Best buddies spend Sunday in wilderness

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 17, 2004

DEERING - In today’s fast-paced and technological society, many children are tempted to while away their downtime in front of the television, computer or video game system.

Zach Melvin, 9, and his best pal, 10-year-old Austin Harrison, spent their Sunday afternoon the "old-fashioned" way. The pair shunned Zach's Playstation 2 and had outdoor adventures using the realms of their imaginations in a wooded area along Spring Branch Road.

"We did play the Playstation for a few minutes this morning," Austin sheepishly admitted. "But we came outside to make a fort because it's not raining.

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We're going to use sticks to build it."

Following a dirt path from Zach's house,

they found a perfect spot under a shade tree where they are going to build a "soldiers fort." The pair are in the first stages of "Operation Fort." They spent an hour busily wielding tree branches to beat down tall grass and weeds to create a "floor" for their base.

"The fort isn't going to be only ours. Other kids will come and play with us," Zach said.

The creative boys have been best friends since kindergarten. Besides fort-building, they spend their

time looking for frogs, playing flashlight tag in the evenings,

pretending to be soldiers or cowboys and hiking.

A third playmate and constant four-legged companion to the boys is the Melvin family dog, Scooby.

Zach's mom, Sandy Melvin, said the boys are practically inseparable and Scooby follows them everywhere.

"When Austin's here, they constantly play outside,"

she said. "Nowadays, a lot of kids seem to not want to make an effort to go out and play because of games and DVDs, but Zach and Austin always want to play outside.

"They will put camouflage on and I can hear them calling to each other and talking about their 'military base,'" Melvin said.

The boys are smart about playing in the wooded area. Both take time to carefully check themselves and Scooby for ticks. They remain vigilant for snakes and spiders and they steer clear of poison oak, poison ivy or sumac.

"We caught poison oak really bad last year. We know what it looks like and we won't touch it," Austin said.

Zach and Austin are both fourth-graders at Dawson-Bryant Elementary School.

The Dart is a weekly feature in The Ironton Tribune in which a reporter throws a dart at a map of the county and finds a story where it hits.