The Great Outdoors


I consider myself one of those guys who digs the great outdoors.

I always think about tying a canoe to the roof of the truck, packing my gear, loading up the rifle, stringing up the old fishing poles, and heading up to the mountains. I would trap, hunt, and fish for my food, make campfires, and teach my son about nature while my two dogs kept the bear away.

But I don’t have a rifle. And there are no mountains around here, unless you count Bridgehampton racetrack. And I don’t have any gear (though I do have a pair of galoshes). Oh yeah. I don’t have a son, either.

Still, I’m always on the verge of making my dream a reality. A visit to the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport, Maine almost did me in.

The King Pine Heavy Duty Dome Tent would make a perfect home away from home. There was a “no fly” zone. It’s a screened in section to hang out and whittle.

Big deal, Karen said. “Unless the tent comes with an air conditioner, cable TV, and running water, you’ll be going alone.”

I was after the serenity of a babbling brook, not a blabbering wife, so there.

I picked out the queen-size Aerobed air mattress and an REI expedition sleeping bag, guaranteed to keep you warm and cozy in minus 20-degree weather. “It looks like something they put a mummy in,” Karen said. And she was right, it did.

I then outfitted my outdoor kitchen. Coleman Steel-Belted Cooler. Whisperlite Stove. Fold out table—seats six.

“Maybe you can invite some opossum over for dinner,” Karen cracked, since we both know I don’t have any friends left.

Soon, I had spent thousands of dollars. Waterproof matches. Coleman Air Pump. MSR Miniworks EX Water Filtration System.

“What’s that for?” Karen asked.

“You can drink the water from the babbling brook,” I told her. “That’s what early settlers did.”

They also went to the bathroom in it, but no need to dwell on that. Fire pit? Got it.

“You’re really going to do this?” I assured her I was. Manitoba, Montana, Bronxville, somewhere where the buffalo run free and a man lives on his wiles, skinnin’ and trappin’, eatin’ rabbit and poached squab (with fig jam and truffles). Just me, the moon and the stars.

“I’ll tell you what, Jeremiah Johnson. Set your gear up in the backyard and if you still want to go camping tomorrow I’ll go with you.”

Ah! There is nothing like a challenge to get a man going! I unloaded the tent. Hmmmmm. A lot of parts … dozens of pieces of pipe that somehow fit together if one had an advanced degree in nuclear engineering science.

Oh well, better git the fire goin’—hell, temperature’s sinkin’ fast. Must be 60, 62 degrees. Good thing I have the REI coffin, er, sleeping bag.

“I’m gonna whip us up some pork and beans,” I announced proudly.

“It’s what a man eats when he’s camping,” I told her. “Besides, I want to save the squirrel stew for tomorrow.”

“Why isn’t the tent up?” Karen asked.

“I figured we’d sleep under the stars.”

Karen looked at me with THAT look. “You don’t know how to set up the tent, do you?”

“Of course I do,” I said. “Well, when you’re finished you better check your stove, because it won’t light. And the table collapsed when I put the canteen on it. Oh, by the way, this isn’t a portable radio. I can tell because it has to be plugged into a wall outlet.”

With that, she went into the house for the night. Not me though. Pork and beans are perfectly good cold, and I still had my toasty sleeping bag. I started a fire and began singing the old camp songs I had learned as a child: “Home On The Range” and “Stairway To Heaven” for starters.

I crawled into my coffin … er … bed and tried to fall asleep. My stomach was rumbling. It was then I remembered why I didn’t like pork and beans.

Uh oh. Seems I had forgotten to buy the Reliance Flushable Loo, the Reliance Double Doody Toilet Waste Bags, and the Reliance Bio-Gel Waste Gelation.

I paced the yard aimlessly before swallowing my pride and knocking on the back door.

“Let me guess,” Karen said. “You want to use the bathroom.”

“Unlock the door,” I sneered.

“Come right in, Jeremiah,” she said with a smile.

I shipped the gear back to L.L. Bean the next morning. I’m gonna sail across the Atlantic instead. Anyone got an old boat I can fix up?

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