Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Ben's Campfire

Dad? Ben asked.


Can you teach me how you start a campfire?

I guess I've failed for him to have to ask this question at this point in his life.

Sure, I said. And I sent him out to gather three piles of kindling -- twigs, small sticks and larger sticks.

The gathering of the kindling took a very long time, with much delaying and several attempts to substitute piles of Sycamore bark (that lay in abundance around our campsite) for larger sticks (which required a bit of searching). But in the end the desire for smores kept him going.

And so with tutelage from a father horrified at his tardiness in passing on even this modest skill, Ben built a tee-pee of twigs and sticks and larger sticks around a core of crumbled newspaper, and he soon we had a roaring blaze.

He and Trudy roasted their Jet-Puff marshmallows on the inferno, quickly going thru one or two bars of Hersey's milk chocolate. (The stickiness of the process has never seemed worth it to me.) And in just a few minutes, they were sighing contentedly, pushing back in their chairs, gazing absently into the dancing flames.

One by one, we threw another log on the fire. The wood was dry, and it made spectacular coals.

Soon Ben had retreated to the tent, and Trudy was quick to follow. But with a fire such as that, I couldn't bear to leave. So I stayed behind, putting my feet up and leaning my head back in my folding chair.

Several times I woke up to the sounds of the frogs by the river and the crickets in the woods and the orange light of the fire lighting our campsite.

The night got quieter. The flames gave way to embers. I drifted in and out of sleep.

Ben's fire died down. The glowing embers crumbled to ash.

Finally I retreated, too.

Buffalo Point campground
Buffalo National River, NW Arkansas

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Playing With Poison Ivy

Did you see what that little kid just did!? Did his parents see?

Is anyone watching him walking barefoot and without a shirt (not that there's anything wrong with that), walking with his little plastic bucket, walking to the edge of the woods, to the dark thicket, to the place where the poison ivy grows.

Did anyone see what he just did!?

Did anyone else see him grabbing handfuls of grass and weeds to dump into his bucket? Did anyone see him grab the poison ivy? With his bare hands? Grab it and pull at it and dump it into the bucket, too? Did anyone else see him reach into the bucket with both hands and stir his concoction of grass and weeds and poison ivy?

Barefoot and without a shirt and with his bare hands. Oh my gosh, can somebody please explain!?

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