Wednesday, September 26, 2012

4 O'Clock In The Morning!

When I was a young kid - starting around the age of 7 or 8, my Dad would take me fishing or hunting or camping or shooting in the back country of Northern Utah.

This was fairly common for me. Usually once a month, sometimes more during the summer. Dad took these opportunities to teach me about nature. He'd teach me to build a fire or set a snare or to erect a tent. He'd teach me to fish and hunt and shoot a gun, how to find or catch something to eat in the wilderness. It was a great way to grow up!

I learned a lot from my Dad during these outings. I learned to appreciate nature and to have a sense of the world around me. I learned to get up early in the morning!

Whenever we'd go out on one of our trips he'd always tell me: "You have to go to bed early, Steve. We'll be getting up at 4 O'clock in the morning."

4 a.m. took on an almost magical meaning for me. It was the time that something special would begin. It was the time that we would begin our adventure!

We'd get up and have a quick breakfast of cereal and toast with a big cold glass of milk (Dad would have coffee). We'd pack a few sandwiches that we'd made the night before and fill our canteens with water. We would always stop at the service station and fill up with gas (at 15 cents per gallon) then we'd take off to our destination.

As I said, sometimes we'd go fishing or hunting. Sometimes this would be an overnight or even a weekend-long trip. Those were the best!

One of our favorite destinations for a camp-out was a place called Tony Grove Lake north of Logan, Utah. This was a remote mountain lake set in the pines and aspen high in the mountains surrounded by primitive camp sites. Usually nothing more than a ring of rocks for a fire left by the previous campers. To get there we had to travel a single lane dirt road that wound it's way up a narrow canyon. The trip was an adventure in itself. 

The last time I was there, the single lane dirt road was now a two-lane blacktop road and the lakeside had restrooms and "improved" campsites including a firebox on a pedestal, a picnic table and designated tent areas. You now have to pay to camp there!  It's still beautiful but it's like camping in the parking lot at Disneyland.

I remember one fishing trip we went on. We were just a few miles from our town along the banks of the local river. After a day of catching fish we'd caught our legal limit and it was time to go home. We went to get into the car and Dad discovered that he'd lost the car keys! Upon checking he found a hole in the pocket of his trousers that the keys had dropped through! We had been fishing both sides of the river and had worked up and down the bank on either side. The keys could have been anywhere.

Dad managed to get under the dashboard and hot-wire the ignition and was able to get the car started and we made it home safely. I remember him hot-wiring the car and was startled at the amount of sparks that resulted from the contact with the wires. It scared me! I didn't know much about electricity.

Once we got home we changed into clean clothes and I heard Dad laughing from his bedroom. He'd found the keys! Dad usually wore Wellington style boots and the keys had dropped from his pocket down his leg into the top of his boot along with a handful of change.

Another time I went deer hunting with my Dad and Uncle Ted. We went high into the mountains in my Uncle's 4-wheel-drive truck. It had snowed the night before and there was a few inches on the ground where we started. 

After a while it became obvious that I wasn't going to be able to keep up because the snow was up to my knees and it was difficult for me to make much headway. Dad and Uncle Ted asked me if I wanted to wait in the truck. 
I certainly did not! 

Dad had taught me about staying warm and not to be afraid in the woods so he asked if I thought I could just stay where I was until they returned. Sure! I could do that! At least I could see whatever sights there were to see.

I sat down at the base of a big pine tree and was sheltered from the snow by the overhanging branches. Dad left me a couple of sandwiches and a small thermos of hot chocolate. He told me to be quiet and not to move around too much while I waited and they'd be back in an hour or two.

I waited and watched several deer cross no more than twenty yards in front of me. I could hear them walking behind me, too. I stayed still for fear of spooking them in case Dad and Uncle Ted came back and wanted a shot at them.

Around two hours later, here comes my Dad and Uncle and no deer. I had not heard a shot at all. Dad said, "There's no deer on this mountain or we would have seen them. We're going home."
     "I saw a lot of deer!" I said.
     "No if there were any deer, we would have seen them." he replied (grown-ups know everything!)
     "Really! There were a bunch of them over there and behind me, too!" I said, pointing to the tracks.

Dad and Uncle Ted started looking and found tracks from about thirty deer all around the tree where I had been sitting.
     "Next time, we'll all just sit under a tree with you and get us some deer! Either that or leave a gun with you!"

It was funny but Dad and Uncle Ted would get mad every time the subject came up in conversation after that. At least I think they got mad, good-natured mad. Probably just to make me feel good. I did, too!

Now that I'm a Geezer, I remember these trips and outings with a wistful longing to do them again. It's not to be, though. As we get older, things change. Look at the before and after pictures of Tony Grove Lake above. Nothing stays the same! It's too bad ~ I could go for some more 15 cent per gallon gasoline! Maybe if I got up early - say, 4 o'clock in the morning?


  1. Geezer ~ Memories like that last a lifetime! You're lucky that you have them. My dad wasn't around much when I was growing up and it's affected my life.

    That's not to say that I was deprived of childhood memories but I have to wonder how my life would have been different had my dad not abandoned my mom my brother and me when I was six.

    You're a lucky man. Thx for posting this!


    1. GB, I appreciate the comment. I have indeed been lucky. I and my younger sisters came from a good family and we enjoyed the tutoring from good parents.

      Sometimes we forget how lucky we are, especially in these times of unmarried parents and single parents.

  2. Enjoyed this greatly! Thanks big brother.


I'd be interested to hear your comments. Thanks for reading The Geezer Guide!