By Wayne William Cipriano
I don’t like camping. I mean real camping out in the boonies, in a tent, for some time. I’ve done my share. Motorcycle camping trips for thousands of miles (no motels), and lots of just plain hiking and camping.
For more than four years when I was a kid our quarters were less than 500 hundred feet from the edge of a tidal basin. When the tide was in, Coon Island, about 1,000 yards out, was surrounded by water as deep as four feet. And about every other weekend for eight or nine months of the year my buddies and I camped out on Coon Island.
Depending on the tide, we’d hike out as soon as possible on Fridays, often picking up our bags and Packs (already stuffed with food by our Mothers) directly after school. And, because of where we lived – United States Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina, and who we were – sons of NCOs and officers, all of us, parents and kids, so beautifully naïve, never gave a single thought to “safety.”
The sooner we got on the island, the sooner we could hobnob with the BIG GUYS who built the bon fires, cooked meals, drank an occasional beer, smoked pilfered cigarettes, and discussed in detail the girls they someday hope to accumulate the courage to speak to.
Again, depending on the tide, we’d straggle back home sometime on Sunday. We’d be dirty, tired, wood-smoked, always hungry, and ready to deflect questions about homework preparation.
As the BIG GUYS aged, gradually earning drivers’ licenses, getting the use of cars, accumulating the courage to talk to girls, their presence on Coon Island diminished over time and we became, through default as had they, the BIG BUYS ordering the youngsters around, building bonfires, cooking meals, drinking a high-jacked beer, smoking a stolen cigarette, and boldly fantasizing about girls we hoped to someday speak to.
Even with the passage of many years and the warm glow of nostalgia, the general funkiness of post-camping reality remains bright in my memory. Dining al fresco next to a smoking campfire, hawk-eyeing the flora for poison ivy, 24-or more hours without a shower, the reminiscent aroma of insect repellent, the limits on adult recreation, and all the other associations of camping lead me gently away, toward the motel.
I’ve done my time in the field. It’s time for the youngsters to take over.