I am now convinced that the Beatles will never get back together; that global warming is inextricably linked to political hot air; that judging by those I drive behind – 90 percent of today’s cars are not equipped with turn signals; that there is no body part that people won’t pierce; that the phrase “budget surplus” has been officially deleted from our family dictionary, and that I have been sentenced to experience certain activities as a dad that I managed to avoid as a youth.
You see, I never went to summer camp, never went through Scouting, and only used a Port-O-Let once. I don’t think I’ve suffered, although I refuse to eat anything I catch, since that could only mean that the animal was physically challenged.
Nevertheless, after only 10 short years of parentally presiding over three kids, I have gone on enough campouts to qualify as a homeless person (in fact, I’m close to getting my own cardboard sign!) And as luck and divine humor would have it, all of my kids love to go camping.
I didn’t realize there were so many organizations that emphasize camping, but I’m sure we’ve done them all. Between Indian Guides, Indian Princesses, Weeblos, Boy Scouts, Wilderness Pioneers, Survivalist Rangers, Toilets R (not) Us, and the I’ll Eat Anything Club, I feel like I can now truthfully say that I would have been in a perpetually bad mood had I lived before the advent of indoor plumbing.
Our little den of Weeblos (an old Indian term meaning “we charge you to sleep on the ground”) just returned from its first campout. Yes, it was in the middle of nowhere, far away from toilets, showers, running water, and other modern comforts and conveniences that two-thirds of the world still can only read about on the Internet. But we did have the (constant) company of grasshoppers, gnats, cow chips and the deliciously fragrant remains of the fish caught, cleaned and prepared for our sumptuous evening meal. (I brought peanut butter.)
I listened in amazement as other dads whose last Scout had long since graduated dreamily described how they still enjoy camping at least once a month. Could this be my fate? Do they put something in the Tang? Will I really end up wearing bright red knee-high socks?
That night, I lay on my sleeping bag atop (really more like collapsed into) my air mattress under a moonlit sky. The still of the night was interrupted only by the midnight mooing of some party cows and the singularly annoying whine of a family of gnats attempting to set up camp for the night in my ear.
I thought – as I drifted off to sleep – is this so bad? And then some dad I immediately disliked yelled that it was time to get up. Eventually, I did, but the vertebrae in my back are still not speaking to me.