Well here it is, the first day of summer.
As I watch all the hustle and bustle of summer tourists at the market and gas station or maybe grabbing a burger before they head out to a campground to enjoy nature, I am drawn back to the memories of those slow, relaxed, quiet summer days I spent as a child.
Now don’t get me wrong, I had more than enough to keep me busy once school was out, but there was a much different approach to the activities I was involved in.
First off, most of my summers were spent up at my great uncle’s summer cattle camp on Hatchet Mountain west of Burney.
It was an extended family affair with aunts, uncles, great-aunts, great-uncles, grand-parents, parents, ranch hands and all the kids.
My older brothers, cousins and two or three kids belonging to the ranch hands never had to worry about being bored or who was going to entertain us.
We would start off the morning with our respective chores, which included feeding livestock, collecting eggs, milking, gathering wood and getting water from the creek.
Nope, it’s not play time yet. With two great aunts and a grandma that were retired schoolteachers, the rest of the morning was spent making sure we didn’t stop thinking about all those school lessons we were trying so hard to forget.
Afternoons were most often spent doing what came natural to most kids of that era: exploring, riding, fishing, collecting treasures or building some secret hideaway in the surrounding forest.
There was around 4,000 to 5,000 acres of meadows, streams and forest area that were available for the cattle, but within a half mile in any direction of “Camp,” there were more wonders than even a teenager could explore in an entire summer.
There were creeks and beaver ponds to fish or collect frogs, crawdads and salamanders.
The sweet smelling mountain azaleas or beautiful tiger lilies to search for in order to brighten the supper table.
Forest areas so thick with under story that Daniel Boone couldn’t have created a better “fort” to hide in.
A dip in the “swimming hole,” which was about 4 foot deep, was always a favorite cooling off location.
Sometimes just sitting on the edge of a meadow and watching the myriad of wildlife activity could take up hours.
In the days before “Uncle Voy” sold his cattle herd, Camp was a very active place.
There were often 20-plus family members and hands at the two long tables made of saw horses and 1 by 12s.
You don’t want to eat the profits so usually pork, turkey, chicken and wild game were the main table fare.
Then came what I always thought was the most exciting part of the day.
After supper everyone would pick up their chair and walk over to what was referred to as the “Bull Pen.”
Now the Bull Pen was simply an area about 25 feet in diameter with a 6- to 7-foot high board fence around it with a 10- foot wide walk through at one end.
The fence was situated so it would deflect the brisk cool breeze that always seemed to come up the draw and across the basin each night around dusk.
The chairs were placed a comfortable distance around the sizable fire pit in the center and the evening fire was lit.
Each person then had their opportunity to share their exploits and adventures of the day.
For the men it was mostly about the stock, how some may have strayed to someplace they didn’t belong, maybe predator sign was found too close for comfort or maybe a new calf was born.
Most of the time they would talk about ideas on how to improve the grazing areas or what important undertakings should be tackled the next day.
The ladies would chat about the projects they were working on or what they were planning for tomorrow and often mention how we (the kids) were doing with our studies.
When it came to the younger set there was never a lack of enthusiasm in the descriptions of treasures found, fish caught or hideaways built.
The thing I remember most is that with all those people sharing their daily activities there never seemed to be anyone talking over someone else.
Here was face-to-face conversation by numerous people about life that day and everyone wanted to listen to all the stories and experiences.
To someone outside the walled area it simply sounded like a murmur barely heard over the crackling of the fire, almost like the hum of a bees nest as nightfall settles over it.
Sometimes as the conversation slowed down you could hear the slow settling of the embers in the fire pit and the sound of crickets would filter in from the darkness.
At those times, it seems I remember being drawn to look up at the glittering sky and think, “What a magnificent creation we live in.”
Then all of a sudden I’m jolted back to present day reality by the blaring sound of a car stereo being shared with the world by one of the visiting nature lovers.
My heart sinks as I realize that very, very few of these folks will ever truly enjoy what this magnificent countryside has to offer.
How many will never turn off their cell phones, iPods, radios or other noise makers long enough to have a quiet conversation about the day.
I sometimes wonder if such a conversation is even possible in this day when a “My opinion is more important that yours anyway” prevails and everyone talks louder just to make sure theirs is heard.
What frightens me more than anything else about the direction our American society is traveling is the chance that where all civility is lost due to all the conflicting “noise” that is spewed out from all types of technology that enslave our nation and then is amplified by the unknowing masses.
I know I’m not going to change the world or the nation, with my observations, but I can try to help a few kids, my Boy Scouts, to see that there are options available.
That’s the reason we don’t take electronic devices on our campouts.
Just so some young people can actually experience the overwhelming grandeur of our world and the simple solitude of a campfire conversation.
Oh, how I long for the quiet times of my youth.
I truly hope that some of you out there will take that daring step and listen to the world around you and then share a quiet conversation with someone.
I wish you all a wonderful and quiet summer.