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Entry date: 3-18-2022 - Camping stories - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

Ah, the weekend is upon us. Heading out to Apache Lake today for a few days of being unplugged. And yes, that means that the next few days of the blog will be written in advance, so if something crazy happens in the world, I won’t be mentioning it. I might not even know that it has happened. Apache Lake is nice that way.

Camping is something I’ve enjoyed a lot in my life. My dad and I would go camping when I was a young’un and sometimes my grandfather, Jack, would come along, too. We did tent camping and would occasionally stay in a cabin here and there. My dad liked to get out into the woods, and I don’t blame him. In those days, I had no idea how difficult of a job he had in front of him with raising me without a ton of help.

Sure, my mom was there, and I saw her every other weekend, but for the most part, it was my dad and me. I wish I remember more details about our camping trips, but I do remember a few. I have a distinct memory of one trip with my dad and his dad. We were somewhere up north, maybe near Payson out by Christopher Creek and it was cold. Very fucking cold.

I had this little piece of shit sleeping bag that was like a quilt on top and vinyl on the bottom. It did not keep me warm at all and I remember waking up in the middle of the night and kind of wedging myself into my dad for warmth. I think, at some point he got tired of it, so I switched over and burrowed under the side of my grandfather’s sleeping bag, too. I remember having a good laugh about that the next day.

My dad is an excellent photographer, and we would go on picture taking adventures and camp out. As his trusty assistant, I had to make sure he had whatever he needed when he was setting up a shot. I am very proud of his camera work and as a kid I took a lot of pride in seeing his photographs in the homes of our family and thinking about being there when he took a certain picture. I remember a fun trip that we took and ended up in Monument Valley. I think it was one of the first times I realized how good we had it after seeing how some of the Native American people lived up there.

If I remember correctly, we had a sky-blue tent, and it was kind of a pain in the ass to set up. I liked getting to pound the stakes into the ground, but looking back, I’m sure my dad had to finish the job. Tents now are so much easier to set up and take down. It seems like we would cook some food over the campfire and my dad would drink beer. I probably had a coke or something like that and we would sit by the campfire until it was time to go to bed. I would ask for a ghost story and my dad had a lot of good ones.

As a teenager, I only remember camping in Rocky Point towards the end of my teenage years. The first time I went down was right before I went into the Army on Labor Day weekend in 1987. Michael S. and I drove down there in his light blue Volkswagen pick up truck. As we approached the border, we got waved over to be searched by the US Border patrol.

What the fuck? Who gets searched before you go into Mexico? Was it how the two of us looked? I had a purple mohawk, true, but it wasn’t a super tall one. I did I have two little baby hawks on each side of the main one, but again, it was probably down as I got very lazy about putting it up toward the end. I wish I had pictures of that thing standing up, but I don’t. Michael did have a big Christian Death bumper sticker on the back of the truck, but how could they see that as we were driving up?

Either way, they told us to get out of the truck and said they were going to search us. We asked why and they said it was just a random thing, but this one border patrol agent was definitely giving us the stink eye. He said something like, “I bet you guys a $100 we are going to find something in this truck.”

It was like they wanted to arrest us. We had been very careful, or so we thought, about not having anything illegal on us. They did find, under Michael’s seat, an old film cannister that had once had some weed in it, but it was not enough for them to do anything about. I also had an old cigarette wrapper in my bag that had two tabs of used blotter in it, but they just looked at it and put it back. I don’t know how I got so lucky there. I had completely forgotten about it. Only an asshole gets arrested for two tabs of used blotter.

They eventually got tired of searching the truck and led us into the building to get searched. That was rather humiliating and both of us were probably noticeably nervous, but we had nothing on us so that eventually had to let us go. As we were walking out, I asked the asshole agent for the $100 he owed us, but he did not pay up and told us to count our lucky stars. He ended by saying, “I’ll see you guys in a few days.”

We got back in line and headed towards the border. As we waited in line to get our visas or whatever paperwork you got in those days, Michael walked over and grabbed us a bottle of tequila from the store, and we started our party. I think that bottle was gone by the time we got our visas.

See you tomorrow.

Up near Christopher Creek.

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