Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Camping (07/11/05)
TITLE: CAMPING OUT IN THE BACKYARD
By Mary Frederick
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The Year 1943 was a year of change for my family. Dad and mother opened a new business in the neighborhood where they grew up, a neighborhood racially mixed and full of their old friends from childhood. Moving from the big house in the east end of town was going to be different. We were going to miss playing ball in the street with our friends; playing hide and seek with so many great places to hide; skating down the long hill at the end of our street; waiting for the iceman to come in the summer to snitch ice chips to suck on; or to put down each others backs as we gleefully ran down the street being chased by our victim. Yes, our new neighborhood was going to be different.
This all happened in the era of Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and the Lone Ranger our favorite radio shows. One day my brothers, two older cousins and I decided to play Cowboys and Indians and set up a camping site in the backyard. We gathered up sandwiches, Kool-aid and an old army blanket that belonged to my uncle during World War I. We threw the blanket over the clothesline and hammered sticks into the bottom edges to hold them down and our tent was up; we were set to have our first meal at our camping site. The heat inside our tent soon forced us to sit on the ground in front of our tent as we ate our sandwiches and drank Kool-aid, without ice, since it was really our coffee. Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, the Lone Ranger and Tonto always had coffee as they sat around their camping grounds at night.
As we sat and talked kid-talk we decided that we needed to have some horses on our camping grounds and so we began to search for horses as we built a corral with the poles and rope we soon gathered up. I ran into the house and came back riding my horse which inspired the others to grab a horse and take off behind me. We took a ride down the alley and saw some Indians coming toward us, pulled out our guns and started shooting while dodging the arrows coming our way. The Indians we encountered that day became our first new friends and we shared good times at our camping grounds during our many pow-wows.
We had great fun at our camping site until the day that my brothers and cousins decided that I was a bad guy and they locked me into the old chicken coop that was in the backyard when we moved to this new house. There were real bars on the open windows and the lock clicked closed as they jumped onto their horses’ and rode away ignoring my screams for help. I was scared because of the cobwebs and spiders that surrounded me and the odor of the chickens that once lived there was sickening. As the boys rode away and soon disappeared; I continued to scream for help, “Mother, help me” is what I always screamed when I was afraid and playing with my brothers and cousins I screamed a lot.
Soon I saw my mother come around the side of the house; she was not very happy as she said, “Where are those boys?” Crying I said, “They locked me up because I am a bad guy and they ran away.” How did mother know to come rescue me? She and Dad could hear me screaming as they worked at their Lumber and Hardware store across the street. That night my brothers and cousins received a scolding from Dad but they locked me up again one day as we were sitting around our camping grounds talking and watching our horses grazing in the corral. That was the end of our backyard camping grounds and I suspect that the real reason was not the scolding they received that day; but the fact that the fun we had riding our stick horses was soon replaced by the fun they were having riding live horses at a horse farm back in the east end of town.
Many other camping days in other places were a part of our growing up but we always seem to talk about the days when we built our camping site and corral in the backyard and fought Indians as we rode our horses down the alley!
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