Monday, February 12, 2024

The Best Day

When my boys were young we took a trip to Dayton’s Bluff, a natural geological feature that overlooks the Mississippi River near downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota. The bluffs were well known, even before the white man, as there are numerous Indian burial mounds on the plateau above the bluffs. There was large cave there that used by the Native Americans for gatherings and ceremonies. The explorer Jonathan Carver “discovered” and named it in 1766. In the nineteen-twenties bootleggers used the cave to store their goods. In recent times, most of the cave has been destroyed to make room for a railroad, but the bluffs were still dangerous,  midnight drinking parties by reckless youths could prove fatal, you could fall or suffocate in the cave. It was into this locus I brought my pre-teen sons. Child endangerment? Perhaps. We had a good talk beforehand about the dangers this place possessed and they were duly impressed. We had a good time clambering up and down the cliffs.
We lived on a sand plain, so any elevation was a novelty to the boys, and the bluffs supplied that. There were plenty of places to climb, and the soft sandstone was festooned with carvings:
Chuck, the youngest, was enthralled:
For Seth, the oldest, this was the start of a long fascination of climbing. He later became adept at mountaineering and parlayed his skill into many trips to the North Shore, the Rocky Mountains, New Zealand and Antarctica:
As I look at these images I wonder what kind of parent I've been. I managed not to have killed them but I did put them in harms way that day. But kids have to be exposed to the natural world sometime, even if it can be dangerous it has to be better than just living a life of computer games and TV.
It was the best day ever.

By Professor Batty


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