By Jess Utz 

How summers should be spent

Jess Shut Up


Well, summer might just be making an appearance in the Coulee, and it got me thinking. When I was a kid we spent just about all day outside. We just had to be home before dark. All day outside. I know, kids, it’s an absurd concept.

When I was old enough to ride my bike without supervision (that may never have really happened) we were on the road. We rode all over, pretending we were star-fighters or Top Gun jets or big mean bikers. We set up race courses and jumps and pretended we were Evel or Robby Knievel. As we got older, we got stupider. As we rode, we carried sticks and tried to jam them in our so-called friends’ spokes (Kids, don’t try this at home).

We would climb trees or something tall enough and try to jump on top of each other as we rode by. I said we got stupid! Yes we got hurt many times but our parents seem to have a “What don’t kill ya makes you stronger” attitude, and we were back out there doing it some more.

There were also all-day games of hide-and-go-seek and sardines. Baseball, football and basketball we played until someone got hurt or it was getting dark.

Then came fishing and swimming. Another all-day event. We would ride to Coulee Playland or Spring Canyon with fishing pole and tackle box in hand. Swim, fish, fish, swim. We never kept our fish because we would have to carry them home on our bikes. I remember trying to bring my monster fish home once. Balance was never right and after a slow, hot ride — and a few crashes and friends laughing — the fish ended up flying over the bank. At Coulee Playland it was mostly swimming and telling stories. Boy stories that is. Nothing that can be repeated here. My brother Jamie (Jeremy) and my step brothers Eric and Howard Wilson and I would spend all day cooking in the sun; lying on the small beach; Dreaming of how rich we would be, who would get married first, and what professional team we would play for.

Coulee Medical Center ER and Walk-In Care

There were also the all-day Coulee Wall trips. Days filled with rabbit hunting, snake hunting and rock climbing. How some of us didn’t get killed is a miracle.

If one of us got stuck, no way were we calling for help, we found a way down, no matter what. None of us ever got bit by a snake either, second miracle. When I say called for help I don’t mean on a cell phone, either. I mean screaming at the top of your lungs for help. No cell phones then. No texting or portable gaming devices. No laptops. There was Nintendo and Atari, but those where for rainy days and sleep overs.

We also walked everywhere. Walked to Steamboat Rock, to Elmer City and once to Buffalo Lake. The Buffalo Lake walk just about killed us all. Hundred-degree temperature, dusty, and when we got to the lake, we were all too tired and hot to do anything. One dip in the lake, a short nap and then we had to walk home. We were not home before dark that night. Our parents just laughed at us and sent us to bed after a cool shower.

Today’s youth need to be outside. Soaking up sun and burning off calories. We have all heard or seen that there is a weight problem with our youth today. It is not all because of video games and a lack of sunshine. There is fast food, lack of physical education in schools, and lack of desire and know how. We need to start teaching our kids to enjoy the outdoors without electronics. Fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, swimming: these are just a few of the things in our area that we must take advantage of with our youth. And kids, when your parents say, “Let’s go on a picnic today,” or “Wanna go fishing?” I challenge you to leave your cell phone at home and go with them, with a smile.


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