By Collin T Wansor, PhD
While you wouldn’t be destitute, if you have gone through life never having sat around a campfire with good friends, you are certainly less rich in memories than those of us who have. Hours whiled away under dark skies in the bright light of roaring flames bring mighty returns on the simple investment of time well spent. One good night of campfire capers can earn years of chuckles, smiles, and comforting recollections.
Whether in public parks or private campgrounds, families and friends play out those special, joyous scenes: kids igniting marshmallows in the hot flames; older uncles blackening hot dogs beyond identification over the reddest embers; adults sipping on coffee, legs crossed, swapping insights or gossip; someone telling jokes or scary stories; every time the circle of folding chairs grows larger, the satisfaction grows with it – all are welcomed to the warming glow of the campfire. There are always stories; surely you have yours. Here are some of ours.
They usually begin with something like: “Hey, remember the night that Muskie dozed off and the soles of his boots started smokin’? He never even budged till the Cat’s Paw was glowing. Just goes to prove the sedating power of three or ten beers.” But such incidents were typical for Muskie, key member of a cast of campfire buddies who piled up good times like most people stack used newspapers – high and deep.
Fishing trips provided the opportunity for the buddies to escape for over night trips or for weekends, and, of course, every trip required an evening campfire, the perfect venue for canvas covered folding chairs to be arranged in a circle (sort of like the Round Table or maybe Stone Henge). Sitting in the flickering spotlight, each person in the regular crew played his role: Gasser (the omniscient leprechaun whose booming voice told all, discussed all, whether anyone else wanted to hear it or not); Hopinskin (the good-natured but agitating “human tripod” who affectionately belittled everyone else); Cappy (the war vet who served as Father Wisdom); Muskie (the likable oafish giant who could carry a 10 hp Merc in each hand when boats were being relocated from rooftops to water); EZ Ed (country western singer and English teacher); Ron P (metal working artist who built his own boat trailers and could drink a beer or four); Big B (group organizer, foodstuff procurer, and biology teacher who could tell Muskie exactly what kind of poisonous plant he got into this time); Freeman (bank officer, good friend of Cappy’s and detached observer of the shenanigans); Puff Stoner (farm boy become educator, dispenser of philosophy); me (rookie sportsman, born a decade too late to be contemporary with the others, born two decades too soon to have bonded to younger guys); Lyle T. (owner of one of the world’s largest tackle boxes with every tray full); others, too, who took their turns in the ring – EZ Ed’s nephews, and sometimes Sully. Everyone in the circle, at one time or another, offered up some misadventure or faux pas that would provide the campfire caper of that trip. It just seems like Muskie had the most, if not always the best.