You know the years are going by when you look at your youngest son and realize for the first time that he can no longer be referred to as “The Wild Man.” Such is now the case with my youngest son, Hyrum, almost 17, whose outdoor adventures — and sometimes misadventures — have often become the subject matter for this column during his growing up years.
As someone who is willing to try just about anything as long as it makes his mother’s hair change to a lighter color, Hyrum came by The Wild Man moniker quite honestly. For instance, there was the fishing trip to Utah’s Newcastle reservoir during which Hyrum learned that even a float tube would tip over if you leaned over far enough. Luckily he had the sense to grab onto one of the tube’s nylon straps as it flipped over because the rest of us were too far away to be of any help if a rescue were needed.
With the water drained from his waders and his body safely back in the float tube, Hyrum explained that his experiment was successful because he had confirmed his ability to turn over a float tube.
Then there was the quiet summer evening we spent fishing for striped bass from the shoreline of Lake Mead’s Pyramid Island. As I sat still and focused on the two lines I had in the water, the stillness was suddenly broken by the sound of a body hitting the water.
It seems that Hyrum decided the action was too slow, so he executed a near-perfect cannonball into the water where he was fishing. Conventional wisdom says that should have scared away any fish that were in the area, but almost immediately Hyrum’s rod tip bent toward the water.
After reeling in the striper that took his bait, Hyrum figured that if it worked once, the cannonball might work again. Despite my protests to the contrary, another splash yielded another fish, and so it went that night. I wasn’t about to jump in the water and scare all the fish, and Hyrum wasn’t about to give up on his newly discovered technique. Guess who caught the most fish. It wasn’t me.
These and other memories came to mind as Hyrum and I unloaded a pair of fishing kayaks we rented recently from Desert Adventures in Boulder City. It was nice to have someone experienced enough to help unload and get the gear ready, though I do miss the days when family fishing outings meant running back and forth between kids yelling, “Daddy, I got a fish.”
The other day, Hyrum returned from a desert hike with a new pal in tow, one that set his mother’s hair to changing colors and put me in the hot seat.
While we already have a pet snake in the house, my sweetheart wasn’t quite ready for one that comes equipped with its own version of a baby rattle. Needless to say, a rather vigorous discussion ensued about the merits, or lack thereof, in having a live rattlesnake around the house.
As I felt the hot seat getting warmer as my wife’s frustration grew, it soon came time for a fatherly edict. The snake must go. That is when Hyrum said he was planning on eating the snake anyway, and I decided to call his bluff. “Take it back where you got it or eat it, but the snake goes, one way or the other.”
Next thing you know the snake was skinned and on the grill. I guess there will always be a place for The Wild Man.
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.