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Vail Valley Voices: A triple play with sixth-graders

Three boys born over a span of 13 years, and in addition to sharing the same DNA, they have each now enjoyed the privilege of experiencing that same DNA supplier as an overnight chaperon for their respective sixth grade wilderness trip.

Yes, you can only imagine how lucky they must feel.

While the first two were with Berry Creek Middle School many moons ago, the latest was just last week with Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy down at Sylvan Lake.



For the unaware, this local born and bred sports academy is the only one of its kind in the entire country, and in one form or another has helped produce, especially from an academic point of view, such international superstar winter athletes as Lindsay Vonn and Faye Gulini. Just one of the many reasons their articulation shines way beyond the podium.

Anyway, there I was, chaperoning my little behind off for the benefit of about 40 middle school student athletes (seventh and eighth grades were in attendance as well), engaging my vast mentoring skills, proving instrumental in helping to construct these future superstars by (drum roll, please) serving rice and beans like there was no tomorrow.



I am the proverbial culinary master when it comes to properly handling large plastic spoons in famished preteen environments.

Besides, the actual teachers took care of anything and everything of real consequence, leaving me and one other father (no moms, how strangely insignificant) to do little more than observe and construct witty comments to one another about what we were observing.

“Put that stick down!” was pretty much my most creative mantra for the duration, especially when one end of the stick was on fire.



Two days were spent geocaching (hi-tech treasure hunting), compass reading, fire building, tent building, hiking, fly fishing, kayaking (thanks to Alpine Kayak), the past, present and future of pine beetles and their long-term effects on our backyard (thanks to Tom Talbot from the Vail Fire Department) and a visit from the artists formerly known as GRNSS, aka “Walking Mountains.”

It was topped off in the wee hours of the night, just after smores and ghost stories, with a box of iPads used as virtual blackboards to view an amazingly bright and clear celestial panorama of wonder.

The best part was that the kids seemed oblivious to the fact that they were actually learning stuff the entire time — a concrete sign of age-appropriate learning techniques and good ol’ American teachers.

But have no fear, for these young men and women, although blessed with perhaps better than average athletic skills, are still budding young adults at best, and spent most of their time acting like the kids that they are: “Who’s sleeping in what tent?” … “But she’s my best friend.” … “Did you kiss her on the lips?” … “Hey, anybody seen my shoes?” … “Can we throw rocks at the ducks?” … “Is that park ranger arresting the teacher for not buying a parking pass?” … “Is dinner ready?” … “My shoes are wet.” … “What’s for dessert? … “Stop farting.” … “Do I get a turn with the chainsaw?” … “How about the ax?” … “Our tent smells.” … “Is there really a homeless guy living on the other side of the lake?” … “How many people has he killed?”

In other words, they are normal, leaving me with the conclusion that a chaperon is really just a parent with jaundiced eyes, while sixth-graders are really just budding adults wrapped tightly in a cocoon of kid-dom.

Let the molting begin.

Richard Carnes of Edwards writes weekly. He can be reached at poor@vail.net. Comment on http://www.vaildaily.com.


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