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The apples that fell far from the tree: my three sons

“Go out and play!”

I guess that’s what my wife Jody and I must have repeated to our three sons when they were small. Or maybe we just let them be themselves, and they took to the outdoors without much encouragement.

All three were born in Tulsa, where they each rode in a child seat on the back of my bike on the Riverparks path along the Arkansas River. We took them on outings to Redbud Valley, a small nature preserve northeast of Tulsa that resembles the Ozarks where Jody and I were raised. We sometimes took them to places in the Oklahoma Ozarks, such as the Barren Fork Creek between Tahlequah and Stilwell and Spring Creek near Locust Grove, where they could splash in the clear water and try to catch darters and crawdads in the smooth gravel.
When we visited in Missouri, they played in Johnson Shut-Ins (regardless of season) and Shoal Creek in Newton County, where my parents had a cabin. After we moved back to Missouri in 1992 and bought some land on Bull Creek at Walnut Shade, ten miles north of Branson, they were able to spend a lot of unsupervised time in the woods and on the creek. By the time they were early teenagers, they were dauntless if not proficient swimmers, cyclists, rock climbers, and skiers. They didn’t grow out of it, but expanded their ranges to four continents. In contrast, Jody and I didn’t have passports until we were past 50.

Thomas

Thomas, the youngest of the three, born in 1985, is a year-round outdoorsman, working as a rafting guide out west.

Thomas (aft) in a rapid on the Salt River

He has worked on the Arkansas in Colorado, in the Salt River Canyon of eastern Arizona, the Santa Elena Canyon of the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park in West Texas, the Kern River in California, and on the Colorado, Yampa and Green Rivers in Colorado and Utah. In 2014, he had his third Grand Canyon rafting experience and spent much of the summer on the Cataract Canyon portion of the Colorado River in Utah.
Even with a lot of big whitewater experience, Thomas and his brothers still enjoy the creeks of the Ozarks.
Here’s Thomas on Swan Creek in Taney County in early November 2009.
His fall location again in 2014 is Far Flung Outdoor Center in Terlingua, Texas, next to Big Bend National Park, which offers Rio Grande River trips in the Santa Elena Canyon, as well as hiking tours in the RoadScholar program and Jeep and ATV tours.

Richard

He began hiking and camping alone in the Ozark National Forest of Arkansas when he was 15, in the heat of summer and the dead of winter. He just wanted to be outside, and if nobody wanted to go with him, that was not his problem. Our middle child, he was born in 1982.

Richard in Dominica, 4th standing from left

He became an avid mountain biker and kayaker. He worked several summers as a rafting guide on the Arkansas in Colorado. As a geology grad student at the University of Arkansas, he volunteered for field work in remote places and ended up traveling around Nicaragua with high-precision GPS equipment and working at a research station on the eastern Caribbean island of Dominica.

In the summers of 2009 and 2010, as a doctoral student in geology at the University of Kansas, Richard traveled to the Himalayan Plateau of Tibet to begin his dissertation research. In the highlands of Tibet, the valley floors are as low as the top of Pikes Peak. Richard’s photos capture the beauty and desolation of this high and lonesome land.

Richard’s blog Rocks and Water provides a window into his world.

In 2013, he married Lydia Staisch, the woman with the scarf by his right hand in the photo from Dominica taken a few days after they met several years ago. After a stint in Ann Arbor, where Lydia is obtained a geology doctorate and Richard had a post-doctoral fellowship, they moved to Seattle in the fall of 2014, where Lydia has a post-doc with USGS and Richard has started a consulting practice as a professional geologist.

Herd of kaing

Lungar Shan North camp

Richard in his element

Cole

Cole with pupils on Ikina

Cole, born in 1980, attended college in Colorado Springs, where he enjoyed the Rockies.

Cole started rappelling when he was about 14 and was active in many sports in high school and college, including mountain biking, skiing, diving, trap and skeet and rugby. After college, he spent two years on the tiny Japanese island of Ikina, where he taught English.

While in Japan, he hiked and camped on Shikoku. He met Zoe Wilson in Japan and decided to live with her in London, where he attended law school.
While in law school, he started working at Itchy Feet, an outdoor clothing and gear store, and from there learned about another company that has several indoor climbing walls. Cole began teaching customers the basics of climbing. Soon Cole was climbing again, on the cliffs along the English Channel, in Wales and in the Italian Alps near Lake Garda.

Having finished law school, Cole was operations manager for High Sports Group, Ltd., managing its seven climbing walls in London. Zoe was manager of marketing and communications for AlphaSights. In October 2013, they left England, and spent several months trekking in Nepal and India before relocating in southwest Missouri sometime in the spring of 2014. Now Cole and Zoe are considering a move to the western US sometime in early 2015.

Cole in the Italian Alps

Cole and  his wife Zoe Wilson in Wales

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14 responses »

  1. Amazing adventures … in parenthood, too.
    If I had my young adult life to do all over again, I’d do it more like your boys have done theirs; more travel, more adventure.
    I’m still doing some formative parenting and am more convinced each day that I have no idea where my three are headed.
    Thanks for putting this article together. Inspiring.

    Reply
  2. You and Jody must be very proud of these three guys. They appear to have learned, captured and exhibit the impeccable qualities and values of their parents. Now that you two have passports you need to get out more.

    Reply
  3. Thanks for this wonderful update, Harry. You can’t be sure if your “training” and encouragement will drive your kids in the direction you hope for. In my case–not so much! But each child is a fascinating and wondrous creation.

    Reply
  4. nice story, harry. i liked it.

    Reply
  5. Great story Harry. You and Jody did a great job. All the boys have experienced some great and beautiful places in this world. Wish I knew them better.

    Reply
  6. Lovely. You have seen the success of your efforts. Beautiful, engaged children.

    Reply
  7. Not so far from the tree, Harry. See that fine moustache being sported in that final photo. Chip off the ol’ block I reckon!

    Reply
  8. What a great story and how nice for a kid’s parent to share to openly about their kids. I remember when Cole was born. Who knew that he would have such a life of adventure and pave the way for his brothers. Doesn’t surprise me that they have a quest for adventure. I remember that trip to DC in an old red volkswagon that their dad made in ’68. And doesn’t surprise me that they are all so good lookin’. Just look at their MOM. Loved reading this story!

    Reply
  9. I am holding back the tears. . . this blog entry is stunningly poignant and beautiful. Thank you so much. Your sons did indeed fall NEAR the tree — after all, they turned out marvelously, and you and their mother raised them.

    Mugwumpishly yours,

    Corinne Corley

    Reply
  10. Kathy (Carter-White) Tibbits

    Stunning blog!

    Seems not that long ago when these guys were lil tikes living at 5th & Lewis in the concrete desert as we all struggled to make it thru law school– you and Jody, David and I and Justin.

    I’m thrilled to see that they are living my dreams.

    Kathy Tibbits in Stilwell, Oklahoma

    Reply
  11. Hey Harry,

    Good to see all of the Styron boys, even if only by pictures in a good article. I hope all continues well in your family.

    Reply
  12. Shelley Von Adam

    Nice story of your kids.

    Reply
  13. What fine boys you have raised. How daring, adventurous, and questing they are. Thanks for the peek.

    Reply
  14. Nice tribute to your sons.

    Reply

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