Boys and their toys


Jim and Virgil returned last night from their long fishing weekend in Maine, full of stories and excitement. Virgil burst out of the car door wearing a fur cap on his head and a raccoon pelt draped over his shoulders — a purchase from a roadside yard sale, Jim told me later — and started right in on recounting his adventures at the fishing lodge.

There was archery: “Three times today,” he said last night. “The last time I shot 7 arrows, 6 hit the target, and 5 got in the color. I got a lot better.” There were chores: He helped take apart a dock and pitched in with a shovel to drain a low spot in the road that had ponded with water. Fun and games: Stratego on the deck overlooking the river, four hands of poker before breakfast. Mountain biking 3 miles of rough road each way to a fishing hole downriver. Exploring around the camp. And, especially, fly-fishing.

For Jim and his friends, the fishing wasn’t great. But for Virgil, who had to wait for his broken arm to heal before he could use the fly rod we gave him for his eighth birthday last month, it was stupendous. He cast for the first time into moving water and several times saw a fish come up and take the fly. He didn’t land any fish, but he liked watching Jim and Jim’s friend Steve work the water.

Everything interested him. The fishing camp has no electricity. Water runs on gravity feed, and the stove and lights off propane gas. At night, Jim and Virgil slept in a yurt on the bank of the river.

At home, Virgil often begs us to play games on the Internet. When one activity is over, he’s quick to say he’s bored. He doesn’t lose himself in imaginative play as easily as Ursula does, or seem to have the same need to be outside. We sometimes say of Virgil that he needs more structure, not less, and more ways to get excited about spending time outside.

Over their long weekend in Maine, Jim never once heard Virgil complain of boredom — or of the cold, or of being wet when he slipped off a rock into the water. He never once asked about computers. Virgil seemed proud to be included in the group of men, proud to contribute to the work of the camp, eager to be learning new skills, happy to be with his dad. It seemed just exactly what Virgil needed — and exactly the way to give it to him.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

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