Michael Campbell

Story Time.

Fire And Rain

by | Oct 4, 2007 | Uncategorized

I have the power to make it rain. No dancing required —which is good because I’m Scottish.

All I have to do is go camping. (I swear, just typing that sentence it started pouring outside. I’m that good.)

My neighbor came over Sunday afternoon. “You sure do take good care of your camping gear.” I didn’t understand what he meant by that at first, but with a little prodding I realized he thought the reason I had a soaking wet campsite set up in my yard was because I was washing it.

I learned last weekend that I can even make it hail. All I have to do is say, “Looks like the rain is letting up. I bet we can make it to the car.”

I’m a good fire-maker, though. “One-Match Mick” is my nickname, although no one calls me that but me. I set up a carefully planned structure and take great pride when the ensuing conflagration goes off on the first try. Perhaps that’s why it always rains: God is just looking out for his property.

More than usual, the smoke from this last fire kept following me around. I recall as a kid asking my mother why the smoke was always in my face no matter where I sat. She replied sagely, “Smoke follows a beautiful woman.” I still don’t know what she meant by that.

But the positive side is that my entire laundry room smells so much of campfire that I’ve put off washing my clothes. That will change as the wonderful smoke smell wears off and the other smells ferment.

The place where I camped used to be a little town, but they all left years ago. That should have been a sign, I suppose. There are no buildings, sheds, bathrooms—in other words, no place to run to when it rains. Saturday evening I met a few fellow campers who had packed up and were leaving early. “We heard it’s going to rain in the morning,” they warned grimly. After they passed I wondered how, in the middle of nowhere, they got an updated forecast. I decided they probably used that age-old camper’s trick: they recognized me and left.

It’s a quiet campground. Nobody goes there, for the above reasons. It doesn’t have rows of neatly paved and aligned parking stalls such that you can park your fat RVs flank to flank just like in your regular life at the Wal-Mart parking lot. There’s no power, no water. They do have two water spigots, but neither works. It’s hard for me to get used to the silence. I grew up in a house two blocks from the train tracks. For family getaways we had one of those Starcraft trailers, where the roof pops up and the sides pull out—the Jiffy Pop of campers. They say it sleeps eight, which means four, and we brought eight. My dad slept through even the most violent storms (it just occurred to me: rain while camping might be hereditary), and between his snoring and the hail cracking on the taught tin roof, nights sounded much like a lumberjack being executed by firing squad.

Last time I camped it was so quiet I could hear roaming wild dogs wailing wildly over fresh kills. It was terribly unsettling. What if they came after me? Of course I’d have to be the brave one, beat my chest and protect Woman, but I had no clue how. As I lay wide-eyed staring at the tent ceiling I rehearsed scenarios in my head, settling on one that involved two raised fistsful of dirt and me poised threateningly in my underpants. I don’t know whether that would have been scary enough, as I never had to do it.

It sounds like I’m complaining about camping. I’m not. We agreed after the splendid day Saturday that even if it poured rain on Sunday the trip would be worth it. It did, and it was. Indeed, I hope to go again in the next few weeks. Heck, we could use the rain.

1 Comment

  1. jo(e)

    I have this theory about how to make it stop raining when I’m camping.

    As soon as the first drops start falling, I build a fire and then try desperately to keep it going, no matter how hard it rains. See, if I let the fire go out, then it’s giving in, and the rain will last all week.

    So long after all the members of my family have retreated to dry tents or driven into town to buy more chocolate, I will stand out in the pouring rain, fanning the fire, scrounging for dry wood, and trying frantically to keep the flames alive.

    Sometimes it works.


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