Downwind"A run-a-way story"
Earlier this summer, my wife and I drove through the mountains of New York during our northeastern U.S vacation. That drive reminded me of a book that I loved in my youth, My Side of the Mountain by Jean George. The book was about a boy named Sam who lived in New York City and decided to run away from home and live in New York’s Catskill Mountains. The book was great for my imagination…a young boy’s wilderness “how-to” survival guide for fire, shelter, foraging, hunting, and scavenging.
After I mentioned the book to my wife, she found and ordered it online as a gift and I am rereading it now.
Who hasn’t at one time thought about running away from home as a kid (or adult)? Clubhouses and treehouses provide great escapes for kids to “get away” but there are moments as a kid when that escape just does not seem to be enough. Nearly everyone has some kind of an experience to share. Fortunately, most are innocuous or even life lesson material.
Unfortunately, some are much more serious or even devastating. My runaway story was a near non-event.
When I was an early teen on the farm, I learned that life was not “fair.” It was not “fair” that I had to do chores before and after school and on weekends. My pay consisting of regular meals and a comfortable bed to sleep in was not “fair.” It was not “fair” that I could “only” play one sport as there was too much work to do on the farm. It was not “fair” that when I was not working hogs or crops on the farm, I had to help weed the garden, pick the vegetables, and help prepare the food for canning or freezing.
Did any of my friends have to do any of this work stuff? No! Work is hard. The conclusion: Life is not “fair.” Mom and
Dad did not understand that I needed my freedom (aka play time) in order to be what I needed to be.
Life was so not “fair” that I decided it was time to run away from home. I talked my brother into running away with me to keep me company. Time to raid the kitchen. We made a packet of snacks to sustain us during the upcoming adventure. Chips, beef jerky, peanuts, cookies. We added a peanut butter and jelly sandwich into the packet to be safe. Our water jug contained iced tea. We pulled together gear: pocketknife, hat, fishing line and hooks, matches. We set out across the barnyard, hog pasture, and corn field to a stand of trees that lined banks of North Henderson Creek. A mile from home, we were going to live off the land and show Mom and Dad.
That summer afternoon was pleasant enough. We realized that we had not brought a shovel to dig worms for fish bait (I probably blamed my brother). So, we sat around, eating our snacks and convincing ourselves how great it was to be on our own. Time slowed to a crawl…especially when the mosquitoes made their appearance. Did Mom and Dad miss us yet?
I don’t recall how long we stayed in the grove of trees, living our independence (we did not bring a watch as a supply item). However, with our food gone and our bodies beginning to serve as mosquito food, we made the difficult decision to head back home and try again tomorrow.
Mom and Dad did not say “squat” when we marched ourselves back in the house. In fact, it was as if they didn’t even miss us. I don’t remember why but we did not head out for a part 2 runaway experience the next day. I must have gotten over my sulking snit. Now, during family gatherings when the topic of running away from home pops up in conversation, Mom and Dad exhibit subtle smiles with a glint in their eyes!
My immature, selfish self did not connect that fact that living off the land was exactly what Mom and Dad, and all of the family was attempting to do as farmers. In addition to attempting to survive agriculturally, Mom and Dad were teaching a bunch of kids how to work hard, gain farming skills, and appreciate the fruits of labor. Agriculture can yield the sweetest of fruits…I only wish I would have appreciated it during those years!
After thinking about my runaway story, I asked the Cook County Farm Bureau staff if they had ever run away from home during a group gathering. Everyone’s hand went up and each had their own version! I am glad they all found their way back and now serve the Cook County Farm Bureau as their work home.
Next time you call the office, ask them to share their story!