The Handy-Dandy Handkerchief Saves the Day

A few weeks ago I wrote about what every Northwoods gal needs: a pocket knife, hip boots and a handkerchief. (See What Every Northwoods Gal Needs) Since then I’ve pulled my handkerchief out to help me with a number of other tasks. I have one that is yellow, a bright blue one, two in different shades of pink, and three navy blue ones. It might be said that I have one for every day, but I have so many because they are so handy. I keep one in the pocket of my work coat as well as my parka shell. I keep one in my jeans pocket and one is almost always found by my bed. Often one can be found in the pocket of a sweater or two and once winter forces me into my insulated Carhartt overalls, I’ll have one in its pocket as well.

I once had a navy blue handkerchief with a multi-color paisley border, but it found its way into a boating friend’s pocket on our five week schooner trip last year. (See South on a Schooner.) His poor nose was taking the brunt of the unpleasant weather so I leant it to him for the trip. Since it wasn’t returned at the end of the almost 2000 mile voyage, I now consider that it is on permanent loan; sort of like what the rich and famous do with pieces of artwork at museums.

The fall evenings here have been dipping into the low forties at night, which means we’ve been firing up the wood parlor stove. It’s all cast iron and once it’s been roaring away for a while the handle gets hot. So hot that you don’t want to open it with your bare hand. We have a pile of pot holders sitting on the top of the cookstove, which is backed up to the parlor stove, sharing the same chimney. Sometimes I’ll just use one of them. But if I’m walking by the parlor stove from the other direction and it needs attending I’ll pull out of my pocket a hot pad of a different sort, aka my handkerchief.


Hugh and I both like to read. And we enjoy reading aloud to each other. We had read aloud a few of CS Lewis’s books from the Chronicles of Narnia series. In one, Aslan gifts Peter with a sword, which Peter at one point does not properly clean. Aslan expresses his displeasure about this in a manner that anyone would not forget, not even me. So when I was down by the lake, finishing cleaning up the knives that Hugh had used for cleaning our latest catch of fish I made sure to dry them off with the best thing available—my handkerchief.


Blankets of dew, sheets of frost and puddles of rain often greet us these fall mornings. The windows on the boat are quite often covered with some form of moisture—water or ice, making it difficult to see when driving. After casting off dock lines, while we are still in the boat slip, I wipe down the windows using the side of my bare hand as a squeegee. Hands are softer than rubber and are less likely to scratch the plexiglass. This is when my handkerchief comes in handy—to dry off my hands before I stick them back into my gloves.


When we’re not able take the boat to the car I have to hike the mile out to the Jeep. We have a well loved ’85 CJ8 that’s been mechaniched on for various reasons. Too many fingers tinkered under the hood and dash before we got it; there is now a hodge-podge of wiring. There are also a number of rattles and squeaks from unknown sources. It’s not uncommon that, after driving over a rock or in a hole on the dirt two-track road, something jiggles in the wrong direction and the blower fan quits. I don’t mind if there isn’t heat because by the time I arrive at the Jeep, with my back pack loaded with my laptop and other essentials, I’m quite warm. But because I’m so warm the windshield starts to fog. With the blower fan not working I have to clear it myself; once again my handkerchief is very useful.


I’ve written before about how much I love my hip boots; one day though I did not have them when I wished I had. But I did have my handkerchief and it saved the day. Here’s what happened:

Hugh and I loaded the boat for our trip home from town. As he parked his truck I was looking over the edge of the floating dock into the water, looking for fish and what ever else there was to see.


I hadn’t seen anything in the water that might have made a splash. Quickly I realized that the splash was not made from something that was in the water; the noise was made from something that fell in from above. There weren’t any rocks on the dock that I had inadvertently kicked.

I thought “Oh no!”

Sure enough as I looked straight down, down below where the plop had sounded, I saw my cell phone, in its case, on the bottom on the lake! It had jumped off the waist of my jeans where it had been clipped on. Fortunately the water was only three feet deep; shallow enough for me to retrieve it.

I quickly thought about all the rescue options: immediately jump off the dock into the water, try to hook the case with the boat hook, or walk around to the shore and wade in. Jumping off the dock seemed a bit dramatic and I’d get really wet even with my Muck boots and jacket on; plus I’d stir up a lot of mud, which would obscure my view of my drowning phone. Trying to fish it out with the boat hook would take too long as I would have a difficult time making the hook snag the case; and even if I did successfully snag it there was no guarantee that it would stay hooked as I lifted it to safety.

“Quick think! The longer it’s in there the more damage that will be done. It’s like someone having a heart attack, their brain needs oxygen. Your phone is drowning it needs resuscitation. Quick start CPR!” These thoughts ran through my head.

“Well do something then. Too much time is going by!” I demanded back to myself.

The only option was to go up the gangplank onto shore, climb down the boat crib to the rocks and water and wade in without slipping. I would have to plunge my arm in to pick it up, so I took my jacket off and scrunched up the sleeve of my sweater and turtleneck, hoping my long arm would reach and I wouldn’t get my sleeves wet. Cautiously I waded in and hoped that where my cell phone was was not deeper than the tops of my Muck boots. Otherwise I’d get two sized-9-men boots of water.

Almost there, one more step, reach down, balance carefully.

“Just do it! You’re going to get wet, but getting your cell phone out and dry right now is more important than you staying dry and warm.” I scolded myself.


Just then Hugh arrived back to the top of the gangplank to see half of me soaked. My right arm was wet almost up to my shoulder, well past my sleeve cuffs. My right leg was wet above my Muck boots and my knee. I felt the cold wetness down to my toes. My phone dripped in my hand. He just shook his head. He had been there, done that. I had now been christened.

“Quick take out the battery,” he instructed.

I whipped it out of its case and fumbled to pop off the back. My hands felt as if they were shaking from the huge adrenaline rush that came from such a dramatic rescue effort.

My mind kept saying, “You gotta get it dry.”

Cold wet sleeves, pants and socks sent other messages: Good thing you took your coat off, otherwise it would be all wet too. Well at least not all of you is wet like you would have been if you had jumped in. Those Muck boots sure are nice how they snug up around the top of your calf, otherwise you’d have a couple of gallons of water rather than just one soggy pant leg and sock.

With the battery out my next task was to dry the phone off. In my left pants pocket my handkerchief was still dry. During the twenty minute boat ride home I lovingly wiped and blotted my cell phone hoping to get it dry. I slid it open and closed, trying to get at the moisture between the middle and the slide-out qwerty keyboard. I opened, wiped it all over, and closed it. Over and over I opened, wiped and closed it. With both relief and disappointment I wiped dry each new drop of water that came out of the middle. I was glad to know I was getting more and more water out of it by my open, wipe and close routine. I was disappointed to know that more water was in there. How much more was there?

I finally ceased when no more water appeared.

In the house we examined it. The water indicators both inside the phone and on the battery were not activated. Hugh was surprised and glad.

“I’ve heard people say they put their drowned cell phones in bowls or bags of rice to absorb the moisture,” I said.

“I don’t want it getting rice dust in it,” he replied, inferring that tiny rice particles might lodge between the slide-out keyboard and the middle of the phone. “Put it up high where the warm air circulates and let it dry out for at least a day.”

So I did. Then I said my prayer to the cell phone goddess. I did not want to have to replace it. We had been together for almost three years and it worked well; at least up until that point. Replacing it would be arduous. Sure I might have to reprogram all my phone book numbers into a new phone, but that was nothing compared to what it would actually take to replace it. To get to the closest Verizon store I would have to take the twenty minute boat ride from the house to the car, then drive 35 minutes to the ferry, which only runs once an hour. The ferry means another twenty minute ride. Then it is an hour and a half drive north to the store in Sault Sainte Marie. It’s quite an excursion to go anywhere past Drummond Island.

The two alternatives to driving to the Verizon store are to go online and order one or call Verizon directly. Even if I didn’t have a phone I could have used Hugh’s to make the call. It was Tuesday. I wouldn’t know until Thursday if it worked. That meant an order wouldn’t arrive until Monday at the earliest, but I probably wouldn’t get it until the following Tuesday as I don’t work or get the mail on Mondays. (See Mail Call about our mail.)

Either way meant I would have to wait. And if that wasn’t enough, I really didn’t want to have to replace it because the technical specifications of the phone would have to be very specific megahertz bandwidths to receive any signal here on the edge of the north woods. Earlier this spring I tried to upgrade my wireless internet card but the new one didn’t work because it was the wrong megahertz. The nearest cell tower is twenty miles away as the crow flies. We barely get 3G here and we definitely don’t get 4G.

The saying “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is very apropos to our cell and internet situation. So I prayed and was thankful I had had my handkerchief handy to dry off my phone immediately after I pulled it out of the 43 degree F lake.

I felt like a child eager for Christmas to arrive. I wanted to know if it would work. Each time I walked by it and I looked up hopeful. Would it be okay? Was it still alive? I patiently waited for Thursday morning. That was the day of reckoning. Would it work?

Thursday arrived. I offered up a few more quick prayers to the cell goddess as I tenderly slipped the battery in and snapped on the back. I’m sure I held my breath when I pushed the button with the green symbol to turn it on.

The screen lit up. Would it stay on or conk out?

The black and red Verizon name danced across the screen as it always did when it powered up. There were three bars displayed along with the accurate time and date. Things looked good so far. I called my office to check my voice mail. The speed dial remembered its program.

“Please enter your password,” the computer lady’s voice instructed.

I never thought I would say it, but those were sweet words to my ears. The keys transmitted the proper tones when I entered my password. Every once in a while I have a reoccurring nightmare about trying to call the police and the buttons on the phone do not work. I had been spared the torture of living my own nightmare.

Next I sent a text to Hugh: Guess what! It works! Yay!

“Message sent.” The screen displayed.

“Yay! :)” he replied.

I was very happy that I would not have to replace my phone.

Even though that day I didn’t have my hip boots on, my Muck boots kept most of the water out and I was able to dry the wet one out easily, thanks to my handy-dandy handkerchief. One of the newest uses that I have found for these versatile, twenty inch squares of fabric that are often referred to as bandanas is scrunching them up and sticking them in the foot of my wet boot to absorb the moisture. Hugh likes to use newspaper, but I prefer my trusty friend, my handkerchief.


About juliemckaycovert

I am a therapist, teacher, photographer and published author. I am a lover of life and nature. My husband, Hugh, and I live off the grid on a remote 40 acre island, Shelter Island, just off of Drummond Island in the far eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This blog is about my life, a life I thought I'd never be able to live. This blog is about dreams and ideals being manifested. It is about daily events with a backwoods twist. It is about the simple pleasures and wonders being brought forth. I invite you to be inspired and even, as some friends have, live vicariously through my words.
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2 Responses to The Handy-Dandy Handkerchief Saves the Day

  1. Kayleen Considine says:

    My goodness!! My heart almost stood still wondering if your phone would work again. You are indeed harty!! I hate the cold and could never get wet and cold like that!! Thank goodness you have your handkerchiefs.

    • Hi Kayleen,
      Thanks for reading. And yes, one does have to be hardy to live here and enjoy having a good sense of adventure. Even though we’re in Michigan, we’ll be getting remnants of Hurricane Sandy. We’ll be getting lots of wind and rain starting tomorrow night, so we had to pull the boat out of the water.
      What it takes to live here is worth every bit of any uncomfortableness – this morning while we were doing so, we saw two immature bald eagles.
      (You might enjoy checking out my first two dozen posts, which is all about my first year of living here.)

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