The sights and smells of nature can take us back to our earliest memories of nature when we first fell in love with the wonders of the outdoors. Even when our loved ones are unable to make a long hike through the woods, they can have joy from remembering their experiences while communing with nature. You can be the facilitator. Just put on a pot of spiced cider and enjoy the journey through their youth.
My mother’s earliest memories of the woods include her experiences growing up literally in the backwoods of Oklahoma. She remembers running through a field of hollyhocks when she was so small the brightly colored flowers danced above her head. She remembers following her brothers on their hunting jaunts even when they threatened her with bodily harm if she didn’t go back home. Her youngest brother was the best hunter by far. He could kill a grasshopper at fifty feet with his bow and arrows. She hated to see them kill anything. But what they killed (minus the grasshoppers) was food for her and her 11 siblings.
“Even in the dead of winter my brothers went hunting,” said Mama. “They’d leave before the sun came up and sometimes didn’t come home until it was dark. Whatever they killed just had to be thrown up on the roof where it would freeze until we were ready to eat it. I loved the woods. It was my own wonderland.”
Her brothers also went frogging. Once when her mama wasn’t home, those brothers convinced my mama to fry them up some legs.
“I got the skillet hot and threw the legs into the pan,” said Mama. “Those legs started jumping into the air and I started screaming.”
Her brothers hadn’t cut the leaders on those frog legs! I don’t know if they got something to eat but they sure had a good laugh and a great story to tell.
My daddy grew up just a few miles from my mama on an 160 acre homestead. Walking in the woods was a daily occurrence when he had to gather in the cows for milking or find his Palomino mare when he wanted a ride.
Daddy made his “spending money” by hunting raccoons.
“I didn’t take a gun,” said Daddy. “All I needed was my baseball bat and my hunting dog.”
Daddy said it didn’t take long for his dog to tree a coon.
“I’d just hit the tree or the branch if I could reach it,” said Daddy. “That coon would fall and the whole thing was over in one swing of my bat.”
He had to skin what he caught and stretch it on a board. Then he’d take it to town to sell. He loved the woods on the farm where he was raised. I know he has so many memories of walking down to the North Canadian River. It was a special treat when he got to show my three kids — his grandkids — the woods where he grew up.
My Childhood Memories
My own childhood memories of the woods were also made in the Oklahoma hills during our summer visits to see the folks. I can vividly remember the smell of cedars and red dirt. My Uncle Louis would take a pickup load of us kids down to the river and let us play until we were too tired to move. As I recall, no one got hurt from jumping from an old rope into the river, but I did come home one time with a tick on my tummy which I threw in my aunties’ waste paper basket. When I told her she chased me with a fly swatter until I retrieved the little bugger and flushed him down the toilet!
I’ve now had the joy of taking my own three kids on walks in the woods. Now with the ten grandkids the journeys continue. They’ve climbed the foothills of the High Sierra and found pine cones and “ninja sticks” while looking over the vast Sierra range. It’s awesome to see it for the first time through their eyes. The wonders of nature will always be a part of who they are.
And if you want a really good read about A Walk in the Woods, try Bill Bryson’s book by the same title. You’ll laugh all the way through it.