My family and I just completed our only Autumn campout for the year this weekend. It was a great time with some really great people! Most of our Euchre Club were the other campers, so we decided to have it at the campground for this month. We were by a large gazebo shelter that had a lot of picnic tables under it, which we made use of for our Euchre Club night. (Certainly a first for all of us and probably a last as well, since we were fighting wind and rain during most of our time playing. We stayed dry and we didn’t lose any cards, but the rain on the metal roof was irritating and almost required the use of sign language to communicate).
Well, some things were left out at the end of the night that brought in some rather unruly and uncouth vagabonds. These infiltrators wore masks and moved about the gazebo under cover of the wind and darkness. The only problem with their plan was the wind had picked up again and was snapping a table cover like a whip in the air. This happened to not only be right by our camper, but right by our end of the camper. So I woke up at 2 a.m. to the sounds of thumping and snapping from inside the gazebo, along with noises here and there of things falling off tables and crashing onto the floor. Oh sure, they tried to time it so that it would look like the wind did it, but I was on to their silly little games. But being awakened like that reminded me of a camping incident from years ago….
My Mom’s brother and his family were visiting from Arizona. Both sets of parents decided that we would all go up to Wilderness State Park in the northern tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula and camp there. I’m not sure why, but my Mom and Dad decided that this time the four of us would stay in a tent instead of the pop-up camper that we had. It was an old canvas tent that was an old shade of yellow and the four of us just barely fit into it. My parents were on either end on cots and my brother and I were inbetween them on the tent floor.
Northern Michigan is beautiful country! The wilderness that surrounds you up there is breathtaking. But that also means that there are animals in that wilderness. Animals that don’t necessarily appreciate you treadin’ on their turf….crossing the line….gang wars and all that. We knew that we were in bear country–along with all kinds of other animals in their respective countries–so for a couple of early teenagers who knew that the woods surrounded three of the four sides of the campground (the fourth side being the beach of Lake Michigan), we went to bed with just a little trepidation.
Sometime in the middle of the night, I was slowly aroused from my slumber by a hideous growling and snarling that seemed to vary in pitch from deep disturbing tones of something big and ominous to higher tones of something small and ominous but with no less danger attached to it. At first it seemed to be coming from just outside the tent, which happened to be about a foot away from my head. As this realization began to cause my brain cells to fire in rapid succession, it seemed that whatever was just outside that tent wall was about ready to come tearing through that thin shell of old yellow canvas with razor-sharp teeth and claws, ready to carry off one of us into whatever country it had come from.
But as my disorientation became oriented and I finally got my bearings on where I was and what and who was around me, it slowly began to dawn on me what kind of creature this was that I was hearing with so great an interest. As I lay there listening to its sounds, I began to realize that this creature was leaping from one side of the tent to the other! And then, as I became fully awake (as hearing something so hair-raising will do to you), I finally came to the realization that at the same time this creature leapt to my Dad’s side, the lower tones were heard; and when it leapt over to my Mom’s side, the higher tones were heard. Amazingly, this creature’s growls and snarls coincided perfectly with the snoring that was coming from my parents as they blissfully slept their night away.
Another moment of being an unhappy camper…..