Rural Living

No Happy Camper

by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer

Margo Oxendine

Well, it’s almost vacation time. 

Are you desperate to get out of town? Are you longing for the bright lights of a big city? Or, would you rather trek into the woods, build a campfire, and commune with nature?

Can you guess which option I’d choose?

I have never been a happy camper. There are just too many icky, tricky things involved.

Back when I was wildly in love, I allowed myself to be talked into a camping trip. I focused on the aspects that were positively romantic, rather than the reality.

Our trip began nicely enough. We borrowed a tent, and everything that goes inside one. I provided a gaily-colored set of plastic picnic dishes and utensils. I packed all kinds of things I could imagine us sharing for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And, I smartly decided to bring along a bottle of Scotch.

Who knew that Scotch would be the smartest thing I could have packed?

We traipsed into the forest and set up a little weekend homesite, far from the madding crowds. (I can never fathom why people go into the woods to camp, and then surround themselves with hordes of other campers. What possible kind of getaway is that? Seems about as much fun to me as spending a few days in a hurricane evacuation shelter.)

We built a cozy little campfire and frolicked in a stream. My companion, a self-proclaimed expert, began to impart all sorts of camping tips.

“Several times a day, we have to check each other for ticks,” he said.

“Huh?” This idea seemed not even remotely romantic.

“This is how,” he said, as he began running his fingers through my hair. I was reminded of monkeys in the jungle.

“Aha!” he cried. “There’s one!”

I fervently hoped that this was a joke of some sort, and inquired about that very thing.

It was no joke. We had been in the woods for less than an hour, and somehow a tick had burrowed its horrid way into my head.

I became quite upset, and started to weep a little. I began to blabber about clean sheets and room service.

“Do you have any tweezers?” he wondered.

Tweezers were not among the many, many things I had packed. Even I knew that intense personal grooming tasks might be abandoned during a weekend in the woods.

“Did you happen to bring a lighter?” my companion then inquired.

I had, but I was not about to hand it over to someone with his hands in my hair.

“I’ll have to think about what to do,” he said, starting to pace.

I knew exactly what to do: Panic.

I had seen ticks before. While dog sitting, I discovered huge things clinging to a dog’s fur. I placed a concerned call to the owners.

“Oh, those are just ticks,” they said, unfazed. “Pull them off, and drop them in that jug of gasoline out in the woodshed.”

The idea was completely abhorrent to me. Nonetheless, we tramped out to the woodshed and performed the ghastly duty. To this day, even thinking about it turns

my stomach.

I furtively surveyed our campsite. We had no gasoline. This made me almost happy. Gasoline, lighters, hair: Three words no woman wants to hear used in the same sentence.

“We’ve got to get that little sucker out of there,” my companion mused.

By this time, my choices were two: Freak out completely and run screaming from the woods, never to return; or, try to calm down and brace myself for the ordeal ahead.

“Bring me the Scotch!” I cried.

“Hey,” he said, “that’s not a bad idea.”

He rummaged through the supplies and came trotting back over, bottle in hand.

“Surely you don’t expect me to slug it out of the bottle,” I whimpered. “Bring me a cup.”

“Watch this,” he said. He unscrewed the cap and poured a few drops into it. “Bend down,” he demanded.

I had no idea what might be coming, but I did as directed. He then poured the Scotch onto the tick in my head.

“It’s backing out!” he yelled.

Sure enough, the little bloodsucker had quickly exited my scalp. He enjoyed a happy death, I presume, drowning in a capful of premium-brand liquor.

It took far less time to “break camp” than it did to set things up. I walked briskly, but did not run, from the woods. I did not scream. I will never return.


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