The Joys of Being a Dad
By: Alan Halcon
As you get older, you start to lose sight of what it was to be a child. One gets caught up in the daily rituals: going to work, making sure the kids are taken care of, paying the bills, in and out of meetings, etc.
Friday was like any other normal Friday. I had to rush from work to go pick up my daughter, Jayleen, from her mother’s house. Jayleen still has a hard time understanding why her mother and I are not together anymore. I suppose being eight years old and not having your dad around is a hard thing. Even now as I write this I get choked up. It is very difficult not having my kids around.
I decided that I was going to devote as much time to my daughter this weekend as I could. I wasn’t going to get caught up with all the details of getting things ready for work for the following week. I wasn’t going to take calls, check emails, do chores or anything else for that matter. I was going to spend time with my daughter and that was it.
Saturday rolled around we got up and started our day. We played ball, rode bikes, chased each other around the house and a host of other things. The highlight came when my daughter came to me and asked me to play Indians with her. I quickly obliged and took advantage of the opportunity that lay in front of me. I was going to teach my daughter some primitive/survival skills. I asked her if she would like to camp? To which she replied with an emphatic “yes!”
Putting our gear together was part of the fun involved with the whole experience. While I put together the essentials she put together what she felt were the essentials to play Indians, feathers for your head wear, string and sticks for your bows, and bubble wrap to sit on so we wouldn’t get dirty. With our gear in tow we headed out.
Once we settled on where camp was going to be Jayleen put one of the feathers, she had brought along, in her head and made sure I did the same.
It was still early but I explained to Jayleen why it was so important to find shelter, In our case we were going to make a lean-to out of a store bought tarp. I could see the excitement building up in her. She quickly pointed out two trees we could use to stretch the tarp out between.
“Perfect!” I said, as I nodded in agreement. “why don’t you get some rope from my pack and show me how you would do it.”
“Ok Dad!” she said with a smile from ear to ear.
After watching her for some time I decided to show her how to tie off the two corners of the tarp between the trees. I showed her how to tie a clove hitch around one tree and a trucker’s hitch around the other. She listened intently as I explained why I used those knots.
“the clove hitch is used so when we pull on this end of the rope the rope will squeeze the tree tighter and not get loose.” I said as I demonstrated by pulling on the rope. “the trucker’s hitch is used so I can pull on the tarp tight and hold it in place where ever I want.”
She looked at me and asked “why can’t you just use regular knot?”
“You could, its just that these will make it easier.” I replied.
After we tied off the corners she quickly finished the lean-to by staking the opposite end of the tarp into the ground.
Now that our shelter was set up I told her that she would have the honor of starting the fire. But first, we would need to collect firewood. I asked her to look around for small twigs and dry grass and I would collect the bigger pieces. I complimented her on her choice of tinder. Instead of dry grass she brought back the bark of a palm tree which was frayed allover… she obviously understood tinder. Once we had what we felt was enough I showed her how to make a proper fire lay.
“Your base material is going to be the dry fluffy bark from the palm tree, followed by the small twigs you also gathered and finally the bigger pieces I collected will be formed into tipi around you materials.” I said.
Without missing a beat, she looked at me and said “Ok Dad, let me do it.”
She seemed to have a little bit of a hard time setting up the branches into the shape of a tipi but insisted I not help. It took a little bit of time but she finally got it.
“Now what?” she asked.
“Now we go do something else while we wait for it to get a little dark so we can start the campfire” I replied.
“can you make me a bow and arrow with the sticks I brought, so we can hunt? She asked.
I smiled and said “I’ll tell you what, why don’t I show you how to make a trap. That way if you ever find yourself in a survival situation, instead of you being the only one hunting, you could have a bunch of little traps hunting for you while you do other things.”
“Awesome!” she said. “Are we going to eat the animal if we catch it?”
“No” I replied with a half smirk “not today baby. We aren’t going to kill anything. Instead of using a rock we’re going to use that box we saw, that way if we catch anything we can release it.”
I taught her how to build a figure 4 deadfall and promontory peg deadfall using the box instead of a rock. I sensed she was excited at the possibility of catching something and I felt comfort in the fact that she had at the very least did not seem grossed out had we really needed to eat what we caught.
By this time the sun was starting to set behind the horizon. I figured I better teach her how to make a fire before it got to dark.
“Where’s the matches dad?” she asked
“today we’re going to use this” I replied.
“What is that?” again she asked
“This is a metal match.” I said “It is used to create sparks so you can make a fire.”
“cooool!” she said
I took out my knife and showed her how to create a shower of sparks by stroking the length of the metal match with the knife held at a right angle.
“Ok Jayleen I want you to lay the metal match on some of the palm tree bark that you brought and go for it.” I said as I pointed where I wanted her to put the tip of the metal match.
“I can’t make sparks dad!” She exclaimed with a sense of dissapointment.
“You can do it. Just press a little harder.” I responded
“I did it, I did it!” she cried as she looked with excitement.
“Congratulations!” I said as a feeling of pride came over me.
The fire continued to burn steadily as we discussed what we had done throughout the day. We sat there and talked for about an hour before I felt it was time to turn in. we took our place underneath the lean-to and continued talking for a few more minutes
“Yes baby” I replied
“I’m scared. I don’t want to sleep out here” she said.
“Ok, we don’t have to JJ” I replied
“Your not mad?” She asked
“Of course not, I’m just happy I got to spend time with you baby and you had fun.” I replied as I gave her a hug.
“Ok dad.” She said
I sat there and watched as she walked towards the door that led from the backyard to the inside of the house.
“Daddy?” she said in a very endearing voice, as she stopped short of the door
“Yes baby” I replied
“I love you, you’re the best dad in the whole wide world” she said,
“Me too JJ, me too” I replied, while a tear rolled down my cheek, as I watched her take her final step through the door.
I smiled and thought to myself what a great way to end the day. I can only hope that I can share this experience with my other daughters, Stephanie and Jessica, when they come visit me for the summer.
With that I got up, made sure the fire was out, and retreated towards the house.