Boys Gone Wild

“Keep your orange on, please, and no chasing each other with the axe,” I said, scrambling to think of what I might be overlooking.

“O – Kay,” answered the boys in a sing-song harmony. It didn’t exactly inspire confidence.

“And no climbing on the cliff,” I added for good measure.

“We KNOW Dada!”

The dance between days afield and dad duty is a perpetual work-in-progress, and keeping-up means keeping your moves fresh. Time was, packing the kid carrier was the only step needed to impress. But as your partners gain mass, mobility and maturity you’ve got to adapt.

“Honk the horn a bunch if there’s an emergency.”

“Emergency? Like what?”

“Like someone’s bleeding… a lot… scrapes don’t count. Or someone’s broken. Or snake-bit.”

“Broken?”

“Yeah. Like with a funny shaped arm or leg. Or bone sticking out. That kind of thing.”

“Got it.”

Neither my son or I can tolerate too much house time. But he’s too big to carry, and too little to keep up in craggy terrain with birds on the move. So we’ve added a new maneuver to the repertoire this chukar season. I think of our solution as concentric adventures.

It goes like this: I park the truck in a visually prominent, but zero-traffic, spot off a two-track somewhere in the middle of nowhere. The squirt and a friend hang there, free to explore with-in sight of the vehicle. They build forts, collect bones, catch bugs, play make-believe and generally be six-year-olds. While they do what they do, the dog and I chase birds in as broad of an orbit as will allow earshot of the horn, circling back every so often to count noses.

“So you guys good?”

“YES! Just GO Dada!”

“OK. We’ll check back in a half hour or so. Have fun.”

Leaving a couple of little boys unsupervised in Wyoming wild-country isn’t without anxiety. But I remind myself that actual and perceived risk are rarely the same thing; that personal responsibility doesn’t develop in a vacuum; and that given a choice between my boy spending the day in cyberspace, or in the sage… well, that’s a no brainer.

“Be safe Dada,” he called after us as the dog bounded into the brush.

I resisted the urge to echo his advice.

He’ll figure it out well enough on his own.

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