Roughing It in the Wild – My Backyard

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By Cate Drew

It’s summertime, which means I’ll be pulling the tent out of the shed and trying to convince somebody (anybody??) to spend a couple of nights “roughing it” in the backyard. We live in a rural area, so yes, it could be dangerous. We’ve had at least one bear, one moose and an assortment of deer, raccoons, and porcupines on our property, and let’s not forget the neighbor’s horse, which occasionally jumps the fence and scares the kibbles-and-bits out of the dogs.

Camping’s a family tradition. I was a Girl Scout (back when it was cool), and Matt took me camping when we were dating, when roughing it meant a queen-sized air mattress, a gas grill, and a battery-powered fan.

When the kids were little, we continued to camp, but there were challenges. One year, we forgot two tent poles. The next trip, we hit a grocery store on the way to the campsite and the clerk put our hot dogs, hamburger and bacon in a separate ‘stay-kool’ bag and forgot to give us the bag. Ate lots of crackers ‘round the campfire that year.

One memorable weekend, we were harassed by a park ranger who apparently thought my husband’s bonfires were just a little too big. Matt’s from Detroit, the Arson Capital of America (highest rate of arson per capita — look it up), and he can’t make anything except the kind of giant fires you only see at monster pep rallies, the kind of fires people toss furniture into. Think I’m kidding? The space shuttle can see two things from outer space: the Great Wall of China and Matt’s bonfires.

Our last camping trip started with a torrential nighttime downpour, with nonstop thunder and lightning. And there we were, laying in a flooded tent, surrounded by criss-crossing aluminum poles (we brought them all this time). You don’t need a rocket scientist to tell you electricity conducts better with metal and water – ask any golfer.

“Don’t worry, honey, the tent is grounded,” Matt said.

The word “grounded” sounded reassuring, until Matt added, “…Of course, a tree could fall on us….”

The next day, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and Matt was cooking bacon on the grill. So glad we stuck it out, I thought, until a fellow camper pulled up in her car, rolled down her window, and informed us there was a bear at site number 7. Just a head’s up, she said as she rolled her window back up and drove off – pretty quickly, I thought.

Site seven? “Matt. What site are we using?

“Eight. Why?”

“Time to go. Take the kids – leave the bacon.”

I remind Matt about the missing poles, the pouring rain, the roaming bear and other assorted mishaps when I make my pitch for pitching the tent in our yard. Soft breeze rustling the leaves, moon shining down, and possibly dangerous (okay, okay — potentially pesky) forest animals lurking in the bushes.

So what if I have to walk across the lawn to get to the bathroom? Hey, we’re roughing it.

Cate Drew





About Cate Drew

I’m on the high side of 40, with three dogs, two teens and one husband, living in a small New England town in a house that’s never quiet. Ever. It’s not that I have a really colorful life – I just tend to write colorfully about it. And there’s plenty of material: marriage to the Man of a Thousand Bad Ideas,.. my mom, who moved Dad’s coffin closer to the street six months after he died so she could visit his grave as a kind of drive-up window…our dog posse…our kids…lots of siblings and in-laws, former co-workers, old boyfriends -- they’re all here. Toss in 14 years of Catholic school and you’ve got a lot of guilt, too. Which reminds me: forget “high side of 40.” I’m 51, damnit.