From the Braver Institute
At risk of sounding like a broken record, I once again find myself thinking of camping, and the great outdoors. While the idea of getting into the woods in the near future sets heavy on my mind, it is the past that I am reminded of (which also does much to add to the broken record effect).
The other night I was talking with Ma Braver and I mentioned that my much-older-than-me brother, Farr, and I had made the plan to set out on a short canoe camping trip in the next month or so. She asked if there was cell phone service where we were going (there isn’t). She brought up other safety concerns the way the mother of adolescent boys would. The thing is that we are not adolescent boys. We are closer to retirement age than adolescence.
Her safety concerns brought to mind how much things have changed over the course of our lives. The world is a different place now than it was when I was a kid. Of course everyone over the age of 30 says such things, but I think we have lost a great deal of innocence and naïveté in the last several decades.
Because we have the technology to stay in contact with the rest of the world, cell phones and other gadgets have become important pieces of safety equipment.
But in the past we were simply left to our own devices. If you went on a camping trip, the folks at home had no idea if you were still alive until you returned home.
When we were little kids we spent plenty of nights camping out in the backyards of our friends. Adventure like that sufficed in our younger years, but when we got to be a lot older—like twelve—we needed bigger adventure to reflect our maturity. We needed to leave the safety that home afforded.
My best friend, Denny, and I decided to go on a real camping trip. We were too old to sleep in the backyard now and the wild country that surrounded the back waters of Lake LeVasseur called to us.
On Friday evening Denny’s mom brought us and our gear to the lake in her big Plymouth Fury. We unloaded our supplies, took the canoe off of the roof, and she left us with plans to pick us up on Sunday.
Okay, so Lake LeVasseur was only two miles from home, but still we had no way to contact home if we ran into trouble and those were the chances you took. The only other option was to stay home, and there was no way that was going to happen.
At the end of the eighth grade, my buddies, John and Homer, and I decided that a real camping trip was in order, one that was much further than just a couple miles from home. We figured that a trip to Goose Lake on the western edge of the Sands Plains was just the thing for a trio of grown-up junior high graduates.
Goose Lake was more than a dozen miles from home, and we were being cut loose for a weekend of camping and fishing, completely independent of adults. I now think that our parents must have been out of their minds to let us go off alone. Not because the world was a dangerous place and we needed to be protected from it, more like the opposite of that: We were trouble. No, not murderous rampage trouble, but we were frequently up to no good.
During both of these camping trips we were offered beer by other fishermen, and we gladly accepted, even though we could barely tolerate the wretched taste of the stuff. We were now manly, and could not sully that fact by refusing the beer.
At that age we were pack-a-day cigarette smokers and smoked even more while camping.
While at Lake LeVasseur, Denny and I broke into an abandoned cabin that we found in the woods (in the years that followed we would use this place as a hangout).
At Goose Lake we threw empty aerosol cans that we had found into our campfire, and when the bottoms blew out from the pressure inside, they shot like missiles into the surrounding woods, frequently with trails of fire streaking behind them.
The world is a different place now. Then, the world needed a bit of protection from adolescents. Now it would seem that things are the other way around.
Then again maybe Ma Braver was hoping that we would never return.