Meridian Star

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May 17, 2013

Memories of camping out

MERIDIAN — There is camping and then there is camping out. These days we often camp. In the old days we "camped out". "What are you doing this weekend?," a friend would ask.

    "I'm going fishing down on the creek and we are going to camp out," one would answer.

Camping is pure enjoyment and I never miss the chance, but some of my fondest memories are of my days back when it was "camping out." It started with my years in Cub Scouts and later Boy Scouts. Camping out was the main attraction that Scouting held for me. I probably would have advanced further toward becoming an Eagle Scout if I had concentrated more on merit badges than on camping out. I couldn't wait to pitch the tent and "ditch" it in case of rain, build the fire, cook something, lay out the blankets on some dry straw.

    Binachi, near Meridian, was the Boy Scout camp of some early campouts. Camp Binachi was the lair of a dangerous wild creature know by generations of scouts as "Mossback". This mysterious, slimy monster was said to steal into campsites, especially at night, and do anything to camping scouts that could be imagined in the fertile minds of young boys. What a marvelous danger this legendary creature provided us. Mossback helped us all measure our bravery. Current Scouts tell me he is still out there in the woods and under the water. Long live Mossback!

    I was so hooked on camping out in those days that I couldn't wait for weekend Scout forays, so I talked Mama into letting me camp out in the woods behind our house often. My equipment consisted of an old quilt and, later on, an Army surplus pup tent. Sometimes my friend Tommy would camp out with me. One summer we were pestered by fire ants on the flat near the creek. So Tommy got hold of a couple of hammocks. We giggled gleefully as we suspended the hammocks two feet above the little stinging devils. Around midnight, the ants attacked and we had to abandon the hammocks post haste. They had climbed the trees and formed marching lines down the single ropes that supported our hammocks. Lesson learned: You can't camp out close to fire ants.

    Matt, another friend, and I decided to camp and fish at Long Creek Reservoir some six miles or so from town. During the night, a rainstorm dumped gallons of water onto our pup tent and it finally collapsed. We were lying there on small cots with the tent canvas draped over us. The rain was pelting the canvas just a sixteenth of an inch from our faces so that we felt like the inside of a punching bag. Lightning flashed and thunder shook both heaven and earth. Matt insisted that we abandon the tent and head for home.

    We had no car, being under the age of licensing, and no other shelter. I visualized the mile walk to the highway and the scarcity of cars for hitchhiking at two a.m. and the long walk to town. I elected to stay put. After all, I reminded Matt, the water was threatening but not yet soaking through the tent canvas. We were dry and just as safe from the lightning as we would be running across the countryside in the rain. He didn't buy it.

    He fled the scene, got himself soaking wet getting to the highway, luckily caught a ride to town and sat dripping in an all?night cafe while waiting for dawn. I, meanwhile, lay perfectly dry, yet taking a pounding from the raindrops, on the cot beneath the collapsed tent. The rain stopped at daylight and I emerged from the battered tent relatively dry and feeling a little triumphant over the elements. That experience may have contributed a tiny bit to my patience and confidence in facing a more dangerous ordeal some forty years later in the remote wilds of snow covered Colorado mountains.

    Oh to be back there again for just a few hours. Back when the discomfort threshold was high. Back when the hot days really were not all that hot. Back when the rocks beneath the blanket went unnoticed. Back there camping out.

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