"Pattie and I first introduced Ta-Ka-Radi to the world in 1978. At the time we were working with Outward Bound but had taken some time off to drive to the West Coast. Christmas of that year found us pretty close to broke having spent our last few dollars on a new tire for our VW bus. Needing Christmas presents for friends and family, we remembered the African game a friend had shown us. I fashioned some wooden blocks and Pattie sewed up some bags.
Little did we know what would come next.
Friends showed the game to friends and its popularity grew. We began to get requests for multiple games from strangers and realized that we were in business, like it or not. The game really took off when L.L. Bean and Lands' End started to sell it through mail order. The rest (to be trite) is history." - Jeff Parsons
The Parsons live in Bethel, Maine and still independently own and operate Ta-Ka-Radi out of their Bethel Outdoor Adventure shop on the Androscoggin River. The Parsons take pride in the fact that Pattie still sews the bags by hand and the blocks are still made out of native Maine hardwoods.
Jeff Parsons has spent most of his years involved with outdoor activities and recreation. Jeff is a Brit and grew up just a few miles south of London. Following school where Jeff excelled in sports and became Captain of his soccer, rugby and cricket teams, he spent a year in Zambia with Voluntary Service Overseas (the British Peace Corps). Jeff counts this time in his life as the most formative and often thinks of what a powerful impact Africa had on him.
Returning to England, Jeff became a Commissioned Officer with Her Majesty's Royal Marine Commandos where he represented both the Marines and the Navy in rugby and the Marines in squash, cricket and sailing, traveling to Scandinavia, the Mediterranean, the Far East, India and Europe. Jeff was one of two officers chosen for a joint services mountaineering training program in Norway. He helped organize and lead an expedition to the Himalayas to climb a 21,000 foot peak in the Himachel Pradesh region of India.
After five years of service, it was time to return to civilian pursuits. Not surprisingly, this led to three years teaching at the Outward Bound School in the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland. He traveled each summer to the USA to work at the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School in Maine. Thus began his long term relationship with Maine and all the activities it offers. In the early 1970s Jeff decided to stay and seek fame and fortune on this side of the pond. A little of the former was forthcoming, the latter has proven more elusive.
Fortune, however, did smile upon Jeff in 1976 when he was looking to recruit staff for his Outward Bound program. In the Everglade swamps of Florida he was taken aback by the enthusiasm and obvious charms of a young girl from California who seemed to think nothing of swamp tromping with the gators.
At the time, Pattie was living her dream. After earning her teaching degree from the University of Akron (Ohio) she had decided to put her 'career' on hold and explore the country of her birth. She rebuilt an old VW bus and fashioned the interior into a mini-mobile home. With little more than the clothes on her back, her bicycle, a road atlas and a few bucks in her pocket, Pattie had set off to see America. For two years or more she lived an itinerant lifestyle, moving with the seasons and exploring the many wonders of the diverse American landscape.
Although Pattie was a bit reluctant at first, remembering her mother's words of warning with regard to rakish young Englishmen, with time Pattie took a liking to the chap, and the two headed north in convoy: Pattie in the bus and Jeff in his (what else but) British Racing Green MGA convertible. They worked together for Outward Bound in Maine. Skiing in the winter, sailing and canoeing in the summer, they lived in various tents, boats and rented houses, and generally enjoyed their life together. They paddled most of the big rivers in Maine - the St John, Machias, Allagash and Penobscot - and spanned the continent with canoe trips on the Missinaibi in Canada and the Rio Grande in Texas.
Slowly their life took on a more 'normal' pattern. The MGA was sold for a piece of land, they built a house and in 1979 they took the plunge: Jeff became Pattie's first husband. He still is...
Emily, their first child was born in 1982. She was soon followed by Thomas in 1983, Charles in 1987 and little Jonathon in 1990. Jonathon today is 6'3” and a freshman at Cornell University. Charles is studying abroad in Sydney, Australia pursuing a degree in biology. Thomas is living in Denver after earning his MBA and competing in snowboarding for the USA National Team. Emily is in Hong Kong working as a manager for the Sylvan Learning Center, having graduated from Goucher College with a degree in psychology.
Not a lot of grass growing under anyone's feet in the Parsons family.