Bourjaily: My Favorite Flashlight

Bear with me. This really is a post about hunting gear.

When my younger son John was still a baby, we took a family car trip east. Right after we drove across the New Jersey line, it became pungently apparent that John needed a fresh diaper.

We pulled into a crowded service plaza to use a restroom, only to find the power out in half the building. When I walked into the men's room, it was pitch black except for a circle of light bobbing over the changing table. There was a dad at the table, holding a mini-Mag Lite in his teeth to keep both hands free as he put a clean diaper on his child. He finished, saw me and John waiting our turn and handed me the flashlight. "Take this. A guy in here changing his kid gave it to me. Give it to the next guy who needs it." With that, he disappeared into the gloom.

I was halfway through changing John when the lights came back on. My benefactor was gone. No one else would need the light, so there was nothing to do but keep it. Now, although I own eight or ten better, brighter, higher-tech lights, that blue Mini Mag remains my favorite. It's the light I wear on my belt for early morning and evening hunts. John is 14 now, and I brought the light with me on our recent Youth Duck hunt together. It reminds me of how much he has grown, and of the kindness of a total stranger in the dark.

We tend to think of guns when it comes to hunting gear with sentimental value, but little things -- lights, knives, calls -- can have special meaning, too. Anybody else own some little item that means a lot?