A great story about teaching grandchildren to love outdoor adventures

Bob Mercer has written a wonderful column about teaching his grandchildren to fish and enjoy other outdoor advetures. I will share his story with you today. I really enjoyed this Bob’s story and have had similar experiences with my grandchildren, particularly up at our camp on Sourdnahunk Lake on the west side of Baxter Park. The photo with this column is my grandson Vishal with a very bug bass.


In today’s society I am troubled by our children’s lack of connection to the spiritual aspects of the natural world. How do I teach the feelings and connections that I have to my grandchildren?

I live on Craig Pond in East Orland all summer. No TV, no radio no newspaper. I am completely surrounded by and attuned to nature and a most beautiful world. Even at that, my spiritual self sometimes needs to be rejuvenated. At these times I head north to Katahadin. I always find a real spiritual renewal near The Mountain.

I at times feel much like all the towns I pass that have been abandon by the paper industry and are trying to regain their bearings without their mills; Bucksport, Brewer, Old Town, Lincoln, East Millinocket and Millinocket. I travel forward by going back in time when things were simpler and clearer. It begins with my music. When I go onto 395 in Brewer, Patsy Cline goes into the CD player. (Her greatest hits CD lasts all the way past Millinocket). This re-connects me to the earlier years in my life. A time of innocence and youthful exuberance.

Next comes the connection with the Ancients through aboriginal names. Penobscot, Mattamiscontis, Mattawamkeag, Amabajejus. Pemadumcook, Abol, Nesowadnehunk, Amberjackmokamus and of course Katahdin. Just saying the names as they are encountered eases the mind and dials back my psyche to a less hurried and more meditative state.

Teaching these things to grandchildren I find a little tricky. First, I have to take them to these special places. Second, I so much want them to understand it is hard to not push too much onto them all at once. Several trips North over a period of time will be needed. Third, allow them to not understand; do not correct them every time they “don’t get it”. Just be patient and keep on re-enforcing the spiritual aspect of the Katahadin Region (or any favorite region you have) Example, a lady pointed an Eagle out to my Grandson Owen. His reaction kind of blew it off, “yah, I saw one this morning”. A teaching moment followed with explanation that any time you see an Eagle in the wild it is special and needs special attention and quiet reflection. That is all, no big lecture.

This year I began the process with camp fires and cooking on an open fire. There is a spiritual connection to both. We call the camp fire the Big Eddy TV (my son is a rafting guide that lives at Big Eddy in the summer). You cannot hurry open fire cooking without burning things.

Next came fly fishing. The first lesson was the meditative effect of casting a fly over a period of time. The main lesson was for them to recognize the feeling of “wildness” the fish gives you on the line. Let that “wildness” be transmitted to your very soul. Try to feel it deep inside. That connection to a fish on a line is the only direct connection we have to such “wildness”. Learn to absorb it. That was all for our first trip.

The two youngest, nine year old Owen and thirteen year old Emilee fished from a drift boat for over two hours without raising a fish and were still having fun. When asked if they wanted to stop, they both responded that they did not want to stop fishing but maybe we should try a different place. We did and caught some fish.

As I brought the grandchildren home from Millinocket, they had to listen to Patsy Cline. I kind of jokingly asked my sixteen year old granddaughter Kassie how she liked Patsy Cline. She said “I liked it, I really liked it”. When I told her she needed to buy the CD, I was told you don’t buy CD’s any more you down load them. Who knew?

I was encouraged – two youngsters fished and loved it even when not catching anything and a sixteen year old now listens to Patsy Cline on her own.

I think maybe there is hope after all.


George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.