Growing up on a 100-plus acre farm, there were a lot of opportunities to camp out. Camping out in the summer time was something my best friend Sonny and I always looked forward to. We spent a lot of time in the woods making entire adventures ranging from the early days of settlers and pioneers to the Revolutionary War to the War between the States to Cowboys and Indians to World War II and almost anything in between. Those old 1800s wagon frames back of the barn could be covered wagons, stage coaches, caissons, cannons, or Army jeeps—whatever and where ever our imaginations could take us. We had a special fort we build and even a tree house that we used like Swiss Family Robinson.
There was a place in the middle of the farm that was a natural clearing. In the early 1800s, it was home to an old sugar shack, long gone, but where my ancestors processed sugar from maple syrup collected in the stand of woods to the east. There was a centuries-old oak tree on the edge of the clearing, seeming to stand guard over the entire area. Behind it was a low area where there were several mounds, which we imagined, and quite possibly they were, made by the Indians who roamed the area when the sons of David Wilson, revolutionary war veteran from Enfield, Connecticut, claimed the land after the war. It was near that old Oak that Sonny and I first started camping.
By the time we were ten or so, we were pretty experienced campers. I had an old canvas tent, still have it today, that slept two. It smelled like an old Army tent, kind of musty, and we would roll it out, stake it down and make it our home for sometimes Friday and Saturday nights. We dug a pit out in front of it, carried some cinder blocks from behind the milk house, and found an old grate from a rusted-out grill. That became our kitchen. We would start a fire, cook some hot dogs and hamburgers and down them with a couple of Diet-rite sodas. Maybe have some potato chips and top it off with some candy that we borrowed from the dish that served as a centerpiece to the kitchen table. But we were not always so sophisticated. One of the first times, maybe the first, that we decided to camp out, it took us hours to set everything up.
Hot dogs, burgers, roasted marshmallows—life was good. Until we tried to sleep. We heard rumblings. And the ground even vibrated. And our imaginations took over. Maybe the cattle were stampeding, or the horses. We lit out of that tent like there was no tomorrow. Ran back to the barn as fast as we could. It was about a half mile. It was late and we didn’t want to wake up my parents, so we decided to sleep in the hay. By the time we built our little cabin out of the bales, it was almost daylight. Not having any sleep, we went back to the campground. We were happy the “stampede” missed our camp. Everything was in place just as we had left it. Psalm 30:5 became our object lesson: “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” That is, if you are not too exhausted to embrace it.