A few years ago there was a legal battle to determine if there could be a
200-mile hiking and biking trail across Missouri. During that time, we heard
scare stories about hoodlums, vandals and thieves making life difficult for
farmers. Rural mailboxes would be battered, gates left open, campfires would
spread, growing crops trampled.
My reply to that has always been: “Hoodlums and the vandals don’t go to the
wilderness to trash things. They express their need for attention where
there’s an audience.”
We have often hosted small groups of friends who wished to camp in our woods
and have had no abuse of our property.
Here are some comments I jotted down on one occasion:
A dozen campers are in our woods this weekend. It’s Sunday, almost sunrise,
and we’ve had a heavy frost. I’ve walked up to the spot where I can see blue
smoke rising straight up from the campfire, but only a few people are moving
around. I imagine I can smell their coffee.
The early risers are the lucky ones because, within the next few minutes,
they’ll see the sun peek over the horizon and turn those scattered clouds
purple, orchid, rose and white -- in rapid succession.
I stroll with camera in hand and dog at my side, waiting for the sun to
brighten up those orange and blue tents against a background of frosty, green
trees. I relive my younger days because Chub and I were campers. As country
kids, our parents didn’t see the value of our being a Campfire Girl or a Boy
Scout, but we love the woods and enjoy it in our own ways.
In the 1930s, we waded in a creek one Feb. 22. That was our way of celebrating
Washington’s birthday! We carried native rocks from a little creek, enough to
veneer the small home we built after World War II.
We toured and camped in many states when Nancy and Walt were young. We dragged
scallops with a kind fisherman at Benoits Cove in Newfoundland. Later that
foggy morning, we fried the scallops and pancakes over an open fire and topped
that off with maple syrup we’d bought at a farm in Vermont.
Chub and I camped most every night when we bicycled 500 miles across
Newfoundland in 1974. We’ve many camping memories. That’s why we’re happy that
campers are in our woods today. They’re hearing, seeing, smelling and feeling
what God created, the way He created it.
We’ve had no problem with litter, gates left open, cattle harassed, campfires
untended, noise all night. We choose thoughtful campers, and they sometimes
invited us to join them for a meal or for their campfire singing.
They came down a country lane, crossed a stream, hiked up a hill. They came
with springy steps, healthy bodies and happy hearts. Once two young men
knocked and asked, “Are there some chores we could do for you?” Yes, there
were. Three heavy railroad ties were promptly moved off our lawn and stored
out of sight. We don’t forget things like that.
Our wait is over. Now the sky is lighter, a fingernail piece of sun is in
sight, and I take some pictures. The campers will cook, eat, pack and then
stop at the house to say it was good to sleep out in the fresh, woodsy air.
It’s almost as if we had camped out ourselves. Chub and I smile and say,
“You’re welcome, come again.”