I snapped 26 pics of Ben while he sat on a rock and talked. He moved his head the whole time, and this was my favorite shot. (click to make it bigger and better)
Although I try not to be “that guy” who only writes about his kid(s), it’s a simple fact that I’m a modern father and my son is a large part of my life. I could never imagine a career that would fulfill as much as the job of father, nor one that is as difficult. Doing it well is important to me. What exactly that entails, and how much room it leaves for selfish pursuits, is debatable.
The beauty for me is that I love getting outdoors and going to parks. This is right up most kids’ alley, and my son is no exception. Put in cliché terminology, it’s a recipe for success.
Last weekend was no exception.
After the crazy Easter weekend shuffle, our little family was ready for quiet time to ourselves. My wife and I enjoyed a date night Saturday evening, and Sunday morning I went over to pick up Ben at my in-laws’ house. As his grammy and I worked to load a treadmill into our minivan (they had been storing it for us), Ben talked to the neighbor lady.
“We’re going to Arbor Hills,” he said. It’s a nature preserve several miles west of Plano that I’ve featured in a previous Pic of the Week post.
“Oh, really? I love that place. I go there to run with my friend all the time. Have you seen the bobcat?”
“Bobcat?” Ben asked.
“There’s a bobcat that lives out there.”
“No, we haven’t seen it,” I said.
“Early one morning, I saw a wolf, too. Crossed the trail right in front of us.”
Let me stop now to say that there are no wolves roaming the Dallas metro area nor its outskirts. She undoubtedly was talking about a coyote, which are so abundant and widespread that we often hear them from inside our house in the ‘burbs. The bobcat sighting, I’ll buy, but on the wolf claim I’m calling either shenanigans or ignorance.
“You did?” I said. I grunted as I shoved the treadmill clear of the hatch door. “Wow. That’s neat.”
Blue bonnets, the Texas state flower, greeted us at the park’s entrance. Other wildflowers of various colors and shapes waved in the wind as we tried to find a parking spot in the crowded lot.
To begin our hike, we quickly left the sidewalk for a trail that led us up a wooded hill. Apparently at least one idiot had done the same. As much as I hate to admit it, the colors of the Monster Energy drink can work well in this shot.
Let’s go to the one place we don’t feel like we’re in the city, and then leave our trash.
As I carefully chose the perfect stepping rock while making my way across the creek, Ben in my arms, I heard a low whump, SPLASH! from behind me. I turned and saw a teenager on a mountain bike, about 40 yards downstream, the water rushing around his tires and between his spokes.
“Whoa, I’m gettin’ soaked!” he said.
I looked to see who was listening. On the bank was another boy about his age, standing next to his bike. Both wore helmets.
Ben and I headed the opposite direction to check out our favorite spot from our last trip there. Despite the recent heavy rains, the water was lower than it was in February, but Ben still tossed in a few rocks for dramatic splashes. He stopped for more rocks as we headed back.
Holding Ben’s hand to help him stay steady on the muddy shore, I saw the source of the noise I had heard. The boys were riding their bikes off a wall about five or six feet high, then landing on a downward slope and rushing into the creek. I worried with so many kids around.
“Are those kids out of the way?” one of the boys asked as he sat atop his seat, his feet keeping gravity from doing its job.
That assuaged the father in me and allowed the kid in me to look on in wonder. It was just the kind of thing my brother and I would have done.
I approached the boys and let them look at my pictures.
“Can you e-mail those to me?” asked the boy the other one called “Mark.”
Meanwhile, Ben was running up and down the creek with a pair of spears he whittled out of branches, screaming, “Ralph! Jack wants to take over as leader! Let’s use my ridiculously thick glasses to start an uncontrolled fire that lays half the island to waste.” Or, just wandering around tossing the occasional pebble under my watchful eye. Take your pick.
I worked my fingers into every corner of my camera bag and came up with a Bic ballpoint and an old business card. It read “The Morning News.” Anybody who saw that card in this area would assume it was for the large, well-known local daily newspaper. What it lacked were the last few words of the publication’s name, “of Northwest Arkansas.”
“Daddy, I want to put my feet in the water,” Ben said.
I let him remove his shoes and rolled up his jeans so he could wade. Next time, I’ll join him. This picture is the perfect example of capturing the moment instead of fretting over lighting problems. I don’t do nearly enough of that.
The only thing that hit me wrong that day was a group of kids catching butterflies. I asked them to let my boy see their catch. One of the boys lifted a plastic zipper bag to show us five dead butterflies.
In a nature preserve. Hmmm…
Ben runs up the hill to the man-made playground.