The end of August always reminds me of a special camping trip I took the summer I graduated from High School. My best friend Harold and I decided to do some “wilderness” camping to celebrate the end of high school and the beginning of college.
Harold was the only other boy my age in Dearing where we grew up. He lived less than a half mile from me and we did everything together, from hunting and fishing to building tree houses and forts.
We started Kindergarten together and graduated from the University of Georgia together. Way back then Kindergarten was not offered in public school. Ms. Lively had a private kindergarten in Thomson, eight miles from Dearing.
Each morning Harold and I would get on Mr. John Harry’s school bus and he would take us to Ms. Lively’s kindergarten at her house, which was near where his bus route started. One of our mothers would pick us up at noon each day.
The summer we graduated from high school, a couple of weeks before we were to go to UGA, I stopped working at National Homes, my summer job for three years, a week early. We gathered our supplies, loaded our 12 foot Jon boat in the truck and drove to Raysville Boat Club.
My family had an outdrive ski boat at a dock there and we used it as our tow boat. After loading the big boat with sleeping bags, fishing tackle, canned food guns and everything we would need for four days we tied the Jon boat to the ski boat and headed up Little River.
After about an hour going slowly we came to a small creek with a high rock bluff on each side. Inside the mouth of the creek was a good place to tie up the boats and be protected. We went a little ways into the woods, build a fire circle from rocks and cut down saplings to make a table between two oak trees.
To make the table we lashed two sapling trunks between the two big oaks, one on each side. We then cut shorter pieces to lay across them for the table top. We also cleared brush from the area so we would have a nice opening for our camp.
We had not brought a tent, just sleeping bags, so I raked up leaves for a mattress and rolled out my bag. It had a canvas canopy at the head end that you could use to keep rain out of your face, so I rigged it up with some forked sticks and long straight ones between them to hold it in position.
For the next three days and nights we were all on our own. I will never forget how peaceful and quiet it was around our fire at night and in the little creek during the day. At night the stars were amazingly bright. When it got hot in the afternoons we went skinny dipping – we knew no one else was around.
We put out trotlines and fished every day but I don’t remember catching much. For breakfast we cooked bacon, eggs and toast on the open fire. For lunch we had potted meat, Vienna sausages, sardines and crackers. At night we ate out of cans, too.
For one night I had brought a big can of pork and beans and heated them in the can on the fire. That was a feast with some saltines!
We didn’t worry at all about anybody or anything bothering us. Back then out in the country you really didn’t have to worry much about crime and we knew there were no critters, other than snakes, that might be a problem. And we had our .22 rifles with us just in case.
We were lucky, the weather was nice the whole time. No summer thunderstorms hit and soaked our sleeping bags. Although the canopy may have kept rain out of my face, I knew my bag was not water proof and if it rained it would be soggy within seconds.
Back then we thought we had really gone a long way from civilization to camp. But now, in my bass boat, I can be at that small creek from the boat club in about five minutes. Everything is relative!
But that trip will always be one of my best memories. I wish all kids now had the chance to do things like I did growing up. We were on our own, totally self-reliant and had to make do with what we had. It was a great experience.