Camping memories – The Hamburg Reporter


with Sherry Perkins

Crimes have been committed in a couple of Iowa campgrounds in the last few weeks. One of the campgrounds was in our own county. It unnerves me to think that families can’t be safe in their own tent or camper. New of these crimes brought back to me the days when our family first ventured out into the unknown world of camping. This was back in the late 1960s when we had two boys, 9 and 7 years old, and a 2-year-old little girl. We had purchased a used tent with some friends of ours and we took turns using the tent on weekends. Hubby was a truck driver, so we didn’t always have a good time to take off camping, but our first try was done in somewhat of a hurry.

We decided not to go too far and chose to go to Waubonsie State Park for our first outing. We were so sure we had all we needed with us and we even took the dog. When attempting to set up the tent the first time, hubby realized we had forgotten one of the tent poles necessary to set up the 10×12 tent. The boys were just so disappointed as they were sure we would have to abort our first camping trip.

Hubby was never one to give up on a problem easily and the more he thought about the sad faces of the kids, the more determined he was to stay.

He found a long pole (tree) about the size of the missing tent pole and whittled on it enough that he managed to make it work holding up the tent. The evening was saved! The boys were thrilled and so we settled into our first camping experience.

During the night, it rained! The tent was waterproof, thank goodness, and we stayed dry in our sleeping bags. The wood for our breakfast fire was not so lucky and it took awhile for hubby to get a fire going where we could cook breakfast. (Next time we took charcoal briquets with us.)

In later years, we had Coleman stoves and lanterns, but our first few camping experiences were pretty simple as far as having the necessary camping tools.

The kids loved the timber and being out in “the wilds” as they called it, and so we kept going to different parks and camping areas while the kids were willing.

When we were going to Waubonsie State Park, we always took our little dog, and he loved to roam the hills. One camping trip stands out in my mind especially. The boys were 10 and 8 years old by then, and their sister was 3 years old. They all wanted permission to follow the trails in the park and, after much thought, their dad and I gave our permission as long as they didn’t go too far and kept track of one another.

Well, after an hour or so, here came the boys back without their little sister! Panic time for mom and dad! She had convinced her brothers that she was tired and would just follow the trail back to the campground. Of course, she hadn’t done any such thing!

We were about to contact the authorities to form a search party when we heard our little dog barking. He came out of the timber on the opposite side of where they had entered and, following behind him, crying her eyes out, was our daughter!

That little hero dog had led her back to the campground. Thank goodness she kept ahold of the dog leash and followed him. We camped for many years after that, even after a fourth child joined the family. We never had a camper, just a tent and sleeping bags.

We played many different yard games with the kids while camping and sometimes we were near a pond or lake where they could fish. Many, many food memories but never once did we fear for our safety. And now, with all that is wrong in this world, I would hesitate to camp unless I was armed. So sad.

Our meals were never very complicated when we camped. Breakfast was probably the biggest meal of our day as hubby would make pancakes, eggs and bacon. The rest of the time we enjoyed hot dogs (they are best over an open fire) and usually opened a jar of my homemade vegetable soup. It was cooked over the fire in the old iron Dutch oven that had belonged to my greatgrandmother.

The fewer pots and dishes we used made my time in the timber easier as well. We didn’t realize what a special time we were having with our kids until now when I look back and wonder that we were able to do the camping thing for as long as we did.

I pray that somehow campgrounds can provide safety for those who are camping and hope that all families can find the happiness we had with our family during those camping trips.

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