Unseasonably warm weather recently reminded me that country kids know how to have fun. I’d begun thinking about this topic after a visiting eight-year old from the Denver area entertained me with adventures he enjoyed at a trampoline and arcade business near his home. After he detailed hours of good times performing tricks and challenging friends, I wondered what my grandkids would remember about their country childhoods. Thank goodness, I spied two teens playing a crazy game of either hide-n- seek or paint ball war in between long rows of snow-frosted hay bales along Highway 24. That nudge reminded me boredom wouldn’t affect anyone growing up in our family.
When those first seeds of concern sprouted, I should’ve thought about the farm kid essays I read during decades as a rural English teacher. On many occasions, I burst out laughing either in the middle of class while students read independently and I graded, or I interrupted quiet family evenings with guffaws that made my husband question my sanity. How could wielding a red pen be that much fun?
Nothing beats hay bales for fort building, assault advantages or hiding places in hedge apple wars, or simple jumping exercises. Who needs trampolines when you can leap from one round bale to the next to strengthen your legs and your balance? Add someone chasing you, and the thrill increases. For the less physically inclined youngsters, these objects offer quiet hiding places and comfy posts for cloud watching.
Not only do humans enjoy fragrant bundles of straw, hay, or alfalfa, critters like them too. Rural youngsters often spot red tails or northern harriers perched atop the straw while gnawing at a fresh meal. A favorite story detailed a kid plowing a field and seeing a bobcat snoozing lazily atop giant shredded wheat shapes bordering his work zone. Talk to most folks who grow up on farms or ranches, and even their eyes smile when they tell about about finding a farm cat with a litter of kitten tucked snugly into the hay.
Bales aren’t the only kind of fun country kids enjoy. Hot days lend themselves to unplanned dips in a farm pond or stock tank. Unlike the municipal pool, swimsuits aren’t required and kids can leap in fully clothed if they want. Swimmers might splash and giggle with the family dog or maybe feel stocked fish nibbling at their toes. Mossy bottoms make this a true adventure when soaked humans attempt to exit upright from the water.
Rural escapades don’t end when the sun goes down. Evenings offer opportunities to star gaze or count satellites arcing overhead in dark night skies unlittered by bright fluorescent and neon signs. On warm summer nights, entertainment includes counting and maybe catching flitting fireflies. Who doesn’t love watching a beetle with a blinking tail crawl up an arm or leg? That tickle added to the on/off glow is pure magic.
Hang around country kids for a while, and you realize a word is missing from their vocabulary. It’s the overused modern term—I’m bored. When you live in a landscape that constantly challenges you and allows your imagination to run wild, adventures await 24/7.