Outdoor enthusiasts are typically beloved by kids because they are more adventurous than other adults. They innately understand that taking a risk and succeeding builds self-confidence, while taking a risk, failing and trying again build perseverance. Uncle Ken was no exception. We all loved tagging along after him.
That said, there were two things you didn’t do around Uncle Ken: You didn’t whine and you didn’t ask him a question if you weren’t prepared for a truthful answer.
“Like my haircut, Uncle Ken?”
“Not particularly, Peanut.”
And then you’d have to walk off pretending like YOU liked your new haircut enough for the both of you. And when I say YOU, I mean ME back in 1983. But in the interest of full disclosure, I was an adult by then and I’m pretty sure he was busting my beans, because shag mullet hair styles are awesome.
He also was not stingy with unsolicited opinions.
I spent a lot of time at Uncle Ken’s hanging out with CCool who was a year older than me. In the winter we would often go snowmobiling. CCool had her own snowmobile, which was just one of the reasons she was so cool (she also had her own horse). I would ride on the back of Uncle Ken’s machine. We would be out in the woods for hours.
The woods in winter are beautiful in an almost spiritual way. They are also bloody cold.
As anyone in my family will tell you, I am not very hardy. Being from a cold region like Maine doesn’t make you hardy. It only ensures that you will become proficient at layering and, at some point, be involved in an unfortunate tobogganing incident, the probable cause a lack of visibility brought on by an abundance of ear muffs, scarves, hats and fur trimmed hoods.
During every ride, when I could no longer feel my extremities and my anemically thin blood had frozen en route, I would ask Uncle Ken to take me home. “It’s cold”, I’d say. “It’s January, Peanut. It’s supposed to be cold”, Uncle Ken would say. “I’m hungry!”, I’d continue. “You’re not gonna starve, Peanut”.
“But. But……I’m COLD!!!!!”
“Shut up, Peanut”.
If I wanted to hang out with Uncle Ken, I had to wear my big girl pants. I’d get to drive a ski-doo across an open field, watch a moose come down to the pond for a drink, swim past the drop off, catch a fish and shoot guns at coke cans. In return, he got to listen to me whine that I was cold, scared, couldn’t swim or didn’t like loud noises. He’d smile, then tell me to shut up and do it anyway.
Clearly, I got the better end of the deal.
|Uncle Ken, photo courtesy of Paula Kozinn|