Jeremiah Johnson, Jr.
I can't fit anything in my freezer. It's berry season and the raspberries had to squeeze into a little spot next to the last package of Alaskan halibut. I wouldn't find myself in this predicament if it weren't for the fox fur and the damn coyote fur sitting in a bag waiting to head to the taxidermist!
No, we didn't run them over on the road. Our son Ketchum is a trapper. He's 7.
He started out with home made rope traps for his sister's feet under the kitchen table. Then it was mouse traps. Caught quite a few. He was 3 when he trapped, skinned, and ate his first chipmunk. (Sorry PETA.)
When Travis saw that he was interested in trapping he set him in front of the computer, with headphones on, to watch a video on snaring. After 15 minutes he walked back into the office, thinking that Ketch would be long gone, bored, off onto another project. Nope. There he was. Wide eyed, watching the 60 year old, bearded trapper working with snares and explaining the mechanics thereof, in monotone.
It wasn't long before he snared his first coyote (with the help of Dad and Nolan, the ranch hand, that happens to be a skinner extraordinaire).
I have a secret confession. It thrills me to the core to know that my 7 year old son would rather be building a fort than watching a movie. He would rather be whittling a stick than staring at an ipod. I am elated that if I said, "Ketch, do you want to play a video game?" He would answer, "What does that mean?"
I have home schooled all 4 of my children. We believe that if you let little kids be kids, if you don't impose long sitting sessions of worksheet drudgery inside a building, at a desk for 8 hours, if you let them imitate the hard working adults around them, if you allow them to learn from their surroundings at a young age, they will thrive.
Every child is different and I am glad for that. If every one of them was like my 10 year old daughter we would all wear fake tattoos, ride scooters with tassels and a dinging bell while singing "Eye of the Tiger," and eat ice cream for breakfast every day. (Actually, that sounds like a pretty good life.)
When we had our first child we thought it was our job to make her a certain way. Thank God, we figured out real quick that these mini humans come to us pre-programmed just how they are supposed to be. It's our job to guide them positively, correct them when they succumb to abusing their siblings, surround them with the means and ways to become the person that they will to be, and to keep them alive. (I might learn more from them than they do from me....)
To try and train the Jeremiah Johnson out of my 7 year old would be a crime. The world would lose an old-souled mountain man that will someday provide for a family, protect his own young breed, and build wonderful works with his inconceivably strong, calloused hands. These traits are being trained out of kids. The old arts like trapping, mining, hunting, skinning, blacksmithing, and ranching get a bad rap. City folks sometimes forget that their packaged eggs certainly do come out of a chickens back half.
If you live here in the hills, the small towns, the boonies, then you know it's just our way. It's a relationship that we have with nature. To dig rocks out of the ground, grow our own food, cut our own firewood, raise our own animals, to take care of our own babies and elders is a beautiful way of life.
I will always pick huckleberries. I will always grow tomatoes. I will always rock babies in my rocking chair, on the porch, by the creek. Ketchum will always bang on something with a shovel. He will always find a path through the trees that nobody can see. Travis will always wonder what is under the bedrock. He will always study maps and dream of the hordes of gold and crystals on a mountain that he WILL, by God, make it to. My girls will always take care of each other even if it means they scrap and fight to get it done. They will always make good wholesome food with home grown veggies. They will always snuggle on the couch with me, even when we're old.
I am not a perfect parent. None of us are. My big kids are at the age where I get to hear about it now. "Jeez, Mom, you never let me say 'crap' when I was his age." "Mom, you forgot to be the tooth fairy again! Don't worry, I put $3 under his pillow." "Yeah, Mom, I heard what you said, even though you said it to the wrong person."
All that matters is that you stay together on your journey. Let the kids hang by your knee while you fold laundry. Let them tag along to the bank and make them sit quietly for 15 minutes in the chair while you fill out your paperwork. Remind the big kids that adult things can wait. Once you're old enough to be kissing boys, you're never too young enough not to again.
Make your journey worth taking, and just take them along with you.
I will be there in the chair next to you, laughing a tired laugh and saying, as the moon rises, and they are all tucked in bed, "Yes, sir, this is what alcohol was invented for."