When you first realize you aren’t tucked in your own bed, your next waking sensation is the smell of canvas. Anyone who has ever camped in their back yard as a kid will never forget that smell. It meant adventure, freedom, fear and many other emotions all rolled into one. From the old army surplus pup tents to fancy Sears tents with floors, I spent many happy nights in them.
Camping out was one of the rites of summer while I was growing up. We organized our overnight stays as well as any expedition to climb Mt. Everest. Each of us had specific things to bring for the group, and each one of us also had their own private treasures. We brought so much stuff we could not have carried it further than our back yards.
Mess kits and matches were all we needed to cook our breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast over an open fire. The bacon was always half burned and half rubbery undercooked, but all delicious. Toast, as soon as it turned a perfect golden brown, was either dropped into the fire or left a little longer to blacken. Eggs stuck to the pan and had to be scraped off as they were eaten.
For supper, we discovered “hobo meals” at church camp. A hamburger patty was placed on a square of tin foil, sliced potatoes, carrots and onion stacked on top of it and all was topped with a hunk of butter. Sealed up and cooked on the campfire coals, it was moist and tender, I was told, if you didn’t stick a hole in the tinfoil while cooking it. I never had one cooked that way. Mine always managed to get stuck.
For desert we always had somemores. They were graham crackers with a Hershey bar and a toasted marshmallow on top. We go more on our hands and face than in our mouth, but they were still great, and you could lick for a long time and make the flavor last.
Sleeping was also an adventure. Each of us boys had our sleeping bags, which we placed directly on the ground for years. We got used to scrounging around until we got comfortable on the rocks and limbs we didn’t remove before spreading the bag out. Then one of us got an air mattress. What a joke. I do not remember even one that was still inflated shortly after blowing it up. We tried every time though.
Once we got the bright idea of sleeping on a lawn lounge chair. That worked if you didn’t mind the bar across your back all night long. And it was tough to roll over in your bag in the chair. We used them often, though. They were still better than the ground.
Something else I will never forget is the way your voice sounded when waking up early in a tent. Maybe it was the lack of sleep, maybe it was the tent itself, but we always sounded funny to each other and ourselves. We never camped more than one night during the weekend because we needed the other night to recover!
Sometimes I think I would like to do that kind of camping again. Then I remember how much I ache getting out of a nice soft bed in the morning and realize backyard camping is best left to the young!