By MARK NEWMAN Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — Pioneer kids spent a lot of time outdoors, fishing, walking, gathering firewood. A group of local children got to do some of the same things Wednesday.
"This is our youth camp," said naturalist Annette Whitrock at Pioneer Ridge Nature Area, south of Ottumwa off Highway 63. "It's about getting kids outdoors."
Of course, there were differences between how things were done in the 1800s and now.
"We made a fire with wood," said Caleb Hartman, age 7. "She started it with a, what do you call it, a lighter."
Another difference was that Whitrock used her recipe for dutch oven pizza, probably not something well known in the old west.
During the camp, Caleb saw a lot of different kinds of bugs and one deer. Later, he said, they were scheduled for a hike.
But Whitrock was flexible in the day's activities. When lunch finished a little early, the kids wanted to go fishing for the second time that day.
"Go ahead," she told them.
Ava Djordjevich, 5, of Ottumwa, was thrilled. She picked up a pole and ran to the pond.
"One of her summer bucket list items was to go fishing," explained her mom, Francesca Djordjevich. "Fishing and camping were at the top of her list. This [camp] was great because it covered both."
Pioneer kids did these kinds of things as part of daily life. So how does one find such an adventure in the 21st century?
"I get the nature center newsletter, but of course I forgot [about the event] ... I was reminded by the city of Ottumwa Facebook page," Ava's mom said.
Most of the children, aged 5-9, were new to fishing, which appeared to be becoming their favorite pastime. They practiced casting their lines until, at some points, the lures hit far out into the pond near the nature center. They seemed to enjoy themselves despite the fact that the learning process contained fun mixed with a bit of frustration.
"My line is stuck!" called one child.
"My fishing pole doesn't work!" shouted a another.
One calm little boy told the naturalist, "I am going to catch a fish."
"I spend most our our [fishing] time untangling lines," confided Whitrock, "but it's all good. We're getting them away from manicured lawns."
— To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark