Story type: Essay
Camping out in summer for several weeks is a good thing generally. Freedom from social restraint and suspenders is a great luxury for a time, and nothing purifies the blood quicker, or makes a side of bacon taste more like snipe on toast, than the crisp ozone that floats through the hills and forests where man can monkey o’er the green grass without violating a city ordinance.
The picnic is an aggravation. It has just enough of civilization to be a nuisance, and not enough barbarism to make life seem a luxury. If our aim be to lean up against a tree all day in a short seersucker coat and ditto pantaloons that segregated while we were festooning the hammock, the picnic is the thing. If we desire to go home at night with a jelly symphony on each knee and a thousand-legged worm in each ear, we may look upon the picnic as a success.
But to those who wish to forget the past and live only in the booming present, to get careless of gain and breathe brand-new air that has never been used, to appease an irritated liver, or straighten out a torpid lung, let me say, pick out a high, dry clime, where there are trout enough to give you an excuse for going there, take what is absolutely necessary and no more, and then stay there long enough to have some fun.
If we picnic, we wear ourselves out trying to have a good time, so that we can tell about it when we get back, but we do not actually get acquainted with each other before we have to quit and return.
To camp, is to change the whole programme of life, and to stop long enough in the never-ending conflict for dollars and distinction, to get a full breath and look over the field. Still, it is not always smooth sailing. To camp, is sometimes to show the material of which we are made. The dude at home is the dude in camp, and wherever he goes he demonstrates that he was made for naught. I do not know what a camping party would do with a dude unless they used him to bait a bear trap with, and even then it would be taking a mean advantage of the bear. The bear certainly has some rights which we are bound in all decency to respect.
James Milton Sherrod said he had a peculiar experience once while he was in camp on the Poudre in Colorado.
“We went over from Larmy,” said he, “in July, eight years ago–four of us. There was me and Charcoal Brown, and old Joe and young Joe Connoy. We had just got comfortably down on the Lower Fork, out of the reach of everybody and sixty miles from a doctor, when Charcoal Brown got sick. Wa’al we had a big time of it. You can imagine yourself somethin’ about it. Long in the night Brown began to groan and whoop and holler, and I made a diagnosis of him. He didn’t have much sand anyhow. He was tryin’ to git a pension from the government on the grounds of desertion and failure to provide, and some such a blame thing or another, so I didn’t feel much sympathy fur him. But when I lit the gas and examined him, I found that he had a large fever on hand, and there we was without a doggon thing in the house but a jug of emigrant whiskey and a paper of condition powders fur the mule. I was a good deal rattled at first to know what the dickens to do fur him. The whiskey wouldn’t do him any good, and, besides, if he was goin’ to have a long spell of sickness we needed it for the watchers.
“Wa’al, it was rough. I’d think of a thousand things that was good fur fevers, and then I’d remember that we hadn’t got ’em. Finally old Joe says to me, ‘James, why don’t ye soak his feet?’ says he. ‘Soak nuthin’,’ says I; ‘what would ye soak ’em in?’ We had a long-handle frying-pan, and we could heat water in it, of course, but it was too shaller to do any good, anyhow; so we abandoned that synopsis right off. First I thought I’d try the condition powders in him, but I hated to go into a case and prescribe so recklessly. Finally I thought of a case of rheumatiz that I had up in Bitter Creek years ago, and how the boys filled their socks full of hot ashes and put ’em all over me till it started the persbyterian all over me and I got over it. So we begun to skirmish around the tent for socks, and I hope I may be tee-totally skun if there was a blame sock in the whole syndicate. Ez fur me, I never wore ’em, but I did think young Joe would be fixed. He wasn’t though. Said he didn’t want to be considered proud and high strung, so he left his socks at home.
“Then we begun to look around and finally decided that Brown would die pretty soon if we didn’t break up the fever, so we concluded to take all the ashes under the camp-fire, fill up his cloze, which was loose, tie his sleeves at the wrists, and his pants at the ankles, give him a dash of condition powders and a little whiskey to take the taste out of his mouth, and then see what ejosted nature would do.
“So we stood Brown up agin a tree and poured hot ashes down his back till he begun to fit his cloze pretty quick, and then we laid him down in the tent and covered him up with everything we had in our humble cot. Everything worked well till he begun to perspirate, and then there was music, and don’t you forget it. That kind of soaked the ashes, don’t you see, and made a lye that would take the peelin’ off a telegraph pole.
“Charcoal Brown jest simply riz up and uttered a shrill whoop that jarred the geology of Colorado, and made my blood run cold. The goose flesh riz on old Joe Connoy till you could hang your hat on him anywhere. It was awful.
“Brown stood up on his feet, and threw things, and cussed us till we felt ashamed of ourselves. I’ve seen sickness a good deal in my time, but–I give it to you straight–I never seen an invalid stand up in the loneliness of the night, far from home and friends, with the concentrated lye oozin’ out of the cracks of his boots, and reproach people the way Charcoal Brown did us.
“He got over it, of course, before Christmas, but he was a different man after that. I’ve been out campin’ with him a good many times sence, but he never complained of feelin’ indisposed. He seemed to be timid about tellin’ us even if he was under the weather, and old Joe Connoy said mebbe Brown was afraid we would prescribe fur him or sumthin’.”
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