Step-dad Adventures – Fire and Water

Surviving the Elements

campfireIf someone told me I had to start a fire, I would say, sure, get me a can of gas and a match and I’m off to the races. In actual fact, as long as I have a match, some kindling and dry wood, I’m good. But there’s no way I could make a fire if all I had were 2 pieces of wood and a knife. Bear Gillis I am not.

Nor were any in our group. Everyone was given a bit of kindling, a book of matches and some dry wood. They had to collect stones to spread around the fire-to-be and extra kindling if they could find it, but that was it. Then all they had to do was make a fire.

Simple, right?

torchWell, not so much. No one knew how to set up a fire, even after it was explained to them. Being 12-13, I guess they pretty much knew everything about everything, so why listen?

The Oldest even had a cool idea that he could start a fire by making a torch in the middle of all the kindling. It didn’t work as well as it would have in minecraft, but little by little he (and all the other kids) went through a massive trial and error thing. You know, suck in smoke and choke. Stick your face over a fire and feel the heat. Hold a match too long and ouch!

Soon the girls in the group had a blazing fire going. That really miffed the boys, who worked even harder. Then the second group of girls managed to get something started and the boys went into panic mode. One team of girls getting fire going could be put down to a fluke, but 2?


campfire girlsDid they cheat and listen to the instructor? Did they have a secret stash of lighter fluid? God forbid they were actually better at this stuff.

The boys redoubled their efforts. Better designs were made. They realized that if they blew on the flames a bit, it would help ignite the fire. They built better structures that allowed the flames to grow.

And, despite one kid who kept blaming the matches, everyone got a fire going in the end.

They all were surprisingly ecstatic. I guess it was a primal thing. That smell of wood burning. The crackle of the fire. The sheer joy in making fire.

Plus no one set themselves aflame.

Oh how I wanted to tell them what they were doing wrong, how I wanted to reset their wooden structures and kindling, how I wanted to show them that all of them blowing on the fire just put the damn thing out. But no, they had to learn and learn by doing.

They had fun, though. And they learned a valuable skill. I think I had the hardest time not being allowed to meddle. (I am, at heart, a dedicated meddler.)

Next up was canoeing. Me and The Oldest got to be in the same canoe. Just the two of us. Man vs water. Well, man and a smaller man vs a canoe, really.

Now this is something I probably did at one time, but I’ll be damned if I can remember doing it. It’s pretty easy, once you get into the boat, but getting into that boat was our first big challenge. The silly thing rocked and then tried to slide away from the pier. Being sick, the last thing I needed was to be dunked into a cold, cold lake.

Plus I was pretty sure that would end up on a youtube video somewhere.

However, the Oldest and I managed to stabilize the boat, so we climbed in, got our paddles ready and headed out. He was in control, having said he knew all about canoeing (he’d done it once) and so we motored around the lake like pros.

canoeingAt least that’s the story I’m telling. If there’s a video out there showing us heading toward the weeds and the Oldest screaming at me to paddle less hard, well, that’s another old guy and his stepson, not me and him at all.

After the instructor was done with his instructions, we played a game. Tag. In a way, it wasn’t fair. I could out row them all, even in my feeble condition and by the time we began, the Oldest had worked out all the kinks in his steering. So we raced away from menacing canoes and tore past others trying to tag us until we were the only ones left untagged.

Then to show off, we rowed the canoe backwards towards the dock. I would have thought that would end in disaster, but somehow we made it work and even beat everyone else back there.

The Oldest beamed like a gladiator who just killed a giant from Sparta. It’s not often he gets to chance to excel at sports and on this day, with the sun shining in the blue sky and the lake as smooth as glass, he kicked ass and triumphed over his classmates.

simpsons in the woodsThat only left us with 2 things to do. One so horrible I still have nightmares about it. And the other, navigating with a compass (which I also have nightmares about.)

But those tales will be told next time.


About Joe Cummings

Aquarius. Traveler. Gamer. Writer. A New Parent. 4 of these things are easy. One is not. But the journey is that much better for the new people in my life. A life I want to share with others, to help them, maybe, to make them feel less alone, sure, to connect with the greater world, absolutely.
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