When I was about nine or ten, my Dad had some vacation time that had to be used before the end of summer, but Mom couldn’t take more time off work right then. Usually this kind of situation would mean that Dad would spend his days doing home improvement projects. I don’t remember why, but this time was different.
Every morning during one week late that summer, Dad would load me and my brothers into the family sedan and drive up to Pineview Reservoir. We went to different spots on different days. We’d get our fishing gear out and spend some time fishing from the shore. When the sun rose high enough that it started to feel hot, we’d pack up and go home.
I don’t remember if we ever caught anything. I was certainly hoping to avoid catching a fish on my line. For whatever reason, fishing has never really appealed to me. I never cared to learn the finer points of angling and I never had any desire to clean a fish.
A brother-in-law of mine has been an avid angler. He will fish any time of year, given the chance. He can look at a stream, river, pond, or lake and intrinsically know what kind of fish are in it and what it takes to catch them. If he hangs around such water for very long, an overpowering urge builds up, and he is soon out there with his fishing gear.
I have children than enjoy fishing, but only one of them has much interest in cleaning the fish that are caught. We live near a trout farm. My middle child is spellbound when he watches the workers there clean and fillet fish. He finds fish organs fascinating. He can envision himself working at the fish farm when he’s a couple of years older.
Since my children like to fish on occasion, I actually do sometimes take them fishing. This only happens about once every other year. I probably wouldn’t do it at all, except for that week years ago that Dad took us fishing on summer mornings instead of doing projects around the home.
Hauling a carload of drowsy boys out during the last few days of summer when they could otherwise be sleeping in, only to have them mostly run around and chase each other instead of fishing, making noise enough to scare the fish away, was likely not the most enjoyable thing Dad could have done with his time. But he did it anyway, I assume, because he felt it was important to share that time and experience together.
Tonight I will go winter camping with my 11-year-old son. We will construct a snow shelter and sleep in it. I have done a fair amount of winter survival camping during my life, and this will be yet another episode. The conditions will be messy (and somewhat dangerous) due to the rain. But I know the proper techniques and I have adequate equipment.
Still, I don’t go winter camping for personal enjoyment, as do some of my survivalist acquaintances. I don’t really care to do it. And I wouldn’t do it at all, were it not for children that I think should learn winter survival skills. It is a great adventure for adolescents. They learn that they can survive satisfactorily in conditions that seem quite severe and uninviting. And who better to share those kinds of experiences with than their Dad? These kinds of things can be more peer-oriented when they get a bit older.
I have often told my wife that once my youngest child passes the stage of learning winter camping skills, I’m done with it. Alas, that’s still years away. And despite what I have said, if children other than my own need my help to learn those skills after that, I will still probably find myself going winter camping.