How to Make an Outdoorsman
How do you make a boy into an outdoorsman. Or for that matter, how would you make a couch potato if anybody wants their kids to grow up to be couch potatoes.
Yes, the toys do help make the boy. Couch potatoes are made by buying your kid lots of video games, giving him a big screen TV and a premium cable package and keeping him away from sports teams or any kind of physical activity. Throw in a few Barbie dolls and you could just as well be raising a girlie girl.
And guess what kind of childhood I had. In second grade history class, the nuns told us about Daniel Boone and how he blazed a trail across western Pennsylvania into Kentucky. Before you knew it, I was at the hardware store and bought a hatchet, then went across Broad Street into the woods what went behind Gropps lake and ran to Great Bear Swamp.
I used the hatchet to chop marks on the side of trees like Mr. Boone did. I blazed my own trails. I found a spring and got a canteen and filled it up with fresh spring water right out of the ground. I found the stream that led from Gropps Lake Dam to Crosswicks Creek. On the creek older kids had monkey ropes and I would use these to swing out over the creek. There was also a cable zip line which is two cables running parallel to each other. You grab onto the upper cable with your hands and walk across the lower cable with your feet.
I took my friend Brian into the woods and showed him what I discovered. Together we found a row boat and borrowed it to sailed down the little creek to Crosswicks Creek and rode Crosswicks Creek down to the Rt. 206. Next, we took the boat back and went home.
I told my mom what I did and she seemed quite agreeable to what I did. I was surprised. Her brother drowned swimming in the Delaware when he was 16 and I had the same first name as he. Turns out she thought I was making up the story about stealing a boat and going down Crosswicks Creek.
I went back to the woods with Brian and repeated the trip. Except this time it was low tide when we got back to the tributary we took to the larger creek. This meant I had to get out of the boat and dull it up the creek because the water was too shallow to paddle back to where we started. I fell unto a hole in the creek and started sinking into water over my head. I got lucky and hit a rock before I went under.
Brian pulled me to safety, but I was covered head to toe with mud. When I got home my mom was pissed. What Happened to you? she said. I told her about the boat again and this time she replied, "My god, you really did take a boat to Rt. 206, didn't you?" I was told never to do it again and got grounded. She also said her brother died in the same river doing something less stupid than what I did and that I will probably never live to see adulthood either.
And what is the elementary school years without your first real gun? I believe my first experience with firearms was when I was 7 years old taking a Christmas trip with my father to Shomokin, PA which is in the Poconos. This was no candy ass ski trip. No, my dad went up to his friend's cabin to slaughter a cow to fill our freezer.
My father's friend was a hillbilly who moved to Trenton and started a roofing business with his brother. Having been born and raised on a farm in the mountains he hunted and fished regularly. The cabin was his father's farm and there was a barn and a fenced-in corral around the barn. My dad's friend had a black Angus steer delivered to the farm.
The day we arrived, my father's friend went out and shot the steer several times in the head with a rifle. He then pulled the downed cow up in the air by the back legs with a chain and hoist, cut the cow's throat and skinned it. We ate the tongue for supper and the rest of the animal went to the packing plant for butchering.
Here I was, a suburban kid from Hamilton observing the killing and butchering of my first animal at the age of 7. What a way to toughen up the boy, my dad thought. I was devastated. The next day, I did something a little more fun. I got to do some target shooting with my father and his friend. I got
to shoot a ..22 and a .44 rifle. First the .22. That went well enough. No kick, and I hit the target. Next the .44, which knocked me off my feet. My dad thought it would be funny to let me get knocked on my tail by a high power rifle.
Next, I got to ride down to logging trail on a 'toboggan' which was really a steel sign with the front bent up. I wrecked the improvised sled when I hit a tree. I got banged up a little bit.
When I got home, my dad took my over the bridge to Pennsylvania and bought my a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun. He set up a shooting range in the basement and I would spend hours down there plinking away at tin cans. Got to be a crack shot.
Fast forward to adulthood. Guess who joined the New Jersey Army National Guard and stayed in for 10 years. Yep, little ole me. I got to shoot sharpshooter with the M16, sleep in the woods and learn to kill with a bayonet. I also got to drive heavy trucks with stick shifts. And most of what I needed to know, camping, shooting, woodsmanship, I did not learn in the Boy Scouts, but learned through my father or on my own.
Needless to say, most suburban kids don't have childhoods like I did. No they grow up ignorant of firearms and the woods. They turn into typical urban adults, either afraid of guns or infatuated by them. In either case, they are not familiar with them and don't know how to clean them or use them in a safe manner for a constructive purpose like hunting.
I am also strongly opposed to gun control and think New Jersey's gun control laws should be repealed, not strengthened.
I urge you to call your congressman and senators to make it clear we don't need stronger gun laws at the federal level.
We need to develop a strong gun culture in New Jersey and the rest of the nation. Then we will have stronger kids that will want to join the army and defend their country when they grow up.