Back in the late 1980s, during the time when I was going to university, there was a great deal of controversy around the Northern Spotted Owl. Conservationists were trying to use the bird as a tool to limit logging of old growth forest in the Pacific Northwest by encouraging its listing as an endangered species (it was listed as threatened in 1990). It was a hot topic in conservation at the time.
Home for Christmas one year around that time, I was presented with a gift specifically from my grandfather.
That was odd. It was the women of the family—grandma and mom—who shopped for gifts. What could Grandpa have for me?
It was a small box. Inside, nestled in tissue paper was a small piece of wooden dowel with crude blotches drawn on it with a marker.
He watched me unwrap it, clearly struggling to hide a smile.
I pulled it out of the box and turned it around in my fingers. I was obviously supposed to figure out what it was. I wracked my brains. What was this spotted stick supposed to be?
It never occurred to me that it was a joke. I finally had to ask.
“It’s a spotted dowel!” Grandpa said, breaking into a grin.
I have no idea what other gifts I got that Christmas. No doubt, whatever they were, they’re long gone from my life.
But the spotted dowel has it’s own special place—its own little drawer in a small-parts organiser that holds all my buttons and beads and other odds and ends. I often run across it accidentally while looking for something else, and it still makes me smile.