Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sweet Dreams! (or The Third Worst Camping Trip Ever)

Every summer when I was a kid, my parents packed up the family station wagon and kids and went camping.  We had a huge, two-room canvas tent that was packed into a wooden trailer that my dad had crafted to tow behind the car.  Along with the tent were stowed sleeping bags, air mattresses, a wooden utensil cupboard that my dad had also made, (he was very handy,) camp chairs and all the other appurtenances of camping.  The back of the station wagon housed the dry foods and a large metal cooler, which contained a block of ice, milk, juice, eggs, etc.  That was back before seat belts were invented, so my dad had also fashioned a platform for the back seat so we kids could sit on the floor and use the platform to color on and play games.  (Anything to prevent the squabbles and arguments that are de rigueur with small children in a car on a long trip.)  My mom would plan things out ahead of time, reading up on the history of the place we were going.  We would all learn about the geography, flora & fauna, landmarks and historic personages that were connected with our destination.  Travel was her great love and she wanted us to get the most out of each trip.  (Years later, mom coordinated many trips overseas for groups of people for cultural exchange programs.)

The summer when I was six we set off for Kentucky and the "Abe Lincoln Tour."  We first headed south to St. Louis, where we stopped off at the St. Louis Zoo.  There we were fascinated by the exhibition of snakes, with an eye to the poisonous varieties.  Looking at the map of the range of said poisonous snakes, we of course noticed that copperheads were to be found in Kentucky.  

That was it!  We kids wanted to turn around and go home!  We weren't about to be bitten by poisonous snakes that would crawl into our sleeping bags with us to warm up at night!  NO WAY!  Either we stayed in a motel each night during the trip or we were walking home to Iowa.  (Actually, we'd never stayed in a motel before and thought it sounded pretty exciting, so we were particularly vocal in promoting that solution.)  It took about three hours of driving onward toward Kentucky for my parents to convince us that snakes didn't hang out in campgrounds waiting for small children to come by so they could sink their fangs into them.  Reluctantly, we agreed to go ahead with their travel plans, although we wanted it on record that we only did so under protest.  (Our epitaph could read,  "Here lie the Larew children, brought down by the venom of copperheads, to the everlasting regret of their semi-loving parents who refused to trust their superior judgment.")

We got to the campground, got the tent set up and were just sitting down to dinner, when there was a rather large commotion at the campsite next to ours.  That family began screaming and yelling and jumping up from their picnic table and the dad started flailing at something with a hatchet.

Yes, it was not one, but TWO copperheads... right there under their picnic table!  The dad killed them with a hatchet and my parents later took us over to look at their mangled bodies to assure us they were really dead and to try and calm us down.  We kids definitely felt vindicated, but that didn't make us feel any better about sleeping in the tent that night.  We knew there were more copperheads lurking around out there, just waiting to sneak up on us and bite us out of sheer spite to avenge their fallen comrades.  And I know my parents had a sleepless night as well!  

Ha!  Serves them right!

Just goes to show... you should always listen to  your kids!


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