Lee Pitts: Bearly Camping
After sheltering in place and being cooped up with the family for 60 days I’ve got just the ticket for you. Why not load the entire family into one vehicle and go camping this summer?
I can vividly remember my first camping experience. When I was about five years old my father brought home a “doghouse” (a shack where oil well drillers and roughnecks ate and took breaks) he was given after a drilling company abandoned a site. My father brought the doghouse home on a low bed and by the time he got it off the truck using pry bars, pipes and winches it was ready to fall apart. My Mom took one look at the delapidated doghouse and put her foot down. “I will not live next door to that shack,” she proclaimed. But she sure enough did.
My brother and I were so excited about our new clubhouse that we begged our parents if we could “camp out” in it the very first night. I was dying to try out my new sleeping bag my grandparents gave me. So we unrolled our bags, turned out the flashlight and tried to go to sleep but little did my father know when he got it, that doghouse was haunted. It made all sorts of creepy noises and scary images kept flashing by its broken windows. I theorized, “I betcha some guy fell from the derrick and died and it’s his ghost that haunts our new clubhouse. That’s why it was free.”
My brother scoffed at the idea but to make a long story short, I lasted until about nine o’ clock before I “had to go inside to use the bathroom.” My brother only lasted another half hour before he followed me inside. He claimed he wasn’t scared and only came in, “To check on the health and welfare of his younger brother.”
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Ha! That would have been a first!
We tried several more times but never did make it all night and slowly we lost interest in the clubhouse so my mother turned it into a dollhouse for my sister with frilly curtains and old wallpaper. We eventually ended up burning that dirty old doghouse for firewood.
Both my wife and I had been serious campers in our younger years but hadn’t been for awhile so while we were being held hostage by Covid 19 I said, “I feel the call of the wild beckoning. Why don’t we go camping? We can still maintain social distancing and the campgrounds won’t be crowded.”
Initially we were devastated to learn that all the state and federal campgrounds were closed. “Wait just a darn minute,” I said. “We have a 9,000 acre state park out our back door why don’t we just camp in our backyard. We can roast some weinies and burn some marshmallows and camp out like the good old days.”
It was hard to find a place to unroll our sleeping bags amidst all the rattlesnake holes and poison oak but I finally found a site that was only semi rocky. It was a cloudless night and a bright moon and I said, “We ought to do this more often. Just look at all those stars. Even if only a few of those stars have planets it’s likely there is some kinda life out there. Just look at all of them. The fact that we can see so many, do you know what that means?” I asked my wife.
“Yeah, it means you forgot to put up the tent!” she replied.
Now I must stop here and explain that for 40 years my wife and I have lived on the outskirts of a small town called Los Osos. If you know your Spanish you know that means “The Bears.” There used to be millions of them in these parts and I started telling my wife how the California Missions had been saved from famine by all the bears they killed right in the mountains where we live. The thought of that, of slithering rattlesnakes and the howling coyotes made sleep difficult. I made it until about nine o’clock before, “I had to go inside to use the bathroom.” My wife came in about a half hour later. She said she wasn’t scared mind you, she just “Wanted to check on my me.”
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