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By Jesse Utz 

The last American tradition

Jess Shut Up


America’s traditions are becoming diluted and, frankly, dying off. But one tradition appears to be alive and well, and over the last seven days we took part in the great tradition of camping. Our annual campout was a success overall, although this year had a different feel to it.

We left town as the fires raged around us and smoke filled the 100-degree air. Upon arrival we found the heat was still there but the air was clear. The heat would not last, as a storm would move in later in the week. The “plantation” was in full bloom and the crop was the best ever. Big huckleberries and full bushes met us on every path we took. It was the best crop we have seen since we were kids.

Friends and family joined us later in the week, the Hansons showed up first, accompanied with the Esmonds this year. It is always great to spend time with friends in a beautiful creation that God designed just for us. Laughter and good times were had. I am happy to announce Linda and I defeated the enemies in pinochle and have bragging rights for 365 days.

The kids showed up next, which is always the highlight for Karrie and me. It was bittersweet this year because Levi could not get time off from work and was only able to stay a few days. I don’t know who suffered the most — the parents, who missed him the whole time, or Levi, who had to drive away from camp to do the responsible thing of going to work. The responsibility of this young man won out, and he drove away.

Terrill and Grandma showed up next. The funniest part of the weekend happened while Levi and I were playing a little trick on little Terrill — the old drive-off-when-he-reaches for the door handle gag. This was followed by the little guy saying, “Real mature guys, real mature.” We laughed about that many times. The playing of a new game, the storm, sighting a bird never seen by me before, and the fishing filled the days. The Havens showed up, completing their 50-plus years of coming to the campground. A big thank you to Dakota and Travis, who helped the old haul their supplies, in return getting “no-bake cookies.”

The night before we left, Karrie and I sat in the darkness looking into the lit shelter, family and friends played a game as moths dived at them, heading into the light. The picture was perfect except for the missing member of the family. Family coming together, relying solely on each other for entertainment, no phones, no TV and no electronics. A simple American family enjoying the woods and each other.

The saddest part is when the end comes; it always comes faster than it ever seems possible. When everything is loaded and it is time to drive away, my mind slips to the last week and wishes of having two more just like it. It always hurts a little in my heart to pull away from camp and head to home, but it always has to be done. Back to real life. Goodbye to the rabbits, chipmunks, loons and my new friend, the western tanager.

An American tradition that goes back many generations and continues today. Man versus the elements, enjoying nature with friends and family. I can’t wait to get out there again. Of course, my own bed and a shower felt great, but the call of the loon beckons me back. The smell of fresh huckleberries makes my fingers ache to pick some more. The sound of my family together in the dark woods makes my heart smile. Go camping, it is worth it. Hopefully, next time we will see you there, pitching your tent, cooking your favorite campfire meal and laughing with family.

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