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Jeff Lampe
Jeff Lampe

Jeff Lampe has been outdoor writer at the Journal Star in Peoria for 12 duck seasons. He lives in Elmwood with his wife Monica, sons Henry, Victor and Walter, and Llewellin setter Hawkeye. A native of Buffalo, N.Y., he is an avid fan of the Bills and still has mental scars from four consecutive Super Bowl losses. Outside of hunting and fishing, Lampe's main passion in Illinois was Class A boys basketball (which sadly no longer exists). Former publisher of the Class A Weekly newsletter, Lampe is a co-author of "100 Years of Madness" and "Classical Madness," both books focusing on prep basketball in Illinois.

Illinois Outdoors


A Web log by Jeff Lampe of the Journal Star

Illinois hunting and fishing

A last week outdoors with the boys

August 21, 2009 at 06:02 AM

It’s not as though they are going to prison. That’s what I told Victor the other day when he moaned about the start of school.

It’s not as though they’re going to prison. That’s what I told Victor the other day when he whined about school starting.

Even so, I had to empathize. I remember that sick feeling in my gut as summer raced to an end. So I tried to make sure the boys’ last week as free men finished with a flourish.

Truth be told, I also wanted to make amends. Things didn’t go as planned this summer in terms of getting the kids into the woods, waters and wilds.

There was too much baseball. Too many fishing trips that didn’t include the kids.

We didn’t spend enough time in tents, ponds or muddy creeks. We didn’t explore enough.

So for much of the past week they lived like an endangered species: kids who spend time outdoors. First we visited a cabin in Adams County owned by friends Tim and Bea Walmsley. Then Wednesday, despite an impending monsoon, we invaded the Herman family’s lake of fun near Norris.

While the days were hectic, they were also healing. There was no computer or television to save the boys from boredom, so they got creative.

They shot bb guns.

Illinois hunting and fishing

They swam in non-chlorinated water.

They laughed their way from a pavilion into a downpour, got soaking wet and kept laughing.

They got bit by ants, chiggers and mosquitoes.

They fished until they tired of fishing, then fished some more.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Illinois hunting and fishing

They caught frogs and grasshoppers.

They got bored and explored, hiking off in search of whatever might capture their attention.

Basically they were kids. Outside.

Through it all I tried to remain an observer, not an active participant. As parents we tend to coach too much, myself included.

So it was with satisfaction that I watched a water snake boil out of the rocks at Victor’s feet while the boys were fishing. Instead of running, they tried to snag the snake with their hooks.

Yes, that’s not really the best response. Much better would have been merely to admire the brown bands on that fast-moving black snake. But at least they weren’t scared to witness nature up close.

Experts like author Richard Louv note more people are developing irrational fears of the outdoors because they no longer spend time outdoors. What we don’t experience and don’t understand we fear.

You can put me in that category when it comes to snakes and bats. Much as I try to appreciate snakes, I just can’t. So it will be a success in my book if the boys avoid the same irrationality.

That’s why I smiled when they didn’t flinch about swimming in the murky pond into which the snake disappeared. They joked about it, actually.
Later, the oldest told me he thought seeing that snake was “pretty cool.”

Illinois hunting and fishing

As school gets underway, I’m sure most of the boy’s recess discussions will focus on visiting Six Flags. But along with Mr. Freeze and the Screamin’ Eagle, I hope a memory of that snake slithers into their sub-concious.

Even if it doesn’t, there’s no question my most vivid memory from this summer will be watching two boys trying to snag a snake.

Illinois hunting and fishing


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