Wednesday, October 26, 2016

In Defense of Campfires

Never Yet Melted blogged about an article about campfires. Which article   explain(ed) that campfires are “a dangerous, polluting, wasteful relic of the past,” way too hazardous and unsafe for ordinary Americans to safely enjoy.
He's dismissive of the citified wussy wimp nincompoops who hike or bike or ski or climb in the Out-of-Doors wearing expensive synthetic getups in the same kinds of colors as lifesavers.

I'm with him.   It's just not a camp-out without you got a camp fire!

For the Geek Clan, it's a Family Tradition.

For over 30 years, the Geek Clan would gather at least annually for a Family Camp-out.  Usually scheduled for Fourth of July, or some warm summer month (hopefully with a 3-day weekend), between 30 and 50 Geek Clan members would gather at Motett Meadows .. off Beaver Creek (a branch of the Grande Ronde River in Eastern Oregon) and subject ourselves to the collective version of the Hunting Camp.  Only, without the hunting.

On Day 1, the Senior Geek Men would meet at the Meadows and go off in the woods to find a dead tree.  There was always a dead tree, usually a blow-down.  They would hook a chain on the tree and drag it back to the camp.  Uncle Shorty would fire up his chain saw and buck the log after cutting off the limbs for 'kindling'. (Most of the Geek Men were loggers, at one time in their history ... starting off in the 1930s when they would use cross-cut saws to cut down giant Doug Fir and haul them to sawmills in the are.)

Someone would carefully clear a 10-foot fire-circle  ... we used the same place most years ... and start a fire with the limbs.  The Senior Geek Women would be watering down their whiskey bottles in the meantime. (see below)

Uncle Shorty was the guy who took a long branch to poke the fire for the next two nights, nudging the wood around because "... it looks like it's gonna be a cold night ..." but mostly because he liked playing with fire.  Which explains why he was married twice.

After dinner (cooked on propane stoves placed on jerry-built tables at first; in later years, we showed up with trailer houses instead of tents) the guys would find themselves places around the fire, sitting on the bucked pieces of tree.   And then someone would produce a bottle of whiskey and pass it around the fire.

My father, whom I called "POP"  (my mother was "MOM" to me .. it's a Geek Thing, you wouldn't understand) kept a galvanized metal wash tub of about 3' diameter,and they would fill it with ice and a case or two of beer.  They drank horrible bear, the cheapest they could find, but they treated it with respect.   They waited for as much as 20 minute after they iced the beer before the started drinking it.
Pop had an old patchwork quilt which was older than I was, and they wrapped the ice and beer in the quilt to hold in the coolth.   One of my jobs was to put the quilt in the tub, then the beer, then the ice.

I always felt proud that I was assigned such a high post.  Until I turned 21, and we turned the job over to a more junior cousin *(a boy)*.

One year, my cousin *(a girl cousin)* married a nice guy named Rowndy.  He wanted to fit in, so the first year of their marriage he brought a fifth of Black Velvet whiskey to the campfire.   He had a couple of snorts, and one of the Seniors asked him if he planned to drink the whole damn thing by himself?    He allowed that it was not neighborly of him, so he passed the bottle around the campfire.   I and my cousins were all 'of age' by then, so it was no longer just five or six Old Men (both my parents came from large families) but also the Second Generation.   Which is why we needed a big campfire; surely you can understand the validity of their "Plenty Of Room For Everybody" logic.

Rowndy got the bottle back with just enough for one sip.  Not a SWALLOW, mind you ... just a 'taste'.

In later years, Rowndy brought two bottles; one for him, one for the campfire.  It's nice to see how effectively the older generation trains the younger.

Yes, we had one or two of the younger generation get a little drunk, but there was very little intoxication most years.  And those young men were sufficiently shamed the next day by the Olders who sat around the morning campfire tsking about the younger generation who "just can't hold their liquor".

Another year, the First Generation Women got together and poured all of the Booze out of Uncle Orville's Vodka bottle and replaced it with creek water.   Uncle Orville and Uncle Shorty liked Vodka mixed with Squirt .. resulting in a clear drink, which was poured over ice in a plastic glass.

When the Men came back from dragging in the Campfire Tree, they poured their first drink while waiting for the log to catch from the kindling.   Uncle Orville took a sip, watched the budding blaze, and sighed:  "Mmmmm   Heap Good Drink."

Uncle Shorty took another sip, and opined: "Yep.  Heap Good Drink.  But it could use a little more firewater" upon which he poured some more 'vodka' from the bottle into his glass.  And refilled Uncle Orville's glass, too.

"Y'know?  I think I can use just a little more firewater.  That damn Squirt .. must have put too much into my drink."

Meanwhile, in the background Mom and The Aunts were giggling like crazy.  "What you laughing about?" asked Uncle Orville?

"Who us?  Oh, nothing.  It's woman stuff, you wouldn't understand."

It took those two brothers about a half hour to finally figure it out.  Mom and Auntie Grace finally broke up laughing so hard, and couldn't help rubbing their nose in it.

At which time the two Geek brothers dumped their glasses into the fire ... and there was so little alcohol in the glasses that it damn near put out the fire!

Yep, there's nothing like a Camp Fire.

Especially if you suspect that just maybe there isn't enough Fire in the Firewater.

(PS:  yes, the Aunts did save the Firewater.  They got a little tipsy on it before they gave it back , though.)


Anonymous said...

It is all part of the leftist plan for fundamental change of our culture. We must do away with all traditional forms of recreation and pleasure, to include the campfire. Along with the campfires, no more toasting marshmallows and hot dogs (bad for our health). It is a brave new leftie world we are entering.

Jerry The Geek said...

You can cook marshmallows and hot dogs over a camp fire?

My father never taught me that!

Mark said...

Camp fires, good whiskey and comrade ship. I miss these since I quit elk camping (that is called so by my wife because we rarely bagged a wapiti.)

Anonymous said...

@Mark: You are so correct, it is the hunt that is important, not the creature slayed, or not slayed.