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Back-yard camping adventures

Submitted by on Friday, 9 October 2009 No Comment

campingI didn’t mean to put Big Guy off, mainly because I know he never forgets anything so it doesn’t do any good to try.

Sometimes, though, I make promises that I’d just as soon not live up to, such as the one that left me lying in the back yard as the wind and dogs howled in the night. Once in a while, keeping those promises turns out to be not nearly as bad as I’d feared.

Big Guy had wanted a tent for his birthday, but we were in the middle of moving so I said “later.” I mentally defined “later” as a decade from now and let the memory slide from my brain in order to make room for more important things, such as recalling where I put my keys.

He, of course, had a different definition. “Mom, is it time to get the tent yet?” he asked this week.

He’d had a rather mischievous Monday at school, so I decided to create a bargaining chip. “Tell you what. If you can be a good listener the rest of the week, we’ll get the tent this weekend.”

“And camp out?” he asked.

“And camp out,” I promised, thinking there was no way I was going to have to do it

I underestimated how badly he wanted the tent. He came home Thursday with his silent string in tact – they were off from school Friday – and before I knew it I was rushing to the PX in preparation for sleeping in the back  yard.


I am not an outdoors person. I was the first to gripe during our little family fun hikes when I was a kid, mainly because untreated allergies assured a miserable outing for me every time. I’d done my share of Girl Scout cabin camping, but never in a tent.

And here I was, in charge not only of pitching a tent but also of keeping two small people entertained and quiet enough that the neighbors didn’t call the police.

The tent was the easy part – it only took an hour, 50 minutes of which was spent looking for the instructions. Keeping the volume down was a challenge.

The guys told ghost stories and giggled uproariously at their tales. The dogs moaned.

“There were skeletons and ghosts who took all the food and water from the kids. No coffee for the mommies either,” Big Guy said, looking pointedly at me.

“Thomas chubbed into the smelter and saw the ghost. Hengry was scared and ran out,” Boots said. It sounded stunningly similar to the Thomas the Tank Engine Halloween DVD he loves.

They made shadow animals and shrieked as Big Guy’s “bat” chased Boots’ “butterfly.” The dogs howled. Porch lights snapped on. “Quiet!” I hissed.

Then came a loud boom – reverberations from the nearby firing range – and my daring little men-children freaked out.

“I want to go in, Mommy. What if it’s lightening? What if the lightening gets us?” Big Guy said.

“It’s not lightning. It’s guns,” I assured him. Only on an Army post would that statement be comforting.

“Are you sure?” he asked, eyes wide.

“Nothing is going to hurt  you,” I said, conveniently forgetting to mention the coyotes Dad was convinced were going to eat us in our sleep. “Look, give it a few minutes. If you’re still scared, we’ll go in.”

The clinched it. “I’m not scared,” Big Guy said, snuggling into his sleeping bag.

“Me neither,” Boots added, his lip jutted out in a challenge.

Before those few minutes were up, both were snoring. The wind whipped the tent as I laid on ground that wasn’t as uncomfortable as I’d feared. I enjoyed dead-still quiet interrupted only by the occasional passing car.

This camping thing isn’t as bad as I feared, I thought. Maybe sometime we’ll try it farther than four feet from our back door.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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