Being an Outdoor Dad
On Father’s Day, much is written about the importance of the father and how we should appreciate them. That is certainly true.
Nearly every crime statistic in America is related to the lack of fathers in the lives of children.
I would however like to issue a challenge to go beyond your own children and provide a father figure to those kids who have no male influence in their lives.
Let me start with my own story and show some examples of how you can make an impact.
I am no one special, but I do have some skin in the game. In other words, I take action and realize that simply being involved counts more than you can ever imagine.
By the time I was 20, schools were booking me to do wildlife presentations and visit classrooms to talk to students about animals from around the world.
One of my early talks was in front of 500 kids at an elementary where my cousin Frank and I brought out dozens of reptiles and amphibians.
Details of the event are foggy 20 years later but getting to let a blind boy feel all of the creatures was unforgettable.
He took his hands to all of the snakes, turtles, lizards and frogs we had and felt their shapes and textures. He smiled ear to ear as he discovered things about the creatures I had spoken of a few minutes earlier. There is no question he actually “saw” more of these animals than the other students are because he appreciated any chance to connect with things he could not see.
When people talk about why they love children they often say the love kids because they are so honest. Comedian Bill Cosby did an hilarious skit that poked holes in that theory. Others say it is because kids are fun or energetic maybe that they remind them of better times in their life.
I believe the reason those who love kids, truly love them, connect so well with people decades younger is that kids are the planet’s best representatives of God’s original intent for us
Kids may not always tell the truth or may act halfway crazy but there is a purity to their actions. Even in disobedience there is not the agenda adults put forward. Kids love furiously, live with loyalty and believe what they are told.
The older kids get however, the more broken they become. The true belief starts to crumble as they encounter adults who often purposely squash their dreams and encounter situations that crush their spirits.
Ask a six-year-old what they want to be and the answer is likely to be an astronaut, racecar drive, famous ballerina or a doctor. Ask the same kids five years later and they will either say they do not know or have their goals set much lower. Between these points they met the world and it polluted their spirits to the point if doubt and disbelief.
Kids carry with them a piece of Heaven. The sooner we figure that out the better of our lives will be and the more we guard that peace of Heaven for them, the easier their destiny will come into focus.
The fact is doing this is fun!
Kids say all kinds of cute things and I have found this is especially true when the subject is wildlife and the kids are from the inner city where the only connection to nature is through a television set.
A while back, my wife Lisa and I taught kids how to identify animal tracks at the Texas Wildlife Expo in Austin.
Hundreds of kids came through our booth that day and took a shot at guessing what the six plaster cast animal tracks we had were. The casts were red wolf, cougar, raccoon, bobcat, alligator and an otter.
The first kid of the morning pointed at the bobcat track and said it was a bear. I explained to him that a bear’s track, even a baby one, is much larger and shows claws.
“Maybe it had its claws clipped.”
Probably 200 kids correctly identified the raccoon track. Some of them had seen them crossing the road, in the garbage can or at a zoo. One kid said he had a raccoon in his front yard.
When I asked if it was his pet he said, “No, my dog ate it this morning.”
His mom blushed and took him on to another booth.
Kids directed the most interesting comments at the alligator track, which is about 10 inches long. Many kids guessed that it was a bear track. That is understandable considering it is long and has claws.
I nearly had to bite a hole in my lip to stop from laughing when a little girl said it was a chicken track. To make matters worse, her mom walked up and said the same thing before I could correct her.
I quickly explained it was an alligator track and said if I ran into a chicken that big I would have to call in the military for back up.
Before the day was over, I had three more kids guess that a chicken made that track. One guessed it was an owl; two said duck and one said an elephant made it.
It was heartwarming to see the children’s reaction to the animal tracks. It was as if we opened an entirely new world to them and they loved every minute of it.
Lisa and I left knowing that we had sparked some children’s interest in wildlife.
Besides showing the kids how to identify tracks, we also gave a track casting demonstration and sent the parents and kids home with sheets that gave instructions on plaster casting.
That is a hobby even poor kids in the city can take part in. It may not be hunting or fishing, but any interest in wildlife is better than an interest in drugs or alcohol, for example.
You do not have to be an expert on fishing, hunting or wildlife. Simply being there and taking them to a farm pond to catch catfish or to the beach looking for shells can have an impact.
There are kids in your neighborhood, church and scouting groups that need a male figure to help focus their lives on the positive aspects of life and there are many of those to be found in the woods and on the water.
If everyone who loves the outdoors would sacrifice a little time to help mentor some kids on behalf of the great outdoors, there is no telling what kind of impact we could make.
Look at it this way; if we do not get their attention, there are plenty of drug dealers that would love the opportunity.
The kids deserve better than that and need outdoors fathers to help make their lives the best it can be.
—story by Chester Moore