There’s a rust spot on my tailgate.
It started as an injury sustained while throwing rounds of cedar into the bed. After a year, it’s starting to get infected. I can see it in the rear-view mirror. The dent and chipped paint looked like a badge of honor. This truck, purchased in California, where it likely wouldn’t encounter things like cords of wood, has been battle tested. It’s becoming more Alaskan. Yet at the same time, I feel a pang of guilt, as if I have neglected one of the responsibilities of truck ownership – keeping it clean and in working order. Just because I knew things like dents were an inevitability doesn’t mean I should be neglectful going forward. It starts with a dent or two and who knows what it becomes.
Taking care of your gear is important, but there is also the assumed consequence of using that gear. It is going to rip, tear, dent, break and otherwise show wear.
But you have to use it.
A pair of Carhartt’s doesn’t start getting good until it’s faded, frayed and maybe has a little paint on the leg. Favorite shirts and sweatshirts are worn to the point at which they’re inappropriate to donate, but why would you discard a woven friend like that anyway?
But you can’t be careless. There must be a level of preservation and protection, right?
I should probably spray wash the green growing in the corners of the truck bed and flanking the dent in question. That’s not a badge of honor, that’s a lazy owner. But really, what’s the benefit of keeping the truck bed clean? I get that I look like a slob if it’s been so long since I cleaned the cab of my truck that I need to take multiple trips to clean the four coffee cups, 11 empty packets of 5x leader, two boots, three hats, banana peel, two fly rods, three fly boxes, peanut M&Ms wrapper and five empty Gatorade bottles that cluttered it.
But is the dent, even now as a rusty dent, worth my time?
It concerns me that there is a little knick in a ferrule of one of my fly rods. It’s held up to good fish since I noticed it so it’s not damaged enough to get it repaired or replaced. After all, it isn’t broken, but it might break on the fish of the season. Then of course, I’ll curse myself.
The expectation is that at some point gear will break. The truck will be dented. The waders will get holes.
It’s coming. It doesn’t mean you like it, or you welcome it; you just hope it’s not too serious, and if it is, you don’t lose your mind.
• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based out of Ketchikan.