One day, many years ago, my dad had some pain in either his ankle or his hip (I forget which) from a minor injury (a fall, of course) and decided he should try using a cane until it healed. So, he sent me off to find him a cane and I ended up finding one at a local pharmacy. It was plain finished wood with a simple curved top and a rubber cap on the bottom, certainly nothing fancy. It was enough, however, to get him started…
A while after I bought that cane he found a carved wood walking stick, I think at a flea market. And a while after that he got another…and then another…and then – well, you get the idea.
After a couple years he had a decent collection of walking sticks. Some were plain wood, some were carved and intricate, some were painted and downright exquisite in detail. When I was in New Hope, PA one day I found one with a snake head on the top with its mouth open and teeth and tongue protruding and brightly colored with paint. Of course I had to buy it for him, and he loved it. A few months later when I was visiting he excitedly showed me the latest addition to the collection. It was dark stained wood with a compass hidden in the top in a screw-top brass knob. He got almost giddy when he showed me its other secret – beneath the knob was another screw top concealing a small flask for booze. He’d never use such a thing, but he thought it was “really neat.”
At one point, he surprised me with one he bought just for me. Plain wood with no stain or finish, it has a bear carved into the top of it with painted black features. He thought I’d love it, and of course he was right.
When my sister and I were kids, he made us walking sticks out of tree branches. I still have mine, though understandably it’s way too short for me to use now. It holds many memories for me of time spent at my grandparents’ cabin in the mountains and at Peace Valley Park, one of his favorite local haunts. I will always cherish that tiny little stick. Hopefully in the future my son will get some use out of it as well.
After he passed away, my mom let us close family members pick our favorites from the collection for us to keep. The first one I chose was the plain wooden one I had bought him all those years earlier, because it’s what started it all in the first place and I had to have it. I also picked the brass-knob one with its “secrets” because I always loved how excited he got over it. The other two I chose were a very detailed carved snake head-topped one that he loved (thought not the one I had bought him) and a plain one with a slight crooked handle which had very unique knots in the wood, another thing he liked a lot.
He truly valued his walking stick collection but he did occasionally break one out and use it, though sparingly and carefully.
Now whenever I see a wonderful walking stick for sale somewhere I feel a bit sad that I cannot buy it for him. But then I hear his voice in my head saying, “At least now you can save the money!”
My apologies for the very long pause in new posts. For some reason it’s been a bit of a struggle for me lately to feel up to taking the time, but now the somber mood has passed and I can get back on track.