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The Last Windrow: Learning to like camping

My family hasn't gone on a camping trip this summer. Don't ask me why. I guess the days and weeks just passed us by with a cold, wet spring and an all-too short summer. We usually take a short trip sometime after ice-out, but not this year.

That will change, perhaps in the next few weeks.

Camping was not in our farm vocabulary on those western Iowa plains. No one I knew ever camped.

Those folks who spent time in World War II shared stories of bivouac-ing out in the bush during their service years, but somehow, at least in my case, that love of that kind of outdoor experience was never transferred to we kids who grew up on the plowed land.

That was not always the case, of course, as my wife will attest. Her father came back from the war with a love of camping and he took his family camping at the drop of a hat. They took short trips to a nearby trout lake and they took long trips to the Worlds Fair in Montreal. They picked up rocks in the Rockies and saw the sunset over the Pacific from behind the folds of a green Army tent.

About the closest I ever got to camping was one evening when my brother and I strung a blanket between two stakes on the front lawn in front of our farmhouse and spent probably about an hour in there before deciding that there were more interesting things to do elsewhere. Neither one of us ever camped again until well into our adult years.

My wife loves to camp. And, I mean REALLY loves to camp. To her there is nothing better than campfire smoke drifting through our hair as we move our chairs around the campfire to avoid smoke inhalation.

There is nothing better than crawling out of the pop-up camper at 6 in the morning, staggering over to the camp stove, trying to light it to get the first hint of coffee brewing.

Hopefully there are no tree roots on that early morning path. But, there have been.

We tote the old 16-foot aluminum canoe along just in case the urge hits us to paddle across some northern Minnesota lake in the sunset. I might cast for a smallmouth bass as my wife paddles silently in front of a huge boulder where we caught a trophy a couple of years ago. A loon glides within two feet of the canoe, no doubt eyeing my fish lure.

It is a sublime human experience. Unless the wind suddenly picks up.

Paddling a canoe in the wind with your beloved can put any camping experience to the test. Expert canoeists use long, smooth strokes and move through big waves easily.

My cadence is a bit less polished as I punch my paddle into the water trying to imitate the power of a 5-horse Evinrude.

My wife calls gently from the front of the canoe for me to be in not such a hurry. Calm down, she says. Stay within yourself, she says. I try, but my tractor-running past is against me and we tend to go in circles until we hit the rocky shore.

It is at that time that the campground looks really good. We trudge up the hill, light the kiln-dried wood in the burner and settle down to sooth our strained muscles.

I notice my wife has a lot less straining to get over than me. I head for the Ibuprofen bottle.

So, soon we will be making such a camping trip. The first one of the summer and maybe the last one of the year. Who knows?

We'll fry a T-bone, chew on some new sweetcorn, sip a glass or two of wine, sit back in our camp chairs and watch the stars twirl around the overhead tree-branch framed night sky.

It will be wonderful.

It's a long way from those two tent stakes in the ground covered by a blanket shared with my brother. But, I'm learning to like camping.

Just in time.

See you next time. Okay?