I don’t know if I am much of a camper. We just didn’t camp out much when I was little. I can’t even imagine the Mendenhall family, aka the Griwsolds, sitting around the campfire, singing Kumbaya. I imagine it would go something like this:
Mom: “Elwood! Elwood!…….Where did that man go? ……I need you to put up this tent…..Elwood!…….I’m telling you, when they were passing out brains, your father thought they said, “train” and left…….Elwood!!………………Well, we are just going to have to go home.”
Elwood- (2 miles away, press camera in hand). “Ahhh, just look at this beautiful tree!” (Takes pictures of the probable pine tree from different angles. Can’t hear Mom because he has wandered purposely away from the camp.)
Vickie- “Mom, look what I found! (Holding a skunk.) Can it sleep with us in the tent? I think he is lonely.”
Cheryl- Cheryl is still in the car, having another one of her famous temper tantrums. We can hear her muted screams through the rolled up car windows. “I HATE YOU…….STUPID MOM…..I HATE YOU…….” .BLAH BLAH BLAH SCREAM SCREAM SCREAM KICK THE BACK SEAT REPEATEDLY…….SILENCE…………POUTING……….
David- (Holding a stick, trying to wittle with a butter knife) Smiling…”This is fun.”
No, I can’t even imagine camping back then. My dad was a scoutmaster, so he used to go camping all of the time. It’s just when Mom was thrown into the mix that Dad just wanted no part of it. My dad was always “damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.” That was his motto. My mom was one of those rolling pin wives. Bitch bitch bitch. Dad was Wally Cox. Wally Cox was a mild-mannered, soft spoken actor, aka the voice of Underdog. “There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here!” Well, except my sweet dad sounded just like Ronald Reagan.
So, needless to say, the Mendenhall family rarely went camping. To compensate for our outdoor challenged lifestyle, my dad built a playhouse in the backyard. I know you are probably picturing a little playhouse nestled in a tree line on the edge of the property. Oh, no. This playhouse was as soon as you opened the back door. Down three steps, turn left and Voila! A cabin…..for camping. Swell.
I went camping when I was in the Campfire girls. Campfire girls were like the Girl Scouts, but we had campfires. They had Samoa cookies to sell while we put marshmallows on the end of whittled sticks. Well, most of the girls put their marshmallows over the fire. Not me. That was gross…and black. Who the hell wants to eat charbroiled marshmallows. And then some older girl came up with a bright idea.
“Hey, Susie, I see you are eating grahamn crackers. Can I have one? And you, Cindy Lou, I see that chocolate bar you are eating. Can I have a small section? Next thing you know, the older camper put a melted marshmallow and a piece of chocolate between a graham cracker sandwich and ate the damn thing.
“Hmmmmm, I wish I had “some more.” And the rest is history.
You believe me, right?
Well, I wasn’t much of a Campfire camper. While walking to the pool one day in my bathing suit, clothing wrapped in my towel, my underpants fell out of my towel and onto the ground. Everyone laughed at me, and I wanted to cry. I sent a postcard home to my mom that I wanted to come home. How funny, because I lived like ten minutes from the camp and we were probably only there for two nights at the most, maybe. I was home before the postcard even arrived.
The next time I went camping was when I was in love. My boyfriend, (future husband, future ex-husband) nicknamed Magoo in my posts, was a list maker, so we had everything you could possibly think of. He even had cut wood on the top of his car. We were, afterall, going to a National forest, so they would probably frown on cutting down trees for fire wood. The first time we went camping, Magoo had everything packed in so tightly you couldn’t add even a spoon (just a slight exaggeration). He had a hatch back, and when he slammed it down to shut, the window burst. He didn’t check to make sure the damn hatch back would close without hitting something. No problem. Magoo took out several black garbage bags, duct tape, and after a few minutes we were on our way. Well, after I swept the glass off to the side of the curb.
We usually went with another couple. The first time we went camping, we took Brent and Jeannie with us. Brent was Magoo’s best friend. We drove to the Monongahela State Forest in our wild wonderful West Virginia mountains. I know West Virginia gets a bad rap, but it is so beautiful in the mountains. Breathtaking, really. The first time out we were hunting for a place called The Sinks of Gandy, a cave that we wanted to explore. I was all about seeing some bats.
The Sinks of Gandy are a tunnel that the Gandy Creek flows into and disappears into the mountain. It is on private property, and is actually hard to find. We weren’t all the way stupid. Just partially stupid. Years later, my son was a guide for a summer adventure camp, and made numerous trips to the Sinks.
But, anywho, the next thing you know, we are on a gravel road, stopped because a bunch of sheep were standing in the road, looking at us. Um, Magoo, where the hell are we?
So, we never found the Sinks of Gandy, and drove around forever. Where the hell are we going to camp? We finally found a sign for the Monongahela National Forest, dropped down the mountain, and a beautiful sight unfolded right in front of our eyes. It was beautiful.
The Monongahela National Forest at Laurel Fork Campground
I immediately fell in love with the place. And there was no one else in the whole area for the first part of the long weekend. There was a large stream that ran by us, and a trail head in case we wanted to take a hike. It was perfect. It was Fourth of July weekend, so we had a cooler full of picnic food and bags and bags of snacks. The boys, who had been at fishing cabins throughout their lives, remembered the time they were stuck eating nothing but hot dogs for 2 days, so they packed a lot of food.
Since I was not a camper, and the damn campground did not have any bathroom facilities whatsoever (that we knew of at that time), I made the guys build a bathroom area. I don’t even want to try to explain it, but it consisted of finding three small trees close to each other, a large piece of cloth (told you the man could pack), a hammer, and a couple of nails. Dig a hole, and a “dry creek bed” and we had ourselves a bathroom. Magoo even brought toilet paper and little garbage bags. Also, it looked like rain, so the guys put up a makeshift canopy, since we thought we would find a place that had a shelter or something. So, we improvised and it was fun. Sort of. I couldn’t go past 10:00 in the morning without taking a shower. My skin starts to crawl, like I have cooties or something. I HAVE to take my shower. So, I walked over to the creek, walked in with my tennis shoes, and took a creek bath. Washed my hair and everything. It was so freaking cold. I thought I would turn to ice in the middle of the stream. Next thing you know, Magoo and Brent come running in, holding soap, laughing, and sat right down in the creek. They, too, I thought, must feel cooties after 10:00. Jeannie didn’t care. She put a scarf on her head and claimed that she liked being a dirtball. So be it.
So, yeah, it was a fun weekend.
Well, until the guys disappeared.
We were supposed to go fishing, and I hadn’t been fishing since I was little and went with my dad. I used to go all of the time, and either fished, or chased dragonflies around the lake. To this day, dragonflies are my favorite insects. I knew you would want to know that. The guys wanted to go outside the Monongahela Forest to find more firewood somewhere. And yes, Magoo had a saw with him. So, they hopped into the car without a back window and off they went.
And they never came back. Well, that’s what it felt like. It was at least four hours. We were pissed. So, we decided that we were going to fish all by ourselves. We didn’t need a man to put a worm on our hook. We could be hookers. (she cracks herself up) Well, hell, they were all gone. We were wormless. We had no dough balls. We had nothing.
Well, we did have bologna.
Jeannie and I cracked up, as we took a slice of bologna and tore it to look like a worm. A bologna worm. If colorful little bobbers or lures attracted fish, wouldn’t a worm dangling off of the hook? It was a brilliant, hooker idea.
No it wasn’t.
The bologna hung on the hook for just a few seconds, and would then slide through the hook and fall into the creek. We tried it a “couple” of times. Defeated, we went back under the canopy (that leaked later when it stormed), and just started drinking. We did get scared when two guys walked very close by our campsite. We saw them coming and we were very frightened. We ran to the tent and zipped ourselves up and looked out the little screened area. We were going to get raped. No doubt about it. All we had to defend ourselves was some bologna and a flashlight. But, wait. Magoo brought a handgun. (What did I tell you?) And it was in the tent. I could kill them.
Well, at the time, we had no idea that the start of a long hiking trail started right beside our tent. We knew it was nearby, but the trail went right by the tent. They were simply two hikers who were following the trail.
Our mountain men finally came back. They got lost. And they had no firewood. Worthless.
Jeannie and I were already drunk. Well, I had two beers, so I was sloshed.
The guys were so fixing us dinner that night. Magoo opened the cooler.
“Hey, what happened to those two packs of bologna?”
I guess I didn’t mention that we made two packs of bologna worms. We really thought we would get one to work.
We were hookers working our corner of the creekbed.