Fall camping stories


Even though the sun blinded us if we sat on the wrong side of the line of tables scattered around the campfire, the conversations were low and lulling. Most of our group are (or were once, having moved) church friends, and many have air line or FAA or travel stories to recite in turn.

Conversations like these get spoken around a fire pit as the night-cooled breezes fill in the spaces between us and it’s so tempting to close the eyes and doze for a moment.

I couldn’t turn to see who was speaking (the sun, again) but I knew most of their voices and could follow along quite well, even with their wives or husbands’ vocal editing.

“When we moved in 1968, we….”

“No, honey, it was in 1970.”

“It was ’68, because that was the year Petey was born.”

“You think I can’t remember being in labor for him? Nine hours….”

“Well, whatever. It was the year we moved….”

And so it went, in the sparkling air of an October morning, as one person or another chimed in with his or her story. Gradually the conversation merged with a new topic, mostly of the challenge of health concerns. Amazing how the stories sound as we catch up with friends we have not seen since our last campout here on West Point Lake. Several in this group have survived some very puzzling maladies – one that the Mayo Clinic could not diagnose – and one all-too diagnosable, renal failure. All were better this year than last year. The woman with renal failure has been taken off the national transplant roster.

Better. Not cured, but better. Anyone with an essentially incurable disease would welcome “better.”

The topic somehow shifted to the airlines and the FAA, and the changes in the lives of former colleagues. This far removed, I got the feeling that, for most of them, being laid off turned into a forced change that led to better opportunities in other fields.

Societal ranks in this crowd run the gamut from telling the stories of old friends to welcoming the latest news from the fruitful generation with us today. There were 47 people at worship earlier Saturday afternoon. About a dozen of them were children, tots to teens, plus infants three months old.

“Don’t forget the dogs,” Dave interjects. “They’re such nice doggies.”

In this the 10th year of our biennial gathering, you can imagine how like a family reunion it is, from one year or half-year to the next, the growth of the kids, the satisfaction – and the angst – of the younger adults, the plans of the retirees.

Evening segues into night. Somehow it’s suddenly too dark to see what’s on our plates. We gather up our dishes and leftovers, wash the former in our little motor home, wrap up the latter to refrigerate.

Then back to the fire pit, back to drowsing. We have less to say than we used to, and just try to eavesdrop and keep awake. I’ve dozed off several times.

The moon was full a few days ago, and is still very bright. I wondered if it was bright enough to ignite the goldenrod that daylight had drenched.

And somewhere in a silhouetted pine tree a mockingbird amuses himself by singing out loud.

Life is good.