Jun
05

About Kid Camping and Fishing

We spent a few days in Denver last month, integrating brand new grandbabies into the family mix and harassing those old enough to harass back. Somewhere in there were invitations to come to Paradise and do a little fishing and camping and shooting. And there was a handful of conversation about taking all those grand-Hucklings out into wild places.

Most of the conversation was about one or another of the adventures they had enjoyed as they were growing up, and the desire among my now-grownups to help their own kids make those sorts of memories.

Over several decades, one group of Hucklings or the other fished and camped from the prairie lakes and forested rivers of Kansas to the Red Desert of Wyoming and the alpine timber country of the Northwest. Those trips were generally great fun, but as the reminiscing carried on I was flashing back to those kinds of moments that parents manage – but still remember. We manage them so that our youngsters will carry more memories of fun than trouble.

A case in point might be a combination camping, fishing and field trial trip with Freebe the WonderDog in Kansas in June of ’71 or ’72. It was tick season. I don’t recall much about the trip, other than Freebe’s performance and chasing wild children around and through that prairie pond. I will never forget the weeks afterward, however. Tim was six or seven. Of course, we checked the kids for ticks after our trip, found a couple, removed them, and didn’t think much about it. A few days later, Tim came down with aches, fever, and stiffness. The tick we missed had chewed a place the size of my little fingernail on the top of his head. We treated the fever, but his head pulled down onto his right shoulder. I remember fretting as cheerfully as a parent can during the nearly two months it took for his head to return to its normal position. Tim remembers camping and playing with kids and dogs.

Then here are these old kid photos. In one, the three older Hucklings – all under six – are holding hands in front of our old tent trailer, smiles shining through the mud and mosquito bites covering them from head to toe. And there is four-year-old Tim, miserable from mosquito bites, but with a triumphant grin over his first two beaver pond trout. Another is a shot of younger Hucklings Tena and Anna walking across the Red Desert near a sweet-water, mosquito infested spring. Covered with welts from bites, they were holding hands and smelling wild flowers.

Somewhere in those discussions of kid fishing and camping was a resigned “I guess you just don’t count on time for yourself much when you have your kids in the woods, huh?” What could I do? I retold my “Aha…” story.

When the older kids were still too small to do much fishing, we spent late ‘60s time camping in Yellowstone. I can still taste a very early morning on Yellowstone Lake in July. It was one of those mornings when I felt totally alive, when the colors in the morning sun were deep and rich, and the air gently flowed through every cell of my being. I stood at the edge of that clear, cold lake casting for cutthroat trout. If this was my last morning on earth, it would be okay. I was even catching a few 14- and 15-inch cutts.

Down the beach, another guy was fishing. Fiftyish, I guessed, a bit older than most men with young kids (as I was to be with the younger kids). He praised the morning, noted his tough year of work and his need to be fishing again, and nervously rigged his gear for the first cast. Then I understood his nervousness. Down the trail behind him came a woman and two little six- to eight-year-old girls. It was all over. The poor guy would get them rigged, they would cast, and he would turn to his own rod. One time he even got to squat down next to his rod as a fish played with his bait before the cries of frustration over tangled lines, hooked limbs (kids’ and/or trees’), or lost baits drew him away from his own fishing. I was thinking “No thanks.”

Then his wife hugged him and offered to remove the girls so he could relax and fish. He wrinkled his nose up and said, “No… Thanks. I need to relax, yeah, but what I really need is you guys.” He dismantled his gear and got serious about teaching his girls to fish. Last I remember, he was grinning ear to ear, helping the little one unhook a trout. I got it.

My grownups are, and will continue to be, great outdoor kid parents. We talk about today’s public land and water challenges. Still, whatever it takes, our kids have to get out camping.

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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