Please meet Dan Verner my guest on the Infinite Possibilities Blog Tour. Dan is the Vice-President of Write by the Rails, our local writing group, and many of us often seek his literary expertise, which he shares quite humbly and generously. Please enjoy his kind, witty humor!
I know a lot of people who like to camp, but it’s something I’ve never done much of. I suppose I’m too addicted to creature comforts to schlep a bunch of equipment over miles of rocky trails and endure extremes of hot and cold, insects, badly cooked food, and creatures of all sorts just waiting to either devour me or poison me with lethal venom. And then there are snakes. Like Indiana Jones, I hate snakes. I know, snakes don’t hate anyone, they’re just being snakes, but they can do that somewhere far, far away from me.
So, I have no tales of surviving for weeks in the wilderness with just a piece of flint and a Swiss Army knife. The only time I actually went camping (I’m not counting sleeping out in the back yard and being eaten up by mosquitoes and being able to run in the house to use the bathroom or grab a snack) came when I was ten years old and our long-suffering Sunday School teacher, a saint named Andy Eure (who had the coolest first name, Werdna, which if you’ll notice, is “Andrew” spelled backwards. His mother did and didn’t want to name him Andrew so that was the compromise she came up with. Huh. Andy was a high-powered lawyer who worked in D. C. but then taught a gaggle of squirrely boys every Sunday. His camping trips were legendary, coming near the end of the Sunday School year when we would all be promoted to the next grade and if our attendance was exemplary, earn another bar to wear on our official Broadman Sunday School attendance pins. These little items were made of solid gold, and I’ve seen them offered for sale recently for about $600. Wish I still had mine, because if I did, I wouldn’t.
We planned every second of our overnight for a month. Since I lacked camping gear and my parents were not going to buy me anything as frivolous as a sleeping bag since I had a perfectly good bed to sleep in (and which as I pointed out, would be darned difficult to carry through the trackless woods.), I had to beg, borrow and improvise what I was going to use. A friend was in the Scouts and loaned me his Yucca pack. We amused ourselves by laughing at the word “Yucca” for hours. It just sounds funny, I think you’ll agree. Of course, I had no idea how to cook anything, so my mom came up with food that wouldn’t spoil that I could eat cold or use the campfire to heat foil packets that she assembled. I don’t remember specifically what I took, except it was heavy on potted meat, Spam and soda crackers. At that, I was better off than Frank, who always tried to be cool but never quite succeeded. He got hold of some war surplus C rations left over from World War II and discovered they were practically inedible. He offered to trade his entire supply for one ham sandwich. No one took him up on his offer.
I gathered my “equipment” and my dad drove me to the church where Andy had his big Ford station wagon ready to swallow our gear. And we were off to some place with a lake, where we set up camp (my “sleeping bag” made from a couple of blankets safety pinned together) and then tore around the woods trying to destroy as much of the ecosystem as we could.
None of the kids slept at all that night. Our long-suffering adult chaperones eventually retreated to their cars to get away from our Lord of the Flies reenactment. The sun rose on a bunch of exhausted ten-year-olds. We packed up, went home and fell into bed.
And that was my one and only camping trip. Andy Eure never took a group of boys camping again. There are, after all, limits to the patience of a saint.
I’m Dan Verner, author of On Wings of the Morning, a novel about a Wisconsin boy who becomes a bomber pilot in World War II. A retired high school English and creative writing teacher and a writing, human relations and computer skills teacher for adults, I’ve scored essays for the College Board, contributed columns and articles to local papers, and managed Free Lance Writing, my writing, editing, and consulting business. I’ve also authored over 1000 short essays and devotionals on a variety of subjects, and maintains three blogs. The sequel toWings, On the Wings of Eagles, will be released May 26.