The debate goes on. Is the major influence on children genetic or environment? Growing up as one of four boys in a household with somewhat limited parental oversight I have been inclined to the "environment" argument. In some ways I grew up fast. In part this was because my parents sent me off to kindergarten at age four.
Before they got permission to do this-an unusual action back then and probably illegal today-they had to take me to the HQ of the school district. There was some testing involved. The part I remember was this:
On the desk of the Inquisitrix was a box full of square crayons.
Question: "Why are the crayons square?"
Pint Sized Me: "So that they fit in the box better."
This was considered close enough. Decades later I learned that kindergarten crayons are square so that they do not roll off the table as easily.
This is all just preamble, a way of explaining how I was always the youngest person in my class, and how I ended up at age 17 working as a drudge at a YMCA camp in Northern Minnesota. Which became yet another in a string of experiences I was tossed into before I was really ready, and had to muddle along as best I could.
I washed more dishes that summer than the rest of my life combined. I had a huge bug fogger that I used to spray billowing poison gas attacks not seen since Verdun. I operated the indoor BB gun range. I trapped mice. I drove around on my riding lawn mower.
Oh, there was also the obligatory brief summer camp staff romance. And with the drinking age being only 18 at that time, a few cans of mediocre 1970s beer were consumed with minimal adverse effect.
There was always a day and a half between camp sessions, an idylic 36 hours where we staffers had the place to ourselves. Once, and for reasons that entirely escape me, a bunch of us all started speaking in British accents and decided that we would have a gopher safari.
We all had titles, General so and so, Lord this and that. We had pith helmets. And we had BB guns. An unfortunate striped varmit was dispatched, and trussed up by the legs on a long pole. We paraded it past the Camp Director saying:
"Oh, Colonel Murphy! The little Blighter has bought it entirely!"
Poor Murph, he was just a slightly older college student, probably also tossed into a situation he was not ready for. But a good sport he, shaking his head and smiling.
I did not tell my sons these stories. There would have had to have been some editing involved early on, and later they would have found them boring. But going down the list:
Son number one: four years as a YMCA camp counselor. Various camp romances. No safaris, but he did become something of a dodgeball demigod.
Son number two: four years and counting of being maintance jack of all trades at a camp. Unlike me, when he showed up at age 16 he hauled along his toolbox and welder, asking them what they needed fixed and/or built. Such talent is not wasted washing dishes.
And Son number three. Just 18 he is in the closing months of High School. The academic regimen becomes, well, a little less rigorous. One of the classes he is taking is some kind of Outdoor Skills nonsense. And among other things he has to obtain a squirrel for taxidermy.
Here is the young subaltern preparing for the safari.
I guess genetics does have something to do with things.