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Courage Found When the Game is Afoot



The game had led us down a county road with no lights and with a different name than the GPS stated. I hit the brights on our truck and saw a home with extra cars parked on the street. I told my daughter we'd turn back around if I started to get a funny feeling.

In my town, there is an online community scavenger hunt. The anonymous host posts clues about the prize. Depending on the difficulty, the clues will have a picture of a street sign, an iconic location, or an abstract mural. Usually, the prize is a stone; sometimes, it’s jewelry.

The first hunt my daughter and I had gone on was years ago, when the search led us only a few blocks away from our house, outside a dilapidated country clubhouse. We arrived with other players, and we all meandered around to find the prize. We left empty-handed.

Back on the county road, we pulled off onto the road for a small community center, one of the clues for the hunt. It was sparsely lit on the playground, and lights inside the community center were on. About the size of a small country church, we could easily walk around it to check for the prize. My daughter, who, as we had run out of our house to leave, yelled, “We need flashlights!” – had already unclicked her seatbelt, ready to run into the dark.

The walls of darkness, including a ballfield that was sucked into the void behind us, gave me chills beyond those of the low temps outside. “One time around the center, and we’re back in the truck,” I said. She was off, skipping around the building as I watched my flashlight’s beam disappear into the fields around us.

“You are so brave,” I told her, and she rounded another corner with a “Yep, I know.”

A part of me knows that she expects me to be her wing woman against anything fiendish but watching that purity of courage that I don’t have even now is astounding. Sure, with age, cynicism, and a healthy dosing of X-Files-style entertainment that leads me to speculate what outlandish thing might be in the shadows, I wonder if there’s perhaps something genetic about my fearful behavior that I fight. How, then, did I make someone like her? It turns out she had the answer to that.

I repeated my comment to her in the truck after we came up empty-handed again. “How are you so brave?” I asked. She said, “Because Papa is brave.”

I laughed and told her that made sense. She sees him chase her and her brother through the desert on Power Wheels. She sees him work through carpentry projects, failing, retrying, and while learning himself, he still takes time to teach her what he knows.

I see the bravery, too, but differently. Her dad came to a country he didn’t want to because he loved her mom. He represents what we’ve told her and her brother: courage doesn’t mean you’re not scared; it means you do what you must, even if you see danger. And, sometimes, courage means doing what you want to do, like driving down a dark county road with some calculated foolishness.

Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at cassie@mcclurepublications.com.