Monday, June 25, 2007

What a Riot!

Back in the olden days, when our kids were little, we camped at Lake Texoma frequently. Our favorite area was Burns Run. Nowadays, that area is for day use only, and strictly monitored. Back then, it was pretty much a free-for-all, no specific camp spots marked out, just set up camp wherever.
One Easter weekend, along with about 15 other families of our relatives and friends, we set up camp in a big circle, so that we had a common area for cooking, visiting, and playing games. All around us were other family groups, and, as the weekend went on, large numbers of college age kids, many of whom were engaging in somewhat (ahem) questionable behavior.
By Sunday afternoon, every possible spot was occupied, and the area between our camp site and the water was a solid mass of scantily clad young adults, drinking, shouting, and generally disrupting the quiet of our trip.
Not that we were exactly silent.
We had a bunch of little kids, mostly cousins who were as close as siblings, running around with water guns shooting at each other and everyone else.
A bunch of women, mostly mamas and grandmas, chattering, laughing, and yelling at the kids with the water guns.
A gang of guys, brothers, cousins, friends, talking in their deep voices, playing horseshoes, and generally filling in any quiet moments with their laughter.
Suddenly in the middle of the horseshoe game, a guy with no shirt, long tangled hair, and a handcuff dangling from his wrist, burst into the middle of the horseshoe pitch, begging for someone to hide him.
As he ran through our campsite, we saw uniformed men pursuing him, headed for our campsite.
Suddenly our guys were yelling at us to pack up, throw everything into any available pickup, because we were going home now.
I started throwing our stuff into the pickup, but at the same time, questioning Wick as to what was going on.
He pointed down the slope toward the water, and said, "Those kids are trying to turn over a patrol car, because the officers were trying to arrest that guy that just ran through here with handcuffs on him."
I had hold of Jeana, and handed her to her nanaw as I jumped up onto the bumper of the truck to look for Scott.
I called out, "Has anyone seen Scott and Clint (his cousin)?"
No one knew where they were, except to say "They were right here just a minute ago."
Swiftly my eyes scanned our campsite, but I couldn't see either of the boys.
Suddenly Wick gestured down the slope, as he yelled the boys' names.
I turned, and caught sight of a white-blond shock of hair bobbing around in the middle of the developing riot.
Wick raced down the hill to grab the boys, tucking one under each arm, and hauling them back up the hill.
By this time, we were all packed, and forming up a caravan to leave the camp area.
Unfortunately we were not the only ones trying to escape trouble. We found ourselves in the middle of a huge traffic jam on a narrow winding road out of the park area.
We spent more than an hour idling our engines, walking back and forth from one vehicle to another, trying to gather more information, and wondering why it was taking so long to get out of the area.
Finally, we found out.
The highway patrol had barricaded the road, and set up a check point. They were searching each car and truck, looking for the young man with the handcuffs.
It was like a train wreck--nobody wanted to be there, nobody really wanted to be involved, and yet there we were, captive observers. As we crept slowly toward the check point, suddenly there was a disturbance. People yelling. Running.
And highway patrolmen with handguns and shotguns drawn.
Not exactly the ending we had hoped for our pleasant family camp out.
But material for a family story we have laughed about for over thirty years, the time we went camping, and it was a real riot.

Gone With the Wind

As I said in my last post, during the early years of our marriage, when we camped, we slept in a tent.
Which was an improvement over sleeping on the ground.
Or on a concrete picnic table.
or on a wobbly Army surplus cot, which I had to share with my baby sister or brother.
Wick and I both grew up richer in family and love than money, and for entertainment, our families camped out. We continued to camp out, because we enjoyed being with our families, and wanted our kids to grow up with similar memories to ours.
As if we didn't get enough of tent camping at Toledo Bend, we continued to tent camp.
Admittedly, we would have preferred a nicer accomodation, but hey, the tent was available.
And free, since we were borrowing it from his parents, who had moved up to a small camp trailer, with one real bed, and one that folded up against the ceiling when not in use.
We lived within fifteen minutes of Lake Texoma, which at the time allowed free camping.
And on our budget, free was good.
So as I was saying, we went camping with our kids and parents and siblings and their kids and whoever else wanted to go. It often rained, but since we all had some form of shelter, we didn't let that stop us.
One evening as we were settling in for the night, my brother-in-law mentioned that it looked like it might rain. We glanced up, noticed the rising wind, and the streaks of lightning in the distance, and agreed.
Wick compensated for the threat of rain by tying the tent down more securely. Since the tent pegs had a tendency to come unstaked when it rained, he tied a couple of the tent lines to the bumper of our baby blue Volkswagen.
We settled the kids for the night, sat around our campfire and talked and sang until we were falling asleep, and then joined the kids in the tent.
About two hours later, we were awakened from a sound sleep by the rising wind, hard rain, and lightning striking much too close for comfort.
I reached out to grab Wick's hand in the inky darkness, and asked him if everything was okay. His voice, calm and low enough not to rouse the sleeping babies, reassured me that everything was fine.
I let my head fall back onto the pillow, listening to the gale winds flapping the tent vigorously. Suddenly, chaos.
The tent essentially turned wrong side out, turing our cots over, and scattering our possesions to the elements. Wick grabbed me just as Scott grabbed my leg, crying that the rain was getting his face wet. I shouted, "Where is Jeana?"
Over the roaring winds and rain, I heard her little voice crying for her daddy.
I could hear her.
But I couldn't find her.
My heart jumped up in my throat, choking off my breathing, as I started pawing through the stuff that our tent had vomited out, searching for my baby girl.
Wick too was searching, digging, throwing things right and left.
Finally, we found her, on the ground, under one of the cots, with another cot crossways on top of the first cot.
We hugged both of them close and started laughing, standing out in the pouring rain and howling wind.
Then Wick bundled us into the VW with whatever blankets he salvaged from the disaster, adn we slept the rest of the night in the car.
Next morning, we discovered that we were not the only ones who had slept in their cars, and that at least one family had utterly abandoned us and gone to find a dry motel room.
The tent was still tied to the bumper of the Volkswagen, rather the worse for wear and tear.
By the next camping season, Wick had managed to come up with a cute little cover for the bed of his pickup, so that we were no longer tent camping, but camper camping.
It's an ill wind that blows no good.