I recently saw a picture from the 1930s of three 12 year olds who were taken to juvenile hall in San Antonio.
Their crime: having an adventure.
It started when they borrowed a 12-foot, flat-bottom boat and made the seven-mile float across Nueces Bay from Corpus Christi to Portland. If only these Texas Huckleberry Finns would have stopped there they probably would have only been in trouble with their parents.
But boys being boys the trio then thumbed a ride in a truck another 65 miles to Three Rivers. From there they hoped another truck for a 70-mile ride into San Antonio where they were found peacefully sleeping in a railcar.
Call me a bad parent, but I can’t help but smile about this trio’s waltz across South Texas. How much fun would that big adventure have been in an era when just going to town was special?
Growing up in Dallas the only thing I could have paddled was the Trinity River. I had some friends who would have been willing to take on the Big Muddy, but we all feared a limb rotting off from whatever the sludge.
That didn’t mean there weren’t adventures of some sort of another. Mine started about the time the training wheels disappeared from my bicycle and continued on until the time I was supposed to know better.
Unlike those 12 year olds from the ‘30s I started tame, slipping out of the house to catch crawdads on a creek with a string and bacon. It wasn’t but a couple of blocks from the house, but it was a couple of blocks farther than I probably was supposed to be.
I think learning stepping off life’s cattle trails probably came during my summers at camp.
After several years as a camper I noticed no one really paid attention to what I was doing so I would slip off into the hills to hike on my own or maybe down the Guadalupe River where I found my own swimming hole.
Or it might have come on Sunday drives with my parents. We would get in the car and on most occasions just go, stopping at a lake, a park, under the runway at Love Field or just somewhere we had never been before.
Texas in the 1970s was much different than it was in the 1930s except it was still big. By then, instead of thumbing a ride, which you could still do safely, we had cars and trucks to get to where we weren’t supposed to be.
I remember nights driving the neighborhood with my late friend Russ Kerr. We would bail out of the car any time we spotted a raccoon and try to catch it by the tail before it could escape up a tree. Russ was pretty good at it and always had one as a pet.
Then there was the time he and I drove from Dallas to Bowie, a long trip in those days, to shoot frogs on a pond. OK, we knew a couple of girls staying at the church camp next door, but we actually did shoot a few frogs and camped by the water’s edge in the sweltering heat.
And if taking a gun to school was the crime it is today, we would probably still be in jail. Shotguns and ammo were always at the ready every September for a run to a dove field after, or almost after, school.
After that there was no slowing down. There was the backpacking trip through New Mexico’s Wheeler Peak Wilderness, a hike that taught me trekking across mountains was not a sport you can train for on the prairies of Texas.
There were the trips to Sonora to hunt that always were an adventure. As high school students or college kids we had about enough money for gas, cold cuts, mustard and bread. Accommodations were a tent in the pasture. Thank goodness for the local Western Auto and a few hand tools for everything else.
Occasionally those trips included a run to the Mexican border for a cheap dinner and a glimpse at a whole different world you couldn’t see on this side of the Rio Grande.
Today those little trips could prove deadly.
Someday I am going to go back and put a pin in a map for everywhere in Texas I have gone hunting, fishing or just gone. Some of those include towns that once were, but are no longer on the map.
That being said, with spring break and summer coming up parents need to let kids have an adventure. I know the world has changed and you can’t let them just hop a bus or a bicycle for a cross-country trip.
Parents can take them to places where there aren’t walls and fences and they don’t have to walk in a straight line. Places where they are expected to get their pants and face muddy.
Places where they can wander. More importantly where their mind can wander and where life isn’t controlled by a clock.
It may be some place as close as Tyler State Park or as far away as Big Bend. Maybe go under the rocks at Carlsbad or Longhorn Caverns State Park or on top of one at Enchanted Rock.
Wherever, give them some space. Let them make their own decisions on whether to turn left, right or go straight ahead. Let them have a little feeling of what it was like to run away to San Antonio.
Have a comment or opinion on this story? Contact outdoor writer Steve Knight by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Steve Knight on Facebook at TylerPaper Outdoors and on Twitter @tyleroutdoor.