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Published August 04, 2011, 10:59 AM

Roughing it

TOWNER, N.D. — There isn’t much of me that doesn’t ache right now. That’s because I just peeled myself out of a tent where I slept with my nephew and my two boys last night.

By: Ryan Taylor, Special to Agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — There isn’t much of me that doesn’t ache right now. That’s because I just peeled myself out of a tent where I slept with my nephew and my two boys last night.

My wife asked if I was going to blow up an air mattress for our grand backyard adventure. I told her heck no, we were sleeping cowboy style, curled up in our blankets, right on mother earth. Stiff and sore cowboy style, I’ve concluded.

My sons are at the age where building a campfire and pitching a tent a couple hundred feet from the house is something you can look forward to all afternoon.

Having their 12-year-old cousin in on the deal makes it even better. They follow him around like junior woodsman interns, listening intently to his fishing stories and tales of Boy Scout camp.

It’s good that the outdoors still can elicit excitement and awe in a kid. Dad talked about camping with his elder cousin when he was 14 years old and they chased 40 horses 160 miles to market. They camped out at night, ate hard-boiled eggs and created memories that stuck with Dad his whole life.

I remember my yard tent days, and, later, riding horse off into a pasture with friends and neighbors to heat up a can of beans and boil some coffee.

There’s a natural draw for a kid to want to roll out his sleeping bag and test his camping skills, but it takes some encouragement.

Outback mentors

I remember my uncle taking me fishing and camping, and, although the six- and seven- pound walleyes I caught on Lake Sakakawea were memorable, the trip I most cherished was backpacking in Montana with him, setting up camp and casting for trout that would hit the frying pan just minutes after they were pulled from the Madison River.

Our parents never blinked an eye when friends and I wanted to saddle a horse and ride off into the hills with our saddle bags and mess kits. They would check on us once in awhile.

I remember the welcome sight of my mother walking into our camp one morning for coffee. She was a most welcome sight for my buddy and me because she was leading our two horses that mysteriously came untied in the middle of the night. I guess our knot-tying skills had not yet been perfected.

We did a lot of winter camping because Dad somehow decided to buy an old trailer house for $200 and pulled it into the trees for us to decorate as we saw fit and convert it to a boondocks boy’s club.

A pretty good sized group of boys got a return on that $200 investment many times over. We learned how to build a fire and cook on a wood stove, how to stoke the fire and go to sleep with the thermometer reading 100 degrees and wake up with it reading 20 degrees, how to hide in the blankets and hope one of your friends would take on the chore of building the morning fire. We learned to live in harmony with the many mice that made that trailer their home.

Mostly, we made a lot of memories. But the memories didn’t just happen by themselves. They took an uncle, a parent or an older cousin who took the time to get a kid out of the house and into the outdoors.

But next time I go out to sleep cowboy style, I think I’ll go old cowboy style with an old cowboy air mattress to take the lumps out of mother earth as I curl up with the little campers.