“Do you remember camp-outs, right in your own backyard?” These are lyrics of a song — I heard it sung by John Denver — that is entitled “Catch Another Butterfly.” They came to mind when I read about Saturday being the day of the national Great American Backyard Campout. Gather your kids. Grab the sleeping bags. Pack some grub. Go find fun as close at hand as your yard.
“Do you remember camp-outs, right in your own backyard?”
These are lyrics of a song — I heard it sung by John Denver — that is entitled “Catch Another Butterfly.” They came to mind when I read about Saturday being the day of the national Great American Backyard Campout.
Gather your kids. Grab the sleeping bags. Pack some grub. Go find fun as close at hand as your yard.
Mow the grass first. Nothing gives children a feeling of security as much as newly mown grass. It’s the smell of home on a Saturday night.
If your children or grandchildren are older, you might not even want to accompany them. More accurately, they might not want you to accompany them. Send the youngsters out into the night alone, to listen to and cohabit with the creatures that must emerge — we hear their sounds — in the darkness.
Such backyard camp were a rite of passage in my family. My older brother Dave slept outside at a neighbor’s house with his best friend George. I vaguely recall my younger brother camping overnight in the backyard with one of his friends, whose name I don’t know because it didn’t matter to me at the time who my kid brother’s friends were. I’m pretty sure my sister was too smart to spend the night sleeping outside on an air mattress when there was a perfectly good bed inside.
I pitched a tent in my backyard with my pal Chuck.
It was a bottomless tent. Dew still forms on the grass inside a bottomless tent. Crawling things that inhabit lawns still live in grass inside a bottomless tent. If it rains, water will flow under the low edge of the canvas of a bottomless tent. A lot of bad things can happen if you camp out in the backyard in a bottomless tent.
But Chuck and I were oblivious to those irritations and inconveniences when we stocked our tent for overnight with enough stuff to feed and keep us occupied for a week. A cooler of beverages. A sack of sandwiches. A container of cookies. Warm clothing. Games. Reading material. A radio.
We hung a light from the top of the tent so we could read and draw bugs. It also helped to see the spiders that began crawling up the sides of the tent, so we could squash them with rolled-up copies of Outdoor Life.
When we shut off the light to sleep, the crickets came alive. An owl hooted, rather incessantly. Marauding cats screeched. Mosquitoes buzzed at our ears and bit us elsewhere. Late at night, there was a rustling of some creature near the tent. Not long after midnight, the faint odor of skunk came from somewhere afar, we hoped.
Chuck and I tried talking to pass our awake time. It was stalling. By 1 a.m. we were inside. It was on the pretense of using the bathroom, but I don’t know why we would have brought our sleeping bags for that.
We stretched out in them on the living room floor, instead of using beds or even a couch, because we were roughing it. That was one rite of passage out of the way. We were asleep before the test pattern came on TV.
Contact Canton Repository writer Gary Brown at email@example.com