Recently, I was part of a meeting where the topic of the “Good Old Days” came up. The meeting was small and work related. We were all 40 somthings with a couple squeaking in around 50 years old, but generally a mix of Gen X’ers and late Baby Boomers. As we sat around the conference table and discussed the state of today’s school systems and safety concerns and kids, my mind started to drift as it often does when meetings run too long…
I began to think of my own childhood and growing up in a rural farming community and how that sort of youth helped shape me into the outdoors lover I am today. Now, I’m not old by any stretch, but I’ve been around long enough to say “I remember” or “when I was a kid”...and I bear the scars, wrinkles and a few gray hairs to prove it.
When I look at the shape of today’s youth, to look at how our kids are growing up, I shake my head and worry for our collective future. We live in a rural community, one that is still deeply entrenched in agriculture and our outdoor heritage. But, despite our farming and hunting traditions, even here in Switzerland County, it’s becoming more and more of a battle to hang on to that rural lifestyle.
As a teenager, it was rare to ever find my truck without a shotgun or a .22 rifle hanging from the rack mounted in the rear glass. No boy worth his salt would be caught without a good pocket knife and camouflage and flannel weren’t fashion statements, they were tools of the trade. We all knew how to shoot, hunt and bait a hook.
We spent our summers swimming a deep hole on Upper Grant’s Creek, four wheeling Lost Forties and Swiss Lakes or next to a bonfire while catfishing all night along the Ohio. We chased squirrels in late summer and built treestands out of scrap wood and pallets for the upcoming deer season. We drove country roads at night, shining for deer (no guns involved) and would wind up in some far off, exotic place like Moorefield or Dewberry or Canaan! We camped in and out of tents and stayed up ‘til the wee hours gigging frogs, chasing ‘coons or fishing some moss covered pond.
Nearly every able bodied high school boy knew how to cut and house tobacco and my arms were worn raw from throwing hay and straw during the summer months. As products of our generation, we earned extra gas money by mowing lawns and shoveling snow, both seemingly lost arts amongst our youngsters today. Of course, cutting and selling firewood was always a sure way to get some quick cash…
Maybe, just maybe if our kids put down the video games, slowed down a bit, stopped texting, tweeting and “facebooking”, they could get a taste of what it was like to grow up rural and in the outdoors. Encourage our kids to get outside. Get out of the basement and off the couch. Leave the TV alone and do something. Go for a hike, go camping, take them fishing, wade a creek, skip some rocks, share a campfire, whittle a stick and talk…Let’s let kids be kids and maybe it’s time for us as parents to be parents and not our kids’ best friends…Something to think about and I wasn’t even in a tree stand.