“K.K, we played games and went swimming everyday and talked after the lights were turned out. We sang songs together and we had to make our own beds up every morning.”

My eldest granddaughter was giving me the full report on Camp Kookamonga. “My group counselor was so much fun. I met a hundred new friends. Beverly fell on the back steps and busted her lip. Have you ever been to camp, K.K.?”

Well, no. Not exactly. Unless you count the time me, Buddy and Yogi spent the night out in those woods behind Everett’s Lake. We didn’t have counselors, nobody fell off the back steps…..and there wasn’t “a hundred new friends” to be had in the whole county. But we were camping just the same.

And we did go swimming. And we most definitely talked after the lights went out. There were no beds of course, but we’d each brought a blanket and the oldest pillow our mothers could find. And you can bet the farm we didn’t do no singing! Except for Buddy, he kept warbling on and on about “Cowboy Jack riding across the prairie…..on his horse…..named Spot.”

And after it got really, really dark, Yogi felt compelled to do that thing about, “Don’t laugh when the hearse goes by…..for you may be the next to die.”

James Edward “Buddy” Wiggleton and Robert Holmes “Yogi” Brewer could get me to do most anything. And “camping out all night” sounds really exciting when you’re talking about it from the safety of the front porch in broad daylight.

It was Buddy who suggested we roll up inside an old tire and push it off the cliff behind Mr. Luther Purvis’ barn. “You go first” was all he said after we’d dragged the worn out tire half a mile up that hill. He held it upright while I crawled inside. All I saw was sky-ground, sky-ground as I rolled through two hay fields, Miss Purvis’ garden, a blacksmith shop and floundered to a stop in a hog lot! I threw up for a good half an hour in the mud with two shoats and a sow laughing at me.

It was Yogi’s idea to take his BB gun and shoot those sparrows out of the big tree in his front yard. He also thought we ought to pull one or two feathers off and cook them over a small fire in the little shed behind his house. “You take the first bite” was all he said as he handed me a smoking breast. It tasted a lot like chicken.

So I wasn’t surprised when we dropped our “things” in a small clearing about half way up the hill from Everett’s Lake. Buddy and Yogi could make a walk to town seem interesting. Mom tried to protest but Dad for once overruled her, “A night in the woods can’t hurt them.”

I was remembering those exact words when I burnt both hands trying to get the fire started. And I cut my thumb opening a can of Red Bird Imitation Vienna Sausages. We found some small sticks and went to cooking those fake sausages like most folks roasted hotdogs. As we watched that slimy gunk run off the warming meat Yogi pondered out loud, “What kind of ingredients go into IMITATION Vienna sausages?”

That sure knocked a hole in my appetite. We went silent for a few moments wondering exactly how you imitate pork stomachs and chicken parts. Buddy broke the silence, “We should have gotten the potted meat.”

It sure gets dark quickly out in the big woods. And the moon took the night off. Either that or the giant trees were blocking out all the light. I couldn’t see one single star! The thin blanket didn’t soften the hard ground one iota. And to make matters worse, my underwear was still wet from the swim in the lake. I tell you what, the next time Buddy or Yogi suggest we do some—

A blood curdling yell split the night air. My eleven year old heart took its last beat…..as it tore from my chest and leaped into my throat! “It’s just a night owl.” I couldn’t tell if Buddy was informing us or wishing.

“It sounded more like Frankenstein to me.” Yogi piled it on every chance he got.

I wondered if Leon had slipped out here to scare us. But one thing was for sure. We weren’t going to sleep this night! We used the time to talk about what junior high would be like. And high school. We wondered how it would be to really kiss a girl. We agreed there couldn’t be another town on earth where time moves as slow as it does here. We took turns telling each other what we thought about life, baseball and what we’d be “when we grew up”……

We didn’t mention one time about being best buddies forever.

We already were.

 

Respectfully,

 

Bud, Yog and Kes