Camping III

Again, we were Collaborative Camping one summer in my youth, up nearby one of the zillions of lakes in Wisconsin, with my parents, and next door neighbors and their three boys. The three boys and I were so close that they were more like my brothers.

We had been camping for a few days, so our tents and site were pretty well established at this point, but one morning it began to rain. And rain, and rain, and rain. By mid-afternoon, we were all gaining a pretty heavy case of cabin fever, some pun intended. We were near futilely attempting to keep our fire pit dry by keeping the flame lit and the coals hot, but the outlook was grim.

In a last-ditch effort, Daniel grabbed an inflatable raft we had been using the afternoon before in the lake, and ran out to the fire and held the raft above the flames. He situated it just high enough that the flames couldn’t melt it, but the rain wasn’t able to fall into the pit. This seemed to be a lovely solution, and a cheer erupted from the communal tent where we were all hanging out with playing cards, and Yahtzee dice. Daniel seemed to grow taller with pride for his genius idea… For a few moments, that is.

Suddenly, he began to cough and hack and his eyes began to tear up. Apparently, none of us had realized that when Daniel suspended the raft upside down over the fire, it made a perfect vessel for the smoke to gather. He was starting to lose his balance because he was choking!

His Mom and Dad ran out to help him, and make sure he was ok. Meanwhile, Scott, Jay, my parents and I stayed in the communal tent not sure if we should laugh because of our collective stupidity, or panic. The boy’s parents decided to ditch the raft idea and sacrifice the fire to the rain, to ensure Daniel’s health. They walked him back into the tent, still coughing and wheezing. I remember feeling absolutely terrible, but suddenly I had an idea! I ran to the cooler, and fished through it to find precisely what I was looking for. Daniel was sitting between his parents on a picnic bench, eyes watering.

I offered my treat from the cooler, and tried to sound positive when I said, “Here, have a Juicy Juice!” Somehow my second-grade brain had concluded that in order to feel better, all Daniel needed was a sip or two of a juice box. Everyone in the communal tent, including Daniel burst out laughing; Mainly because the gesture was as sweet as pie, but also because it was quasi-ridiculous. Daniel eventually took the juice box, and lo and behold, it did make him feel better.

To this day, the boys and their dad still tease me, yes you guessed it, mercilessly about that moment. I don’t normally like being teased, but in this case particularly, I secretly love it. They say things like,

“Head accidentally severed off in a guillotine? Here! Have a Juicy Juice! You’ll feel better!”

Or, “Love of your life left you for someone younger, better looking and wealthier than you? Here, have a Juicy Juice! Then things won’t look so grim!”

Or even better, they’ve suggested turning it into a sort of Country song, “Dog’s only got three legs, wife left me, truck broke down, trailer’s falling apart, and beer money’s gone. But I know tomorrow will be better, ‘cause I got myself a Juicy Juice!”

Anyone out there work in Country music? Thoughts? I’m only slightly kidding!

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