By Brandon Butler
For five days over the long Fourth of July weekend, nine kids — all 12 and under — floated rivers, swam in creeks, caught crawfish and minnows, jumped off bluffs, listened to the midnight call of whippoorwills, snorkeled, went fishing, explored, made s’mores … and never touched an electronic device once.
The adults, too, were drawn back to a simpler time. We had a campfire every night, cooked hot dogs and hamburgers over charcoal, drank beer, played music, shot off fireworks and told stories. It was beautiful.
My whole adult life, I’ve dreamed of owning and developing a property where my family and friends could gather. I‘ve always kept the classic line from the movie “Field of Dreams” in mind: “If you build it, they will come.”
Driftwood Acres has proven the prophecy true. I really hope a tradition has been born.
My family began rolling in late Friday night. By Saturday evening, there were 20 of us spread out across my property. The first night’s campfire raged well into Sunday morning as stories of past excursions and hopes for this one were shared.
On Sunday, we launched for our first float trip of the week. For seven of the kids and almost as many adults, this was their first ever float. The weather and scenery couldn’t have been any more beautiful. With the kids repeatedly swimming through a strong riffle, the adults lounged on a gravel bar and attacked the sandwiches, chips and other snacks we packed for the trip.
I could actually see the river changing the people around me. No one was checking their phone. No one was worried about what time it was. No one was concerned about what was taking place tomorrow. The river had captured them and washed away the stress of everyday life. What was happening in that moment, on that gravel bar and in the water, was all that mattered.
If only more days in our too-often hectic lives could be river days.
On Monday, we just hung out in the holler and swam in the creek. Then, on the Fourth, we floated again, this time with an emphasis on smallmouth bass fishing. My uncle Tom boated a number of football-sized fish from his kayak. The kids and others caught a few, too. We took our time to swim and snorkel in the deeper holes. After a long day on the water, the kids talked us into a trip for ice cream.
I was so proud to introduce my family and friends to my special place. Float trips and forest excursions aren’t the norm for the kids or adults who visited. These youngsters have a story to tell, and each of them has expressed to me how much they loved the experience and how they hope to return.
One boy had a goal to see how many days he could go without wearing a shirt. He made it four days before we went to a restaurant that required him to break the streak.
My hope is all these kids come to know Driftwood Acres, and it is a place that connects them to a wilderness and wildness that they’ll never find on their phone.
See you down the trail …
Brandon Butler’s outdoors columns appear Saturdays in the Daily Journal.