The Monkey On Your Back

Jun 5, 2012 by

Sometimes you have to just flip the dog and carry a monkey on your back. Intentionally.

Hang with me here.

He is a very special monkey. Standing about 10 inches high, he’s covered in white fur, which often obscures his tan face.

His name is White Monkey. Because, well, he’s white and he’s a monkey. I like to be descriptive with my friend’s names.

There was a reason I wanted White Monkey, which I’ll explain in a minute. How I got him was through some type of bribe with one of the SONS of Thunder, who happened to own said White Monkey. We worked out a swap. I think he figured I really wanted the monkey because somehow the SON ended up getting a Playstation or iPod or something in trade.

It all started with a backpacking trip. It was the first for Eldest SON and he wanted to take “something” to remember home by. I nixed all the various blankets and stuffed animals and nerf guns. Just wouldn’t fit. We agreed on a small “ugly doll” named Brip.

After arriving at camp we set up tents and I then started helping some of the younger boys with theirs. And I noticed a stuffed animal or two, and a few blankets – or rather remnants thereof – tucked away amongst those backpacks. And it wasn’t too much longer after that, that some of the older boys also noticed, and started making some comments about kids needing their mommies and all that.

Which did not sit well with me. Because I know those older boys at some point had their first campout away from home. And I’ll bet they were a little scared themselves. And I’ll bet they had “something from home” buried in their backpack.

One of the greatest fears in life is the fear of the unknown. And for boys on their first backpacking trip, everything is an unknown – and we haven’t even brought up the night sounds.

We come home from that trip and I decide to do something, exactly what I don’t know. Enter the White Monkey.

So the next trip, White Monkey is hooked up on the back of my backpack. He’s got a bandana to help keep him cool. And I just wait as we get ready to head out.

And sure enough, one of the older kids, who obviously has not thought much about getting to his next birthday, saunters up and says something along the lines of “nice stuffed animal.”

And it gets real quiet as everyone stops getting on their backpacks and just waits to see what’s going to happen next.

And I remember looking at him and his friends and saying in a matter-of-fact tone, “His name is White Monkey. He’s my hiking buddy. Would you like to say hello?”

And for a nanosecond the older kid thought about saying something, and then took a wiser path and walked off with his friends.

I looked over at Eldest and got one of those “thanks dad” looks every dad would kill for. And Eldest digs into his backpack, finds his ugly doll and hooks it to the back of his pack.

We all have fears – some obvious and some that others think are irrational. And a lot of people have “lucky charms” or wear special underwear or have a favorite scripture they pull out when they’re facing that fear – from speaking in front of a live audience to jumping out of a perfectly good airplane to hitting the trail for their first time.

It’s your fear. It’s up to you how to deal with it.

I have this thing about clowns. I just have a trust problem with someone who smiles all the time and wears weird clothes and shoes that are way too big. The fact said smile is painted on doesn’t help.

And the fact that I have yet to see a movie with a clown in it where the clown doesn’t at some point take a chainsaw to some camper or a hatchet to some cute coed pretty much settles my view of clowns.

So if a clown starts heading my way, I simply walk away. Or run, depending on if anyone is watching.

And for Eldest, he took his “lucky charm” – Brip – and now carries it proudly on his backpack. He’s taken his good-luck piece and turned it into a mascot. And White Monkey and Brip have killed snakes, slept in caves, rappelled and done a host of other adventures together. So fear, take that.

White Monkey and I still hike together. We make a good team. It’s fun to run across some other adult hikers and they always make a comment about “the monkey on my back.” And we’ll all laugh and the ice is broken.

We all have fears; we all have monkeys on our back. But only you can decide if that monkey remains the proverbial “monkey on your back” or becomes your mascot.

To wrap up: I’m going to be starting a new section on this blog pretty soon. It’s about helping kids – and parents – find the best gear for backpacking and hiking. More importantly, it will focus on why you sometimes just need to got off the couch, turn off the electronics, grab a stick and hit the woods.

It’s a big world out there. Killing zombies all day is not life. Stay tuned for White Monkey Gear and Life.









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