Wednesday, Jun 20, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Matt Markey

Grandparents often essential in outdoors education

Increasing obligations make it tough for parents to always be there

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    Leo Posadny of Sylvania helps his grandson Christopher rig his spinning rod during the recent Metroparks Fishing Derby at Mallard Lake in Oak Openings Preserve.


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My father was a great teacher. He could make a science lesson out of a drive down a country road, identifying a bird of prey and its distinct characteristics. He could expose the grain on a slab of wood, then show you how to read it and tell the good years from the lean years.

He could teach you to pitch a tent with a 15-minute lesson, then you had a skill you would retain for life. And he could detail the history of Canadian towns we drove through on summer trips, and instruct you on the valuable natural resources of the area.

But my dad was also a very busy man, running a medical office, caring for hundreds of patients, performing daily general surgery as well as anesthesia, delivering babies, checking on his patients in the nursing homes, making countless trips to the emergency room, and yes, even making house calls. When dad was working, someone often stepped into that instructor role, and many times it was my grandfather James P. Matthews.

I had two grandfathers, one saint and one who fell considerably short of that title. Grandpa Matthews was a steady, stoic Irishman who put the care of his family ahead of everything else in his life. At his homestead in the foothills of West Virginia, just off the Ohio River, he taught a passel of grandkids the ways of the woods, a reverence for the water, and how to enjoy the wildlife and the natural wonders all around us.

This World War I veteran taught me how to whittle, but first came the stern lesson in respecting the blade. He taught me how to seine my own bait from the stream that flowed behind his home, lovingly known as Fish Creek, but first came a tutorial about the dangers associated with the copperhead snakes that were sometimes found along the waterway.

Pa Matthews taught me how to identify poison ivy, poison oak, and sumac, and keep a wide berth when these plants were near the trail. He taught me how to crack the English walnuts we collected from the woods, and do so without ruining the meat.

My one really grand grandfather schooled his grandchildren on matters of life, faith, family, and the outdoors, not as the primary instructor, but as the substitute or auxiliary teacher who helped when the obligations of work limited the time our dad had to spend with us.

Today it seems that grandparents are filling that role more and more. Single parents, fractured families, and just the increasing obligations associated with many careers make it a reality that moms and dads of 2017 often do not have enough hours in the day to patiently teach a kid how to cast with a spinning rod, how to build a tree house, how to avoid poison ivy, how to make a camp fire, or how to fillet a fish.

“I think it’s just the way of the world today, that parents don’t have the kind of time it takes to do many of these things,” said Peggy Coutcher, who runs the Toledo Zoo summer kids’ fishing camps. 

“A lot of times it’s the grandparents dropping kids off for camp and picking them up, and when we have our fishing derby, it’s often the grandparents that come to see the kids. Most parents just don’t have the time to teach them, or take them fishing a lot.”

George Meyer of Bowling Green loves fishing, and the Vietnam veteran and retired sales manager was determined to teach his 12-year-old grandson Davey how to fish this summer. With Davey’s father often working 70-80 hours a week as a chef and running a catering business, grandpa stepped in and provided the lessons.

“His dad would love to take him fishing, but the demands of his job just don’t provide the time, so this is something Davey and I can do together, and we both enjoy it,” Meyer said. 

“The world is very different today than from when I was a kid. My dad would tell me the night before that we were going fishing in the morning, and I would lie awake half the night because I was so excited about it.”

Meyer said the grandfather-grandson angling team has fished the McComb reservoirs and the lake at Van Buren State Park this summer, and while the fishing has been good, the quality time has been exceptional. 

While Davey’s dad spends every free minute he can with his son, the grandpa is happy to assist with the fishing lessons.

“He’s had to learn how to cast, how to take the fish off the hook, he’s learned how to handle them, and how to avoid getting barbed by a catfish,” Meyer said. 

“It’s all firsts — everything is new for him, but I can’t tell you how much fun this is for me. I don’t care about catching anything myself — the best part is seeing him get so excited when he catches a fish. This is as much fun for the grandfather as it is the grandson.”

NATIONAL PARK PASSES: There has been a change in the situation regarding the lifetime senior pass for U.S. National Parks, which will jump in price from $10 to $80 on Aug. 28. This price spike created a run on the passes, and most park offices sold out immediately and the restocking efforts have been slow at best, frustrating many seniors. Officials at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge have announced that although they do not have the permanent passes, people can now purchase “temporary passes” at the $10 price and these can be used until the real thing is available. 

With a receipt from the refuge, or any one of the other entities involved in the pass program, entrance can be gained to the national parks and other federal facilities, and a permanent lifetime pass will be mailed to the individual once those become available.

The lifetime pass is for those 62 and older and it covers admission and entrance fees to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites — national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The pass covers admission as well as standard amenity fees (day use fees).

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: or 419-724-6068.

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