I spent a good bit of time last weekend with a couple of boys, ages 11 and 13, out in the country.
I was worried my son, Saylor, and my girlfriend’s son, Ryan, would be bored to death in the sticks. It was reassuring to see both of them embrace the sticks.
These are boys born in the city and raised on video games and 437 TV channels. MP3s and LOLs. 3-D and HD. What could a television-free cabin and a few dozen acres in the woods possibly offer a couple of city boys?
Plenty. Just as that same land did for me as a boy. And, just as when I was that age, they couldn’t go 20 feet without picking up a stick.
Sticks for walking. Sticks for hitting everything in sight. Sticks for swinging dangerously close to my eyeballs.
When I was little boy out at my grandma’s tin shack of a house on that same land, I made use of sticks, too. When I got bored climbing trees, drinking from the garden hose and exploring off-limits-don’t-you-dare-go-there bauxite mines, Grandma would tie a couple of sticks together with a string in a cross formation and tell me to pretend it was an airplane. Perhaps as a very religious lady, it was her way of trying to indoctrinate me into her religion.
But I was happy to pretend those two sticks made an airplane. Sure beat the alternative of whining and having Grandma tell me to get a stick she could use as a switch.
I used sticks for so many things back then. They knocked briars out of the way as I trespassed on surrounding land. They checked the depth of the creeks and branches I dared cross. They were makeshift bats as I pretended to be Hank Aaron with plums and pears. They were swords as I fended off the imaginary dragon problem that plagued the country back then. And they were great at motivating little sisters.
Saylor and Ryan got plenty of use out of their sticks. Both boys fueled that appreciation for simple things so many of us, young and old, have lost touch with.
So, next time Junior goes begging for an iPhone or Nintendo 3DS, do him and everyone else a favor: Get him a stick.
Or a switch.
Chris Johnson, firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-320-4403