The Book That Started It All…

When I was around 12 years old, my family had a trip to Colorado planned. I knew nothing about Colorado except that it was a long drive to get there. At the time I was a voracious reader of history, Native American culture and skills and various other things. I was never really interested in comic books or Mad magazine. Anyway, I was strolling through a Woolworth/Woolco store and noticed a paperback on the wire rounder by the title of Outdoor Survival Skills by Larry Dean Olsen. It was $4.95…which I didn’t have. My mind started whirring and processing ways to make five dollars so I could buy the book.

So what does every desperate future entrepreneur do? I worked up the courage to go door-to-door in my neighborhood asking if there was any chores that needed doing for five bucks. On the second knock I found an older lady who agreed to pay me 5 dollars if I would edge her front yard. It’s a deal lady! I’ll do it.

I ran home and rummaged around until I found a pair of scissors. I raced back to her house and meticulously trimmed her front yard edge all the way around the curb. Man, my hands were sore after that! But I had the five bucks and ran all the way to the Woolworth store and bought that paperback.

On the ride to Colorado I leafed through it and stared at the pictures intently. I read it cover to cover and was desperate to start trying all of these skills out. Are we there yet? How much longer until we’re there? Yes…I was that kid!

I had a pretty good childhood. I was raised as a “latch-key kid” and my parents were all about kids being allowed to “free range.” I knew the rules and what time to return to camp…other than that, I was free to roam.

And roam I did! Up mountains, through meadows and along streams. The whole two weeks we were camped, that book was my constant companion. I tried almost everything that book mentioned or depicted. Bows and arrows, rabbit sticks, shelters etc. I tried to make fire with the hand drill and bow drill methods but failed miserably. But it all planted a seed that has remained with me to this day.

I still practice those skills. I wore that little paperback out years ago and currently have the 6th Edition of it on my bookshelf. I figured out pretty quickly that reading a book on something was only part of the equation. The other, more important parts are going out and trying it firsthand. Taking a class from a knowledgeable person really speeds up the learning process. I figured out that success and failure were both sides of the same coin and I could learn a great deal from both.

All of our children have received a copy of this book…among many others. I guess in a way I wanted them to have the same sense of freedom that I had and we free ranged our kids as well. None of them took to the woods like I did…yet each of them has an interest in it…be it fishing, hunting or camping. Maybe there is hope for them in the future. If not, that’s fine too.

I just fondly remember that book and the world it opened up to me. And I still thank my Dad for taking me to Colorado!

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