It’s that time again.
Maybe you envision
- sandy beaches,
- sunny meadows
- lush forests.
I’ve been to the third level of camping hell.
I never ever want to go back.
“Let’s go camping,” were the words that started the venture that took me to the edge of darkness.
It was mom’s suggestion.
For a moment, it seemed like a great idea.
Then, I remembered. Dad was a preacher who earned a preacher’s salary. We didn’t have tents, sleeping bags or camp stoves. People in our income bracket
- ate wieners and beans in the back yard
- next to a plastic wading pool
- while spitting watermelon seeds at innocent puppies and little kids.
We didn’t go camping.
Mom wasn’t interested in logistics. When dad got home from work, she revealed her master plan.
“Convert the flatbed trailer in the backyard into a camper.”
Despite his spiritual insight and wisdom, Dad fell for the whole crazy idea.
“Grab mattresses from the bunk beds,” He yelled after he rigged a tarp over the slats on the sides, “Pillows and blankets too.”
The family station wagon lurched out onto the road with the makeshift camper following behind. It was so dark all I could see were the headlights of our station wagon poking holes into the night.
For the next few hours, we passed campground after campground. Every sign posted “full”.
Then, Dad hit the brakes.
He yanked the station wagon off the pavement. We crawled onto a narrow dirt lane between two fence posts and lurched to a stop.
I opened my car door and looked up.
Mom jumped out of the car and opened a cooler. She handed out chips, juice and cold hot dogs.
A few minutes later, we crawled onto the mattresses. All eight of us lay side by side. There was barely any room to move. Dad pulled down the open corner of the tarp and tied it shut.
“Gotta pee,” I confessed.
Side note – My bladder is very sensitive to bathroom access. As soon as I am any distance from a flush toilet I can hardly think about anything else.
Inspired by my condition, my siblings took turns emptying their own bladders.
After Dad pulled the tarp down the second time, I fell asleep.
“Don’t move,” my sister hissed into my ear in her best Hannibal Lecter voice, “Something’s moving outside.”
I opened my eyes slowly. When I saw a dark shape the size of a small mountain pressed against the slats, I felt my bladder relax.
“We’re going to die,” I gasped.
Dad shushed me as he lifted a corner of the tarp and peeked outside.
“It’s a bull,” he pronounced, “scratching his back.”
For the rest of the night, I prayed for the slats to hold.
The next morning, I woke to sunshine and the smell of frying bacon.
We had survived the night.
“Let’s get out of here the bull comes back,” Dad said after breakfast.
Once again we bounced down the deep ruts of the narrow lane. The car lurched over a few pilings that looked a lot like a broken fence poles in the light of day.
So much for the fancy life.
- Motels with tiny soaps and shampoo bottles.
- Dairy Queen hamburgers and truck stop dining.
I was a preacher’s kid.
Ready for hard times.
It was a sport for souls much braver than me.