Growing up in a very small town in Northern Minnesota from the age of eight until halfway through my 15th year, has proven to be a time I developed a lot of habits.
One of the things that living in a small town on the shore of Lake Superior afforded me was the freedom to roam around at what I think would be considered a very young age now.
For one thing, we walked to school. From 3rd grade through high school. It snowed like a christmas snow globe but was only uphill one way. Walking to school gave us the freedom to wander through the woods, play in the creek, sneak down alleyways, etc. as long as we made it home in a reasonable amount of time.
Then I was in the door, yelling, “Mom I’m going down to the Johnson’s!” or “Mom, I’m going across the street to play football!” With a crack of the screen door slamming behind me, I was off – only required to be home for dinner or darkness depending on the time of year.
Many of my friends families had snowmobiles and I have fond memories of hoping on the back and being gone for hours on the snowmobile trails that ran through the forests. It was an ideal place as kid who had a license to roam. With the exception of sub-zero temperatures from Christmas through St. Patrick’s day, it really couldn’t have been a better place to grow up.
I’m not sure if it was the cold temperatures or what that seemed to keep beer cans preserved in nice little piles throughout the Superior National Forest, but they were easy to fin Beer can collecting became a favorite pastimes of me and my friends.
As a kid I wondered, “How the heck did all of these piles get made of tens if not hundreds of beer cans the forest?”
In my head, I’d imagine a group of people sitting out in the woods drinking beer and building a nice little pile of empties. I mean, that’s what happened at our house when beer drinking was taking place. I’ve since gotten a little smarter and realized these were just little garbage dumps. They where all over the place. We’d be on a little adventure and find a place to cut off the trail that looked promising and search around and inevitably we’d find a pile of cans. The same thing with old abandon structures.
.After going through the rusted cans on top we’d sometimes find something we’d never seen before or a better conditioned can that a previous find. Or perhaps a different design of a Pabst Blue Ribbon, or a Schimdt with a fish flying across it. There were 100’s of different brands, Hamm’s, Schlitz, Grain Belt, Stroh, Pfeiffer, Fitgers, Andy’s Beer, North Star, Goetz, Old Milwaukee, Schells, Olde English, etc. Just to name a few. Not only where there many brands to be discovered, but many of them had many redesigns on their packaging. PBR cans have changed a lot over the years. Google it.
Now that I live in Ogden, I often wonder if we found the long-gone Becker’s Best that was made here. I can’t say for sure.
My parents wouldn’t let me keep the old cans in our house, but my friend Steve Johnson lived 3 doors down and his parents were fine with it and in his room will filled one of the wall solid with the finds we’d made. It was quite the collection that I wish I had a picture of, but it looked a lot like this:
Example, not my image.
The whole exercise was as much about the adventure and discovery as it was collecting beer cans and every abandoned shack or old campsite became exciting. My guess is we were probably in 5th or 6th grade.
Somewhere along the line, as an adult, I started bringing full beer cans back from overseas trips and buying shot glasses to commemorate my visits to touristy destinations. I have about 25 shot glasses that I rarely use, they aren’t on display or anything. They just sit in a cabinet much like the beer cans at the beginning of the post. Still unopened and unused.
I’ve come to learn that collections of stuff mean very little to me. I appreciate the memories, but as time goes by, the actual item has very little specific value to me.
Sure, it’s great to have a shot glass around when you need it (which is quite rare in my house). Unopened cans of beer that are 20+ years old, that’s certainly questionable – as is my desire to open it and try one now. It’s easy to see how clutter builds up when you act as if your memories are tied to objects. As I’ve mentioned before, they serve as great memory joggers for me, but even that become less effective. Besides, who need to live in the past.
Maybe I can coax one of my younger friends into trying one of these beers and then after that send them on a beer run for something a bit fresher.