- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 16, 2003

Last week after learning that the subject of my affection a steel container that keeps liquids hot or cold, depending on your wishes is celebrating its 90th anniversary, I immediately thought of my longtime hunting and fishing companion, Dean Lee.
Dean owns the stainless steel thermal bottle made by the best in the business, Stanley. Since Aladdin Industries purchased Stanley, the steel container that has been referred to as the smartest object in the world is now known as Aladdin's Stanley, but the Stanley name itself rings a bell wherever outdoors folks congregate.
(By the way, the joke about the smart object goes like this: You pour hot liquid in and even a day later hot liquid comes out of it; you pour cold liquid in and a day or two later, cold pours from it. How does it know the difference and where did it learn to do this?)
OK, so it's a silly joke, but Dean Lee's two-quart Stanley is simply remarkable. Dean, a man who brews the worst Chinese tea I've ever tasted, has saved my cold body on more than one occasion when even his awful, smelly swamp water concoction began to taste good. It managed to thaw out my frozen frame many a day during wet, icy deer and waterfowl outings.
What amazes me is how the big bottle keeps that accursed tea so hot.
"It's the narrow opening that doesn't allow cold air to creep in," says Dean. "That and my pouring a cupful pretty quick, then closing the screw cap in a hurry."
Indeed, we've hunted for several days, spent time in duck blinds and drank the abominable witch's brew he brings for two solid days, yet it remained hot and could soothe a cold body. Simply amazing.
Then there's a beloved one-quart thermal insulated Stanley bottle that my better half has threatened to throw into the trash because it looks like it's been around since the Civil War. It hasn't. Heck, William Stanley didn't make a durable steel thermal bottle until 1913, but I'm certain that my spouse at least believes I got the first one off the assembly line.
It looks as if a truck ran over it and, in fact, that's precisely what has happened. I've run over that poor bottle so often, it's pitiful. It normally occurs when we sit down by the vehicles at midday, perhaps in a dry grassy spot, and devour God's personal gift to hunters and anglers: Vienna sausages, sardines in mustard sauce and some type of cracker. You'll need a dry twig or an old Barlow knife to dig the "viennies," as Southern lads refer to this epicurean's delight, from its container.
My old Stanley bottle that usually holds fresh coffee from a pot at home might rest against a tire of my pickup when someone shouts that Dave (or Don, Jack or Jim) needs help dragging a buck from the woods. In my haste to reach a distant part of the woodlands, I sometimes forget about the grass-color stainless-steeled wonder and drive off right over it. You notice the bump, but the bottle has yet to collapse or flatten. If the plastic screw-on cup (which can be replaced) isn't demolished, the bottle itself doesn't seem to care. Try doing that with a bottle that has a glass liner inside. "Crunch" is the sound you'll hear.
Some years ago, during a memorable trip to Argentina where we fished for toothsome golden dorados 20- to 30-pound freshwater fish that can turn $15 fishing lures into sawdust with one bite my guide, Dario, asked me if I liked mate, the caffeine-laden green tea of the gauchos. Of course, I said yes. He unscrewed the top of a Stanley stainless steel thermal bottle and poured scalding hot water into a mate tea leaf-filled, hand-carved cup that resembled a gourd. He pushed a metal sipping straw into it that had a strainer at the bottom to keep tea leaves from entering your mouth, then handed me the gourd. It was hot, I'll say that much.
Dario's steel bottle looked almost as worn and abused as mine back in the U.S., but it goes to show that this wonderful product is known the world over.
So on your 90th birthday, Stanley, may you continue to prosper and accompany us onto fields and waters wherever they may be.
Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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