The knife-throwing phase of my childhood was a bit weird, I'll admit. So were the blowguns and compound bows. That was definitely not how the other children in my class spent time with their parents. But it sure was a helluva lot of fun. For my father, James Dickeybest known for his novel Deliverancethe routines of suburban life tended to get a little dull in the hinterlands of South Carolina. If there was one thing he liked to do, it was to bring a healthy (sometimes notorious) dose of creative chaos to places he felt were lacking in it.
Dad grew up during the Depression and, fortunately, held on to an old-fashioned "get off your ass" sense of play. He'd take me out on the lake behind our house in his old Grumman canoe to look for snakes and box turtles, set up elaborate scavenger hunts for my birthday or Christmas gifts. It wasn't long before I knew how to throw a football, what to look for in a good knife, and how sextants were used for celestial navigation. Never did it occur to him that I wouldn't enjoy things like that because I was a girl, and so it never occurred to me, either.
Of all our hours together, though, the ones I remember best are those he spent reading to me from classic adventure novels like Mutiny on the Bounty and The Call of the Wild. Merely reading a book was never enough; he used maps and references to crawl right up into it. We spent an entire day once trying to crack the code in Edgar Allan Poe's story "The Gold Bug." Those were the kind of tales, I think, that he hoped would inspire me to get out and explore our strange, mysterious world. As it turned out, he was right.