Let's play in the mud, dirt, river --growing up wild and free

my inspiration today The Atlantic Magazine article, The overprotected kid I read this article and immediately wondered if I had failed my kids! Then I started recalling the fairy houses we built in Colorado one summer along with the old barn the kids painted and created a club house out of  a few summers later---it smelled to high heaven when it was hot but they painted it and moved stuff around to make it their own.
You can see it beyond the trees in the picture below.
The article brought back many memories of my own childhood and the freedom Colorado brought me. I was not allowed to run off for hours at a stretch at home but on the Shalako property I could go hiking and walk up the LA Plata river for hours. Our friend Don had an a amazing dog named Cougar who would circle us all no matter how spread out we became.  HEr herding instinct  gave my parents piece of mind. One time mom attached a note to Cougar's collar telling us it was time for lunch.

Each summer when we arrived in Durango I would go to Woolworth's and buy an inexpensive pair of tennis shoes to wear in the river. These would last me the month and beyond but they were for one purpose--to wear in the river so I could walk on the rocks. No water shoes were available then or if they were they were too expensive for a kid who would grow out of them by the next year. The most I ever spent on them was a couple of bucks. The river was ice cold as it was fed from snow runoff from high up in the La Plata mountains. When I was little I would search out swimming holes that had formed during the spring--always grateful when I could find one that was deeper than my knees. As I grew older there were a couple up river from where we had our picnics that I could actually swim across being about 5 feet deep. I would wade in wearing a teeshirt and cutoffs. The freezing water took my breath away and made my heart pound. The water was clear and cold and the days were hot and sunny with only a bit of rain in the afternoons to cool things off.
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The first time I walked on that land I was with Dad and I was 4 or 5 or 6--little enough --It was a great adventure--Beau was sick with an ear infection and mom dropped us off to explore the property. We got caught in a storm and had to take shelter in a 1870's log cabin that was across the river from the road. I must say it was a pretty good walk to get there.  Then dad and I had to hike back in the down pour to meet mom who was picking us up. 

One year I discovered the trash heap from that cabin. There was a boot sole and an iron bed and all sorts of things there. I learned how to catch fish with my hands from a Ute boy who was with us one time. I was so proud of that. I watched him  and for years after I would sit quietly, hands in the river in a pool and wait for them to swim between my hands. I would catch one and then quickly throw it back to swim off among the sparkling rocks. I built houses in the banks along that river with my friends from town. We would decorate with rocks we found and created homes in the bank in between the roots of the cottonwoods that grew there. Kitchens and living rooms and beds. I can't remember how old I was when Dad taught me how to build a lean to..He spoke about them and wrote about them and we built a few. I taught my girls to build one a number of years back and I am proud to say that, as rudimentary as it was, it stood through some rough winters and I can still 8 years later, see bits of it hanging on.
 Mine did not look like this one! 
As a kid, my brother had more freedom-- he was 3 years older and I remember walking with him 
In Los Angeles through the neighbors property or just below it , on a game trail, to visit a friend of his. You could see that game trail from Sunset Blvd in those days but it was high adventure. to get to it we had to crawl through a tree that was at the end of our driveway. It was one of the ways we got around the neighborhood that the adults didn't know about. In the midst of the city above the Sunset Strip we found wilderness. Much of the hillside was still to be developed and Beau and  his friends would scramble over a fence and go up the hill to see what they could see. 

I remember getting very dirty as a child--one of the best places to get covered in mud was at our place in Kern County--there was a creek and the silt was thick in that creek--we used to play in it and try to walk in it getting stuck and falling down and getting covered. One trip we took to the Mojave desert when I was 6 or so --I went out on the mud flats which look completely dry but I broke though and came back to the motel covered in mud. A friend of my parents cleaned my square toed cowboy boots for me. My hands looked like I had stuck them in chocolate cupcakes --one to each finger. Mom used to say that she always travelled with extra clothes because if there was water around we were in it. I guess for me that meant mud too. The link is where I got the photo--have no idea how to credit the photographer--I will just say thanks
mud flats
they look dry don't they--they weren't the day I was walking on them. This is in Death Valley but the look is the same as where I was like puzzle pieces.



Looking back this was one of my favorite slides--can you imagine it now? Supposedly it is in a park in Santa Clarita but it is gated off so no one can play on it. I was so proud the day I went down the arm for the first time.  I felt brave and strong.

Traveling with the family to various countries and towns we always were searching out playgrounds. We had a wonderful afternoon in the rain in one near my husband's childhood home one summer. We searched and found several in Paris, London and towns outside of each. The ones in New Zealand were different and more dangerous than any in the states that we went to and the kids loved them. a lovely playground in New Zealand, my husband helping our 3 year old. That thing makes a full circle over grass. They also had full 8 foot long teeter totters there as well

kids on apparatus in Paris. The pics are 6 years old so none of the kids look the same --I don't know any of them...

Like the one in NZ only you could sit on this one and if you got going you could make the circle--France.


a video of the fair in Paris with the ride none of us went on but we could watch it from our hotel room. 
Kids who grow up in rural areas have much more time in the wilderness and outside due to chores and just the nature of where they live. Entertainment is not just a trip to the mall it may be in your own backyard. 
The following is an article with great palygrounds around the world…would love to go to all of them!
totally cool playgrounds around the world
So get outside with your kids-- a day at the park or the beach is so much more than that.


Just an fyi--I own all content and when I borrow pictures I give credit.