October boasts some of the best weather Arkansas has to offer. The temperatures drop to a balmy 70 degrees and even lower in the crisp autumn evenings. The weekends are packed with football games, corn mazes, and drives through the countryside.
One Saturday afternoon, I decided it would be a perfect opportunity to have a picnic and go hiking. I packed the perfect lunch for my son, loaded our bicycles just in case a riding opportunity arose, and headed out to our favorite hiking spot. Along the way Raff chattered about potential Halloween costumes for himself, what he thought I should dress up as, and different ideas for Halloween parties.
After nearly 30 minutes of driving, we finally reached our destination. Raff jumped out of the car, eager to stretch his legs. I unloaded our rucksacks, already equipped with bottled water and our lunch. I handed Raff’s bag to him, sprayed us with a little bug spray and sunscreen, and headed toward the hiking trails.
I cherish the time I have with my son in the outdoors. I love the simplicity of nature and getting to spend one on one time with him in such serene settings is a great change of pace. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the bustle of day to day activities — school, work, sports. So much time is spent getting kids from one location to the next. I really enjoy hearing about the world through his eyes as we traipse through wooded trails.
This particular Saturday was exceedingly pleasant. The temperature was perfect and the foliage had begun its yearly progression from green to a medley of oranges and yellows. Raff and I had hiked a couple of miles before we reached our intended picnic site. I walked toward an area that looked soft and flat. There were a few other groups of people nearby, taking advantage of the fantastic weather. I spread out a thin blanket and started to pull lunch items from our rucksack.
“Mom,” Raff said. “That man over there is smoking!”
I glanced in the direction Raff was rudely pointing.
“Stop pointing!” I hissed.
The man was in a group of other hikers lounging in the grass a few feet away from where Raff and I were seated. We started eating, but I noticed Raff couldn’t take his eyes off the man and his tobacco.
“Hey!” Raff yelled out.
“Raff!” I said. “You need to mind your own business!” This is something I have reminded him of often. However, he paid me no heed.
“You know, smoking is very bad for you!” Raff yelled again. This time the man knew exactly who Raff was referring to.
I’m not sure if the man heard exactly what Raff had said to him, but he looked our way and flashed a smile exposing sparse and rotted teeth.
“Wow!” Raff said. “Those are some great Bubba Teeth!”
(If you aren’t familiar with such a thing as “Bubba Teeth,” visit any Halloween aisle at just about any store and you will find a horrid selection of fake rotted teeth.)
Raff got up and walked the few feet to the man, perhaps to find out where he had purchased those teeth.
“Hi, I’m Raff,” he said, extending a hand.
The man shook his hand.
“It’s nice to meet you, I’m Rob.”
When Rob opened his mouth to introduce himself I think Raff had the realization that he was not wearing a set of Bubba Teeth.
“Ya know,” Raff said, “smoking ruins your teeth. I think it might be too late for yours, but you should still quit.”
“Uh…” Rob looked blankly at Raff. “You’re right. I’m sure I need to quit.”
“Yes,” Raff affirmed. “You’ll feel much better if you do.”
With that, Raff returned to his spot on the blanket beside me and finished his lunch. I didn’t have the nerve to look back at Rob’s face after the Tobacco Task Force (AKA Raff) got ahold of him.
We enjoyed the rest of our afternoon tremendously and, thankfully, didn’t come across another set of Bubba Teeth.