The Lost Tradition of the Family Campout..

My summer has gone by quickly.  My IT duties at the University where I work have kept me swamped with projects to be done before the students return.  Most people think summer  is a slow time when you work at a university because classes are not in session.   Wrong…This is the busiest time of the year for those of us who work in technology.   As I reflect back over the past few  month, I didn’t get much traveling or hiking done but I do have a stockpile of carryover vacation to use.   Believe me, I don’t lose a single hour of my vacation time.  I have several trips coming over the coming months that I will be sharing with you.

In the interim, I am more than happy to take hold of any adventure when the opportunity presents itself.  This past weekend was Labor Day and an opportunity presented itself.  I received an invite from my friend Larry to join him and his family at their family farm.  Larry is one of my best friends who I travel with on our annual BBQ Mancation.   I have know him, his wife and kids for 20 years.   My wife had to work on Labor Day (Booo) so I went by myself.

Larry’s farm has been in his family for generations and consists some of the most beautiful, green, lush, rolling meadows I have ever seen.  My featured image at the top captured the view from my tent and the glory of this farm.

When I arrived Sunday evening, I could see campfire smoke rising into the crisp evening air.  I saw parked cars, tents scattered about, Larry’s daughter in the rowboat paddling in the pond, coolers, lawn chairs and the muffled voices punctuated with an occasional cackle of laughter.  Could there be a more idyllic scene?

I think my arrival made 19 people in camp.  Keep in mind, I’m not part of this family or related in any way but was welcomed in as if I were.  Larry is the designated camp chef and had an operation going that rivals anything you have ever seen in a John Wayne cowboy movie.   Pot roast, potatoes, corn on the cob all done in the Dutch Oven.   You can see below, the corn had soaked in water and then placed directly over the fire.   We peeled the charred husk back and ate it right off the cob.  Delicious!

Dinner Potroast

As our dinner settled, Larry was busy with the final course.  Cherry pie filling with chocolate cake batter once again done in the Dutch Oven.  After 30 minutes in the coals, I was enjoying my sampler of chocolate/cherry cake with a side of vanilla ice cream.    Larry’s uncle Raymond summed it up best, “This is really livin’ ”

As we sat around the fire, I became reflective about my own family.  I have aunts, uncles and first cousins that I hardly ever see or some I haven’t seen in 20+ years.   It saddens me to think that family relationships deteriorate to this point.  I’m positive my family isn’t the only one that is experiencing this.   My wife and I make it a point to ensure our three kids know and spend quality time with their first cousins and grandparents.

Larry’s family has been gathering on Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day for these style campouts over 18 years.  These holiday gatherings consist of brother, sister, uncles, aunts, cousins and even some in-law relations thrown in.   What spoke to me was observing Larry’s 84 year old mother sit around the fire soaking it all in.   She had a look of satisfaction and pride on her face.  What more could I ask for as a parent than to someday see my children, grandchildren or possibly great-grandchildren interacting and telling old stories around a campfire.

After a chilly 50 degree night sleep, I woke up ready for coffee.  Larry was already busy rekindling the fire and had his 40-cup coffee pot perking.   This pot is charred black from years of fire assisted brewing.  One-by-one, members of the family stretched stiff muscles and made their way back to the fire ring.  Once again, the campfire drew us all back together.   Larry proceeded to cook three pounds of bacon, 2 dozen eggs, hash browns and toast over the fire.  Sorry, the only picture I got was after most of the food had been eaten.


The previous evening, I had expressed my interest in bee keeping to Larry’s brother Kenny.  After breakfast Kenny was eager to share his knowledge of bees and honey harvesting.  He just happened to have 3 full bee suits.


Larry and Jason
Larry and I in our bee suits..


After my “beekeeping 101″ class, it was time to head home.   My clothing reeked of smoke and I had ash all over the top of my car but I dove home with a deep sense of contentment.  There is something special about the tradition of campfires, story telling and sharing meals cooked over a fire.  Something primitive that extends beyond any map boundary or nationality.    We are fortunate enough to have woods behind our house with a fire pit.  We enjoy making fires particularly on Friday nights while the local high school football game sounds reverberate off the hillsides.  The experience of this past weekend has given me the resolve to be even more deliberate about scheduling campfire time….”This is really livin.”



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