Monday, August 24, 2009


A long time ago, when my sons were little boys, we used to take our little trailer out to the woods and the parks and enjoy a few days of camping. We built bonfires in the evenings, brought out the marshmallows and cooked our S'Mores, took long walks along wooded paths, and did all of the things that family campers have done since I can remember.

Not long after we announced our love of camping, Hubert decided he, too, would join in the fun. He had no interest in buying a small trailer as we had done, but insisted upon buying a trailer that was as long as two semi-trucks tied together. It was a monstrosity, equipped with every luxury known to man. While we sat in our crowded "home away from home," which Gerry jokingly said was so small that I could sit up in my bed and reach out and make my morning coffee without getting up, Hubert enjoyed the palatial luxury of living in opulent splendor.

The only thing he forgot about was driving and parking this enormous trailer. So, we went on a trip into Northern Michigan one time and Hubert decided to join us. The first thing he did, after pulling into the campground and paying his fee, is get the enormous trailer stuck between two equally enormous trees.

Talk about rubber burning! He revved up his car and tried his best to pull the trailer away from the trees. We all pushed and shoved and tried to help him and it was late afternoon before the trailer gave way, with a huge belching sound that made us wonder if the whole thing was near collapse.

Finally, after many attempts, he managed to get the trailer parked in a campsite, its rear end jutting into the road. Then, we went about the business of camping. While pulling the trailer out of its position between the two trees, Hubert had banged his head against one of the trees and knocked out one of his front teeth. So, there he was, the huge gap between his teeth making him look like a hillbilly minus the straw clutched in his mouth. All he needed was a straw hat to complete the picture.

I laughed at Hubert's missing tooth every time he smiled, so God decided to teach me a lesson in humility. I entered the rustic outhouse provided by the park one morning and carelessly knocked my face into its door. The blow to my face sent me reeling. I felt as though I would faint, but I finally was able to walk back to my trailer and peer into a mirror to review the damage. Sure enough, I had knocked out a tooth. I had not only knocked out a tooth, but the vacancy was located in the very same position as Hubert's missing tooth.

So there we were, matching bookends, both with gaps in our smiles. For the remainder of the vacation, we would go to a restaurant for our morning coffee. One waitress asked us, "Are you all related?" We smiled at her with our matching toothlessness and simultaneously said, "Yep! We're brother and sister!"

My sons found an orphaned chipmunk and promptly named him Gomer. They trained Gomer to walk with a leash, fashioned from a string, and walked this tiny creature all over the park. The problem was, Gomer seemed to be nocturnal and we spent our nights prying him out from the corners of the trailer. One time, he escaped into the darkness outside and we had a loud, excited search until he was located. Hubert and Gerry, our upperclass neighbors, complained that they hadn't had one good night's sleep since Gomer appeared in our lives.

Not long after that, Bud and Connie, who owned a small trailer similar to ours, decided to join our camping excursions. We camped in a park that had very stringent rules. If you stayed beyond the time you had paid for, you couldn't just renew your campsite. You had to move your trailer out, take it around the park, then bring it back to re-park it in the same spot you had just left behind.

It was the silliest rule I have ever heard and I will never forget Bud's dire expression when the Ranger explained it to him.

"You'll have to move it out, sir," said the Ranger, "and bring it back in again!"

"Can't we just say we did it?" asked Bud, "and save ourselves all that commotion?"

"No, sir, our rules are strict. You have to pull it out, then put it back."

"Some rules are made to be broken," said Bud. "Let's break this one. I'll never tell!"

The Ranger began to waver. "Well, I guess we can overlook it this one time,!"

That same day, Hubert drove his rig out to join us. There was only one camping space left and the rule was "First come, first served!"

Quickly, Hubert pulled his big trailer as fast as possible around the curves of the park road, heading for that single parking space at the far end of the park. The rear of the trailer weaved ominously as he sped around the curves. Other campers came out of their tents and trailers to watch this mammoth trailer pass by.

Just as he was backing the trailer into the space, a man rushed forward, pushing his tent and gear in a wheelbarrow. He parked his wheelbarrow in the space and watched defiantly as Hubert continued to back his trailer up, not even seeing the poacher whose stood stubbornly by his wheelbarrow, his arms folded across his chest, a determined expression on his face.

The discussion that followed involved all of us, protesting loudly, as well as the Ranger, who was beginning to wonder if we were worth the trouble we caused. Finally, Bud suggested the two families share the campsite. This was agreed upon and so, we had a guest for our bonfire that night, this strange man and his family, who carried their equipment in their wheelbarrow. They had walked several miles, pushing their wheelbarrow, to treat their two sons to a camping trip, so we all especially enjoyed sharing our hot dogs and S'Mores with these precious tots.

I laugh frequently at the memory of our camping trips, of Hubert's freight train of a trailer, of Bud's quiet opinion of using an Outhouse that hadn't been cleaned in at least a year. We had such fun back then, despite the discomforts, but I enjoyed those trips much more than I would have had we been guests in the most luxurious hotel.