Jeff Hammer: Stitions

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The other day on the radio, I heard a line from Michael Scott, who was Steve Carell’s character on the television series “The Office,” about being superstitious, which goes something like this: “I’m not superstitious, but I…I’m a little stitious.” 

Why would I bring it up?

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Well, because I’m a little stitious myself, and I think a lot of us are, otherwise there wouldn’t be a market for lucky rabbits’ feet or any of the other multitude of objects or the practices that we hope bring us good luck. It’s why gamblers continually darken the doors of casinos, even though they know that the odds of winning always favor the house. That little something is going to change their luck, they reason.

For example, in the past (and currently) I have felt that there are certain methods of applying for big game licenses that please the deities responsible for doling out the much coveted licenses, such as moose and bighorn sheep, and lately antelope, so that my chances of success in those random drawing are high enough so that I might have an advantage over other like minded individuals, who I am guessing also have their own stitions for beating the odds.

How do we become superstitious? Well for me, I acquired that feeling rather randomly, which I know sounds lame, but a lot of fourteen year olds, especially fourteen year-old boys, make lame decisions based on feelings rather than facts. I’m guessing doing so must be some sort of right of passage for those of us of the male persuasion.

In 1973, the first year I was eligible, I applied for a Shiras moose license to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, which I think at that time was all of $15.00. Maybe it was $25.00. I don’t know, but this was decades before the Internet, so one had to actually fill out a paper application, stuff it in a stamped envelope, along with a money order for the proper amount, and send it to Cheyenne, where, I’m assuming, that application was assigned a number.

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That number was then placed in a container of some sort (a caldron meant for witch’s brew, perhaps), and then department employees then took turns pulling the lucky numbers out of the caldron until the quota for each hunting area was achieved. Again, I’m still assuming here, which is easy to do when you’re on the outside looking in.

I’m not sure why, but when I filled out the application and the money order and addressed the envelope, I used all capital letters. Then I rode my bike down to the post office, which at that time was located on the corner of Third Street and Lincoln Street, and put it in the mail. Then I promptly forgot about it, which is also a specialty of fourteen year-old boys. 

At the time, I was sure applying for a moose license was a waste of time, because I had known grown men sporting gray hair who had applied for a moose license each year since they were fourteen with no luck; but I was also sure that I would never hunt moose if I didn’t apply.

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A few weeks later, about the middle of July, I think, I was outside our house taking a break from mowing the lawn or performing some other task given to me by my mother designed to waste the golden days of my summer, when the mailman came walking up the driveway with a handful of mail. These were the days when mail was actually delivered to residences, instead of to a cluster of mailboxes on one’s street.

His name was Walker Mann, and he had pleasantly delivered our mail for years.

“Hello Mr. Mann,” I said. “Kinda warm today.”

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“Well it is July. By the way,” he said with a smile that even back then I recognized as one meant to tease a little, “I’m generally given a tip whenever I deliver an envelope like the one I’m about to give you.”

He handed me the mail and went down the street. Curious, I went into our house and started going through the mail. When I found an envelope from our state’s game and fish department addressed to me, I used my pocket knife, the one I carried 365 days a year (even to school), to open it, thinking I would find a check giving me my application money back. Instead, inside was a moose license with my name on it, allowing me to pursue a bull moose in Area 2. Also found inside were hunting regulations and a map, included, I’m sure, to help keep me legal.

No one gets a moose license on their first application, at least no one I knew, so I was overjoyed of course; but in that instant, I was convinced that my use of capital letters on my application, money order, and envelope produced the karma that allowed me to be successful. As only ten moose licenses for Area 2 were offered that year, what else could it be?

That was the beginning of stitiousness for me. 

At the time, one had to wait five years after getting a moose license to begin reapplying for the same species. Of course when 1978 came around, I reapplied for a moose license using all caps, but I was unsuccessful. Again in 1979, I was unsuccessful, but I wasn’t too disappointed. I still believed that using capital letters was my good luck application charm, and I was determined to keep using it.

In the spring of 1980, using the same procedure as I had since 1973, I applied for a bighorn sheep permit (my first application for that species) for an area in the southern part of the state only two hours from Laramie, knowing I was going to be attending the University of Wyoming then. That application turned out to be successful, which just reinforced my belief that using capital letters on the application form was my good luck charm when dealing with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

From 1980 proceeding forward, I continued to use capitals on the department’s hard copy forms with only moderate degrees of success for antelope and limited quota elk licenses until they changed to an online application procedure. 

Grumbling, I was forced to apply online and use a credit card to complete the transaction, but after a few years of this process, I realized my degree of luckiness had not changed. So then I began to analyze what I was doing when I had been successful and came up with the conclusion, with no scientific data whatsoever, that I was more successful in license drawings when I applied toward the end of the application window.

As is generally my practice, I procrastinate just about everything, and thus I would wait until the last week of the application period to apply; and I felt I was remarkably lucky in drawing an antelope license each year for well over a decade.

And then I wasn’t so lucky. 

I haven’t drawn an “any” antelope license for five or six years now, so it’s time to find a new stition. So, logically (or if you have a different viewpoint, illogically), I’ve decided to apply this year toward the beginning of the application window. In a few days I’ll access the game and fish department’s website, dig out my lucky credit card from somewhere in my wallet, and complete the process.

Should I be successful, and even if I’m not and have to buy an over the counter license, I have a secret weapon this year when it actually comes time to don the hunter orange and head out to the field. 

While in Guatemala just this past November, I was given by a tour guide un pulsera de la buena suerte, a lucky cloth bracelet made from yarn colored black, red and gray.

Sometime this winter, I’ll sew this bracelet onto my lucky hunting hat and I will confidently pursue at least one big game animal this coming fall.

One cannot have too many stitions.

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