Just a Boy in the Woods
Updated: Nov 6
For as long as I can remember, the woods have beckoned to me. As a boy, armed with my trusty Daisy bb gun and my two bladed Boy Scout knife, I spent much of my time exploring the banks of the Mississippi River and its many creeks and bayous, spearing fish, and catching turtles, crawfish, salamanders, and snakes (both poisonous and non-poisonous). Many of my favorite memories are tied to the time I spent barefooted and shirtless surrounded by nature.
On one of my excursions, I discovered a soft, cream-colored, fibrous egg in the bayou next to my house. I immediately took my treasure home, slipped it into a quart Mason jar, and punched a dozen nail holes in the lid. An hour or so later, I was rewarded for my efforts when I witnessed the birth of an anole as it struggled to make its way out of the shell to freedom! It was one of the most amazing things I had ever seen.
On another wandering, I was sitting cross-legged, alone in the woods, when I heard a rustling behind me. Slowly I turned my head and saw an armadillo, a creature notorious for its poor vision, making its way toward me as it rooted through the leaves nosing for grubs. I became deathly still and for almost ten minutes I watched as it approached. Then, when the armor plated mammal was so close that I could see its whiskers flitting back and forth, it abruptly stood on its hind legs, raised its head so that its long, skinny nose was pointing skyward, and sniffed the air. I remember seeing its nose twitch and staring at the hairs that splayed out in all directions from its soft underbelly as it exposed the only part of his body that was unprotected. After three or four seconds, it plopped hard on its front feet with a thud and scurried away, carrying my scent with him.
It’s been a long time since I was a boy set loose in the backcountry of Mississippi, but I’ll never forget those halcyon days and what they mean to me as an adult.
Today, more than ever, boys need a place like I enjoyed where they can have adventures of their own, real adventures, not the kind you find on computer games or by vicariously participating in television shows and movies. Boys need to be able to spend the night in a sleeping bag rolled out on the ground and wake up covered with dew just in time to hear a loon, or witness a great blue heron flapping high overhead, or see a bear slipping silently into the forest. They need to have an opportunity to fall asleep staring into the glowing embers of a campfire while trying to imagine what it must have been like 500 years ago when boys their age were looking into similar embers trying to imagine what life was like for their ancestors. Boys need to be allowed to abandon their clothes, leap feet-first into a cool, pristine lake, and then shiver uncontrollably on the shore as they watch the goose bumps and the water on their skin slowly disappear in the morning sun.
As an adult, the woods are still calling to me, and I still answer. The only difference is that at Night Eagle I am surrounded by counselors and boys from different generations who are answering the call with me!