Saturday, May 18, 2013


Gene & Jonathon @ Tellico

            To my son, I’m ‘Burr’. To my grand-boy, I’m ‘Paw’. And to my nephews, I’m either Uncle Burry or Uncle Barry. Regardless of what they may call me, though, to me, they’re just simply ‘my boys’. And, as such, I do my darnedest to spoil ‘em rotten. At Christmas, I’m the one that always buys the ‘cool’ gifts. You know, the gifts that all young boys love to get and the ones that make most mothers and grandmothers nervous… like pocketknives, tomahawks, swords, and once even a crossbow pistol. I think boys should be allowed to be boys.

          As often as possible, I try to spend time doin’ somethin’ fun in the outdoors with ‘my boys’. It gives me time with them, and gives their parents a much-needed break. Sometimes, it’s simply goin’ over to a nearby pond and wettin’ a hook. Other times, it’s a backwoods camping trip away from parents and other ‘responsible’ adults. Every time, though, it is a learnin’ experience… sometimes for us all.
Gene with squirrels taken while floatin' the Conasauga River
          This all started back years ago when I first started takin’ my son Gene and my nephew Jonathon campin’ and fishin’ in Tellico, floatin’ the Conasauga in canoes, and huntin’ for squirrels and doves every fall. Now that they’re grown and off on their own, my grandson Trevor and younger nephews Matt and Will have stepped up to take their places. And once again, I’m teachin’ the basics all over again.
Will with a Bluegill he caught
For fishin’, it’s how to rig their own rod, bait their own hook, how to catch a fish, and how to take it off the hook by themselves. Should they catch really good fish, then a picture is taken of them proudly displayin’ it, which is later sent to the newspaper for hopeful publication. For huntin’, it’s responsible gun handling, expert marksmanship, fair chase, and how to clean their kill. For the water, I drill into ‘em that a life vest is always a must, then how to paddle and handle a canoe or kayak. And they learn how to camp by goin’ with the ol’ master himself.
Trevor with his BB gun
            Every boy gets to carry his own pocketknife, for whittlin’ and such, and each carries a whistle, as well… just in case. Everyone has their own fishin’ rod and tackle box, and Red Ryder BB guns are always welcome in camp, as are flips (or slingshots, as some of you call 'em) and the ever present football. If the boys want to swing on an old grape vine, well then… have at it. If they want to stay up late tellin’ ghost stories, fine by me. And if they get in the mood to sing silly ditties at the top of their lungs… sooner or later, I send ‘em to the far end of the lake.
I don’t nursemaid ‘my boys’, either. I believe that, for the most part, boys learn best on their own, through trial and error. So, once at our destination, I turn ‘em loose to be boys. If they want to take the canoe out by themselves and fish, I let ‘em go. They’ll end up learnin’ more and gainin’ more confidence in doin’ so for themselves. Should they want to take their BB guns and go ‘explorin’ out in the woods, so be it. They know my rules, and rarely have they ever disobeyed more’n once’t.

Jonathon & Gene @ Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest
         Best of all, though, is the enjoyment I get back from hangin’ out with ‘my boys’. When they’re with me, I rarely get to fish, but that’s okay. I enjoy watchin’ and coachin’ them. On our long tramps through the mountains, I get all caught-up on what’s goin’ on in the wonderful world of 9 through 12-year-olds. One minute, I’m teachin’ 'em how to tell the difference ‘tween turkey and bear scat, and the next, we’re talkin’ over the difficulties of musterin' up courage enough to tell a pretty girl that she’s really, really liked. (Give me bear scat, any day.) And you’ll never really appreciate a popular TV jingle until you’ve heard the ‘corrupted’ version made up by 10-year-old boys… and, yes, it can get kinda gross. Oh, and I’ve never laughed so hard as when the older boys finally succeed in talkin’ the youngest, who is a self-proclaimed scaredy-cat, into tryin’ out some crazy stunt and seein’ the huge grin on his face after havin’ accomplished it and realizin’ it wasn’t THAT scary, after all.
Matt with a fish on!
          I try to remember how it was to be their age and let that guide me in how I treat ‘em. It’s the little things that matter… like simply listenin’ to what the have to say. Kids they may be, but their thoughts are still important. And another thing… keep your temper. Getting’ angry never helps any situation, especially when you’re tryin’ to live by example to a bunch of impressionable boys.
Recently, while on one of our hangout days, Trev let me know that one of the best things about me is that I "don't get mad too easy... even when one of us breaks out the truck window with a rock." Both his cousins, of which Will the Rock Chucker was one, immediately agreed. Now, folks, to me, that was a compliment like none I’ve ever received… ‘specially seein’ how a lot of kids get treated by grown-ups when they ‘mess up’. Made me feel kinda good inside.

'My Boys'
          Most importantly, though, I try to make sure ‘my boys’ enjoy every minute spent with Uncle-Burr-Paw, whether it’s campin’ in the Smoky Mountains, floatin’ across Lake Conasauga in a canoe, fishin’ for trout on the Hiwassee, or hikin’ the trails on Grassy. And, it must be workin’… ‘cause come time to head home, one of ‘em nearly always says he wishes that our days were longer, that we didn’t have to go home yet, and then another starts up askin’ when we’re gonna do this again.
          Yep… makes a fella feel pretty doggone good… hangin’ out with ‘my boys’, that is.  J 

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