Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Pup Tents

Once upon a time I was a happy camper. Literally. I was about ten-years-old, and I would often go camping with friends on Hemlock Island, which was a hop, skip and a jump from the back door of my childhood home. We would carry our sleeping bags, food, cooking gear, and my pup tent past the red barn, and down the dirt road that led to the lower barn, where the ponies were kept. Once over the gate, we walked through the pasture until we reached the fence line at the opposite end, where the trail to Hemlock Island could be accessed. Over the swamp and through the woods, a-camping we went.

W. Ben Hunt
I don’t ever remember my dad camping with me in the midst of the Great Cedar Swamp, but I camped with a number of friends, sometimes erecting two pup tents before campfire. I learned camping tips from my Golden Book of Camping and Indian Crafts and Lore by Ben Hunt. I was a Cub Scout and Webelo Scout. (Later on I dropped out Boy Scouts, but that’s a different story.) I was a trusted child, responsible with my campfires, keeping a bucket of swamp-water nearby to extinguish the fire after its use. This wasn’t quite backyard camping. I was out of sight and out of earshot.

For some reason food always tastes better in the great outdoors. I would bring one can of ravioli and a can of baked beans made for a hot stick-to-your-ribs supper in the woods. I would open the lid on the can partway, and place it near the hot coals and within about ten minutes – voilĂ  – dinner is served. In the mornings I would sometimes fry bologna with some eggs, beginning the day with a hearty meal, before trekking back home to watch Saturday morning cartoons.

This one can be filed under “It Seemed like a Good Idea at the Time.” I was once able to convince my mom to let me take some bacon with me. Always being a conscientious camper, I knew that I needed to secure the bacon and eggs overnight to prevent varmints from getting at them. With all my ten-year-old wisdom and experience, I decided to put the bacon and eggs under my pillow to prevent any animal from getting at them, while I slept. Naturally, I thought I would wake up if any animal came scratching at the side of the tent for my bacon.

In the morning, the bacon and eggs were gone. I roused myself from my musty Coleman sleeping bag, and walked outside of the pup tent. There in the corner of the canvas tent, was a hole chewed out of the material, where some bacon-hungry beast, reached in and took my vittles while I slept. I never felt a thing. I was shocked, but lesson learned. I don’t sleep with bacon under my pillow anymore. I sleep, clasping the precious commodity to my chest, close to my heart!

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