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Growing Up Outdoors


When I was a kid, there was no MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, or smartphones.  We were forced to go outside and run in the streets.  20 years ago it was a different time.  Myself and our neighbor kids ruled the street.  We had a tree house in an empty lot down the street, to which you needed the secret password to get into, until the city came to tear it down.  Scouting was big in my hometown and I cannot count the weekends that I spent camping out with our Boy Scout troop.

My favorite memory of those many camp outs was a starry cold night at Scott Lake in Western Kansas.  We always stayed in the same cabin on the east side of the lake.  It wasn’t very big.  In fact it only had one room with nothing but a fire-place in it to keep the place warm a bunk bed and a few extra mattresses for us all to sleep on.

The cabin was right below the bluffs to the lake.  At the time, there were three cabins along the side of the bluffs each about a quarter-mile apart.  To our troop’s camp fire story-teller, he called them the Troll houses.  I realize now that this “Troll” family traveled from campsite to campsite, sometimes they were in different states then the story we were told a month before hand.

Just down the dirt road from the cabin and across a highway, there was a small boat dock that we would send ourselves off in our canoes to explore the lake.  By that boat dock, there was a section of thick cat-tails that was no larger than a football field.  This cool crisp night, the cat-tails were laying flat.  They were thicker than the humidity on mid-summer day.  So thick in fact that, you were able to walk on top of them without even touching the water.

Capture the Flag was our nightly choice of entertainment.  I don’t know how it began but someone had the grand idea to go play the game on top of the cat-tails.  This night, it wasn’t just the darkness of night that made the game challenging, the cat-tails added a whole new dimension to the game.  If you did not go away from that game without having tripped on those fallen plants then you were lucky.

I remember covering the mid-section of our part of the playing field.  I was laying down on top of the plants.  I was able to lay there in my black shirt and pants against the white of the cat-tails without being seen.  The night was black with the exception of the full moon that was shining but I was hiding the shadows of the trees that they had cast onto the cat-tails.  I look up and see someone from the other team quickly run by.  I was close enough that I was able to tag their leg.

As I was taking them back to “Jail” (a place we would put people we tagged and they had to wait there for someone from their team to come save him) as we called it, I remember someone jumping out at me from under the cat-tails.  He scared me.  Of course back then it didn’t take much to scare me. He had been hiding there for a while and I couldn’t tell who it was until I saw his face until he turned into the moon light.

The person who had just scared the life out of me was no one else but, my dad!

We laugh about it now.  It is still one of the best memories of dad from back during my scouting years.

Those camp-outs still to this day were the one thing that I enjoyed the most during my teenage years.  While the Kid is years away from being a teenager, although it seems like he has an attitude of a 16-year-old at times, I want to share with him something that meant so much to me as a kid.

During our recent camping excursion, I couldn’t help but see the future of camping with the Kid.  I couldn’t help but think about those games of Capture the Flag with him when he is a scout.  Camping played such a major role in my life than that I want to be able to take the Kid out into nature and turn off the cell phones, put down the laptops and tablets, and turn off the TV.  My cell phone battery died very early on during our camping trip and you know what, I didn’t miss the constant buzzing or updates that were sent to it.   I was able to spend time and make memories with the Kid, much like I made with my dad when I was camping.

Growing Up Outside - The Rookie Dad

Teaching the Kid how to Skip Rocks

Growing Up Outside - The Rookie Dad

Fishing with The Kid

Growing Up Outside - The Rookie Dad

Trying to keep warm on a cool night

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About The Rookie Dad

I am husband and father foremost. Secondly, I am a PBS producer and contribute to Traveling Dads and Dads Round Table.

Posted on September 15, 2014, in Fatherhood and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. postpostmoderndad

    i love taking my son to Cub Scout camps. I’m not an outdoorsy guy at all, but he really likes it and having that connection to nature is good for us.

  2. Despite the fact that I’m an IT guy by trade, I’ve been taking great pains to make sure both of my kids grow to have a deep appreciation of the outdoors. My thoughts on such: http://www.scientologyparent.com/10-reasons-why-handheld-devices-should-not-be-banned-for-kids-under-12/

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