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The garden catalogs start coming out when the snow is too deep to even find dirt. But we don't care. This is a catalog time of year, a time for making plans and figuring out how to do something even better than we did last year. There in the fishing catalog is that new fly-tying vise. I know I'll be able to tie flies faster and better with that, which will give me more time to cruise up and down Lewis Creek with the fly rod. Well ... at least that's the plan.

And the housewares catalog has all kinds of things in it to help us peel potatoes, boil things, slice things, and clean things. A few well-spent dollars on their 800 phone line and before you know it, our lives will be easier and our food tastier.

With the truck catalogs, we can get a little coffee maker that plugs right in to the cigarette lighter. Or we can get a little oven that plugs right in to the cigarette lighter, or a fan that plugs right in to the cigarette lighter. Let's hope the car-makers continue to make cigarette lighters even after cigarettes themselves disappear. We'd miss out on a lot of fun without that plug-in.

The mule needs his catalog, too. I'll do the reading for him, and the ordering. But I think he'd appreciate one of those nice white fleece cinches. They seem so soft on an old mule's belly. And a matching saddle pad would be good, too. He's too old to rope on any more, but a guy can still appreciate comfort in semi-retirement.

The land catalogs are the most fun. In these, there are always lakes with wooded margins, begging for a little cabin. A small place where a guy can hole up and think literary thoughts and type quietly. Well, it's a thought, anyway. And that's what catalogs do, stimulate our thinking.

Spring catalogs are the novels of optimistic lives.

To buy Slim's books, go to www.slimrandles.com


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