The winter months can transform even the most active kids into couch potatoes.
"Why don't you guys play outside?" I ask faithfully each afternoon when our boys get home from school.
Usually, there is no response because they're mesmerized by cartoons or hand-held video games.
"There's nothing to do outside," our youngest complains. "And it's cold."
We've even tried hiding the remote control behind the canned vegetables in the pantry.
"That should teach them a lesson," I told my wife.
And it did.
I learned kids would rather get off the couch to change channels than play outside in winter.
Ironically, the solution was simple - and inexpensive.
I was working in the garage, and one of the boys commented that a Y-shaped piece of wood looked like a slingshot.
I described building such devices, using hickory limbs and bicycle tire tubes, as a kid.
They were hooked. My old Boy Scout knives were sharpened, oiled and put to work.
Within an hour, a tire had been stripped from an old bicycle and limbs were being hewn from trees beside the house.
There was whittling, tying, stretching, and even some inventing.
They dug an old dress shoe from my closet to cut into strips to use for pouches.
By the time the first generation of medieval weaponry was ready to begin hurling projectiles, they had been outside four hours.
Now they are spending every free minute with pockets of pebbles, waiting patiently in the woods near our house for squirrels and other wild game.
Lately I've had to call them back into the house when it's too dark to see.
Their accuracy is improving, too.
Soon, I'll probably be cleaning squirrels - a small price to pay to have them happy and outside.
MORE GEORGIA FISHING? Last week, the U.S. Justice Department settled a decades-old environmental case, filed after a South Carolina segment of Lake Hartwell was contaminated with cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.
Schlumberger Technology Corp. of Texas agreed to pay $11.8 million and invest $8 million more in restoration projects to mitigate damage that has included "do not eat" advisories for stripers and hybrids in the Savannah River reservoir.
The settlement includes the removal of two small hydroelectric dams in the lake's South Carolina tributaries and a $3.6 million payment to Georgia for improvements to recreational fishing.
Melissa Cummings, spokeswoman for Georgia's Wildlife Resources Division, said discussions already are under way about how the funds can be used.
"Several types of projects are being considered," she said. "This would involve creating or identifying another lake apart from Lake Hartwell that would be contaminant free and meet angler needs for fishing opportunities."
In addition to building a new fishing lake, or improving an existing one for public use, Georgia officials also are mulling ideas that include jetties, boat ramps, piers and other facilities in the area, and possible expansions in fish stocking programs, she said.
PRESERVE PUBLIC LAND: The S.C. Waterfowl Association has joined other conservation groups opposed to a plan to convert 10 miles of Thurmond Lake shoreline into a subdivision packed with private homes.
During a Jan. 23 town hall meeting in McCormick, S.C., SCWA's executive director, David Wielicki, told more than 300 people that the developers - John McDill and C. Birge Sigety - were capable, conservation-minded citizens.
He later said his statements were not an endorsement of the proposed Petersburg Landing projct, and that SCWA has no position for or against the development plan.
On Monday, however, the Charleston-based waterfowl group's executive committee adopted a firmer stance against the idea, according to committee member Bobby Creech.
"We basically said we support the position of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources on this issue - period."
The department already adopted a formal resolution against further development of public lands and asked the Corps of Engineers, which operates the reservoir, to preserve its shoreline in its current state and not give any of it away to developers.
The S.C. Wildlife Federation and National Wild Turkey Federation offered similar sentiments.
Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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