Pokemon or fishing pond?

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Gerald Swindle

There’s been a lot on the national news lately about the newest video game sensation sweeping the country: Pokemon Go.

I figured it was just another video game until folks started touting it as being an “outdoor experience.”

Hold on a minute: A video game that’s an outdoor experience? Isn’t that a bit of a contradiction? Isn’t that like saying, I’m going deer hunting…down in the basement?

So I looked into this Pokemon Go craze and with it I see hordes of people spending hours walking through parks, staring at their phones trying to catch a “virtual” Pokemon character somewhere in the park – like a hunt for imaginary treasure that does not really exist.

When I look back on my childhood, the fondest memories I have are of sitting on a lake bank with my grandfather, watching a red and white bobber at the end of Zebco 33, burning with anticipation for the float to go down.

I’ll go to my grave with vivid recollections of dad and me floating the river, catching bass on a spinnerbait. There are particular fish catches that are etched in my mind to the tune of my dad saying, “Get’em boy” as I reeled in a 12-inch spotted bass over the rapids.

Fifteen years from now, will kids really relish in the memory of catching a Pikachu on their cellphone?

It boggles my mind when I hear parents say Pokemon Go is a great way to get the kids outdoors and experience nature.

Really? By staring at your phone the whole time?

I’m getting older and I may be wrong in this opinion, but to me an outdoor experience involves engaging in the natural world to some degree and learning something from Mother Nature. Something as simple as bird watching, or feeding the ducks in a pond, or catching bugs is an “outdoor experience,” not chasing a Jigglypuff on your phone across the park.

As far as “getting the kids outdoors,” my dad had a special gift for that…he wore it around his waist if you know what I mean.

Seriously, my dad really did have a knack for making his three boys really want to be outside all of the time. I’ll put it this way, if my dad had designed the Pokemon Go game it would have been just little bit different.

His version would be more like, “Hey, you kids want to find a Pokemon? Well, there is one hiding in that push lawn mower right there. And once you cut all the grass with it, the Pokemon will pop out.”

My brothers and I would have fought over the lawn mower in 100-degree heat, wanting to be the one pushing it when the Pokemon jumped out.

And when daddy got home and we told him there was no Pokemon, he would say, “Yeah, but the yard sure looks good doesn’t it?”

“Hey you boys want to find Pikachu tomorrow? He is hiding in that field of purple hull peas – if you start picking them at daylight, I’ll bet you’ll find him…”

The Pokemons and Pikachus we chased were in the form of work ethic and true engagement in the natural world.

As you can probably guess, when I was a kid we weren’t allowed to play video games. And I’m pretty sure the reason we weren’t “allowed” to play video games is because we couldn’t afford video games. And I’m thankful for that because we chased the Pokemons of our time by chasing crawdads in the creeks. We trapped Pikachus by trapping real squirrels in cardboard boxes and letting them go. We worked hard to find Jigglypuffs in the form of constant chores around our house. And I will do the best to pass those same true treasures in life on to my granddaughter so that 20 years from now she will remember a bass pond, a Zebco, a bobber and smile and think of me.