Why a stick is like a good friend

‘I always seemed to have a stick in my hand when I was exploring’

I’ve got a joke for you. It’s one of my favourites…

Question: What’s brown and sticky?

Answer: A stick.

Not the absolute height of hilarity, I grant you, but it always gives me a satisfying chuckle, whenever I tell it to myself or to a random stranger.

Thing is, I like sticks. Always have. When I was a rotten kid, I always seemed to have a stick in my hand when I was exploring the bush by the footbridge, or clamouring around Waskasoo Creek, or scrabbling up what we called Piper’s Mountain, which was really just that big hill at what people now call Rotary Park.

It didn’t matter whether it was a small branch I’d personally chosen from a generous donor tree to swish around and whack things with, or a good-sized hiking stick I found lying on the ground just waiting to be found, it somehow always felt better to have a nice piece of wood in my grubby hands.

In fact, when it comes to sticks, I still feel pretty much the same way. Although I sure don’t clamour or scrabble anymore, I still am often forced to go for a walk in a wooded area with various enthusiastic members of my family or with misguided friends who seem to enjoy the great outdoors much more than I do.

Maybe that’s why I like to carry a stick – and no, it’s not to beat upon those who want me to walk faster, longer or happier. A stick is a nice distraction.

With a stick, you can poke at things on the ground and in the trees, you can practise some rudimentary baton-type twirling, or you can work on your Obi-Wan Kenobi light sabre moves.

And if any of your stick shenanigans happen to embarrass your companions out there on the walking trails, so much the better.

And if you find one just the right shape, size and colour – well, it’s Harry Potter’s magic wand, of course. And boy, the fun never ends with a stick like that.

But lately, I’ve found out that a stick can be much more than just brown and sticky. It can also be a good friend.

Anybody who has tromped around in nature knows the benefit of a nice strong walking stick, and over the years, I’ve had some excellent ones.

In fact, whenever I found a nice, solid, just-right-sized walking stick, I’d hide it somewhere in the bush just off the trail, so I could find it the next time the Better Half and the Rotten Kids and Scamp the Deranged Shih Tzu and I went for our compulsory walk.

I usually forgot to remember that I’d stashed one, but sometimes, half the fun of a good stick is in the finding.

But now, I have a professionally made stick. I like to call it a staff, because it sounds much more epic.

Near as I can figure, a staff is just a long walking stick – taller than a cane and shorter than you are. The Better Half gave me my personal walking stick, purchased, I believe, at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre, and I must say, it’s a beauty.

But I didn’t think it would be as, well, useful, as it has turned out to be. I soon found out that when you’re limping along with sore knees, hips, back and many other joints, muscles and similar aching body parts due to sitting at a desk all day, a nice staff can, like good family and friends, give you something to lean on.

Like they say: walk softly and carry a big stick.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.

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