.


I like achieving different things in different ways. I also often feel that the destination towards a goal is even more important than the goal itself. What this means is that I do want to kill a deer this fall, it just doesn't need to happen on the first day, or week, or month. To be honest, it doesn't need to happen for the entire season! I have friends that will share their harvest with me. Therefore, I have the luxury, and privilege, of achieving the goal however I prefer. This feeling does have it's limits however. In the past, I have reached for a different hunting tool, like the rifle, to fill my tag more easily. When I do this, the achievements are almost always a little hollow. That is where this lesson has been learned for me.



Instead, I now set out goals ahead of time. Last fall, for example, I had a goal to harvest the smallest deer I could find. And also the largest. One with rifle and one with a bow. The tools were interchangeable, so it didn't really matter to me which animal fell to which projectile.


John, with his 1950's recurve over his shoulder sits behind the downed whitetail buck.
Tradbow killed whitetail buck from '21. Photo by Kevin Kossowan

The objectives were set in my mind ahead of time, and both harvests were tremendous to me. I could feel the achievement, and I truly appreciated my own success. In the past I have made the mistake of quitting on a goal and reaching for another weapon to make things easier. I thought that the completion of the goal itself would be good enough. That will not happen again. Having said that, I can see a time when I set a different goal, perhaps to get something on the ground as quickly as possible in order to fill a freezer. That is totally legitimate in my mind and the methodology will definitely reflect that goal I am sure.


John kneels over the dead whitetail deer. His hand is inside the body cavity.
John with the finishing touches of his rifle killed whitetail fawn. The ultimate venison outcome. Photo by Kevin Kossowan.

This past spring, with my big bear, I had made the decision, ahead of the hunt, to use my rifle. So, I went and bought my first rifle! However, I wanted to have success on foot instead of driving logging roads to see bears. I felt like I needed to set some conditions of the hunt. I had a goal, and when it finally happened, my heart was full. It was completely emotional. The weapon was irrelevant, it was the conditions of the success that were established ahead of time that made it special.


Please keep in mind that this isn't a 'how-to' article...this is a 'how-I' type of thing. You do you, and there shouldn't be any judgement from anyone except yourself.


One of my self-built bows. A bamboo-backed Osage longbow, and a vintage plaid shirt from Value Village.

 

MADE BY ME

I enjoy making things for myself. Partly because it almost always surprises me when it turns out nice! Often times, I will identify something that I need or want, a new watch strap or fly wallet. Then, instead of hitting the store, I wonder about how to just make it myself. I remember the ways things used to be accomplished before Amazon and imports. This process of self-manufacture is so incredibly satisfying. The number of different items I make for myself increases throughout the years. The process of increasing my self-reliance is very enjoyable.


Cherry Wood and antler pipe. Recently hand made.

Again, I don't do this for the "look at me" factor. I do it because it is sustainable, it creates items that contain a story; and, finally, the projects are typically inexpensive to achieve under my own labour. One other added benefit is that these items are completely unique. I certainly get that feeling, and I wonder how many other people ever feel that?


Yes, I will post things that I create on social media. Yes, there is a certain pride of ownership thing going on that I admit is a little weird. Honestly though, I hope that people can be inspired to try things out, or support the podcast by purchasing these items, or both! Either outcome is a win in my books.


Kevin Kossowan's series, from the wild. season 8 trailer.

LITTLE WINS IN THE WILD

There is one particular fellow, an old friend, who really only contacts me to make fun of me for posting on my social media feed. The times when I have celebrated a new-to-me discovery of Bog Cranberries or the taste of Kevin's Bush Negroni on Instagram. Self-portraits of doing things that I like to do outdoors. My public postings of these types of things usually illicit a direct message from him. I expect it now. It doesn't bother me any more. Well, it bothers me a little, enough to write about it here I guess.


To me, and my closest friends, these little wins in the wild are noteworthy. They are accomplishments to us. A good drink, meal, or tool, discovered and/or manufactured by ourselves is simply rewarding. Rewarding enough to post about. Hopefully, there is some inspiration, or at least some entertainment for you when we post these events on film, audio, or social media.



I'm not terribly upset at being mocked. I don't require a safe space. It is simply a small annoyance that there are people within my sphere who misunderstand why I like to talk about these things in my life. I am definitely promoting a business. That is no secret. And it does give me something else to talk about aside from the latest podcast episode. But largely, it is simply to point out that there are other ways to do certain things. I don't need to take out a second mortgage, go to a large outdoor outfitters and suit up in the newest, cringiest gear in order to be happy in the outdoors. I don't need all the camo all of the time. I also don't need to be sponsored by some weird outdoor crew, or eat food from a trendy cooler that costs as much as my first car.


Like the manifest in "Jerry Maguire", it is likely that I have failed to make anyone outside of my bubble of influence understand what the hell I am talking about with this piece. Just know this, that even though I have gently mocked some folks in the previous paragraph, I don't like that behaviour. No doubt it has diminished your opinion of me. It should. I should just keep going with the things that satisfy me, keep showing them to you, and keep happy. You should definitely do you and be happy about that too. I'll continue to be happy for you as well...no matter how many pulleys your bow has.


Just kidding.


 

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