By LARRY TOWELL
I would like to introduce you to a new friend of mine, Neal Benson. Neal is the six year old son of Ray and Jennifer Benson of Manila and the grandson of Nelson and the late Carol Benson, also of Manila, and Larry and June Wright of Gosnell.
Neal attends Manila Elementary and is in Mrs. Shelton's first grade class. His favorite class is physical education and recess. He plays T-ball and soccer and is a member of the Tiger Cubs Pack 32 of Manila where his mother serves as den mother. The Tiger Cubs have been on many outings this year including a trip to the Forest L. Wood Crowley's Ridge Nature Center.
Neal is a very active young man and loves to spend time at his grandfather's farm running, playing, and riding the cotton picker with his dad Ray. He often rides his bike a short distance from his home to the farm shop to visit his dad and his grandfather. Neal tells me he has learned a lot living on the family farm.
He lovingly calls Nelson, his grandfather, by the name "Pop." During the summer months Neal can often be found in "Pop'" swimming pool, they often pick up pecans in the fall, and his "Pop" even taught him how to blow a duck call. Nelson has always been a big duck hunter, there is no doubt that in a few years Neal will be putting those calling lessons to good use.
Neal comes from a very outdoor oriented family that enjoys every moment together in the outdoors. Neal often accompanies his mother and his sister Jenna during the summer months scouting for boll weevils on the family farm. Neal loves to spend time with his cousin Miles playing around the farm, riding bikes, and jumping on Jenna's trampoline.
Looking across the farm I could see why this kid loves the outdoors so much. The family farm borders the Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge where ducks by the hundreds could be seen heading back to their roosting places as I pulled out of the driveway. This Bensons are a close knit family and they all live as neighbors on the family farm.
Neal's true passion is fishing. His mother said, "He would fish every day if he could." A smile as wide as the western sky beamed from his face as he told me about fishing for tilapia at Mallard Lake. I saw pictures of Neal with some really big tilapia, proving that he knows his stuff when it comes to fishing. After a little prying I was able to get him to tell me the secret to catching this newly introduce game fish at Mallard Lake. "You got to use red worms; but the regular worms will work if you can't find red worms."
Neal promised to take me and my daughter fishing this next summer so that we could see first hand how to catch these tasty fish. I was impressed to find out that Neal often takes a plug and practices casting in his back yard. We may see this young man on the B.A.S.S. circuit someday. He always reminds his parents, "If we run out of money, and I can get worms, we will always have something to eat."
I asked Neal what he has learned through fishing, and he said that he learned to be quiet and to stay away from hooks. Pretty sound advice if you ask me.
Another favorite place that Neal enjoys is the Norfork National Fish Hatchery, he and his family camp at the campgrounds adjacent to the hatchery and Neal fishes to his heart's content. He also likes to take a cool summer swim in Norfork Lake. As you can see, this young man is definitely an Outdoor Kid.
It is great to see families like the Bensons get out and share the beauty and wonder of the outdoors with their children. I can tell by talking to Neal, that he will always love and enjoy the time that he gets to spend in God's great outdoors. There are many lessons that we can teach our children as we build memories in the outdoors.
Perhaps you know a child that loves the outdoors as much as Neal, if you do we would love to hear from you. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at 351-5437 to arrange an interview.