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While I was horseback riding the other day with my Dad, for some reason, several "growing up" memories came flooding back to me. Perhaps it was being in the woods at Springtime, or maybe it was because I was finally able to relax for the first time in a long time? I’m not sure. I just know that I realized something that I hadn’t thought about since I was in my young teenage years: the fact that, although my dad hadn’t introduced me to hunting, I must admit that it definitely was my dad who taught me about the great outdoors. And that, in turn, gave me a solid basis for becoming the outdoors’ person I am today – even if it took several years for it to emerge into something like becoming a hunter.
I remember many times going horseback riding with him for hours, packing a picnic lunch and riding for a few hours, stopping for lunch and riding some more. (There were a lot less housing developments around here back then.) Sometimes we trailered the horses and met up with a group of other riders, but most of our rides were just the two of us.
Once, I thought I was doing something so special for Dad – I packed the lunch and then just as we rode off, I told him that I had packed his favorite drink in the thermos: Pepsi! He quickly grabbed the thermos from the saddle bag and opened it quickly and explained that it could have exploded due to the carbonation! Oops! What did I know? I was only a kid! J
While Dad and I rode, sometimes we cantered along, so there wasn’t much talking, but when we walked, we talked. My dad taught me all the kinds of trees around here, somehow – I don’t remember that I was ever being taught anything on those rides, but I do remember him quizzing me: "Hey, Jen, what’s that tree with the shaggy bark?" and me responding correctly, "Hickory." Although I admit, I don’t really know them all anymore. But because of that time in the woods, I look at each tree individually – not just as a forest of trees, but as each one being different than the next, with different characteristics that can help you to remember them. And I remember it as having special times with my dad.
I thought about how I would like to teach my girls about different kinds of trees, too, without them realizing that they’re being taught something as well. Because it’s more than teaching them about trees, it’s teaching them an appreciation for nature - all of the little things ‘out there’ that make being in the woods something I truly cherish, even after all these years.
The girls and I live on the farm with my dad where I grew up as the eighth generation to live there. Now that the weather has turned warmer, I see that my two young girls are interested in the great outdoors. Two days in a row, with different sets of friends, they have asked to go down to the stream out back. And for a few hours each day, they broke away from the television and computer without complaining! They showed their friends around, walking barefoot in the still-freezing cold water, with the mud oozing up between their toes. Not one of the girls is saying "Eww!" because they are too busy pointing out crayfish and baby salamanders in the calmer pools. They see deer tracks and a raccoon hand print along the waters’ edges. Then everyone laughs as my girls trick their friends into smelling a broken skunk cabbage stalk!
Then when the girls were out with my dad and I the other day fixing fences, I overheard him say to my youngest daughter, "Hey! Look at that shaggy bark on that tree! Do you know what it’s called?" And I smiled at the flashback of me at that age, and because I knew that she was learning the way I had – without even realizing that she was being taught!
By that time, my older daughter had wandered back towards the stream. The reminiscing was broken as she shrieked, "Oh, Mom! Come quick! A frog!" bringing me back to the present tense, where I realize that they are developing an appreciation of the great outdoors, just how I did with my dad! I must be doing something right - just like my Dad!
© June 2005
Alaska and the Yukon
North Alabama, Mississippi p
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