Friday, January 30, 2009

Boys Need To Be Boys

Jon Michael is my youngest at 10. He has two best friends, Kyle and Darius, who often come to our house to hang out, eat from the fridge, play video games, you know all the current boys things. But they also come to see me, to hang and talk and ask me questions. They try to lure me into taking them fishing or hunting, shooting or riding on the four wheeler, cool, dirty guy stuff.
I can’t always break away from what I am doing to hang with the three musketeers’ but I usually help instigate outdoor activities. I make sure they have plenty of bb’s, flashlights or something to cook over the small fire pit out back.

A month or two ago the boys were over and decided they wanted to camp out in the back yard. It was going to be warm enough and I thought it a good idea. We dug out the cots and some sleeping bags, lit the fire pit and gave them the makings for hot dogs and smores. The perfect evening in so many ways.

That night my wife and I retired to bed around midnight. The boys had sat watching the fire embers burn down and made it to their cots about the same time, talking, laughing, telling stories.

It was about 1AM when I heard the first attack. The quiet of the night was broken by whoops and yells, bangs from rocks hitting the old wooden fence. Shouts of “get him,”“there he goes,” “watch out”- it was loud and crazy. My wife pushed my shoulder, I was already awake. “Get up and tell them to be quiet, to go to bed, egad,” she does not like to be woken at night.

I was laughing, laughing hard and deep down. “No,” I told her, “No I think we’ll let them be boys a while, they are safe.” They had spotted a possum and chased him across the back yard. He barely escaped they treachery and they were basking in their bravery and skill when I looked out back. For me, it was awesome!

It was maybe an hour later and it all erupted again only this time I joined in. I went out the front door and made the wide sweep around the porch meeting the possum on the drive with the boys on hot pursuit behind. I cornered the stinky looking possum, snatched him up and took him to the field across the street. I think the boys wanted to eat him or something, they were pretty bummed I let him go. I was just wanting to go to sleep now and I was close to being put outside myself for not reining them in. The boys headed back to their cots back-slapping and for the close throws and fast running each one provided to the “hunt”.

It got quiet again and I decided, now at about 3AM, to get up and check out back. I wanted to check on the fire pit and the boys. To my surprise one of the boys, Darius, was up on his cot in a kneeling position with a flashlight and a stick in his hand. The other boys were fast asleep.

I quietly walked out back and asked him why he was still up when the other boys were asleep. Through sleepy little brown eyes he said he was watching for the possum. I read it as a scared.
I convinced him the excitement was over and the possum and he was gone, we laid out his cot and sleeping bag and he laid down. I sat down in a chair between him and the yard, he was out fast. I hung out a few minutes reflecting on the night, morning, and to make sure he was asleep.

One more time, up at 4AM just to double check, I was having a hard time sleeping now. There sitting next to the fire pit poking at a small flame that had erupted was Jon-Michael. Again I made my way to the back of the yard and asked him why he was up. A cheerful little face looked up at me and said “isn’t it about time to get up, isn’t it almost morning?” “No,” it is not I told him, it is the middle of the night so get back in bed. He made his way to his cot and that was that. I went inside.

The adventures I remember as a young boy include a lot of adrenaline. They were times of exploration and discovery. Catching my first fish, seeing bear at our campsite, building things that rolled or slid or tumbled. I also remember the times I was scared at times I also remember feeling lost, alone and cold.

I want to make sure that I am always keen to those feelings in my kids or the ones I have charge over. I never want to miss the opportunity to offer comfort or council to the young guys I mentor. For me, today, I live for late nights chasing possum and the quiet times by the fire pit. Good, dirty, wholesome guy stuff.

Friday, January 23, 2009

You Never Know Who is Sitting Next to You

I was the third person at the tire store that morning. It was 20 minutes before they opened and I wanted to get in and out quickly. As it got closer to the opening time others began to show up and I was forced to get out of the truck and stand in an impromptu line. Minutes before there were eight or nine folks in line and no one was talking. I had already dissected the lives of several and how they were not going to have the manners to allow those who were there first their rightful place at the counter when the doors opened.

I have been at this exact place and had a woman come up, cut in line and then barge to the counter ahead of all those who had waited outside patiently. I said something to her, as many might have wanted to, but she shrugged it off and took care of herself.

I am guilty of selective judgment and taking someones inventory for nothing more than how they look. I have to say some of the problem does lye on the shoulders of the person who is representing themselves by their fashion choices. I know business owners who were interviewing for a specific job and had applicants come in sloppy dressed, slouching in the chair, not answering with a yes sir or mam. They come in with little attitude or look of true desire to work, or at least it appears that way.

I have talked with distraught young adults and men who complained about how they were treated in an interview or meeting. When we dissect the situation they had to reflect on their part of the problem.

But I digress; we were talking about me and my prejudgment of folks I don’t know. So the fact is I do on many occasions. A lot of times you are what you look like and it is a fact that people will decide who you are the first few seconds they see you.

So back to the story from this morning, there was a young man with an old truck who was dressed in baggy jeans and a black hoody pulled over his head. He got right in the semi structured line and ahead of several folks. I decided he was a kid with little manners and probably a trouble maker or not very motivated.

I was the first one through the door and pointed to the first two guys that were there ahead of me, they came forward and made their way to the counter. I was next and then I lost track of how it went from there. I made my way to the waiting area and found a chair in the sun. I pulled out my laptop and prepared to write this blog – but that is when God wanted to teach me, again, His way.

The young man asked me, “are you in wildlife management?” The logo’s on my truck says Texas Outdoor Zone, Wildlife Management Harvest Unit 1. I told him I was an outdoor writer and worked with kids to get them outdoors. That lead us into a conversation about him, his love for quail hunting, his father’s influence and how he ran the family business and a second year student in college.

What an amazing young man. He was very well spoken and wanted to volunteer to help with the boys if he could. He cuts firewood everyday for the family wood business. His father does not get out and hunt much any more but he loves to bird hunt and the dogs.

I am so sorry Lord I looked at one of your children and judged them. I am guilty of it many times. I am sorry to my new friend and I pray I can make it up one day, even though you don’t know it, I am truly sorry, you’re a great young man from what I know now.

Yes, it matters how you present yourself. Humans will be human and thus flawed. But again the Lord will allow us grace to learn and grow closer. I, again, am so glad I met this young man and who knows where God will take the relationship. He may be a key to the leadership of the whole Kids Outdoor Zone program or maybe we won’t ever see each other again. But I got the message Lord, sorry -

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Style vs Age

I think I used to be quite hip. I had long hair, wore bell bottoms and always a bandana somewhere. I went to lots of live concerts and had 8-track tapes and records. I slept on a waterbed (do they still have those?) and had a black-light and even a strobe light. Pretty cool for the day.

Today when I talk about even having hair, much less hair that flowed freely in long curly locks over my shoulders and down my back my kids find it hard to believe. There are few pictures to prove the legend of my hair but they exist. I think the kids have a fantasy vision –which is probably one with my current face and body just add long hair, now that is funny.

Now being involved in a youth ministry (Kids Outdoor Zone) I have a chance to be cool again. I wear a couple necklaces made by the hand of my wife. I wear a leather bracelet my son gave me. I don’t shave everyday and am thinking a longer hairstyle would be cool. I am not falling for the tattoo thing or the baggy clothes.

However my coolness is limited. I get cool credit with the 8 – 14 year old boys because I hunt and fish and have lots of cool gear. I get a few men who give me cool credit because I am an outdoor writer, hunt and fish for a living. That is about it at 49. I may have passed my real cool-ability years.

This is most obvious in my 14-year-old daughter’s world. She is a beautiful, self confident and one of the true joys of my life. She is fashionable and smart, like her mom, and knows music and style trends. She is a country girl at heart who will dawn a Carhart and boots as fast as Abercrombie or Hollister. She has critiqued me a few times in a loving way that has helped me understand my dilemma of being a cool hip guy with long hair living in the body of an old dad guy with kids that has thinning and receding hair. Her help in my fashion choices was not only to keep her from being embarrassed but to keep folks from thinking I an old guy stuck in a time long since passed. For these things I am grateful.

I was watching the movie Napoleon Bonaparte recently and in it his uncle purchased a time machine. He lives his life for the one day in his youth he was part of a winning football team. Now he is older and his life is going nowhere fast. He longs for something he will never have.
In some ways I long for certain things in my past, my great long, thick flowing locks, less aches and pains, endless energy and things that are only found in youth. However I love my life right now. I love that I am learning more about life, relationships and love. I am better able to focus on God and His place in my life. I am bolder in my testimony and faith. I feel emotions deeper, see colors brighter, rest in Him in ways I never even thought about or could have imagined when I was younger.

For me being a hip old guy is going to have to rest in wisdom, I strive for that. In the book of James you can read about it a lot - James: 1 – 2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Wisdom is more than book learning and test taking; it comes from experience, patience and prayer.

For Christmas my kids bought me Abercrombie shirts and Hollister cologne so it seems I can be “updated.” I am happy with that. Besides the strobe lights make me wheezy, I can’t see with a white light much less a black one and I have an iPod I am having a hard time figuring out, nuff said.


TJ GreaneyCountry Line Magazine / Kids Outdoor Zone