the way out here

Teach ‘em young

Posted 4/14/21

A part of most young boys’ upbringing out here is to acquaint them with various tools as they become capable, training them how to be responsible with those tools and, of course, what they can …

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the way out here

Teach ‘em young


A part of most young boys’ upbringing out here is to acquaint them with various tools as they become capable, training them how to be responsible with those tools and, of course, what they can accomplish by using them.

At the root of the old adage, “If it doesn’t move and it should, give ‘er a tap,” comes the first tool many children are introduced to: the hammer. At the age of one, my son was keen on using a small plastic hammer that came with one of his toy sets to recalibrate a number of things around the house. One of the things he was particularly excited to recalibrate was me; of course, I responded to said recalibration with a measure of excitement and other various hullabaloo. To a one-year-old, any response is a fun response. But now that he has recently turned two, I decided it was time to introduce him to what you might call “the next level” of hammers.

With the warm weather making spending time outside a near necessity, I gathered one of my great-grandfather’s old ball peen hammers and a handful of roofing nails before guiding my son to a stump in our backyard. For you dads out there, I suggest the roofing nails because, first of all, they are cheap and, second of all, have wider heads, which are easier for kids to hit.

So there we adjourned to the same stump some of you readers may recall from last year’s column, “Crashing coniferous.” Upon the face of the stump, my father has since endearingly inscribed my son’s name in the wood with his chainsaw, thus making this a poetic place to teach my young protégé. With our roofing nails in hand, I daringly handed off the hammer to my son to hold after starting one of the nails in the soft wood of the stump. Given his excitement, I dare say there was little to teach him about what our goals and intentions were regarding the hammer and nail, however, the instruction came into play as my pint-sized hooligan began brandishing the otherwise non-menacing tool with a look of sheer glee and anticipated mayhem. Prior to this little lesson, I was sure to clear the immediate area of any potentially appealing-looking targets.

After tempering his initial abundance of enthusiasm, I showed him the right way to hold the hammer and attempted to explain the need to aim for the head of the nail. He awkwardly stood before the stump and repeatedly raised and dropped the hammer in controlled practice while learning the way the inertia shifted the weight of it in his hands. After receiving some light assistance from me to ensure the nails were satisfactorily driven into the stump, he declared the lesson over after perhaps a half dozen had been beaten to his approval.

It may not seem like much, but these little lessons are the foundation of a future of working with his hands. As his father, I take pride in sharing these moments with him and ensuring that, even from a young age, my son is able to develop these skills and apply them to the way we live out here. I remember doing the same with my grandparents when I was just a little older than he is now; the stump may still be there with old rusty nail heads adorning the surface. Would I have learned how to use a hammer and nails without the little lesson? Of course. But do I value the personal attention to the tutelage I received from my family? Even more than the skill itself.

The way out here it’s not just about what you know, it’s about what you pass down and teach the future generations, the time you give to them and the passion you share for this way of life.


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