By DARREN HANDSCHUH
Let me start this column by saying in my younger days my friends and I weren’t really bad when we camped, we didn’t crank the stereo or anything, or run around like lunatics, but being young we did camp with some energy.
Overall, we were well-behaved, if not sometimes boisterous in our excitement of spending time with squirrels and ducks of our native land.
The worst night of camping (for those around us I mean) in my history of camping happened when I was a young buck. I was young enough to still be stupid and old enough to know better, but oddly enough this night was not my fault.
It really wasn’t, honest.
The trip started out like any other with a fire, some food and a couple recreational beverages. OK, there were lots of recreational beverages.
This was one of my first adult camping trips and I did so with my new wife, who had been camping since she was a kid.
I really didn’t understand the whole concept of camping, but being all in love, I willingly headed for the hills.
It’s strange, but I don’t remember cooking or eating when I camped in those days. We must have eaten. You can’t go two days without food, although my friend did argue with some conviction that, technically, barley and hops were components of food. Who can argue with logic like that?
The one cooler we brought with us had some grub in it, but it was mainly used to store the barley and hops.
Anyway, on this particular night we were camping with some people we normally didn’t go out with, and that was our first mistake.
One intrepid camper, whom I will call Weanie because it sort of rhymes with his name, decided it would be great sport to drive around the campground and invite everyone he sees to go to our campsite - not his.
After making a trip to the all-impressive outhouse I returned to find a lot of people I did not know lounging around our campsite.
There were roughly 429 people in our campsite, of which I knew seven. Not a good thing.
We told Weanie to stop inviting people and decided to see what the evening would bring. That was our second mistake.
It seems these people had consumed many beverages themselves and were loud lot. We soon had enough of their company and evicted our guests, but not before getting the attention of all the campers around us.
Weanie also had a friend who we all called Stick. Why, because he was dumb as a stick. Anyway, a couple of hours after we turned in for the night, Stick, who had found another party to go to, drove his car into a ditch and got stuck.
He knew one of us, Matt, had a four-wheel-drive truck and decided Matt would be his saviour and pull him out of the weeds.
The next event is kind of blurred by a sleep-induced haze, but I remember hearing this mournful wail coming from far in the distance.
My first thought was, ‘Why is a moose calling for Matt in the middle of the night?’ Once my brain woke up enough to figure out what was going on, my second thought was, ‘Good, he is not looking for me.’
I went back to sleep only to be woken up by someone from the other party yelling at the top of their lungs. They were not screaming for help, or really making any sort of intelligible sound, but were just yelling for the sake of yelling.
Finally someone screamed ‘Shut up’ and he did.
The next day, every person in the campground held us personally responsible for all the commotion. We were told in no uncertain terms if it happened again that night we would be bound, gagged and thrown into the lake never to be seen again.
I tried to explain it was not our fault and the yelling and stuff was from different campers, but there is no reasoning with someone who was up all night listening to a loud drunk guy, so I gave up and accepted we had been branded as disturbers of the peace.
That night we forbade Weanie from inviting anyone to join us and had a much more enjoyable time, as did everyone around us.
There have been two times over the years where I have been the grumpy camper angry with a group of kids who were partying, but I suspect it was divine pay back – even if it wasn’t my fault.