The group I ran with as a kid loved to go camping. We looked for any excuse to go out to the salt flats, down to the river, back in the woods or to an old abandoned house we found out on Morning Star Road.
I went camping with the Boy Scouts, too, but that was not as much fun as the spontaneous camping trips with my friends. Maybe those Scout trips were too structured and supervised, I don’t know. We weren’t interested in the liberties someone gave us, we were interested in the liberties we took and we took quite a lot.
Camping with the Scouts, I had to pack my stuff just right, pitch the tent where I was told, wait for the adult in attendance to start the fire and cook. Camping with my friends was different. We would wad newspaper around a few eggs and put them in jars to keep them from breaking, confiscate a wad of bacon from the refrigerator, get a loaf of bread, grab a sleeping bag or some quilts and off we would go.
We ate when we were hungry and slept when we were out of giggles or mischief. Some of us slept. I don’t remember ever going to sleep on our camping trips. I do remember that my eyes felt like sandpaper most of the time we were on a venture.
That old house on Morning Star Road was a find! It had a functional fireplace and one huge room. The porch, or what was left of it, was treacherous and the rusty tin roof had just enough tin left to be called a roof. The old place and the yard to boot had fallen into disrepair. Vines knitted the chimney and wrens had nested in various places under the meager tin. But we loved it.
We set up our lanterns in the middle of the great room, started a fire in the fireplace, roasted whatever meat we could come up with and laughed the night away with jokes and stories. Things that weren’t even funny got guffaws. It didn’t take much to be a comedian with that crowd. Even spontaneous nonsense jokes were well accepted and no one ever said, “I don’t get it,” because that wasn’t the point. What place does logic have in humor anyway? It was incongruity we were after and there was plenty of that.
We wanted to keep the old house a secret from fellows outside our group. But we were under adult pressure to take a known juvenile delinquent with us on a camping trip, so we took him. But we blindfolded him for the whole trip out Morning Star Road. When we took the blindfold off inside the old house, he said, “How far out the Morning Star Road are we, about eight miles?” He was exactly right. I asked him how he knew where he was and he said, “I heard that vacuum whistle.” I have no idea what he meant by that. I had never heard a whistle out there. Anyway, that was our last trip to the location.
Daniel G. Ford, Ph. D.