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The boys of summer

This past weekend a friend and I got our boys together, plus one of my son’s friends.

The four young teenagers ran themselves ragged, and it was a beautiful thing to see. Running up and down the river, floating downstream with the strong current, exiting downward of the rocks, sloshing back up and doing it all over again. And again.

Until one of them discovered some otter’s half-eaten breakfast of fish and crayfish, lying exposed in the strong sunshine on a rock with the water swirling around it. Inspecting that absorbed their attention, heads crowded around, someone poking about with a stick. And then >POW< they broke and ran back upstream as a splashing, sloshing pack, marking a distant boulder in the middle of the stream as their next object of focus.

This kind of outdoor joy went on all weekend.

Campfires, campfire cooking, campfires becoming scary bonfires, shooting guns, lighting fireworks, ear-ringing blackpowder cannon booming, combat SORRY! games, food crumbs everywhere, clothing smeared with mud and grass stains, pickup football games, woods walks. It was just one non-stop blur of motion.

At night we watched movies, shooshing one another when someone talked over the dialogue. Crumbs on the couches, popcorn on the floor.

It was a thing of joyous beauty to behold. Such unbridled happiness. Such carefree freedom.

Meanwhile the dads sat on the river bank, on the porch, on a log in the woods, in the living room, and compared childrearing tactics, kid behavior, learning and teaching successes and failures, hopes and fears for the kids’ futures, hopes and fears for our own parenting, for our own relationships.

Somewhere in all of this I was both a child again and a responsible adult. Watching these boys being boys as boys were meant to be was refreshing, and kind of a validation of my own untamed side.  That part of almost every guy that is a kind of mostly-hidden teenager who refuses to grow up and get with the adult program. Heck, being a boy is fun, even a fifty-year-old boy. You never really stop being a boy, you just get new toys. The consequences of screwing up are no longer skinning your knee, however; now, you can lose your home, your spouse, your health.

But we are boys inside, nonetheless.

Being a dad is difficult, and fun; hard and enlightening; frustrating and rewarding. Doing a bit of it with another dad over a weekend makes it easier. But most of all I enjoyed being a part of the boy herd, and reliving some of that unfettered joy of just being a boy free to roam and run in the summer sunshine.

You see the darnedest things while hunting

Southeastern Pennsylvania has an overpopluated deer herd of Biblical proportions. Every drive results in shots and deer scrambling across the landscape, making their momentary escape.

On a recent hunt, a midget deer presented itself to every hunter in our group. It was a dwarf deer, without question not a baby or a fawn, apparently fully developed but the size of a fox. I am not making this up or exaggerating.

Although its tail was the regular size for an adult deer, its body was tiny. We nicknamed it the chihuahua deer, and no one shot at it. It was just too cute and freakish. I wanted to adopt it as a pet, which is a big no-no, as wildlife never goes home to become a pet. But it was entertaining to think of it as a pet. I bet it would become mean and spoiled.

Hunters see the darnedest things while afield: Endless trash left by someone too lazy to clean up after themselves; hawks taking snakes and mice; animals fighting; meth labs; you name it, someone you know has seen it.

Today we saw the chihuahua deer, a first-time experience. Maybe it’s a new species. Maybe its extremely diminutive size spawned too much silliness. Maybe hunting is more than killing; sometimes it’s just the experience of witnessing God’s amazing creation.

Bless you, chihuahua deer.