A weekend retreat with Angus cattle, quivering Aspens, fresh trout, and a BB gun up on a secluded Rocky Mountain Ranch.
Have your kids ever really encountered silence? Do your kids know from experience (not by asking Siri) how fast a chicken can run? Do your kids respect the kick of a 12 gauge or know how the percussion of a rifle pushes the air? Have your kids ever looked their food in the eye, cleaned and prepared it over the campfire, and enjoyed it for a meal? Mine hadn’t until recently.
For millions of years, humans lived close to their food and imagined pictures in the stars for fun. They knew what spring water really tastes like and how to tell when the fish over a fire was done. It’s only been in the last 150 years, less than .00075% of human history, that kids (and adults!) have forgotten.
As a father of 5 little kids, I understand how hard it is to know when we should hit pause on modernity with all its benefits for education, opportunities, and choices. But after time away on a ranch up in the Rockies, I can assure you that it’s pure magic when you see your kids learn the things that everyone in human history, from kings and philosophers to nomads and serfs, simply took for granted.
In early October my family spent several days up at the Copper Spur Ranch in the gorgeous Colorado mountains between Steamboat Springs and Vail. The Copper Spur is a working ranch with free range Angus cattle, a wandering herd of sheep, two sheepdogs that tirelessly tend their flock, several horses that love eating apples from your hand, skittish chickens that eagerly eat scraps from the table, a family of colorful ducks, and a grouchy old tom turkey with a protective gobble. It’s a very secluded ranch with a comfortable lodge, a couple ponds full of trout, miles of trails for biking and hiking, a sprawling shooting range, and thousands of acres full of wildlife, sage, aspens and firs. When we arrived, the aspens were in their full fall yellow splendor, the days were bright and warm and the nights were cool and clear. It was a perfect introduction for my kids to beauty and silence.
As a fun fatherly surprise, I got over my Christmas Story fear that someone would “shoot their eye out” and I gifted my kids a BB gun the night we arrived. After a full tutorial on gun safety, the kids took turns shooting cans and boxes, and they gradually moved up to taking shots (with dad assisting closely) at clay pigeons on the ranch’s gun range. They roamed through the forests and sage with BB gun in hand for safe keeping, enjoying their freedom and the (mostly perceived) risk of a black bear, mountain lion or coyote lurking around the next corner. I watched through my binoculars as my older son carried his little brother up a steep draw and as my daughter mounted the courage to pet the friendly ewe of the flock.
There was no talk of screens nor fighting over seats in the car. The kids (and my wife and I) breathed in the present moment before us and enjoyed the hiatus from suburban Denver life. On the drive back down to Denver my sons were quick to crown the Copper Spur as their favorite place they’d ever been. My kids knew, deep down, that they had done something real, encountered some of the truths of the universe, and they begged for more.
I invite you to teach your kids using the wild as your whiteboard. Here’s to less searching and more life, liberty, and the Pursuit.