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What’s in a name? Try painting a duck boat

One of my favourite outdoors stories is by Larry Dabblemont of Missouri. That tale is called Old Paint and it is about an old wooden john-boat that he and his father built and used for duck hunting and fishing on the river near his home. The title refers to the many coats of paint that the boat had been covered with over the years and the beauty of the story is in the way he reveals the layers of cherished outdoor memories that accompanied each.

That’s why picking the paint for the duck boat I recently built was no small matter to me.

I knew that this first coat – the one I am about to put on it – will be the one I will always remember it with. That colour will always be attached to that boat, both mentally and physically. That’s why I faced quite a conundrum when picking the colour.

In the end, however, it all came down to two similar shades of olive green. And though I liked the first one better, I could not bring myself to buy it let alone adorn my hunting boat with it, even though it was the exact colour I wanted.

As I kept hemming and hawing about the whole thing, another hunter showed up and immediately knew I was buying the paint for hunting related reasons. He knew this because a) he was aware I was in a long-term relationship and b) he also knew no man in a long-term relationship would by either of those shades of olive green to paint anything in and around a house.

“It’s actually for a duck boat,” I said.

He then pointed to the colour card I liked but wouldn’t use.

“That’s the one right there,” he said.

I then flipped over the card so he could see that colour’s name. He immediately shook his head and then pointed to the other one.

“Use that one then,” he said. “It’s just as good.”

Shakespeare said a rose by any other name would smell as sweet – but the bard, I suspect, had never smelled the roses dropped in a duck camp. Nor did he know how superstitious we hunters could be about the little things that no one else bothers with – like the colour of a duck boat.

So, as much as I liked the first colour, I put the card down and took the second one to the counter.

The woman there looked at the colour and, in an act of selfless customer service, said, “Maybe you should run this by your wife first. It might save you a headache or two.”

“It’s for a duck boat,” I said.

Looking more than a little relieved, she smiled and then started to mix the colour called “Jungle cover” for me.

She then said that she noticed I was having  hard time deciding between that and another colour and wondered why I chose the one I did.

I went and got that card and turned it over and she said, “OK, I guess that is a good enough reason.”

Maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t. But as I said, we hunters are superstitious about certain things and, if you ask me, it’s better not to leave anything to chance.

“Jungle cover” is a nice respectable name for a duck boat colour. “Vegetarian,” the unfortunate name of the second colour, is not.

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