In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series I discussed how boys seek role models and that these role models shape a boy’s identity. I also pointed out that godly fathers must not only endeavor to be a godly role model for their boys, they must also provide their boys with wholesome alternatives to the sorry examples of manly role models that the popular culture provides for our children.
Now, finally, I want to tell you about a wholesome character-building, identity-shaping, resource that I believe is an incredibly effective tool that fathers can use to help their boys mature into wise and well-adjusted men. But this is not just a resource that fathers can use. It is something that mothers and grandparents and, even, close friends and relatives can give to a young boy and it will make a difference for good in that boy’s life. And I think young girls will like it too.
I discovered this resource three years ago, when my two youngest boys were 7 and 10. Christmas was coming and I was surfing the internet, looking for unique gifts. I got the idea that some books-on-tape would be good for the kids. It would be an alternative to television (which we do not watch a lot of) and videos. I bought a couple G.A. Henty books on tape. Then I found a tape series called Sugar Creek Gang. I read the description of the series and the testimonials and I decided to part with the money to give the first 12 tapes in the series a try (there are 72 recorded stories altogether). I also bought each of the kids a $12 tape recorder from WalMart.
Come Christmas day, the kids opened their books-on-tape gifts and were not exactly thrilled. They were polite and thankful and set the tapes aside so they could play with the more exciting gifts. Later on, they gave their recorders a try.
Now, here we are three years later. The Henty tapes were listened to once. The “more exciting gifts” have been forgotten. But The Sugar Creek Gang tapes are still being listened to.... every single day! I kid you not.
My kids listen to the stories on these tapes (I’ve purchased 4 volumes out of 6, so far) every single day. They listen to them in the car when we are traveling. They go to sleep at night listening to them. My two youngest boys absolutely love these tapes.
The tapes are narrations of the original Sugar Creek Gang books written by Paul Hutchens, starting in 1939. They are based on Mr. Hutchens’ own boyhood days growing up on a farm in Sugar Creek township (near Thorntown) in Indiana. Mr. Hutchens was born in 1902. The stories are a wonderful celebration of agrarian life. Hutchens had six brothers and two sisters. His childhood memories were the inspiration for the books.
The tapes I have are narrated by Paul Ramseyer, who does such a good job. They are fast paced, exciting and boy do they ever teach good things! When I hear my boys saying bible verses, singing portions of hymns, and quoting poetry (i.e., “Barefoot Boy With Cheeks of Tan” or “Under The Spreading Chestnut Tree” ) that they picked up from these tapes, I am delighted. When my youngest son asks me, “Dad, do you know what a Quaker Blessing is?,” and then tells me when I say no, I’m impressed. And when these boys want to help their mother in the kitchen or me in the garden, because of the influence of these stories, I’m grateful.
I simply can not say enough good about these audio recordings!
I asked my youngest which Sugar Creek Gang stories he likes best. It was hard for him to decide, but his top three are “The Timberwolf,” The Treasure Hunt,” and “The Killer Bear.” I asked him what “The Killer Bear” was about and he told me it is about how “Little Jim” shoots an angry bear with “Big Jim’s” rifle. Big Jim is fifteen and the leader of the gang. Little Jim is only 8 years old. I won’t tell you how he does it. Wow! What a story!
When I asked my 14-year his favorites, he thought awhile and said “The Lost Campers,” “The Trapline Thief,” and “The Blue Cow,” but quickly added that they were all good.
Marlene says I should tell you that Bill Collins’ father (the book’s are written from Bill’s perspective) is not portrayed as a bumbling idiot, like fathers are portrayed in the media today. Instead, this father is a good Christian man who leads his family with wisdom and compassion.
I purchased these tapes on the internet from Beloved Books. They are worth every penny of their cost. I know this sounds like an infomercial. Let me officially say that I do not have any any financial interest in any way with Beloved Books.
Today I am ordering volumes 5 and 6 for my boys. I should not have put it off. I see that Beloved Books has a special introductory offer. You can get two hours of listening to “The Swamp Robber,” for $4.95, postage paid. I encourage you to at least get this tape and listen to it. Do it today. You’re going to enjoy it as much as your kids!
This concludes my 3-part series on A Son’s Identity. Thank you for reading it.
It has been 11 years since I first posted this essay. My boys are no longer children. My two youngest (who were 7 and 10 when I first bought them those Paul Ramseyer cassette tapes of The Sugar Creek Gang) are now 22 and 25. They haven't listened to the audios in a lot of years. But if you ask them about those stories, they will still tell you how much they loved them. Now, of course, the audio recordings are available in CD format.
I believe those audios from Beloved Books were the the absolute best educational and character-building resources I ever bought my kids. I thank God I found them.
There are also Sugar Creek Gang books and there is a relatively new DVD series. But I'm persuaded that these old audios by Paul Ramseyer are uniquely special. They engage the imagination far better than a film can do. Hutchens just has a way of telling the stories so well.
You can see what I mean for yourself by listening to the first story in this audio series now. Just go to this link: A Free Gift From Beloved Books
One more thought... Times have changed. My kids didn't have phones and Facebook when they were younger. And I did not allow any video games in my home. Will Paul Ramseyer's audio readings of The Sugar Creek Gang still appeal to young boys now in 2016?
Probably not all boys, especially not those who have been well mentored by popular culture and the peer conformity dictated by popular culture. But if you can introduce these stories to boys at just the right age, I think they can still resonate. There is still the potential to make a tremendous positive difference.