Theo, the Thermos

Theo, the Thermos

“Theo, the Thermos”

If you wrap camouflage duct tape around something, does that automatically make it rugged? Hmmm… not necessarily, but it sure would help. Here are a few things that no matter how many rolls of duct you wrap them in, would never, ever become rugged:

  • A pair of “spiffy” shoes
  • A microwave oven
  • An electric chainsaw
  • A brief case
  • A mini-van
  • A wine bottle
  • An electric lawn mower

There are many things you could wrap duct tape around that would automatically become rugged… naming a pile of them would be too easy, so I’ll just name one: A coffee thermos, at least my coffee thermos.

I love my ultra-rugged coffee thermos. “Theo” and I have been through a lot together, a lot of rugged times to say the least. He’s been with me on many fishing trips all across Canada. He waited patiently going through airport security many times… He’s been tossed around by the baggage guys… thrown into float planes… never a word of complaint. He’s sat patiently with me as I casted time and time again for huge pike that I could see in the shallows, but just wouldn’t bite. He’s sat patiently with me in duck blinds on the western prairies, in Ontario, and in North Dakota and Texas. He “did his duty” keeping my coffee hot while covered in mud, lying in cut corn fields on many goose hunts. And, he waited patiently in “many a tree stand” for a deer to step out and into range. Oh and ice fishing? Well, that’s when Theo really stepped up to the plate. I recall once, while ice fishing for perch in early April when I was “pretty sure” the ice was thick enough and I fell through. I was only in three feet of water mind you, but when I climbed out… well, let’s just say it took at least few hours for my onions to “come back.” They were up hiding, somewhere in my stomach if my memory serves me correctly.

Theo, just like a well-trained Labrador retriever, was always there for me. And, yes, Theo is wrapped in camo duct tape. He has been for more than 30 years now. Theo, the Thermos, was born in a Canadian Tire store on August 10th, 1985 and you’re goddam right, I celebrate his birthday every year!

Theo became ultra-rugged the day I wrapped him in camo duct tape, but I think he was always at least regular rugged. I mean, he is of good quality, has good genes in his family… great breeding stock. He has proven this time and time again. I recall one fishing trip, an ice fishing excursion into a very remote lake that was filled with 1 – 2 pound trout. And, I’m talkin’ speckled trout, which I crowned the King of Trout, easily, the most rugged of all trout. I had walked into this lake in the summer a few times before and done quite well. The trail is about 4 miles long and goes up hill… then down hill… then up hill and then down hill. X 100. On this winter trip, I’d be going in by way of snowmobile… rugged!

When I finally got to the lake (after nearly rolling my machine over a few thousand times) I started to unpack my gear. I was ready to slay some specks. Fishing rods, tackle pack, knife, extra gloves, safety kit but… but… but… wait! No way! Where in the hell is Theo? In desperation, I yelled at the top of my lungs, “THEO?” No reply. Then, it dawned on me… Theo can’t talk. He’s a goddam thermos! So, now it’s the Rugged Dude to the rescue! (Cue super hero rescue music!) Yep, I packed up all my shit and headed for that miserable, son-of-a-bitch of a mountain trail. A half hour and nearly a dozen wipe outs later, I finally found him. He was head first, jammed into a big bank of fluffy snow. I found him, but man, did he ever give me shit! Remember, a coffee thermos can’t talk, so he just gave me “that look.” You know the look that your gramma would give you when she caught you with your hand in the cookie jar? Yes, that look.

On another ultra-rugged excursion, this one to the mighty Albany River in northwestern Ontario, my guide, my camera dude and I had all our gear packed into an 18 foot, cedar strip freighter canoe with a 15 HP on the back. That in itself is rugged… a freighter canoe on the Albany River with an Ojibwe guide? Are you kidding me? That’s full scale, over-the-top rugged!

After we arrived at our destination, we began to unload our gear and get settled into camp. I suddenly got another one of those “oh shit” feelings when I realized poor Theo was no longer with us. “Must ‘o fell out, eh,” said Marvin Panachese, our guide. “I guess so, but he’s gonna be pissed off at me when I find him.” Marvin then had a very confused look on his face. “Whadya mean he will be pissed off?” I figured I would save some really weird explaining, “Oh, you might not understand. Either that, or you’ll just think I’m a mental case.” I could only imagine what Marvin was thinking at this point. “Crazy white man.”

After a thorough search of the river, yep, there was Theo, ¼ mile downstream, all wrapped up in a log jam. I (and Theo) got lucky, because he could have gone a lot further than a ¼ mile downstream! He didn’t really seem to be all that pissed off at me this time, because as soon as I opened his lid and poured myself and Marvin a cup of coffee to share, Theo seemed to calm down a bit. He sort of smiled at me as if to say, “Hey, dude, no biggie… THIS time.” His coffee was still warm, as usual. Ol’ Theo comes through once again!

Perhaps the scariest or most distressing “where’s Theo” event happened about ten years ago when I was living outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario. For weeks, Theo was missing. I hadn’t thought that maybe he wandered away from the house and got lost. And, I didn’t expect him of running away from home either. (In case you didn’t know this, a coffee thermos can’t walk. Or, run.) Weeks turned into months and finally months turned into one full year. I had posters up on telephone poles all over town… “Missing – Ultra-Rugged camo thermos. His name is Theo. If you find him please call 639-9063.” I was in the middle of planning a memorial service one day when I decided that if I went goose hunting it just might cheer me up a bit.

I thought, “Damn it, I owe this one to Theo.” There was this one grain field in particular in the Slate Valley farm country, southwest of the city where I often hunted for Canada geese. It was a favourite of mine and also of Theo’s. Geese were everywhere during the month of October and a “ten minute limit” was common.

I arrive to the field early the next morning. As I stopped the truck at one of my favourite spots along the hedgerow, I hopped out and began to set up the decoys. It was still pitch black, an hour before “legal,” meaning the time in which I was permitted to shoot.

About a half hour or so later, all of my 12 dozen decoys were set, some full bodies, some half shells and some silhouettes. I set up a simple blind in the hedgerow, like I had done so many times before. I then drove the truck off the field and prepared to start “hammerin’ some birds.” Big bummer though… no Theo. I decided to not have any coffee that morning, out of respect for ol’ Theo. About 20 minutes into legal light, the birds started flying. And, I mean, FLYING! I saw a pile of Canadas, mainly greaters, with a few Richardson’s geese thrown in. They’re those geese that look just like a Canada goose, only they’re much smaller. Also, that morning, I saw a few hundred snow geese using the area and they were not overly abundant in northwestern Ontario. “Bonus birds,” I called them. And, the mallards in particular, were in the mood for rough sport that morning. Dozens of them were buzzing low over my field getting ready to dine on barley left over from the harvest. I figured it would be a quick hunt, a “ten minute limit,” as per usual in the Slate Valley.

Just a few minutes later, a single honker came in fairly high and quiet. I didn’t see ‘em until he was almost right over my head. I didn’t have time to think… it was all by instinct and rehearsed motion at this point. BANG! And, down he went, like a big bag of dead cats. He landed with a thud about 20 yards down the hedgerow, dead as dead could be… something I refer to as, “extra dead.”

As I walked over to get my bird I started thinking about Theo once again. “Where the hell is that poor little bastard anyway? Whatever became of him?” I would have been okay with it, had I learned that he eventually found a new home, one full of rugged people. That wouldn’t be so bad. I compared it to when your black Lab runs away, and you later find out he ended up being taken in by a family full of hard-core duck hunters. As I bent down to pick up my goose, my eyes lit up, almost in disbelief! There he was!!! Theo was lying there, motionless, partially covered up by one of the goose’s big grey wings. “THEO! Holy shit, little buddy, where in the hell have you been!”

Immediately, two thoughts came to my mind: One, I remembered that the last time I saw Theo was in that goddam field. Obviously, I had inadvertently left him there almost exactly one year before. The poor prick spent the full winter outside, freezing his ass off. And, two… I suddenly remembered that a thermos cannot talk.

Not even Theo, the Thermos…

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