Fin and Rye are proficient with most of the hand and power tools that form the backbone of any working farm. By the time they were eight, both of them could operate the tractor and, in a pinch, drive the truck with a load of logs. They split firewood alongside us, swinging their mauls with remarkable accuracy. They are both licensed hunters and own .22 rifles and 20-gauge shotguns. They wear belt knives almost everywhere, oblivious to the stares of the adults around them, some concerned, some perplexed, and some, it often seems to me, nostalgic.
Our sons are not entirely self-taught; we understand the limits of the young mind and its still-developing capacity for judgment. None of these responsibilities were granted at an arbitrary, age-based marker, but rather as the natural outgrowth of their evolving skills and maturity. We have noticed, however, that the more responsibility we give our sons, the more they assume. The more we trust them, the more trustworthy they become. This may sound patronizingly obvious, yet I cannot help but notice the starring role that institutionalized education—with its inherent risk aversion—plays in expunging these qualities.