My father has always been rather old-fashioned. Growing up as a kid he was able to connect with nature to a greater extent than I was because he was less obligated to attend school on a regular basis. He was able to go out in the streets and work for a living, and on the days he was not required to work he would spend time on the family farm, thus he was more aware about nature than I was growing up. Growing up in the city, it was much more rare for me to experience nature on a personal level, unless we took a trip to the zoo. Even then, it never felt really authentic. It wasn’t until I was 11 years old when my father decided to take the family on their first family camping trip. These camping memories started that first trip. We left very early in the morning, hours before the sun had come up. We packed up a tent, however many sleeping bags we needed, and enough food to last us the weekend. Anything else we added depended on the capacity of our family van.
For our very first camping trip, my father took us to a location where there were many areas to choose between in regards to us selecting a camping spot. We settled in a place that had an ample clearing, if my camping memories are accurate, a free, basic outdoor grill, and of course free public restrooms. I helped a little setting up our tent. My mother was busy with taking everything out of our van and making sure everything was in its proper place. My father took a walk around the area to see what sites there were to explore. By the time we had reached the location, it was already close to noon, so my mom got busy with making our meal for lunch time. Simple sandwiches made with ham, mustard, and mayonnaise will always be our favorite, and that is what she made for our first meal at the camp site. We washed down the sandwiches with apple juice kept in the gallon she had brought along. All of our drinks were stored in the large cooler we had, which was also filled with a lot of ice to keep our beverages and food items cold. After our meal was finished, I sat on one of our lawn chairs that we brought along and watched my family do things. My father went to get his hunting gear which was in the van. He was determined to bring back some game for us to eat at dinner. My mother cleaned up the mess we left after our lunch meal, then retreated to our tent to continue unpacking some items that she would use to groom herself. My aunt and grandmother sat around near the table area with me talking.
Once my dad had finished putting on his hunting gear and loading his rifle, he asked me if I wanted to come along with him to hunt. Seeing that there was not much else to do around the camp area, I agreed to go. He gave me a small BB gun to carry, just in case, but instructed me not to use it until he told me to. We took off along a path that was near the camp site. It led us to a small stream where I took my time observing the tadpoles and water spiders that were along the bank. After some time my father told me that we would now be going deeper into the woods. I remember feeling nervous, because I knew there could be bears in the woods. My father seemed bold, however, and was only concerned about encountering deer. I followed him with a small distance between me and him. I didn’t want to be too far away in case I ran into trouble, but at the same time I didn’t want to be too near in case I accidentally stepped on a twig and scared off any potential game. Even if I did, we were reinforced with hotdogs to be eaten back at camp, but my father was very determined in giving us the full “nature” experience and I knew he would be upset if I ruined anything. I made sure to be as quiet as possible as I followed behind him. I remember we walked for some time, stopping at a certain point and my dad motioning to me to be very quiet and still. I was careful to follow instructions because I was very curious to know what it would be like to eat deer meat. Finally, we heard some rustling noises. I froze, and my dad motioned to me not to move. I wasn’t sure if it was really a deer or not that he could see, or hear, so I remember my heart beating very fast. I certainly did not want it to turn out to be a bear! these camping memories are still so vivid in my mind’s eye!
But soon, the deer moved enough that I spotted its brown and white speckled fur some distance away. I watched as my father raised his gun close to his shoulder. It seemed like forever before he pulled the trigger, but when he did, I jumped and took in a sharp breath of air. After the echo of the shot disappeared, it was very quiet. I looked at my dad, concerned, but he turned to me and told me to follow closely. He had a big smile on his face. We wandered closer to where the deer was and it lay on its side, motionless. For a while, I felt a little sad and guilty, but then I remembered that this was our dinner, and instantly I was filled with curiosity again to see what deer meat would taste like. My father was strong and was able to carry much of the deer back on his own, although at the time he made me feel as if I was helping him a lot by holding the back legs of the deer as I walked back to camp behind him.
I watched patiently while my dad cleaned off the deer completely, and cut it open starting in the middle. He cleared out the guts and they smelled horrendous, but he was able to cut it up fairly quickly. Once it was done, my mother and grandmother took turns selecting parts of the deer to make for our dinner and placed it on the grill. I watched them season the pieces and make sure all of them were cooked to the right temperature. Luckily, they had also made some beans and potato salad to accompany our meal, because honestly, I thought the deer meat tasted awful. I still had to eat it, though, but ate it quickly and in big gulps so I didn’t have to taste much of it. We had enough meat to last us for the next day, but we also decided to go fishing, and managed to catch enough fish to add it to our deer dinner. Sleeping in our tents was a fun experience, too. It was fun to listen to the crickets at night, and watch the bats fly around in the sky trying to catch the many moths that were attracted to our night lamps. Even though I have not gone camping since this time, because of my early experience I do hope I can go again soon.