When we weren't playing football, baseball, Army, or just riding our bikes around, we were off in the woods exploring. We had what we called the "little woods" and the "big woods”. Now, the little woods were just a little stand of trees just behind a small field at the edge of our subdivision. Of course, they seemed bigger to a seven-year-old. Beyond the little woods was another small field and then behind that were the big woods. When we walked into those woods the path was narrow and dark. These were woods that made us feel like Daniel Boone when we went exploring. It was like hiking in the Appalachians to us.
My buddies and I had been itching to head out to the big woods one night for an overnight campout but all of our parents insisted we have an adult with us. Well, somehow we talk my dad into volunteering. My aunt and uncle were living with us at the time and my uncle Dave volunteered to go also. At the time dad was about 30 years old and uncle Dave about 24. You have to know my uncle Dave. He was a pure all round athlete, loved all sports, and would try anything. He was a joker, boaster, and just plain fun loving. I really thought he was cool. The details of this campout are sketchy, but here is how I remember the highlights. (It was, after all, 53 years ago).
We tramped into the big woods around 6 PM. I was anxious to show my dad where my buddies and I hiked. After about ten minutes we came to a little clearing on a sloping hill that had an old fire pit dug out in the middle. Perfect campsite. All we brought to sleep on was one blanket and pillow. Dad and uncle Dave brought the food. The idea was to lay on one half of the blanket and cover with the other half. Everyone picked their spot to sleep and then we all gathered wood. No tent, no sleeping bag. We were men! We got a fire going a little and as I looked at our fire pit I saw my dad squirting lighter fluid on it and pretending to be peeing on the fire! All my buddies roared with laughter but I was a little embarrassed. Come on, dad! After roasting some hotdogs we settled into our blankets on the hard ground. Isn't it something how you can sleep anywhere on any surface when you're a kid? As soon as it got dark and things were winding down a blood curdling cry echoed from the woods. OCK’aWA’ka ! OCK’aWA’ka ! It scared the daylights out of us all. Two minutes later appearing out of the darkness and into our camp like a ghost walks my uncle Dave with a big smile. "I shore scared you guys, huh? Heh, heh, heh”. Yeah, he did.
That morning I peeked my head out of my blanket and saw about 10 bodies wrapped up like mummies. We had all gotten so cold we just wrapped ourselves up. Pillows were scattered everywhere and no one was even using their pillow. But you know what? It was fun back then. I don’t think I’d find sleeping on the hard ground on a cold night with just one thin blanket much fun now. But when you’re seven or eight years old, what an adventure! As we came out of the woods that morning I envisioned old Dan’l Boone himself coming home to his wife Rebecca after a six month outing. Life couldn’t be much better.