Making Kids Have Outdoor Fun (?)

It was one of those small off-Reecer Creek meetings of the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association (aka RCRGWD&OTTBA). The questions on the floor were “How do we make our kids get outdoors and have fun?” and “Should we even try?”

Jacques Jesaistout (“Toot” we call him) opined that, given what he sees as a broad fear among parents of letting kids out of sight these days, our little think tank shouldn’t put too much energy into the argument. Lower County Homey argued that times are changing; he sees parents more and more pushing their kids out the door. He shrugged “And, who cares, anyhow? That’s drifting off the agenda item we’re debating!”

He was right, of course. Father-of-Three-Boy-Brats Tad lifted a hand. “We got so tired of the squabbling and their little noses in cell phones, tablets and TVs that we decided to do just that: make them go outside and enjoy themselves. We packed up a no-electronics day to Cooper Lake a couple weekends ago. We had fishing gear, firewood, hot dogs, s’mores stuff, and a list of things we decided we’d send them out to find if they started whining about being bored.”

“…And?” Toot asked.

“Some of it worked, and some of our careful planning was a waste,” Tad replied. “I helped them bait up and get their lines in the water. They’re like eight to twelve, so I left them watching rods and went to help their mom get chairs and stuff out of the car. After a while things got pretty quiet, so I went back down to the beach. Two of the rods were bouncing with fish – one half in water and the other more or less under the control of the twelve-year-old – but the younger boys were not there. When I asked where they were, he just sorta waved down the shore as he brought in a nice little trout. I hustled around a rocky point and there they were, turning over rocks, looking at bugs and whatever else they could find and do. They were so lost in jabbering and pointing and laughing that they didn’t even hear me come up.

“The whole day was like that. We’d get them re-focused on fishing or something and turn our backs, and some invisible force would drag them off to their own thing. The only time they followed our plan was getting the fire going, roasting wieners and making s’mores. After dark, we loaded up and headed home. They conked out about the time we pulled onto the gravel.

“Over breakfast this morning, they were still talking about bugs and fish and when we’re going again and why can’t they have s’mores for breakfast. I guess I’d say it was a great day with a fair amount of unnecessary planning.”

As we chuckled and shook our heads in agreement, I described a some-years-ago evening at McCabe with the Hucklings. Edward was probably eight and Anna and Tena somewhere around twelve and thirteen. It was a warm August “We’re bored…” evening, so I dragged them to the big pond at the mouth of the Canyon.

With their little spin cast outfits, they were soon catching little bass and other spiny rays on worms, with one or two lost-looking six-inch rainbows. At some point, Anna complained that she had some sort of snag, and the other two came running over to coach and cheer her on. Turned out it was a moving snag, and after ten or fifteen minutes, a five-pound catfish was flopping in the shallows. After a family vote, it was released back to its former life and all three Hucklings went back to their own fishing. Within minutes, two of the reels had bird-nests of tangled line. They decided to sit and watch as I showed them how to detangle the mess. Within seconds, I was alone. Moments later, I heard giggling and laughter from the other side of some willows, and went to investigate.

Clearly, detangling was not as entertaining as they’d thought. Edward found a six-foot length of monofilament with an old hook attached, Anna apparently found a long stick and Tena rounded up worm bits. With that setup, they caught and released at least a dozen three- or four-inch pumpkinseed sunfish. I gave up on the tangles and bathed in their joy and laughter ‘til dark.

After a couple more similar stories, Toot looked around. “Well, what have we learned today?”

Tad smiled. “Make kids get outside… And then get out of their way.”

That motion seconded and approved on a voice vote, the meeting adjourned.

Happy summer…

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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