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Backyard and beyond

by DENNIS. L. CLAY
Herald Columnist | February 18, 2020 11:30 PM

Many an outdoor education began in the backyard. How to build a fire, how to tie knots, how to properly use a knife, survival skills, how to erect a tent were all part of my backyard schooling.

Of course, the teaching of these skills might have actually started in Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts for some, but most of my outdoor skills were already being taught at home, in the backyard.

This was because we were an outdoors family. Fishing skills started when old enough to hold a fishing rod for both my sister, Denise, and me. It didn’t take long until we were baiting our own hooks.

Running to Dad and asking, “Would you untangle my line?” worked for a couple of years. Then he would simply say, “Figure it out yourself.”

Thinking about this aspect makes me consider Dad was more partial toward Denise. Remembering those episodes now, he would help her with tangled lines for years after he stopped helping me.

Tangling lines and working on tangled lines was more of an activity when on or near a lake or stream. Still, at home there was time to go through the tackle boxes, place new line on reels and discuss fishing techniques.

Learning to use a knife properly was a large part of backyard education. The basics of using a knife was part of Cub Scout and Boy Scout training. In my family this training started with Dad presenting a pocketknife to me at the age of, well, it must have been 6 or 7.

The two of us would spend time going over the good, bad and ugly parts of using a knife. Eventually Dad taught me how to play mumblypeg. This is a knife throwing game with roots in the 1600s.

There are many variations, with the players standing in one. We always would sit on the grass with our legs crossed in front of us. This game would have the first player throw his knife at one foot, with the idea of sticking the knife closer to his foot than the other player could stick his knife closer to his own foot.

Just a free-hand throw was easy enough, but next the players would have to hold their right ear with their left hand and throw the knife while extending his own right hand through the hole created by the left hand.

It was a fun game for Dad and me. Mom didn’t like it one bit. This game didn’t catch on with my sister and other girls, in general.

Tomorrow: More backyard education.