By Forrest Fisher
When I was growing up, it was taken for granted that kids played outside.
We did all those things we wanted to do outside, not inside. Mom said, “Go outside!” So we did. Every day.
We explored, we hiked the nearby fields and woods, we biked to nearby creeks to fish, we played baseball, we were bit by hornets, bees and wasps at one time or another, but overall, we had a lot of fun, all of it…outside.
After dark, we had a campfire, roasted marshmallows, potatoes and hot dogs on a fresh green tree branch whittled to a sharp point with a pocket knife. Each of us had one. It took quite a while for those raw potatoes to cook, but while waiting we would talk “about stuff” and we learned about all the things in life.
We had to keep feeding the fire which was fun all by itself. After a while, we discovered it was cleaner and faster to borrow some of mom’s aluminum foil (we dared not tell her) and wrap up the potatoes, then toss them on the coals of the fire. We were careful not to get burned, but we did a lot discovering through those young days as we grew up.
Our parents trusted us to carry a knife and matches because we were smart and responsible. They told us so. We grew up hearing that over and over. We grew up knowing that.
With the matches, after toasting our fingers at first try to light the match, we didn’t get burned much after that. Funny how you learn how to be safe. I cannot recall ever having an accident with our pocket knives. Most of us had BB-guns too. My Daisy Red-Ryder is still in my closet nearly 70 years later and it still works, even after what has to be 100,000 rounds or more. That poor spring. That’s a lot of BB’s. All safely placed shots too, of course. No windows broken that I can remember, but my memory is not always perfect.
We grew up outside sharing so many things with our friends and neighbors. Everybody knew everybody. It was a fun time to be a kid. Looking back, it was great to grow up as a kid in the 50s and be trusted with so many things that we associate with as danger in the world of today.
As I walked a trout stream last weekend, our springtime foliage was in full blooming color. I reflected on being a kid and I started to think about our modern generation with much of their indoor recreation and the hand-held indoor universe. I took my 4-weight fly rod and sat down on the bank to just ponder. For some reason, I felt sad.
Today, if mom or dad or grandpa or an uncle or a close friend does not fish or hunt or camp or hike, then there is one entire sector of our generation that will never know about all those outdoor things, and all the fun and adventure to be had learning to be trusted with safe things that can be dangerous. Do parents today tell their kids that they are smart and responsible? Maybe, but they might only be texting it to them. It’s not the same.
Matches, pocket knives, sharp sticks, hot potatoes and bb guns allowed us to develop a foundation for how to be safe with each other and care for each other. We learned about proper ethics, the wisdom of lessons in a story tale told around a campfire. We learned to visualize, watching the flames and listening to the words of the tale. We were mesmerized in a world of special diversity as kids in that age of our time.
So today I worry a bit about our youngsters, their parents and the new generations coming along. It seems that no one has time to “just let the kids play outside” today. Moms and dads both work, that is the biggest difference, perhaps. Most moms in those old days were at home.
My mom rewarded me for going fishing and bringing back dinner. It didn’t help my allowance, I didn’t get one. We were not poor, but we survived by doing the simple things for fun, sharing, working hard and learning about helping the budget with fish and game, and the family garden.
My sister and I raised chickens and sold eggs to help out. More outdoor stuff. Those eggs were totally organic by today’s definitions and they were so good. We had 50 chickens at one point. The garden was a summer task that was hard work, but it was fun, too. We learned about insects, plants, natural forces and there was this kinship where we learned about all life in our world.
Let’s bring back the old days. Share life with others, make new friends in the outdoors, lead by example.