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A Camping Trip Straight Out Of A Sitcom

, , , , , , , , | Related | September 4, 2023

I am the oldest of seven children. For my parents, having so many children meant that taking vacations was challenging — both because of cost as well as simple logistics.

One summer, when I am sixteen or seventeen, my parents had the bright idea to go camping for a few days up in the mountains near our home. Please note that my parents are not campers. They have to borrow a tent and most of the items needed for camping. They borrow a six-man tent and figure that it will hold us given that my younger brothers and sisters are small. My father has a few cows and a horse on a hobby farm that he owns, and he decides we will pack the horse and use it to haul the camping equipment into the campsite.

The day dawns, and my parents pack us tightly into a truck being used to haul the horse trailer to the trailhead. We get the horse all packed up and set out: Mom, Dad, and seven children ranging in age from seventeen to two.  

Five minutes later, the entire pack slides off the horse and onto the ground. My dad repacks the horse, and we set off again.

About thirty minutes later, the horse sits down and won’t get up.  

The pack is just too heavy for the animal, so we have to take some of it off and distribute the camping gear amongst those of us who can haul it. My youngest sister (the two-year-old) obviously can’t hike, and she is passed around from back to back. My next youngest sister (who is five) starts getting tired, and soon the oldest of the kids are all packing camping gear AND two children, switching off from time to time. We probably end up hiking for about ten minutes and resting for about fifteen.  

We finally arrive at the place where we are to camp, completely exhausted. Amazingly, the tent goes up without too much trouble, and we all start exploring the area.

At this point, I see my dad pull out a rifle.  

Me: “What’s that for?”

Dad: “Well, there are bears around here.”  

Me: “Bears?! Where did you get the gun?”

Dad: “From your uncle.”

Mom: “You’ve never shot a gun in your life.”

Dad: “It’ll be fine. Plus, the horse will warn us if anything comes by.”

I went to bed that night with the realization that the only thing between me and death by carnivore was a thin tent, a tired horse, and an inexperienced rifleman.

We quickly discovered that the six-man tent was NOT big enough to accommodate us all. We were jammed into the tent like sardines with wiggly little bodies. I was pushed up against the side of the tent and found myself on a slight incline with my head going down. I spent the whole night that way.

But amazingly, I got more sleep than my dad did; I found out later that he spent all night long sitting up at night sounds with the rifle in both hands. (Years later, it sank in the potential disaster that might have resulted from a nervous man with a loaded rifle sitting in a tent full of little kids. Yikes!)  

Well, no bears attacked, and we woke up the next morning sore and tired and cranky. My mother tried to make pancakes over the fire, but they either stuck or burned, and my younger siblings whined about smoke getting in their eyes. My parents scrapped the plans to stay a few days. We hiked back out that morning and went to an amusement park.

My family never went camping again.

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