By DARREN HANDSCHUH
Spring has arrived and a young man’s fancy turns to love.
For us middle-aged guys it turns to yard work, helping the wife with spring cleaning – not a man’s idea, but mandatory to maintain marital harmony – and to go camping - that wonderful activity where said hardworking man leaves his big house to drag a little house behind the family wagon to a place where bugs roam unchecked, rain is likely and “a little dirt in your food never hurt anyone” is repeated to children from one end of the campground to the other.
Camping actually goes back to biblical times. Moses did it for 40 years. It may not have been by choice, but he still spent four decades pitching a tent and looking for just the right fauna for personal use.
I get tired of camping after just a few days.
Like camping through the ages, my personal expeditions into the untamed wilds of B.C. have evolved.
My earliest camping experience was when I was in the Cubs. My family was not really the camping type, using our tent trailer only for our annual marathon road trips into the United States, so I was excited to spend time with the woodland creatures I had heard so much about.
Learning to pitch a tent, set up camp and gaining information about the fauna and critters of the region were fascinating and I soaked it up like a sponge in a monsoon.
I have to admit, as a novice camper I was not really thrilled with the whole outhouse concept and I waited as long as possible before using the age-old contraption.
The most distressing part of the outhouse was the aromatic essence of the structure. Outhouses have a special smell that just can’t be described without actually experiencing it.
Having adjusted to the non-flushing, wood-surfaced, bug-laden loo, I looked to yonder camping adventures and learned they included a fire.
OK, now this was cool. Our Cub leaders are not only encouraging us to burn stuff, they are showing us how to do it.
The big thrill for the troupe of lads was to cook our own meals on the open flames of a crackling fire. I use the term ‘meals’ loosely as it was actually a can of beans, but to us it was a feast.
We learned how to open part of the lid to let the pressure out and to stir it so the middle was not cold – a big accomplishment for a 10 year old.
Once this skill was mastered, all we wanted to eat was beans.
There were three little boys per tent, each of whom had been eating beans once or twice a day for three days.
I am sure you are starting to form a picture here.
By the morning of the last day, we woke up and the walls of the tent were actually forced outward and anyone who zipped their sleeping bag up to tight looked like a giant, bloated grub.
With eyes watering, the first one awake had to crawl to the tent flap and unzip it. There would be this rush of air out of the tent – sounding not unlike a balloon that was not tied up.
Birds would fall from the sky, squirrels would flop around on the ground having seizures and dogs several kilometres away would be sniffing air wondering what that smell was and how could they roll in it.
Let’s just say the car ride home involved open windows and a gaggle of giggling boys who found the entire situation quite amusing.
Our Cub leader, who drove remarkably well with the entire upper half of his body out the window, was less pleased.
Thus was my first experience with sleeping among nature.
There are more tales of camping to come and fortunately, none of them involve beans.