With the weather only marginally cooperative, we embarked on a field trip this morning to a place called Wildwood Ranch. The first time I heard the name a song from my childhood immediately sprang to mind called Wildwood Weed. It was one of those 70’s novelty songs.
The wildwood flower grew wild on the farm,
And we never knowed what it was called.
When I mentioned the name of the ranch to Rob, he smiled and made a remark about this song too and then quoted the last verse,
Then they drove away,
We just smiled and waved…
Sittin’ there on that sack of seeds!
Interestingly I had been remembering the same lines. Children of the 70’s, literally in my case but not as much in his.
The ranch was located about 40 minutes or so south of the metro. The students would have the opportunity to fish, hike and ride horses. Kids are funny anyway, but it’s always interesting to watch their “real world” personas emerge on these trips. School is such an artificial , and in some cases adversarial, atmosphere. Take them out of the class. Talk to them as though they were your nieces or nephews, and you’ll be surprised at how much like kids they truly are. Wide-eyed and open.
The ranch was obviously some type of summer/weekend camp. There were cabins, a rec and dining hall, and areas that were set up to accommodate structured group activities. We broke the students into groups for fishing and riding. They were naturally most interested in the horseback riding. I don’t imagine that many of them had the opportunity to ride horses often or possibly ever. I have ridden twice in my life. Once on another field trip about fifteen years ago and then again on a Jaycee outing around the time that Will and I were first together which was at least eight years ago. Normally I would have been enthused at the prospect. I would like to learn to ride properly. Rob knows how to ride and it would be fun to be able to do something like this together and teach Katy as well. I am not sure about owning horses though and one of the camp’s owners made the comment that horses were nothing but walking vet bills and hay burners. Better to just “put a bullet in ’em” when they took sick than to waste the money on doctoring them.
Fishing was the first activity for the group to which I was assigned. I haven’t fished since high school, but baiting a hook is apparently one of those “just like riding a bike” deals. I baited, cast and hauled in a blue gill of almost edible proportions in less than five minutes. With shame though I must admit that I didn’t remove the fish from the hook myself. An older gentleman who volunteers at the the ranch assisted me, which turned out to be just as well as the fish decided to protest its treatment by peeing all over the front of the man’s shirt. For some reason it never occurred to me until that moment that fish do indeed pee and that all the world’s waterways are fish urinals. Gave me a moment or two of pause until I relegated that thought to the “best not think about it” bin in my brain.
I baited quite a few more hooks and gave a couple of my own homeroom students casting lessons before it was time to head for the horses. I had decided at this point not to ride. The last thing I needed was to be thrown from a horse and break something. I have major life events coming up and a cast on any part of me would be a hindrance right now. Watching the kids mount and ride within the corral reminded me that I am a small town girl and not a city girl at all. I may not have grown up on a farm but a farm has never been a field trip experience for me either. Many of my relatives on both sides of my family farmed. Going to the farm was a weekly thing for me as a kid whether it was my Uncle Jimmy’s or one of my mother’s two older brothers or my dad’s various family members. Even my limited camping experience put me in the advanced outdoors men class in comparison to the majority of students on the trip. And I am not as amused by this fact as others might be. Growing up without opportunities to be out of an urban environment is not a good thing in my opinion. There is something about city-dwelling and even the artificial outdoors of the suburbs that is mentally and spiritually unhealthy.
The kids were suspended between exhilaration and terror atop the horses. The boys in particular watched the animals with suspicion. Wariness is probably not the best thing when dealing with such a sensitive animal but awareness is. Rob told me the story of how he was thrown clear over the top of a horse only to land sitting up with the reins in hand on the ground in front of it. He had been leading another horse behind and it had apparently gotten too close to his mount. No one was thrown though.
After a completely inedible lunch of pig meat and junk food sealed in a plastic bag, some of the children decided to put their pond-faring skills to the test. The jaded public school teacher in me briefly blanched a bit at the thought of being named in a lawsuit should one of the canoes capsize but thought perhaps no one would think to look for me in Canada. So, I gave a Willy Wonka shrug and eye-roll as I gamely gave instructions from the safety of the dock and watched them disappear one by one around the tiny island at the far end of the water. I wondered briefly if anyone would try to land and explore while remembering an earlier conversation with another of the camp’s owners about the fact that the island was covered from one side to the other with poison ivy, but decided it was too late to issue a warning.
I nearly fell asleep on the bus ride back. I haven’t been getting enough sleep again but happily insomnia is no longer the issue. I couldn’t wait to get back to school where I knew Rob would be waiting to pick me up. It’s nice to have someone with whom you can share your work day. Even if you just went fishing.