Distractions: The Great Outdoors

The series continues…When life gets a little too mothertruckin’ much, we seek out distractions. Sometimes it’s simply a good movie, or a cold drink, or a big laugh with friends. Since I don’t feel the need to belabor the bs, I’ve decided to dedicate the next few blogs to the best distractions around. Since I’m looking for as many distractions as possible, please use the comments section to submit your favorite memory related to the topic of the day, which today is…

I like the great outdoors.

My parents started taking me camping when I was but a wee lad. My hair smelled like a campfire for most of my youthful summers. The nut-grabbing cold of a southwest Missouri lake in May is something even an old kid will remember.

I don’t recall how good or bad my attitude was about the camping when I was a kid, but over the years I came to love a summer night spent in a tent next to a fizzling campfire. Seeing the midnight sky filled with stars by the door of your tent really puts life into perspective. Knowing people who love the outdoors and camping too, makes it easier to go with a group of people, I know that one of my friends wants to go on the Dreamland Safari Tours in the summer, it sounds very appealing!

So, here are a few quick memories.

* I was still young. Maybe 13. I wanted to be 16 or 18 and as cool as my friend Sean. He was good looking and looked cool with the occasional dip of Skoal in his lip. We’d walk the campsites together and he would hit on the college-aged girls who thought that–even though he was still in high school–he was just dreamy. At one point on the trip, Sean’s mom was sitting near the fire. My awkwardness caused me to stumble and almost fall into the flames. She looked up at me and deadpanned: “Careful, Otis. Don’t make an ash of yourself.” I still use that joke.

* During my sophomore year of high school, I lied to my parents for the first time (that is, I made the first real attempt to deceive them for the purposes of furthering my hijinx agenda). I told them I was going on a quick outing to the lake with a few guy pals. They asked if any girls were going and I said with no amount of truth, “Um…no.” In fact, every one of my guy pals was bringing his girlfriend and I was, as well. Before the night was over, people were throwing their clothes off and jumping in the water. Before long, we heard noises and saw flashlights coming down the path to the lake. Mark Miller–and I’ll never understand exactly why–jumped up and grabbed a large hunting knife. The only people more surpirsed than him to see the forest ranger come to our campsite were the two naked people who remained in the lake. I think their names were Richie and Robyn. The forest ranger’s flashlight beam landed on the naked couple. He ordered them out of the water. Every guy on shore was craning to get a look at Robyn’s naked body. A friend of mine who will remain nameless–always the gentleman that guy–assigned himself the duty of taking Robyn a towel. Bastard. Why didn’t I think of that. The forest ranger ended up being a nice guy and not making us leave. Before he left, he eyed Robyn and Richie and said, “Folks, this is a man-made lake. We wear man-made clothes when we swim in it, okay?” Priceless. Thinking back, that was the first time I spent an entire night with a girl. I still don’t know if/when my parents figured out my great deception.

*Early college and somebody forgot to bring the beer. It was a float trip down a St. Louis-area river. We remembered all of our camping gear, our fishing tackle boxes and rods, and our swimming gear… but somebody forgot to bring the damn beer. We were all still too young to run up to the store and con our way into a case of Nat. Fischer’s girlfriend was supposed to buy us beer, but something happened and beer didn’t happen. The sun was hot, the water was tepid, and we were all sober, hot, and angry. If memory serves, we made a couple of attempts to secure beer, but were unsuccessful. Before the night was over, we were exploding cans of soda in the campfire and dancing around the flames in our underwear. It was all a little Lord of Flies-ish and the participants, I think, will deny they were ever there. Of course, there is one picture of the event. If any of those guys ever gets famous, I’ve got blackmail material.

* High Falls park, Lake Keowee. We were set up for a weekend camping trip and one of the participants parents showed up with her younger brother. We’re still not sure why. We only know that the campground locked it’s gates and ten and we were stuck for a whole night with two old people and a racist younger brother (who later brought his girlfriend into a party my friend threw and–we all still believe–allowed her to steal a few bottles of perscription drugs from the medicine cabinet).

If time allowed, I’d jump into a rainy weekend at LEAF and a balls-to-the-wall whitewater Sacramento rafting trip from last summer. Instead, I’ll open up the comments section for you.

And when you’re finished with that, click here to check out the Hawk Cam. It rules.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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