Growing Up Free: Inspiring a Love of Nature

| 3/7/2014 9:42:00 AM

By today’s standards, some aspects of my upbringing would be considered parental negligence.

Those were the best parts of my childhood.Love of Nature

I grew up less than a half-mile from the border between southern New Mexico and the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The border was calmer then, but our neighborhood wasn’t quiet. Smugglers and undocumented immigrants streamed back and forth across the ragged barbed-wire fence that marked the boundary. From our yard we could watch hundreds of illegal crossings in a day. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials staked out the hilltops and patrolled the sky in their aircraft, but they couldn’t hold back the tide. Crime rates were high, primarily because the wealth differential across the border made mundane U.S. possessions immensely valuable if they could be smuggled south.

Then we had the neighbors to consider. As kids, we were routinely told to avoid the trailer where “the pervert” lived. So we did. If I wanted to walk past the shack inhabited by another neighbor, an elderly, trigger-happy alcoholic known as “Old Man Pat,” my grandfather would call Pat on the phone. I vividly remember one such conversation. “Pat, are you drunk?” Grandpa asked. He listened to Pat’s response. “Well, OK. My grandson is going to walk past your house in a few minutes. Don’t shoot at him.”

Did I mention that the area was also infested with rattlesnakes?

That I was encouraged to wander the village and the surrounding sand hills with my friends is remarkable in retrospect. My mother would literally tell us to go outside and play “until the sun goes down.” So we did. We dug forts in the sand. Our parents just said, “That’s liable to cave in on you.” We hunted for arrowheads. (“Watch for snakes!”) We shot our BB guns. (“Don’t put an eye out!”)

3/7/2016 8:18:01 AM

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3/7/2016 7:27:58 AM

Hardly anywhere to go that is actually 'country' - Lancaster Pa? LOL You can sight see... (they took all the trees, and put 'em in a tree museum.) You can watch from inside your car, like a safari at Great Adventure. Go to attractions: facsimiles at best. Unless you live in the country, it is more and more difficult for (because of sprawl and loss of farming and raw land) and distance therefore, to experience country or wild or forest. Stop Sprawl and get youth interested in local economies and family farming or all is lost. (IE; Quality of Life and Culture)

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