When my first child was my only child, every now and then the wife would need a break from reality. It also meant that the best way to allow her that break was for father and son to find something to do.
Growing up approximately eight miles outside of town in what was considered ‘the country,’ I had few neighbors. And if there was land and no fence, it was free to roam. Things were simpler then. We could ride our bikes to school on what is now a busy highway without fear of getting hit, and that was before roads had large areas of pavement along the sides. Even our church kept the doors unlocked all day, every day, without worry of someone stealing, vandalizing or misusing the facilities.
With those freedoms, we often did the same as our forefathers did with their freedoms. We went exploring.
Mind you, we didn’t set off to the West in search of hidden lands filled with gold. Nor did we look to stake claim on parcels in which to grow our families. After all, we were not even 10 years old yet. Our ideas of exploring were finding hidden creeks and ponds in the woods, locating vines hanging in trees to swing over those hidden creeks and ponds or even running into an occasional snake or lizard.
Of course, things change. What I was allowed to do on my own before I was old enough to remember my address is not allowed for teenagers this day and time. Still, those memories were and are abundant.
And in that vein, when it was time to give the wife some much needed peace, Turner and I would go exploring. It was our time together. We were on a mission to find something to leave us in awe. After all, that is what exploring is all about.
Now, a father and son attempting to be in awe over the same thing has different meaning. You see, I cheated. I already had been through his years and many more. Because I explored as a child, I knew what was where in many places.
For instance, that old pond hidden in the woods down a white-sand path with an old boat dock halfway crumbling was well known to harbor hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of tadpoles. I knew this. I had been there many times. In fact, those tadpoles occasionally helped me get good grades with either science class or biology class as show-and tell-creatures. Yes, the tadpoles that were sprouting legs were the coolest of the bunch.
Because I knew of this place, and had seen the sights, my sense of awe had diminished. But for a young boy who had not experienced these things, it was completely awe inspiring. For a brief moment, I was the coolest dad ever. It was times such as this that made my son want to go exploring more often.
The neat thing about this is, even though a father may have lost some of the awe from what was being seen, the true awe, the different awe if you will, comes from seeing the child’s excitement. It is then that the father, me in this case, realizes what is going through his son’s mind as he experiences this adventure.
My son, who is out of college and in the workforce, still harbors that yearning for exploring. He has mentioned his desires to visit various places such as the Everglades and such. But as with all of us, as time flows, our desires are put aside by work, relationships and life in general. I can only hope that he gets to act upon his desires as life continues.
I can only hope that one day, he may also experience the beauty of taking his young son or daughter exploring as well.
Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.