Camping 101

When I first moved to this area 30 years ago we used to go camping to learn about the history and wonder of our new home. Real rustic stuff. Our idea of luxury was having a Port-a-Potty not just near our campsite but in the park. We didn’t have much money and camping provided a break from the big city and a chance to learn.

We made friends with 3 or 4 other like-minded couples, all of us fresh out of school or at least ‘newly independent’. Each of us had our own personal gear and we collectively purchased some communal necessities like stoves, tarps and coolers. The coolers comprised our 2nd largest investment with the first being the consumables we generously stuffed them with. And there was none of this mamby-pamby Mango juice in there. If there, it was because someone thought it’d be funny if we pulled it out late at night to laugh at the name. Mango. Mango. Mango. Nope, our coolers were filled with all the stuff the surgeon general warned you about.

The site we’d select was more about availability and distance than it was about anything else. We’d leave work on Friday and race out with the goal to be back on Sunday and reasonably sober. People were always making suggestions to us so we’d call the site and make a reservation. Keep in mind this was long before the Internet so in most cases we had no clue what we were getting ourselves into. Moreover we always arrived after dark with our only phone instructions having been “site 83, leave the money in the box” from a sinister sounding park employee

We didn’t need much in the way of boom boxes or portable TV’s at our camps. We philosophized about life, complained about our jobs and jammed. Jamming was the most essential of all our activities and several of us could play. There was nothing like sitting around a spitting campfire, playing some tunes and having dark thoughts about what was beyond the light and into the shadows. We didn’t need clocks – just more firewood. We didn’t want to intrude on the world or the world to intrude upon us.

The best laid plans.

We had arrived at a well recommended campgrounds late one night just before they locked the gates. There was just a sliver of a moon in the cool cloudless night and we slowly drove around the campground, a caravan of accidents waiting to happen. We located our designated site and parked as best we could. Unfortunately, in the adjacent campsite, were families with rugrats in their Cabbage Patch Kids pajamas roasting marsh mellows. Our worse case scenario.

From the deep woods we hear one of our own in one of those talk-loudly-but-don’t-yell voices, “Hey y’all. Check this out”. So we headed off through the barely discernible path in the woods and exit some 75 feet into this vast expanse. Man, this was heaven! The whole place to ourselves!

For the next hour we make like Sherpas and trek the increasingly longer walk back and forth to the vehicles encouraged by friends of the South….. Jack, Jim, Old Grand-Dad….We set up camp, gathered wood, rocked in a firepit and started the fire. A little food, some drinks, some guitar playing, some more drinking and zzzzzzzzz

I’m in my tent with my girlfriend (it didn’t always happen this way) and we’re wakened by a very loud string of expletives. It was the break of dawn and my first inclination was one of the other couples was still up and having the pre-requisite camp fight. The yelling got more intense and my girlfriend starts poking me in the ribs and begging me to make them stop. My last thought before I lowered the tent’s zipper was “why is this a guy’s job?”. When I poke my head out I see that 2 of my other buddies were doing the same thing and we all kinda looked at each other like horizontal gophers. As if on cue a menacing voice booms “What are you dumb mf*’s doing?!?! Get your asses out of there before you get hurt! I’m going to shoot right at you dumb mf*s!!!!!!”.

OK, so maybe this is the worse case scenario but we’ll vote on that later. At that point in time my immediate concerns centered on exactly how much ammo did they have, what was the range and how in the hell did we wind up camping on a military base? I glanced around our piece of heaven on earth to get my bearings and it became readily apparent I had slept through the first several assaults. I prepared myself to surrender. Beer cans and liquor bottles were scattered everywhere. Chairs askew. Clothes discarded like rotten fish. The fire had overtaken the pit and had spilled into the manicured grass.

Manicured grass?

As I began to focus on the figures on the horizon I noticed the rifles the marksmen were holding had oddly shaped ends that looked…. just…. like…. golf clubs.


“Life is hard; it’s harder when you’re stupid” ~ John Wayne

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