I was sitting here, just finishing my last cup of morning coffee, and I saw our neighbors driving by, They were down at the end of our long driveway. They slow to a stop and Mr. Thomas gets out to open their mailbox. I notice that the SUV is full, the top rack filled with luggage, a bike strapped to the rear, and a campier is hitched to the bumper. He climbs back in and Cheryl, his wife, leans out the window and waves in my direction. I lift my mug in salute, though I know she can’t see it. Those young kids driving away, brought back a lot of fine memories of Paul’s and my many adventures out on the roads of this fine country.
Paul and I used to do a lot of camping. We made several cross-country trips. We had bought a ten by twelve foot tent from K- Mart (not a pull behind like the Thomas’). But, we could get that tent out of the back of our station wagon, have it up and the sleeping bags in place, in twenty minutes flat or less. Of course, it took longer to pack it up, but it was worth it, I figured. We camped, because we saved money and it gave us a chance to see more of America. We found out that campers, like us, are a very special breed of people. They tend to be friendly and trustworthy and we tend to look out for one another.
I knew when we were camping; that the faster we could get the tent up, the sooner we could relax. We had usually traveled several hundred miles in a single day and we were always hot and tired by the time we found a campground. The places that we had stopped, in those days, usually had some sort of attraction that we wanted to see. We didn’t mind spending the little extra to educate ourselves, besides most of those places were either very inexpensive, or just plain free. When we had the time between destinations we chose one with a swimming pool.
I remember one trip, especially. It was during one of the summers in the late Seventies and we were doing a round trip from the East Coast to the West Coast through one set of states and back through another set. We wanted to see as many states as we could. Anyway, on this particular trip, we were in one of the heartland states. As tent campers, we were always assigned a tent site the furthest way from the bathrooms.
Well, that trip, we had “the green apple trots”, and we wanted to be as close to the bathrooms as we could get. We went to the gift shop and ranger station to make the, oh so, necessary arrangements. While Charlie and I were looking at some tee shirts (one had a saying, “THE SLOWEST GUN IN THE WEST” and was printed all over to look like bullet holes), Paul saw that there was a young lady at the desk. Being the gentleman that he always has been, he asked me to handle the potty situation to keep from embarrassing her (or himself, I’m sure). She was very nice and didn’t hesitate to assign us a spot right across from the bathrooms. It was actually a nice level grassy spot. It had a nice high fence on the backside of the site that gave us a little more privacy. It was about as close to the bathrooms as we could possibly be.
Well, I was in the tent putting some of our things away and I heard Paul moan. My reaction to his groan, was that he had done something wrong and stupid, and he didn’t want to tell me about it, so I came out of the tent to find out what was going on. There he stood peeking through the slats in a wooden fence. He stepped back a few feet and stared at the fence, as if it was something he’d never seen before (which he hadn’t) or he was thinking about assailing it, like it was a fortified wall. You never know about what Paul might try to do. Curious, I walked toward him and he didn’t say a word. He just had a dumbfounded look on his face. I walked toward the fence and he reached for my arm. He had that look on his face that sent all kinds of red flags going up in the back of my mind. He saw my expression and let go of my arm.
Honey” he shook his head. “You don’t want to do that.”
“What is it Paul?” I asked glancing between him and the fence.
Again, he grabbed my arm and had that pitiful look he always gets when he doesn’t know what to do. He just stood there and stared at the fence and I looked, too.
Well, you know the worse thing anyone can tell me is, not to do something, and especially if it’s Paul, ’cause if HE says it, something just ain’t right, in my way of thinking. I shook his hand off my arm and tip toed toward the fence, expecting maybe that we were beside a nudist colony or something like that. I took a deep breath and went straight for the fence. I peeped through the couple of boards that he had looked through, but something blocked my view. I tried to focus on whatever the thing was. Of a sudden, my heart jumped into my throat. I was inches away from the big glaring eyes of a buffalo! He was just as aware of my presence as I was of his. I couldn’t move. I felt stuck to the fence.
After several seconds passed, I tremulously backed up and kept my eyes fixed on that thin barrier between certain death, and me, I had thought. I heard a little deep snort from behind it.
The buffalo wasn’t happy with me either
Paul,” I whispered. ” Let’s be real quite and go back to our tent.”
We slept pretty lightly that night, let me tell you. It was good to know that the buffalo was quiet out there, behind the fence. If that monster had snorted, just once, during the night, I just know,, that he might be busting through that rickety fence any minute. I don’t think either one of us would have remembered to unzip the tent door, before we took off running for our lives.