DAY 3: Five Day Challenge Assignment: “Free Range Kids”

He Mused to Himself

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Sitting on the sofa, by the window…reminiscing.  Somehow the conversation turned to kids today and he comments (as much to himself as to anyone in the room) that as soon as the sun was up, he was dressed and outside and his mother didn’t see him till the sun was going down.  He recollects, how nice that she didn’t have to worry about him getting abducted, molested or some other fear mothers of today possess.  (Nowadays, we rarely let the kids even play in the front yard without supervision.)

THE   STORYTELLER

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I never tire of hearing “The Indian-Way-Of Cooking-a-Chicken” story.  

When he was a lad, he and his pals would get up early and head for the hills.  This was quite a hike out of town.  They made one stealth stop on their way to the mountain, a neighbor’s chicken coop.  

LUNCH

Once they arrived at their chosen location, up in the mountains, the first thing they would do is to dig a fire pit and get a good fire going. They would then kill the chicken by chopping it’s head off and smear the carcass all over with thick mud.  After it was completely covered in this layer of mud, they would put it in the fire pit and cover it in coals and leave it to cook while they went off and played like they were wild Indians up in the mountains.

Upon returning, they would fork the cooked chicken out of the coals and crack the hardened mud off of it.  The feathers and skin would all come off with the mud they were stuck to.  (This was the punch line of this particular story, how easy it was for our first Native Americans to pluck a chicken.)  They’d eat the meat, picking around the gut area.

He is a natural story-teller, weaving lots of intricate details into these tales.  As a listener, you feel you are right there, reliving those experiences with him.  I could see myself whooping and hollering, running wild and free through the hills and forests with that pure freedom only kids with no adult supervision or intervention can experience.

Imagination turned loose.

They weren’t bad boys.  Just good chums up in the hills playing Indian.  I guess if the worst thing they ever did was to steal a chicken or two in the follies of youth, they will still pass through those pearly gates.

The days of his youth are not far away.  They live on, in his stories and in him, embedded into the very marrow of bone and tissue that make him who he is.  They live because he lives.

A living testament to the makings of free-range child, deep-rooted into this sure and steady man.

“Tree Huggers”

As a little girl growing up in my first neighborhood in Las Vegas, NV  I was exceedingly happy with my life and my Love Bucket was overflowing.  I remember one day, wrapping my short arms around a big Elm Tree in our front yard and hugging it.  The rough bark rubbed against me and reminded me how little and weak I was compared to this strong and loyal friend.  I loved that old tree.  We had a China Berry tree as well that I was instructed never to climb as I could break the more delicate branches.  I longed to climb that one as well, and tried to now and then, doing it with the gnawing feeling of doing something wrong and hurting the guardians, my aunt and uncle, I loved too much to disobey.

Little did I know that someday…in the far future, this would exemplify a whole group of Eco-Minded folk in our society who would be called Environmentalists.  People working hard to preserve the natural realm of things.  I am proud to be a card-carrying member of that group, in a more subtle way.  Too bad, that as adults, we have to go over the top with things and then have to defend our right to our beliefs and actions.  Too bad that our world is growing too small to hold so many conflicting opinions, rubbing up against one another and being annoying.

Going back to a smaller self, a smaller world, those were not issues at all.  The only world I knew back then was my own little circumference which barely extended past my front yard.  To cross the street now and then and play with my best friend, Mikey Brown, was what I considered venturing out into the world.

 My tree hugging days were uncomplicated and unreported

Below are photos of a new generation of tree-huggers.  They aren’t  bonding with the trees to save the planet or save an  insect close to extinction.  They don’t consider what drives them to cling to a tree.  Children just love trees!

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“Yellow, Wild Roses”

This is a true, short story:

Years ago, when my kids were all young, living in Panaca, NV; we were building a new house on a lot we had recently purchased in the middle of town.

We bought a very small 8 X 40′ trailer we hauled to the building site and lived in that while we were building.  With a family of five children crammed within, we were literally living on top of one another, like sardines in a can.  We did build an additional bedroom onto the trailer for the kids to sleep in.  We pretty much threw it up just to suffice our short stint till the new house was finished.  In the winter, ice formed on the inside around the door and window.  Sounds pretty dismal but looking over at the beautiful, new home going up made it all very bearable.

Everyone pitched in and helped on the building project, by the way.  I have photos of even my two sons up on the steep pitched roof helping their dad shingle it.  My ex-husband had a saying, “Small houses build character.”  That must be true because each of the kids coming out of this union are solid adults, true and capable. This is a great story in and of itself but today I am narrowing this broad story down to a particular moment in time, focusing on an incident that happened in this tiny trailer and with one son in particular, Ryan, our eldest at nine years old.

I was fixing dinner, the  house was in a shambles (as usual) and hot in the middle of summer with the screen door to keep the flies out and help the air circulate.  I was fixing supper over the small stove in the cramped kitchen area.  Ryan came through the screen door and I instantly began scolding him for not hurrying up and shutting the door behind him as he was letting the flies in.

Busy with fixing a meal, I didn’t notice his hands were clasped behind his back.  After he came inside and I quit scolding him, he pulled what he had been concealing behind his back, a huge bouquet of wild, yellow roses that grew profusely in the area.  I was so taken aback at this surprise he offered me and feeling very guilty for getting after him.

As I stood there, in the middle of dinner preparations, feeling very sorry for being so hasty to chastise him for “dawdling”, he went on to tell me in a meek little voice that he had picked all the thorns off of the roses.  What a mixture of emotions were swimming around in my head and heart.  Mostly, an overpowering feeling of love and gratefulness for this precious little boy along with feelings of anger at myself for ruining his big surprise.

This is one of those bittersweet memories, a mother stores her whole life in her memory bank, pulling it up either at will or having it flash across the screen at random times.  My “boy” is now 39 years old.  Rather shy and sensitive by nature still.  Having been through the “Hard Knocks of Life University” himself by now and much too old for me to take upon my lap and cuddle and assure him all is right in the world with a kiss and a hug.  How I miss those simple times, those easy fixes.

I hope I did something, somewhere along the road of parenting, that he can pull from his memory bank, to set him back on course when he feels life weighing down upon, a childhood memory to help get him through the hard spots.  He has grown into a good person, a responsible adult who holds down a steady job and his word is his bond. But, oh, how I love and miss that little boy of long ago, standing at my doorway with a beautiful bouquet of yellow, thornless, wild roses for his mother.

This is a story about love.  The purest kind.  When we give everything we have to give.  One of the greatest gifts Ryan gave me that day was to overlook my brash first reaction and wait patiently for me to calm down then pull his surprise out and offer it in his sweet, childish way, even explaining he had picked all the thorns off first.  I’d say, this is one of my most treasured gifts.

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Quote by Tasha Tudor from the book ” The Private World of Tasha Tudor” :

” When I’m working in the barn or house I often think of all the errors I’ve made in my life.  But then I quickly put that behind me and think of water lilies.  They will always eradicate unpleasant thoughts.  Or goslings are equally comforting in their own way.”     “…..Oh, it’s very soothing.”