Saturday, March 19, 2011


I've mused before about packing up your old "kit bag" and heading off into the out of doors for some sporting fun, whatever that fun is for you. Fishing, hunting, hiking, birdwatching, rock climbing and even water sports like sailing, canoeing and kayaking. They all involve exploring in nature. A "kit bag" was the lingo back in my grandfather's day as a young man and young adult in the teens and twenties for the stuff you carried with you. That's the 1910's and 1920's, when he was young and single and no kids and a good job and a little money and a little time to be outdoors.

My grandfather, my mother's father, was an inveterate fisherman. I'm sure I got the fishing gene from him. When he went fishing, he carried one of two guns: either a bolt action J.C. Higgens .22 or a J.C. Higgens bolt action 28" barrel .20 gauge. Those was his snake guns. He carried some slugs and buckshot for the shotgun, and made him up a double gun holder out of some old leather saddle gun sheaths that he stitched together and added a leather cover to.

Back in those days, before, during and after WWI, fellows who were single and seeking a little room to spread their wings in East Texas took off to one of several lakes or rivers, places where they could set up a fishing camp. Rich folks had cabins and private lands and even private clubs they belonged to with stocked lakes and cabins, but working folks like my Grandfather and his friends were doing it on the cheap. Tents and cooking out. They were fishing as much for food to take home as they were for fun and adventure.

Sometimes they'd head to another part of Texas. The Hill Country around San Antonio held mythic call for these East Texas boys, used to plentiful fish in often murky or dark colored rivers and lakes, dyed brownish from pine needles and sand. The mythic call was that of cleaner and clearer water. The country of eleven hundred springs.

Back then, of course, recreational fishing was sort of an emerging sport. Folks had always fished, but not with artificial lures (except the mostly rich fly fishermen) and reels that allowed you to work those artificial lures. My Grandfather was one of those non-rich folks who embraced fly fishing, as well as all other modes of fresh and saltwater fishing. When spinning tackle hit the US shores after WWII, my Grandfather was one of the first to get a couple of the new reels that servicemen friends of his bought over in France and brought back. Once he started spin fishing, my Grandfather never hardly looked back to fly fishing or even bait casting (except for salt water fishing).

So their fishing camps, back 80 years ago give or take were usually highly anticipated get aways where "the boys" could be boys. Sometimes they'd go on public lands and sometimes they'd pay a fee to a landowner to use his land and sometimes they'd know someone who'd let them go on their place. The key, of course, was frontage on a producing small lake or on a large lake or river.

One such lake they used to frequent was a large lake, and the guy they knew had land at the point where the river that formed the lake entered the upper lake area. Of course, that was a great spot to fish and his posse had several boats that they would bring for running trot lines and fixed lines. Tables and cooking stuff also made the trip, for preparing fish to ice down and take home as well as for cooking huge meals while out fishing for a few days.

All of these guys had their kit bags with them. They carried their "kit", their gear, in their kit bags. The equivalent of today's backpack. Sometimes they were knapsack sized, and sometimes they were more akin to a satchel.

Of course, then as now, everyone had at least one pistol and one knife in their bag. Usually more than one knife. Some foodstuffs, like bread and jerky and some other non-perishable items, perhaps some canned meat. A first aid kit and snake bite kit. Maybe some kind of treated cloth to fashion a lean to or tube tent in the wilds, as well as a thin sleeping sack.

I know my grandfather carried lots of ingenious tools that were either lightweight or multi-function. I'll talk some more in a later post about Grandpa's old kit bag.

No comments:

Post a Comment