Oliver was 4, Peter was 6, and Cole and Sam were 7. Sam was in summer school, but he came as often as he could. We also invited some neighbor children occasionally, and our friend Beth Peeler helped with the youngsters while I was busy in the kitchen.
She and the kids liked climbing up high on the stacks of hay in our barn to read stories. Sometimes they hiked down to a place where water trickled across our driveway that we called "The Crossing." They’d wade or throw rocks into the puddles to watch them splash. Or they’d float dead leaves and watch them disappear in the little waterfall below the roadbed.
Chub had farm work most of the day, but occasionally he came to the house early to watch the boys cover our dog Rosie with damp sand from their sand pile.
Old Rosie loved the sand treatment as much as the boys. We called these lazy summer days "Granny’s Day Camp."
Every day was a new adventure as we combed the farm for interesting things to see and do. When we hiked, Oliver carried a referee’s whistle "in case someone gets lost from me." Peter carried a camera and a first aid kit, and Sam toted something to eat - usually oranges or apples. Cole was the leader, carrying water and other supplies. I’d take a small box to carry the special rocks, feathers and other things the boys found and wanted to keep.
When I’d say, "Who’d like to go on a tiger hunt?" they knew exactly what that meant. If I’d ask, "Desert island today?" they knew that I meant to hike to a place where a small branch meanders from the county road’s big metal culvert, around and back through a second culvert. We’d divide into two gangs to go through different culverts and follow the creek until we met at a sand bar. We’d build a fire and cut sticks to roast hot dogs and marshmallows.
The "Grand Canyon" was a gully created when a bulldozer changed the course of our creek. Surprisingly, no one ever experienced the terrible itch or rash of poison ivy! I taught them, "Leaves of three, turn and flee!"
The guys gradually became self-reliant. I’d take them in the van, turn them loose in the woods for a while and they would come promptly back when I honked.
Eventually, we welcomed my three new stepgrandchildren to Granny’s Day Camp. Tim, Jennie and Christopher Graham already liked hiking, fishing, tent camping and bonfire meals. They fit right in as we made biscuits on a stick and potato packets in the fire.
We taught them our family tradition of hand-cranking homemade ice cream in the White Mountain freezer.
These special day campers are all grown now and busy with their adult lives, but occasionally we still gather at the farm to hike, camp and freeze ice cream.
Their wanting to return always puts a tear of gladness in this old Granny’s eye.