No camping trip is complete without wildlife. Years ago, we and our young children made the acquaintance of elegant deer, sunbathing turtles, wading blue herons, and swans trailed by fuzzy gray babies.
I loved all God’s creatures—if they stayed in their own hotels. I did not cheer when Granddaddy Longlegs invited hundreds of his grandchildren to stay in our tent. Nor did I welcome clans of mosquitoes and yellow jackets that hosted family reunions on our campsite. My flyswatter and can of Raid soon made it clear our family values were not the same.
Cuter species — especially raccoons — also posed problems. We refused to let our children feed them. That night, the masked varmints assaulted the campgrounds like commandos. Fortunately, we’d locked our coolers in the car trunk.
Campers next door allowed their kids to feed the animals daily. The raccoons spread this good news with evangelistic fervor, and hordes of raccoons gathered in broad daylight, extending greedy paws, chattering for their fair share — a park version of the Feeding of the Five Thousand.
Our neighbors also left their coolers out at night, declaring raccoons could not open latches. Were they kidding? These coons could crack a safe.
Soon word of easy pickings reached a rival gang: skunks. Guess who won the ensuing debate?
Thus, four-legged friends and thousand-footed millipedes inhabiting camp showers cause only a fraction of camping complications. Often two-footed wildlife create the most excitement.
Once, after a nearby rock concert, thousands of attendees decided to hug trees where we were camping. The lone park ranger looked 17, unable to control anything more aggressive than delinquent chipmunks. Our neighbors, who wore bandannas, chains and questionable cigarettes in their mouths, treated the campground to heavy metal favorites, courtesy of their oversized boom box. At 1 a.m., our tent walls throbbed in rhythm with the bass. One scary song sent our family over the edge.
“Mommy, it’s a bomb!” Our youngest dove into my sleeping bag.
“Nothing like getting away to peace and quiet,” I said.
“I’m going over there.” The love of my life unzipped the tent and stalked, unarmed, toward the gang zone. I prayed. I covered my eyes. But I could not cover my ears.
“Would you please turn that down?” he asked in a commanding tone. “My children cannot sleep.”
I waited for gunshots.
Instead, a loopy voice said, “Sorry, man.”
Silence. Blessed silence.
Out in the wild — and in the jungles of everyday existence — we often must communicate using fly swatters and worse.
Sometimes, when we least expect it, a forthright, courteous word will suffice.
Tell about a time when you lived with the wild things. Have you won any standoffs — two-legged, four-legged, or otherwise?