Stories and thoughts about family and life

Baseball greats, fire safety, and CPR

on May 19, 2014

I swore to my husband this would be the last camping trip I go on (for a while, anyway) with the Scouts. I like to go–don’t get me wrong, but it’s tiring and a bit stressful for me. The boys all at varying ages, varying attention levels, and the frustration it creates for me when things don’t go right simply aren’t worth it to me. Sometimes things don’t go exactly right, and sometimes they go completely wrong. I feel like I have no control and my little Type A personality doesn’t cope very well. I can stay home and stress myself out perfectly well without a bunch of kids to do it for me.
This past weekend was supposed to be a two day campout near my hometown. We had reserved a campsite at a local recreation area (a place we used to swim when I was a kid), and the theme of the weekend was safety and prevention. I had a friend from high school who agreed to teach First Aid and CPR and the community fire department where I was raised was going to teach fire safety and prevention to the kids. After watching the weather the past couple of weeks and seeing a tornado tear apart Mayflower and Vilonia, we were watching the forecast very closely. The area where we would be camping had a serious tornado about four years ago and thankfully no one perished but it certainly gave me something to ponder as we were preparing to take these boys into the woods there. As the forecast kept changing and the rain chances were uncertain (let alone the “severe” weather we seem to have regularly at this time of year), we evaluated the situation and opted to cancel the campout and make it a day-trip adventure.
Booneville (my hometown) is two hours from Little Rock. We left a few minutes after 7 a.m., loaded all the boys into my vehicle and off my husband and I went. When we arrived in town we stopped at Wal-Mart (which is a must in a small town, right?), and then proceeded to the location where our first class would be held. we thankfully were about 20 minutes early, which gave the boys a few minutes to run circles around the parking lot and expend some of their nervous energy. By the time our instructor arrived, we were mostly ready to go.
Now, if you’re not familiar with boys, let me set the scene for you. They like to tell stories. They like to poke each other and talk to one another and try to gross each other out. Thankfully, our instructor was accustomed to dealing with kids and wasn’t really bothered by their antics. I was thankful I only had to call them down a couple of times, and by the time our class ended it was becoming very apparent they were needing to be outside for a few minutes. We took them to eat lunch and amazed our instructor with the amount of food these boys could put away (my 13 year old, for example, at 1 slice short of an entire medium pizza).
The second part of our day was to take place in the community where I was raised, which is about 20 minutes from town. We loaded the boys up and I called my parents to see if they needed anything from town (customary in my family, as trips to down aren’t just made anytime you’re out of something). We picked up a couple of things and decided that with a couple of hours to spare we could drop off these items, visit for a few minutes and then take the boys back to the community center where our fire safety class would be held and let them play.
My parents live out in the middle of the country, atop a mountain. Due to wild animals in the area, and the propensity of their dogs to want to wander off, the dogs aren’t allowed out of the yard. Any critter that decides to invade their space does so at his own peril. When we arrived at the house and the boys all piled out of my vehicle and into the yard, the first thing they spotted was a dead armadillo. Now, I realize to you that likely sounds gross and disgusting, but to a young tween or teen boy, this is an amazing sight. They marveled at the dead animal and how the dogs had likely killed it, with my husband and me screaming “Don’t touch it!” the whole time. They moved on from the armadillo and located the bamboo stalks my dad grows in his back yard. It didn’t take them long to figure out those make fine swords and soon the battle was on.
They were pirates one minute, soldiers the next. They were all on one team, and then enemies against each other. The possibilities to them were endless. We ended up sitting on the front porch with my parents, marveling at the boys and their abilities to play together so peacefully and merge in and out of one another’s make-believe roles. The dogs got in on the act too, chasing the boys down the fence row and romping around with them as if they knew completely what was going on. When not playing with the younger boys, the dogs huddled around the oldest boy in our group, who chose to sit on the sidewalk and watch the younger boys and never stopped petting the dogs as long as they would sit still for him.
I’ve always said that every dog deserves a boy and every boy deserves a dog. Never was that more true than watching this in action. We let them play for the better part of an hour or so, and then loaded everyone up to head for the community center. The boys were equally as fascinated with the playground and the surrounding area there as they played away their last 30 minutes or so until their trainers arrived. Here they were rewarded with a new critter. They came up to my husband and said “Mr. Walker, we found a dead king snake around the side of the building.” When my husband told them to leave it alone, they simply said “oh, okay.” I imagine they were waiting for some type of permission to investigate the snake a little closer.
The fire safety class was performed by the training officer of the volunteer fire department in that community. She told us how, at 73 years old, she’s not as spry as she once was, but you wouldn’t have known much different watching her don her gear and explain each piece as she went. The boys were amazed as she passed around each piece of her equipment and let them feel how heavy it all was. Being the mom of boys herself, she knew exactly how to keep them interested. Just as she was finishing her equipment demonstration, she teased them with the review of the trucks and told them they’d get to hold the fire hose and see how powerful it was. They could barely contain themselves as she wrapped up her last few minutes.
She explained the biggest truck and all the controls to them, and allowed them to climb in and around it. My dad and the fire chief obligingly moved equipment and pulled the trucks in and out of the bays for the boys. When we got to the last truck and she began pulling the hose out, the boys knew exactly what was coming. She told them to line up and they nearly ran over each other for the opportunity. She took teams of two, each boy in turn, and allowed them to “run” the hose for a few seconds while his teammate held the hose behind him (the “hose man” she explained). Look at my Facebook profile for videos of these screaming, laughing boys as they undertook this task. We were getting a real kick out of them.
As our class wound down and we prepared to say goodbye, the boys helped stow gear and clean up the community building where we had started. This building, over 100 years old, was once the school for the area. Still hanging on the walls are the old chalkboards. Still visible above the “stage” in the main room is the hand-painted poster of all the businesses in the area which sponsored events. The boys were amazed looking at the pictures on the walls, seeing the old decor, and hearing our instructor tell how greats like Dizzy Dean (pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Browns b. 1910- d. 1974), Daffy Dean (pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants and the St. Louis Browns b. 1912- d. 1981) and Aaron Ward (infielder for the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians b. 1896- d. 1961) played on the field next to the community center back in the day. I’m sure I stared wide-eyed as well as she relayed the story and pointed out the article written some time ago. I knew of Dizzy Dean, but not really much about him at that, and certainly nothing of the other two. To think of all these famous people who were from my small community there. The boys thought it was neat, but I know they don’t appreciate the significance of what it must have been at the time. I wouldn’t have at their age either.
We said our goodbyes and thanked each of our hosts and climbed back into my vehicle. As we sped off down the highway, chatter turned to the training sessions we had for the day, and the follow-up work needed to complete each badge. We asked them what they thought about their experiences of the day and they all loved it. I felt a great sense of pride for my little town and community and the gifts they had bestowed upon these boys. I couldn’t have selected a better “last trip” to take with these kids. Oh, it won’t be my last, I’m sure, but I’m looking forward to a little hiatus as I use my free weekends to do some fun girl things with my friends I’ve missed.
And hopefully none of my future weekends will involve dead “critters.” 🙂


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