I stumbled across a garage sale on my way home last month.

The unmistakable flash of ivory white antler caught my eye in the summer sun. I am a garage sale junkie, having acquired a fair amount of outdoor goods that were gently used, would perform admirably for me and would save me a ton of money over retail prices.

Those shining antlers were part of a taxidermy mount sitting on a table, along with several other antlers and sheds as well as shooting targets and wildlife art. I bought a nice set of antlers, lacquered and shiny, mounted on a plaque, and representative of a gorgeous northern Minnesota buck, for a few dollars.

Same for a BB gun target and a wild turkey painting.

The mounts set my mind in motion with the garage sale tables loaded in front of me. I asked the family running the garage sale why they were selling the shoulder mount. A middle-aged woman answered my question with a young adult son and daughter seated on each side of her.

“I lost my husband to a heart attack last year. My son took a couple mounts, but the rest don’t mean anything to him. We still have three more in the house. So we’re selling most of them.”

I gave my condolences as I paid for my items.

Some years prior, I went to a garage sale and loaded up on camping and big game hunting gear. It was a similar situation. A widowed wife decided it was time to get rid of things that won’t be used anymore, and for some, that includes outdoor gear.

One of the largest acquisitions was at a garage sale I was first to arrive at early one Saturday morning with as much fishing equipment as a department store might carry. I loaded my entire pickup with rods, reels and tackle and to this day, that one purchase has kept my garage and the family cabin outfitted for any and all trips.

It was good, high-quality equipment sold for pennies on the dollar because the gentleman selling was getting a divorce and planning to head east to start a new life. He priced his gear to sell and wanted to move on, and if he was a bit vengeful, he might have wanted to take in minimal profit on the sale if he was splitting his assets anyway.

I have experienced these estate changeovers in my personal life. I acquired a few pocketknives and some camouflage coats this spring after the untimely and early death of my father-in-law. I will think of the man when I unfold those knives in the spring to cut morel mushrooms off their stems or don a camouflage jacket for an early season sit in the tree stand.

I know this much — when the good Lord calls you home, the bottom falls out on the value of your taxidermy. Likewise, your used gear, sentimental or not, holds little value.

As the joke goes “I just hope my wife sells my things for what I told her I paid for them.”

Those mounts and those memories ... they mean something to you, but they do not mean much to your kids, your friends or complete strangers.

I own some taxidermy — deer heads, quail mounts, turkey tails and a bear rug to name a few — but my hope is that my next of kin does not see them as hunting or fishing trophies but rather as memorials to time outdoors together or the beauty of the natural world.

Same for any outdoor gear; I hope they can put some of it to good use, but for the rest, put it in the hands of those that would use it.

I left some of those garage sales with bittersweet emotions. I was happy to find good gear at rock-bottom prices but sad for individuals gone from this Earth, who would never hunt or fish again and whose families grieved their loss.

You feel a bit bashful buying good gear at cheap prices, but often people just want to see it gone or in the hands of someone who would appreciate and use it.

That was always my thinking for the departed — that I would try to put the gear to good use in their honor.

Death is around us all the time, but we are always surprised by the suddenness of it. It is as if we will never learn, despite our vows otherwise, to never take this precious life we have for granted.

These reminders become more commonplace the older we get and the more of our cohorts, friends and family members we see pass on. I think the takeaway – from family losses, garage sale finds and our time outdoors — is this simple reminder from a church sermon: Love people, use things — not the other way around.

I have coveted plenty of outdoor gear and have acquired more than my fair share. But at this point in my life, the time outdoors is about being in nature when I am solo or spending time with friends and family on those trips where we are all together.

Love and care for those people, use the gear, and take the memories with you. Someday, the body will be too old to do outdoor activities and the gear might be, too. You will be left with the people you love and the memories.

Cherish them both.

Scott Mackenthun has been writing about hunting and fishing since 2005. Email him at scott.mackenthun@gmail.com

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