How to Keep Your Children Close to Your Family
It is always a difficult thing to keep a family close. People try to keep their families close and fail all the time. My family has always been close. It was never difficult to get them all together. All anyone had to say was camping. When I was a child, my mom and dad would go camping every chance they got. They went on weekends and on their vacations. They didn't have a lot of money and it was not much more to go camping than it was to sit at home. We had yard sales and saved for the equipment. They bought an old camper back before they were self-contained. They had used a tent before that. We got sleeping bags for Christmas and were thrilled. We knew the value of a sleeping bag. They bought good ones with canvas covers in the full adult size. We were taught how to care for them properly and they lasted into our adulthood. A zipper or two were replaced but the quality materials lasted. Now they are lighter and rated for colder conditions but the materials do not last near as long.
We went camping with my dad's brother, sisters, and parents. He had 11 siblings and whichever ones were around and off work would show up. We went camping at Indian Lakes outside Fallon, NV. Most of them lived within a 50 mile radius. It is the Stillwater wildlife refuge and is a string of irrigation lakes connected by canals.
We got into canoeing when we went camping with some friends. They had one. The next week-end, we had a yard sale to get the money for one. We got a Coleman 13 foot canoe first. They have a flotation system built into the front and the back of them. You cannot sink a Coleman canoe. We tried. 14 young adults piled onto a 13 foot canoe and filled it with water in a shallow spot. The front and back could still be seen above water. The aunts and uncles all got some and we would have a flotilla of them.
You can't wiggle in a canoe, it will tip over. If you stand in one, you had better be graceful as heck, if not, you go swimming and everyone else in the canoe with you. My mom always kidded me saying 'It took you all your life to learn to wiggle good, now you have to learn not to.' My sister had a small sailboat that she would sail around the lake. One day, my sister-in-law (Barbara) and my sister were sailing. My mom,dad, and I were canoeing and we met in the middle. We stopped, holding on to the side of the other boat. Barbara decided to throw water at my dad for something he said. He threw water at her and it turned into a water fight. She jumped onto the side of the canoe and it tipped. Somehow, my dad got off the seat of the canoe, and jumped onto the sailboat. We were all laughing because he was fully clothed including leather shoes. He said he jumped because his wallet was in his pocket and he didn't want to get it wet.
We would take a day to follow the canals around from one lake to the next with anyone who wanted to go. We would team the older aunts and uncles with younger paddlers so that we could all go. My sister and I got to paddle around the almost 80 year old uncles. They had fun, we had fun and we all stayed close. It was a fun experience. We got to know some of these old people that we probably wouldn't have gotten to know otherwise. We knew them well.
My aunts were no fragile old ladies. They were from a farming family and had all worked hard all of their lives. Their husbands were pretty much the same. My dad was in the middle of 12. Nine of them were girls. At night, we would light a lantern, hang it from an awning and pile into the canoes. We played hide and seek on the moonless lake, hiding behind reeds and tufts of grass. We hid behind the curves of the bank.The fish would jump and we would get splashed. Then we would spot another canoe and flash them. With the flashlights, of course.
The lake we camped at was remote, undeveloped and was also BLM land. We had cattle foraging in the weeds around the lake all the time. We saw Great Blue Herons, pelicans, and numerous other water birds. We saw owls, falcons, and even eagles while we camped. Fishing was the early morning thing and sometimes late at night. We always brought firewood with us and had a campfire every night. We would circle the self-made fire pit with rocks, so that there was no risk of fire. We always had a bucket of water handy, with plenty more water to be gotten from the lake.
With it being BLM land, we sometimes woke to find our camp was invaded with cattle. My sister's pup tent was used as a scratching post by one mean, old cow. Another time, a part Brahma cow took offense at my aunt's dog that barked and chased them. One aunt was in a cast at the time and using crutches. The other aunt shoved from behind to get her in the door of the camper, shoved the dog in between her feet and jumped into the camper, slamming the door just in time. We all laughed over that story. That old heifer was well known.
Mother's Day was always a family thing. Every year, the Fort Churchill State Park sponsored a canoe trip down the Truckee River to Lahontan Reservoir. We would get in the canoes at Fort Churchill, and with the State Park guides, canoe, portage, and wade to the dam.We would leave about 9:00 and arrive at the dam about 1:00. It was always fun and exhausting for the younger ones of us who went. We wouldn't have missed it for anything. The aunts all went with husbands and some of them were pretty old, in their 70's. They were teamed with younger ones who got the hard work. Sometimes the river wouldn't be deep enough to make it through paddling. We pulled them, wading through the mud in our cheap sneakers. I lost a sneaker once (the mud sucked it off) and it took 20 minutes to find it. I would have left it but there were rocks that we had to cross and in the bottom of the river.. Sometimes, we would have to get everyone out of the canoes and carry them over a sandbar (portaging). We helped each other get them across.
There were also deep parts. We were paddling along one of the deep parts one time when we saw a snake crossing the river. We were watching it from a safe distance but the guys in the kayak wanted to see it better. They paddled up to it and were taking pictures of it. It decided it wanted a break and went up to their kayak. They used the paddle to push it away and it climbed onto the paddle. It slithered up the paddle, which got thrown into the river. The snake then headed back towards them and with one paddle short, they couldn't go. The snake got in, they jumped into the river. The rangers got the snake out, my cousin and I got their paddle, they got back in their kayak and we went on. We laughed and teased them about abandoning ship for a little ol' snake. It was a 4 foot long black snake. Not poisonous but they will bite and hurt when feeling threatened.
My mom and dad are gone now but the memories of this time will never be forgotten. We all had so much fun and got so close to our older relatives. Everyone does not get that chance and regret it. Some only get that chance when they are older and many of the older ones don't make it that long. If you have a family that you want to be close, this is a wonderful way to do it. I will never regret that I got this chance.
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