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afraid of the wilderness

December 20, 2010

Notah was telling me of Seth’s friend who came to stay overnight and was so frightened of their location and the dogs that they had to take him home around midnight.    Now they live far out of town but they are by no means isolated.  There is another house about a quarter mile up the road on one side and not quite that far on the other.  And there are other scattered houses along the road. The mountain is at their doorstep though; the coyotes patrol along the fence yipping at the dogs and although Notah hasn’t seen any the neighbor tells stories of seeing cougars and even a bear.   For a child who has grown up in town with houses on either side, it must be horribly scary.

Notah and Rachael grew up on a little farm. On our one side there were no neighbors until you went up the road and around the hill to the edge of town.  On the other side there was a pasture field and a corn field before Mrs. Renner’s house.  There were three houses in short order on down the road from there.  Behind us there was nothing but wild land after our pasture.   Notah and Rachael grew up hiking in that wild land. 

Now granted, there were no cougars or wolves.  We did however see bear tracks repeatedly.  Grandpa saw a bear one year while he was deer hunting.  And one time when Notah and Rachael had hiked back to the beaver dam to fish, they smelled a strong fetid odor and the little dogs began barking ferociously at the wall of briars and brush behind the pond.  Little fox terriers are very ferocious and are not intimidated by the size or strength of their opponent.   They only danced around and barked crazily at whatever was in the bushes; they made no effort to attack.   And THAT was what alarmed Notah and Rachael.  They packed up and came home in short order.

After their daddy and grandma died and we lived with Grandpa, we went camping on Pop’s farm almost every year until Grandpa died.  Our traditional camping time was the weekend of the Swiss Festival.   Sugarcreek during that time was crazy, especially the big parade weekend.  That is when all of the tourists hit town.  When the kids were little we went to the Festival on Thursday night to sample all the goodies and ride the rides.  Then we packed up and hit the road on Friday morning to head for The Farm.

I went back and checked to see if I’d talked about Pop’s Farm before.  I don’t believe I have so I’ll give you a few words of background.  Pop’s Farm is is Guernsey County, not far from Peoli.  It was purchased by James Bear, my dad’s grandfather.  I don’t remember the exact date, probably about 1880.  When he died, my grandpa, Ritchie Bear, bought out his brothers’ and sister’s interest in it.  (Want to know something neat?  I have the original deed, all hand written in my file.  Hmmm.  Maybe Buster and Jole would like to have that.  I just thought of it)  When Ritchie died, only my dad and Uncle Francis had any interest in it. 

Pop’s Farm, or just The Farm, has sat empty and un-used for more than a hundred years.  The last time it was used was when James’ daughter, Nonie, was young.  The family lived there in winter so that she could walk out the ridge to school.  It was closer than anyplace else for her to go to school.  That was probably 90 years ago. When we camped on  The Farm, it was grown up in old forest and young trees.

We loved to go there to camp.  Sometimes we went way down to the clearing (then) that was the traditional picnic ground for us and Uncle Francis’ family.  But as the lane got more and more overgrown, we camped more often at the top of the hill where our lane converged with the lane for oil well maintenance on the neighboring property.   Even that road was rutted and steep. 

We camped with a camper sometimes, sometimes with the pickup, sometimes in a tent, sometimes on the ground in sleeping bags.  We cooked our meals over an open fire.  We had camping skillets and cook pots that were heavy weight to serve over open fires and a banged up enameled coffeepot.  It was certainly wild and going to see other people was a production.  We always took a passel of dogs with us.   We had Dad’s big black Labrador and all of our little fox terriers—anywhere from four to eight.   Nothing dared to come close to THAT pack! 

Notah and Rachael grew up with this wilderness.  I used to take them on hikes and after wandering around for a while I would stop and say, ‘How do we get back to camp?’  My goal was that they would learn to orient themselves unconsciously when they were hiking.  The first couple of times I asked that question they were a confused and it took some hints and discussion before they could tell me which direction camp was. 

I remember the last time I asked.  We had left camp and walked along the fence row in the neighboring pasture.   We came to the woods at the bottom and hiked through them making a big loop to a grove of aspens, a field of gold opposite our camp.   Not at all difficult if you knew how to keep track of you position, but baffling if you only looked at the trees all around.    I stopped at the bottom of the hill in the grove of aspens and asked, “Which way back to camp?”   Without hesitation two pointing fingers swung around and pointed directly back to camp.

I was proud of them.  I decided I’d accomplished my purpose.  I need not worry about either of my kids getting lost in the wilderness.   Notahand his family hike extensively in the desert.  They take water along, but they don’t need to drop bread crumbs or lay a trail of bright pebbles.  Notah knows which way back.  I hope he is teaching his kids the same thing.

 Oh yeah, that little boy who gets scared at Notah’s house… I really understand the dog situation.  There are two very large dogs at that house, and one just large dog.  I guess being afraid of them is kind of rational, although none of them would hurt a flea.   But being frightened in the house because it is out in the boonies?  Well that is a little humorous.    

And what is even funnier is that his mom and dad want to go camping with Notah and Kerra in the desert!!!   Notah says that he is going to make sure Mom and Dad know how to get back to civilization because he isn’t going to get up in the middle of the night and drive a couple hours on bad, almost non-existent roads to take the kid back to town! 

Here’s their last campground.  Look for a while, you’ll see the tents and the vans near the top, below the line of the wash and either a line of rocks or an old road.  It’s easier to see the vans about a half inch from the right perimeter of the picture.  Do you think the little boy will be afraid?  Hmmm. 


Labor Day Campout

 This is the Night Patrol.  They provide security…

bella, thain, sadie

Night Patrol

This is Thain, Sadie and Belle.  Thain is  very diligent about getting up to check that all is secure.  Sadie gives up and goes in the tent with Kerra.  Belle doesn’t go unless her presence is absolutely necessary!  How could you be scared with this  kind of protection!

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