When is one ready to tie on a neckerchief and take that show into the woods? Do you just know?
I never “just know.” About anything. Does that mean I’ll never be able to wear a neckerchief?
It does, doesn’t it?
On the off chance it doesn’t, I have a few more questions. Do neckerchiefs not itch against your perfect scruff? Who decides that your face fur should stay at a golden quarter inch—you, or a troupe of polyamorous chipmunk barbers that live in the eaves of your yurt?
Since you don’t seem like the wasteful type, what do you do with your old neckerchiefs? Wear them until they disintegrate? Fashion them into tiny slings for nursing woodland creatures back to health? I keep all my old little league jerseys in a shadow box, so you could say I have a problem letting go. Is hiking how you let go? Maybe if you were to let go of one of your neckerchiefs at an agreed upon spot, I could also let go of twenty dollars at that same spot. Twenty sound fair to you?
No, who am I kidding—money doesn’t mean anything to you. You probably laugh at people who buy hiking sticks rather than unearth them from ancient driftwood piles while on walkabout. To be fair, mine was on sale and I really liked the cool knob on top. There’s also no way of knowing what raccoon diseases are on those sticks in the woods.
Speaking of critters, how long did it take you to get over your fear of opossums? From what I gather, they hang in the trees about neck high, tempting unsuspecting hikers to forego neck protection. “They’re nocturnal animals,” everyone tells me. “Stop fixating on the opossums,” they implore. But what if one of these clearly vampiric animals experiences a genetic mutation, pulls a Blade-like transformation and gains the power to attack in the daylight? Have you seen those teeth?
Clearly this is causing me a lot of stress. Stress that could be relieved with some hiking if only I felt like I belonged. You see my dilemma, right? I can’t help thinking the other hikers are comparing me to you, staring at my un-chiefed neck, scoffing at my apple watch, snickering at the Limited Edition Subaru I drove up in. “STOP LAUGHING AT MY CAR!” I’ll sometimes rage mumble into the steering wheel column. “IT GETS GREAT MILEAGE AND IT’S LITERALLY CALLED A FORESTER!”
Then again, maybe you can’t help me. Maybe you were born ‘chiefed, I was born an actuary, and we were destined to forever mind our respective businesses. But the dreamer in me—the one who spent $16.95 this morning on a pouch of “natural supersnacks” that looks a whole lot like granola and berries, the one who has an ebay alert for vintage compasses, the one who currently has a laminated copy of his last will and testament in his backpack and another in the glove compartment of his Subaru—thinks one day I’ll be able to look the part.
Is that crazy? Should I just give up? If you have thoughts on any of this, feel free to share. You’ll recognize me on the trails because the sweet knob on my hiking stick will give me away. Your acknowledgment doesn’t have to be big, either. Even if you just shake your head yes or no the next time a fellow restaurant patron crosses your line of sight with their napkin tied into a neckerchief. Or if that same customer goes to great lengths to catch your eye with a Flaming Alaska dessert they smuggled into the restaurant (which we can all agree is the dessert of hikers’ hikers everywhere), maybe just acknowledge them. A wink would do just fine.
Dreaming of a safe and warm neck,
Jeremy Davis (or, if you’re down, Jeremy “Backcountry” Davis—I’m trying to get that off the ground)
P.S. In case you’re tempted to write back with a simple trick like running neckerchiefs through the dryer for that cool, weathered look, please know that I’ve tried it. People end up asking about your dryer full of “scarves,” you try to explain the difference between a neckerchief and a scarf, they don’t understand, you show them pictures of cool hikers you’ve shot with your telescopic lens, they tell Ms. Krang you’re “some kind of freak,” and then you have to leave after just one dryer cycle. It doesn’t work, trust me.