Once again we packed up Boywonder and sent him off to camp for the week. By “we” I mean “he,” of course. I haven’t packed his bags since the memorable year I filled his knapsack with snack bars and he asked, derisively, if I was planning to have him dragged off into the woods by raccoons?
It is a rite of passage of Boy Scouts to send comfortable, middle class kids into the wilderness to live like savages. By this, I mean sleeping in WWI style canvas triangle tents with wood slat floors (the better for snake access) on a little iron bed exactly like those I imagine to have populated Depression-era prisons. It’s like a work camp with cafeteria food and minimal bathing. Boywonder loves it.
In the hot parking lot, watching the boys load up to leave, the juxtaposition between “now” and “then” was never as apparent as when I watched the littlest scouts lug their giant duffel bags over for the bigger boys to load. Their fragile spines and spindly arms bend under the weight.
They drag items across the parking lot, setting them at the feet of the “big boys,” who will, in turn, say “is that all?” and heft them, easily, into the back of a truck.
As one young boy stared straight up, in awe, at a 16-year-old Adonis with bulging biceps, I wanted to lean down and say “stick with it kid, in a blink you’ll be there too.” Then I recall that when you are 11, five years may as well be an eternity. I just smiled at the younger boy’s jumbo bag of beef jerky and gently warned his mother about the propensity to be attacked by raccoons.
I hope she appreciated my candor. She looked a little pale.
A friend, hearing of his upcoming trip, said “Oh he will love that. Probably catch a deer with his bare hands. He’s so outdoorsy!”
Watching him lift and bundle and run and fetch I realized she is absolutely right. Meanwhile, the same person who will wrangle livestock on the fly, split firewood, repair fence and almost cheerfully load lumber and luggage for dozens into the back of a truck will react with horror if asked to put away his own laundry.
Basically, he would be willing to rebuild a barn with his bare hands, but do not ask that child to pick up his own shoes.
While I am loathe to make it a country versus city thing, I do wonder if the nature of living with nature, is part of why native country type persons (which my husband and children are and I am not) are such hard workers when the sun shines?
Example: when someone says “the goats are out!” you really can’t pull out your calendar and pencil in a good time to put them back in. You have to go. Now.
I have seen Boywonder fly out the door, barefoot, with a sandwich in one hand and lead line in the other, wrangle a goat back into the pasture and rewire the gate all without putting down his sandwich. The whole time I am still standing on the back patio muttering about how I never wanted goats in the first place.
Haying season is upon us and hearing what my neighbors and friends go through and the sheer amount of hard physical labor in blistering heat is daunting. It makes me wonder why no one has managed to transition livestock to a diet of take-out pizza and cold cereal over the last couple of hundred years.
Outdoors our son may not make hay while the sun shines — but he shines nonetheless. He once ran — barefoot again (ladies and gentleman, my son, Jethro Clampett) — for more than a mile to retrieve a gas can, and then rode his bike back balancing said gas can on the handlebars when our truck ran out of fuel on the boat ramp (don’t ask). He was 15. How is this the same child who gets lightheaded if asked to unload the dishwasher?
Camp will toughen him up but some things are just ingrained. Outdoors equals good and indoors equals bad is one of them.
I guarantee he will come home with even harder muscles and a deeper tan — but no deeper appreciation for how to operate a vacuum cleaner or the washing machine.
As I was lamenting the difference between hardworking country camp boy and “I may faint if asked to touch a household appliance” boy, a dear friend came up with a marvelous suggestion.
We’re thinking about putting the dishwasher on the porch.
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