I love the grit and humor of men who were born when WWII still informed daily life and those who had survived it still walked among us.
I was therefore delighted recently to receive a letter from 80-year-old Mike Phair of Redmond, Wash. I opened the envelope and two tiny camouflage Band-Aids fell out. “Dearest Bill,” he wrote. “Your problem with camo is that you are incomplete. You need CAMO BANDAIDS.” I have long thought camo is, let me put this delicately, a sucker’s game. And, cloaking his agreement in a certain kind of irony, Mr. Phair concurred.
He wrote that he has been using camo bandaids “most of my hunting life and I’ve bagged several whitetails.” He was sending me two of the three he had left, saying that the one he’s been using for three years “is still pretty good” and that, with a bit of magic mending tape, he expects to get another year out of it. In his demented sense of thrift, he reminds me of my own dad.
His tongue firmly planted in cheek, Mr. Phair added that “orange topped socks” also help. And that, if not, I should go back to red-and-black plaid. Which, he wrote, has worked “since Heck was a pup.”
This last line is a take on the expression since Hector was a pup, which entered the language around 1900. Hector was a popular name for dogs at the time and refers to a mythological Greek at Troy whose name became shorthand for a consummate warrior. (This was long ago, when people were sufficiently versed in Greek mythology to name dogs after it without sounding pretentious.) Since Hector was a pup became a clever way of saying “in a really long time.” Mr. Phair takes it a step further, like a man who actually had a dog named Hector. If you had a dog or a friend so named, you’d take to calling him Heck.
It’s an altogether charming letter, full of amusement at the gullibility of the human race and a defiant refusal to adapt to it.
I bet Mr. Phair never used that other Band-Aid at all. I wouldn’t. I’d want to get rid of the damned things. And what better way than by sending them off to an outdoor writer who also thinks camo is stupid?
Bless you, Brother Phair.