Sounds of many kids having fun outdoors were obvious amidst the mighty oaks at Valentine City Park during Sunday afternoon, October 9th. Youngsters were appreciating the activities at Old West Nature Day. By walking from place to place, they could learn something about outdoor activities, and more subtly, some bit of historic lore.
A skill any of them could experience was archery, where Kim Martin, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was readily helpful. Most of the youngsters she helped had never before shot a bow, but were given the essentials for getting an arrow set, how to stand to aim at the apple target, and very importantly, how to do it safely. There was an obvious thrill by the archer when an arrow hit the paper apple target. Having six girls rapt in their attention, watching their friend shooting the bow as they awaited their turn, indicated the value to them of having this opportunity. One girl kept shooting because of her enjoyment, and repeatedly did so because there was no one else in line!
Similar experiences happened elsewhere beneath the colorful, autumn oaks where the winds of the season were slight and temperatures were quite nicely warm.
During this afternoon, some people walked about shaking and continuing to shake small jars they held. Why? Their arm-action was required to make themselves a sample of butter. They got the ingredients and then had to do the work to get something tasty to take home.
To create their own candle, many kids slowly dipped a short length of string into some hot wax. Their creation, once finished, was hung to cool, then retrieved later, once it was solid.
Next to the Girl Scout cabin was a dutch-oven cooking a unique batch of sweet chili made with bison meat. Anyone interested could taste a bit of the simmering food.
Close to Minnechaduza creek, Robin Roth, of Valentine, did a great job of showing the proper technique for throwing a tomahawk at a wood target. He conveyed a vital step for success, which was – well anyone with an interest will just have to get the answer from him. An adjacent tent featured his distinctive skins of plains mammals.
Acoustical music by the Roger Monroe family wafted among the arboreal setting during the afternoon event, as they created a musical theme. Near the seats where the musicians played, a tepee conveyed an essence of tribal history. Tin-stamping was another activity of the day, with a star usually made.
Westward at the Mill Pond, the National Park Service provided canoes that visitors could use to paddle around the choppy water, which was significant but not enough to be unsafe. A National Park Service ranger was on the scene to help get a watercraft afloat, and in some instances accompany someone.
Locally involved, and essential participants, were the sponsor the Niobrara Council, as well as the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as help by staff of the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District.
Obvious during the day were efforts by volunteers, assisting and participating to accommodate the vivid interests of so many children. It was obvious, from my perspective for a while as a volunteer at the “archery range”, that the Old West Nature Day was once again a success due to community effort.
Issued in the Valentine Midland News.