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Tales of a Hay Hauler: The ‘father and son’ outings

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Columns - Brad Nelson
Wednesday, 07 April 2010 09:52

We got started later than planned, which was not unusual for my household. The outing site this year was the Ensign Ranch, west of Cle Elum, Washington, just a few miles off of the freeway and yet right beside the freeway. We were loaded up with a camper on a pick-up so we did not have to face setting up camp in the dark.

The sponsors were providing the evening meal at the outing but being bright boys, they would want to have things put away, cleaned and secured by the time it got dark. We stopped in Ellensburg and loaded up on provisions adequate to make up for missing supper. Among the things we picked up were a couple of frozen cream pies.

We found our group and got there in time for the story telling around the campfire. We were correct in figuring that the food would be put away by the time we arrived, so we roasted our hotdogs over the campfire during the story telling. We finished off our meal inside the camper, where at least we had light.

The first time I remember my dad being able to go on the father and sons outing was an eye-opener for me. I was in my early teens and felt like I was an expert camper from the Boy Scout outings I had been on. I was amazed that Dad knew how to set up camp and build a fire. I had forgotten that Dad had spent more than just a couple of summers living in sheep camps where a horse-drawn cook wagon was the only supplies they had as they followed the sheep through the forest rangelands where the sheep grazed.

One of the crew was the cook, with each group deciding who would cook. Dad said that the rule was that anyone who bellyached about the food instantly became the new cook. On one occasion the fellow cooking was sick and tired of the job and went to drastic measures to get relief. He gathered up some moose droppings and fashioned it into a pie. That evening one fellow loaded up a piece of it onto his plate and then let out a howl, “Hey! This is moose dropping pie!” The words no sooner escaped his lips than he realized that he might have just become the new cook. So still on the same breath, he added at the same volume, “But it’s good moose dropping pie!”

Anymore, I make it to the outings I can where grandsons are involved. This year I made two outings, back to back on two weekends. The first one was just out of Spokane. I had to make the five-year-old understand that no matter what the older kids had told him, there were no ghosts in the camp. He had apparently seen the shadows of people inside a tent in the dark and believed for a moment that he had really seen ghosts. I showed him another tent with a lantern inside and people inside it getting ready for bed. But the clincher was when I told him that there were for sure no ghosts in our camp because “Ghosts were afraid of his grandpa!”

The other outing was back at the Ensign Ranch. We made it before dark, but after the food provided for the evening meal had been put away for the night. Another fellow arrived with his troops after us, so we offered to help him with his tent. He assured us that with the help of his sons he was smart enough to set up a tent in the dark. He would not even need to read the directions.

When he had not joined us at the campfire some forty-five minutes later we went to see what the delay was. About five of us helped him find the directions. It seems his wife was sent on the errand to get them a tent big enough for the whole family. As we helped him put it up in the dark the comment was made that it was big enough for the 101st Airborne Division. We got the big pieces in place and left him to finish it with his sons, as not to further wound his pride. He made us promise not to tell his wife that he had to read the directions.

Years back I postponed a load of hay to insure I made it to my oldest son’s high school graduation. The fellow I was hauling for made the following comment: “A year from now your bank account won’t notice the difference over one missed load. But if you miss something like your son’s graduation, that will make a difference for the rest of your life.” Amen.  PD


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