|Jun 28 2012|
" Oh Boy !!! Another Family Camping Trip "
To my very, dearest, dearest friends, and as ever, loyal readers, at fifty-eight, I thinkthat I have managed to learn many things, from the trivial, to the dramatic; these ‘lessons' in Life were usually the result of folly, misinformation, pure bull-headedness, good intentions gone horribly wrong, or, just-by default-from having being plain stupid.
It is, perhaps, part of the survival mechanism that these lessons remain indelibly impressed into memory, in the fond hopes that they will never be repeated...though, often they are.
Some of these, little nostrums should be ‘one trial learning', such as, if one persists in standing out in the rain, that sooner or later, one will get wet. Drenched. Soaked. Until one's clothes are sodden to the skin, and walking in one's shoes ( what's left of them, anyway ), become like stepping in two, small swimming pools.
Other lessons must be-perforce-repeated, and repeated, until the basic narrative of the lesson is at last understood.
Regrettably, there are still many individuals who seem to require trial after trial...as if somehow, on tenth, something-maybe-will be different. And to be honest, my dearest friends, I must add my name to the latter, occasionally. For instance, if I am able to purchase but one Lottery ticket, surely those numbers look the best, and will win. Sigh.
Still, there are those few Life lessons that need no repetition, whose answers are as crystal clear as tinkling bells.
And I must add to these the concept of the ‘Family Vacation', which I liken to a really, bad, bad marriage, as one person will be happy; one person will go along, but suffer terminal boredom; and the last will find nearly every part of it distasteful. I-of course-fell into the last category, as one might know.
I know that I'm not happy, and, for me, boredom was a state, reached, when no other amusements could be found. After that, I hated every moment of it, until we arrived home again.
From about September 25, 1965, until about March, 1967, my dad, mom, and I packed up hearth, hat, and dog, and were deployed to his new duty assignment in Verdun, France.
This could not be more representative of the way Chaos works, for, eleven years before, I had been born there, and, to this day, still have-somewhere-a faded copy of my French Birth Certificate. I fully became Americanized when I was thirteen, and back in the States.
We lived in a kind of ‘French-ancient' town of Etain, and daily, my dad would make the drive to and from Verdun. We had what I thought was a fairly nice duplex, among a hundred others, and I recall that if I lay on my bed a certain way, I could just see a micron of sky where it shown-through the roof, near where the walls met the ceiling, though, it never leaked.
For an eleven year old with probably an advanced attention-span disorder, there were more than enough ‘new' things to keep me occupied; everywhere except school, of course.
At that age, I found most of the French people to be friendly enough, since being eleven granted me a number of automatic gaffes...especially, when I tried to start speaking French. My father was imminently affable, as was my mom, and we did make friends with the locals.
The old town had a town square, and a weekly marketplace. And a church built in medieval times. I once ‘bartered' my way from one, artificial rose, to three to give my mom, and-frankly, dear friends-felt damn good about it, as if I had accomplished something.
Besides school, which I hated, two more dread chimeras swam into my so-so waters as one; dad had never lost one ounce of his love of fishing, and two; a tip that the American Rod And Gun Club had leased the rights to three, huge lakes, that were averred to be chuck-full of trout, and an enormous lodge in the hollow of a stretch of low mountains, surrounded by almost primeval forest, all of which had seen action in WWI and II.
All of this affected my dad like a jolt of amphetamine, and as soon as we could, we HAD to go check it out.
For our first couple of trips there, we drove through endless plots of cultivated stretches, tiny, little towns, and trees, trees, and more trees. Did I mention trees? Having previously lived in Texas for three years, wide expanses of trees were an anomaly, and forests were plainly unheard of.
Onward went we until we found ourselves on a narrow, and unkempt road that gradually snaked up through mighty hills and dales, and...trees, until, at the top, the road dipped down to where the lakes were.
And I will allow that as nature goes, this was a pleasant enough spot, surrounded by ancient forest, which was eerily and hugely quiet. A small, dirt track lined the sides of the lakes, and dad fished all three of the lakes. And-in consequence-brought back about twenty trout(s)(?), which he gave to our French friends who ran the bakery in Etain; they were, of course delighted, dad was ecstatic, mom was ‘duty done', and I had had a marginally good time exploring the woods. Even our dog ‘King' seemed to benefit from the romp. And, BTW, the French pronunciation of Trout is ‘Treat'.
My dear dad--still very much bitten by the bug-sometime later insisted that we spend a week vacation there. Huh??? We had no access to the large, and imposing lodge; there were only concrete-walled ‘bathrooms', with no running water, and no way to flush; and no place to set up camp, except as a make-shift cooking hut, put together by pieces of tarpaulin at the rear of our 1962 Chevrolet Impala station wagon.
My dad, who served in WWII and Korea, could have slept on a Gramophone pin, so comfort at any level was easy to be found...for him. For my dear mom, for whom an afternoon's fishing marked her connubial ticket, as paid in full, began to look Heavenward, praying for intervention, and probably escape.
What we got-instead-was rain. It began to rain the afternoon we got there, and continued without let up, until the day we finally packed up, and came home.
If, indeed, my mom had prayed for rain, her prayers were answered in spades. For, after an hour or so of gentle drizzle, suddenly the skies ripped opened, and we were in a deluge like something out of the Old Testament.
The flimsy tarpaulin flapped and waved, and gradually fell apart. The smoke from our make-shift cook fire bellowed in our faces, and, before you could say ‘Treat", we were soaked to the marrow. And...did I mention that it was cold? Really cold? And that being thoroughly wet AND cold, would be a torture to anyone, especially, and eleven year old boy.
I doubt that the wonderful engineers at Chevrolet had ever envisioned three people and a dog, scrunched together in the back of a station wagon, trying to sleep.
At dawn, the rain had slacked a little, and dad-- like a kid let loose in the toy department of F.A.O Schwartz-bundled-up in all kinds of G.I. anti-inclement weather gear, slithered out with fishing equipment at hand, eager to spend a day of chasing Trout.
After a somewhat tired sigh, my mom followed, (I suppose it as either that, or, immediate divorce), and, with absolutely nothing to do, out I popped, sure as shootin that we'd all somehow drown, or have our bodies lost in the woods, to be found after the Spring thaw.
After me came King, who vanished into the greenery, to try to catch up with my dad ( so much for ‘man's best friend! ). Sometimes, it's a very good thing that dogs can't talk, though I did feel that he resented us for some time after.
The word ‘enough' is usually not to be found in the lexicon of any deranged angler, but, as I recall it now, after three or four days, even my late father had had enough; and there arrived home three, people, two of which were extremely disgruntled, and one pet, all of whom smelled like wood smoke; wet-and-slept-in clothes; and of wet doggy fur.
We each spent hours, trying to bathe with a hot water heater that contained just two gallons. I remember even large pots of water were heated on the stove, so that we each could soak in some semblance of luxury; I recall that several thoughts-like drifting clouds-wafted-through my mind; one, that I would never, ever be the kind of ‘outdoorsman' that my father was; two, how quickly did any, possible novelty of a situation become as tedious, and/or without end, and; three, that this would not be my last ‘family camping trips' that I would-at my tender age have to endure.
And, if I may add a fourth and fifth, it would be that the most important thing was that we were together, and therefore, ‘suffered' as a family, and lastly, that of the memories that have lasted to this day-besides the deathless-and-breathless-ones, were the beauty of the tranquil lakes, surrounded by the elegiac nobility, if I may use that term, of the towering forest that surrounded us, trees that were hundreds of years old.
Regardless of my trying to somehow make of it all, a rambling 'wanderjahr 'of our excursion, it nevertheless took weeks to rid the Impala of the smell, the least of which was the lingering smell of dead fish; we would have to drive with all the windows down, and still, there was always one or two people who made ‘sniffing' noises at us at church.
That must-in part-be why to this day, I consider ‘roughing it' as a week spent in a Holiday Inn without cable. And of fishing-God rest my dear father's soul-I was never ‘bitten' by the bug, and would as soon-if I could but afford it-limit my ‘fishing' to that which could be found inside a grocery store.
And now, both dear Daisy and I detest getting wet, and I, especially, cannot tolerate rain or water on my glasses, particularly That's probably why I do not wear them in the shower.
But, some of those lessons learned so long ago have not lost their luster; neither have they lost my fixed determination to never, ever do them again.
And so, my wonderfully kind, and caring friends, I would like to wish for you days of ‘no pain', happy times, enjoyable times, without dread, or need. And as much true happiness as your kind hearts can hold.
And if you can afford it, as a family, to seek out those rare gems that our great Country still has to offer, I wish for you no calamity, accident, or injury, while you-too-seek to investigate as a loving, family unit.
And in your travels, and varied journeys, should you ever, ever, ever manage to land that ‘record' trout, I'll give it a quick smooch for luck for you, but, dears, remember that is all!
Please, please know I love you dearly,
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