Summer is prime time for campfires. Here's a memory of my first, when I was 12 and on my first overnight fishing, which included my first time in a boat and my first time drinking coffee:
Until then, I had been allowed to “camp out” only in our back yard and only when the temperature was predicted to stay above 70 degrees. But when I was twelve, my father’s friend took me to fish for catfish below Bagnell Dam at Lake of the Ozarks.
We didn’t do much catching. In the cool, early morning hours below the dam, I managed to boat a small white catfish and Joe didn’t catch anything. The coffee seemed bitter to taste buds accustomed to the sweet taste of Coca Cola, but I welcomed its heat on my insides as I shivered in the mist and watched for a bite.
We arrived the night before and Joe immediately built a fire to ward off the chill of air cooled by water cascading through the hydropower dam. I don’t recall anything about how he did it or whether I helped. But I do remember how warm and cozy the fire made me feel as I lay in my sleeping bag and drifted off to sleep, listening to the nearby turbulence.
And I remember what I saw when I awakened sometime in the pre-dawn: A mother skunk and two little ones. With tails held high, they strolled brazenly between me and the dying embers. Like window shoppers, they inspected rocks, fishing tackle, and even my shoes . . .
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What happened? Find out by reading "Campfire Cooking" in Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies: Growing Up with Nature.