Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Yesterday UPS delivered the old binoculars I ordered. Ordered from sort of an "international army surplus" catalog. Old Swiss Army binoculars, World War II vintage, made in 1940. Wonderful old binoculars, Kern 6x24 Porro prism binoculars, made of solid brass. The binoculars and their leather case have obviously seen lots of use, but they're built solid, cleaned and reconditioned, and (as the catalog says) "optically and mechanically like new."

I took the binoculars outside and tried them out. Redwing blackbird across the road looked close enough to touch. Stop sign a quarter mile away, down at the end of the gravel road I live on, easily read. In fact I could read the road sign down there from a quarter mile away.

There's a new tower to the north of us, I can see its light blinking at night. A new microwave tower, or cell phone tower, or whatever. (A neighbor not very helpfully tells me it's an "emergency tower.") It's several miles away, up beyond the next valley to the north of us. Yet through the binoculars I can make out the individual metal struts in the tower.

For years I've been wanting an old pair of binoculars like these, simple, used, but finely crafted and built like a tank. Finally ran across what I was looking for. And like all things of true quality, it is a joy.

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