In honor of summer I thought I'd post this story I just completed for my Low Fat Fiction class. It will probably appear as a chapter in the memoir I'm writing.
My parents always refused to take us camping. The closest I got was when my Bluebird troop had to earn a group campout badge. I guess the other parents weren’t much into camping either, because we just put our sleeping bags on the troop leader’s lawn. We even got to use the bathroom in the house and we never lit a fire because one dad cooked dinner for us on the barbeque.
The Bluebirds certainly didn’t prepare me for my first real camping trip. I was a newlywed, working to put my husband through college. Our grocery budget of ten dollars a week didn’t go far. We wanted a vacation so my boss offered us the use of his camping gear. This consisted of a six-man canvas tent, propane stove, lantern, and a cooler. This was before the days of lightweight, origami camping gear and that tent weighed a ton and barely fit in our '62 VW bug.
We excitedly left the heat of Davis and headed west to the coast and then north toward Victoria, British Colombia. Our first night we stopped in Coos Bay, Oregon. The hard earth of the campground was too much for the flimsy aluminum stakes that were supposed to anchor our tent. We ended up sleeping under the stars—or where we supposed the stars would be, had we been able to see through the fog and the thick cloud of mosquitoes that immediately surrounded us. They were so dense that, while the bug spray kept them four inches from us, we had to move slowly to avoid eating mouthfuls of them if we spoke.
The next night we made it almost to the border of Washington. We were pleased we’d arrived early enough in the evening to set up camp and be able to explore. The stakes worked fine here but the center loop that held up the tent broke as we were trying to raise the tent. We jerry-rigged it with a shoelace and a rock, but we had the poles assembled wrong so just when it seemed like we’d raised the tent, they would twist in unison and the whole tent would collapse. Three hours later we finally had the tent up but it was dark. Our camp neighbors on either side had pulled in after us, set up camp, eaten, and already returned from a hike. We were hungry but the stove refused to light. Defeated, we ate cold ravioli out of the can. Inside the tent we repeatedly tried to light the lantern. Fire began licking up its sides and then, WHOMP, it exploded into flames. Frantically we got it outside and extinguished the fire. We fell asleep, cranky and exhausted.
The following morning our neighbors came by to share how much they’d enjoyed our camping. Said it took them back twenty years.
Later the rains began. Packing that heavy, mildewed tent each day convinced me maybe my parents weren’t so dumb after all.