by Breck Pappas, Young Advisory Council member
Sometimes I miss mud. I miss the feeling of squeezing it between my fingers. I miss the satisfaction of sending it soaring through the air and watching it connect with the back of an unsuspecting friend. I even miss getting it in my hair and having to wash it out with the garden hose before being allowed back inside.
I'm not sure when everything changed. It used to be that I had the clearance to play in the mud. Heck, it was encouraged! But then I grew up, like young boys tend to do, and slowly things changed. It didn't happen overnight, but somewhere along the way it occurred to me that I was becoming an adult, and adults don't play in the mud.
I blame Camp Beckwith. It was at this summer camp on Weeks Bay that, at nine years old, I first encountered the darkest, smelliest, and most wonderfully disgusting mud I've ever had the pleasure to sling at my friends. While the girls screamed as the slimy, bay mud squished between their toes, it was open season for the boys. The trick was to get as much of it as possible above the water's surface before it melted away through your fingers. Once above the water line, the stench was somehow appealing and repulsive. Whenever I think about mud, I think about Beckwith.
When I decided to travel for a year, I was looking for mud. My 9 to 5 office job in Mobile left me unfulfilled, and I missed the outdoors. I wondered what the mud was like in other places of the world.
Within two weeks of arriving in New Zealand, I was literally shoveling mud. I had found work landscaping at a bed and breakfast, and it was exactly what I had in mind. I was outside, and the air was fresh.
In Vietnam, I found more mud. Taking a tour through the Dark Cave in Phong Nha was like wading through the waist-high Hershey syrup. The whole world was mud. Anything dipped in the brown liquid became completely coated, like sticking your arm into a barrel of oil. It was dream mud. I mean, the consistency was perfect. I was Augustus Gloop in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, and this was the closest thing to a chocolate river I had ever seen in my life.
Towards the end of my year abroad, however, something strange started to happen. I found myself thinking more and more about the mud back home.
Months later, I found myself participating in an Apple Snail cleanup at Langan Park with Mobile Baykeeper, laughing when my girlfriend Becky took a spill on the muddy bank of Three Mile Creek. I was back in my native mud, and it was right where I needed to be.
When I came home, I joined Baykeeper's Young Advisory Council for a lot of reasons, but a big reason was mud: the mud in Weeks Bay, the mud up in the Delta, the mud in Dog River. I wanted to be a part of the effort that keeps our water clean and our mud like I've always remembered it. I want my children to grow up in it, play in it, and come to love it.
And when they wander, I want it to bring them home.