Adventuring with Kids: Just Do It!

I inched open the screen door. “Hello?”

Snores ruffled across the room.

I cringed. Should I be doing this? Practically breaking into an old farmhouse?

The next thing I knew, the old woman was up, like a ghost from the old west.

Have you ever gone adventuring with your children? I mean, started off and not known where you’d end up?

I have.

Just be prepared. Take a snack. A diaper bag, if you need to. And when the weather cools, a warm jacket,  hat and gloves. Wear sturdy shoes. No fair turning back because of a little cold.

Look for streams, raspberries on the side of a country road. A surprise apple tree.

Teach your children to listen. Perhaps to a bumble bee. A train whistle. An airplane overhead.

Find a whistle-stop town, a water fall, little shops and flea markets. People you’ve never met.

Drop in on a new world.

Here’s a true story. It happened to me when I went adventuring one day in the mountains west of Denver, Colorado.

The “Fresh Eggs” sign poked though the tall grass. The writing – black paint slapped on a board – was barely visible from the road.

Months passed. Each time I made the trip to town, I looked for the weathered sign. To a mom who’d spent all winter snowed in with two preschoolers, it was a harbinger that somewhere out there, in a more-or-less easterly direction, were fresh eggs and the promise of springtime.

I blessed the sun god when summer came and the ground gave up its last ice-encrusted scabs. How many spring mornings had I opened the door only to be slapped by a bitter blue sky?

One day I decided it was time. I packed up the boys, about five and three then, and set off.  I envisioned white and brown eggs, downy feathers still clinging to the shells. Deep orange yolks sizzling in a skillet.  I only knew that I wanted fresh eggs. And if I wanted them badly enough, they must exist.

I could almost hear the chickens squawking.

Sunlight laced in and out of the dense evergreens, and at times the car dipped into near darkness. Some miles on I spotted a sign. The same ragged board, the same rough hand.

It said, Fresh Eggs.

I turned left and drove over a culvert, down a berm, and into the side yard of a large farmhouse.  An ancient tractor and harrow rusted in the grass. To my left, a smattering of deciduous trees.

Lemons dangled from their branches. Plastic Sunkist lemons.

I smiled.

Across the dirt yard stood an old, splintered bar. I thought about the chickens, and wondered where they might be.

Once out of the car, the kids took turns knocking at the screen door.  “Anybody home?”

The place seemed abandoned.

Before giving up on the eggs, I cupped my hands over my eyes and peered through an ancient window screen. Inside was the oldest kitchen I’d ever laid eyes on. A Majestic wood stove blackened the room.

And sugar cookies were everywhere. Dozens of them. On the table, window ledges and upper tiers of the cast iron stove.

I think I even remember a ladder with baking sheets strung across the rungs.

What should I do?

The boys had seen the cookies. We might be disappointed, I told them.

I decided to be brave. I opened the screen door for a better look through the glass pane.

What I saw made me draw breath.

Across the living room, an old woman stretched out in straight-backed chair. Long silver braids tumbled down the front of her flannel shirt. Her hands lay folded across her middle. She crossed her blue-jeaned legs at the ankles, and on her feet were a pair of brown cowboy boots.

Oh, my goodness. 

I inched open the door. “Hello?”

Snores ruffled across the room.

I cringed. Should I be doing this?

The woman stirred.

The next thing I knew she was up, tall and gregarious,  “Come in! Come in! Children visit me all the time, you know.”

Who is this person? This ghost from the old west.

She instructed us to sit down and immediately began recounting her life story, pointing out memorabilia that decorated the room.

Her name was Anna Erickson.

Her father had been one of the original Colorado homesteaders. They’d come from Sweden.  And now the farm, formerly the oldest working homestead in Colorado, was a destination for school children. She always served cookies, she said.

When she first came to America, Anna was young and pretty and wanted to be a movie star. But her sister had married and left home, leaving Anna to cook and clean for their father.  She never made it to Hollywood. Instead, she became a rancher.

The kids sat at my side and listened.

The braided lady brought out a plate of cookies and we nibbled on the sugary sweets.  She talked about her various recognitions, including one from a United States President.

“Do you want to see the dinosaurs?” she asked.

The younger one slid off my lap and the three of us followed her outside.

I asked about the barn. What’s in it?

“We used to have moo-moos,” she said. “But they’re all gone now.”

We hiked out on the property to a cluster of red rock outcroppings, Anna as sure-footed as an old mountain goat.

Her dinosaurs overlooked a grassy meadow.

Soon the boys were up and straddling the beasts.

I never mentioned the eggs. Of course there weren’t any to be had. But I wasn’t disappointed.

My young sons and I had experienced something new and wonderful. We had adventured. Shunpiked. And learned a little bit more about the world. Together. FFG








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