Thursday, July 12, 2012

On the Run

As I talked about in my last post, my parents were always too busy to take the family camping. I dreamed constantly of camping and fishing as a 7-year-old back in the central California town of Hanford in 1950. I decided to go by myself, by folly. But I would need a pack, and they weren't the drug on the market they are today. As you can see from this picture from the 1948 Boy Scout Manual,however, it's simple to make something that could pass for a pack, even for a 7-year-old.

I didn't have a "flour or grain sack", but I did have a pillowcase stripped off my bed. Instead of a stone put in the corners to tie the string to, I employed marbles. I jammed in a blanket, some clothes, some matches, and I was ready to go camp.

On my way out of town, though, I realized I would need some food. So I stopped at the law office my mother worked at and asked her for some money.

"What do you need money for?" she said.

"I want to go fishing, and I need some food."

"Fishing." She took one look at my improvised pack and ordered me to go right home and go to my room.

The pillowcase returned to its place of honor on my bed, the blanket as well, clothes in the dresser, and matches back in the kitchen. I was grounded without dinner for my efforts.

Cycle forward to 1973. My father, a heavy smoker, was dying of lung cancer. The doctors in those days didn't tell the patient how sick they were, but they told close relatives. In our family, I was the only one who knew how sick he was.

Dad had been ill with a "cold" for four months. One day, my father asked me outright if he would get better. I felt he deserved the truth, and halting, I said no.

He looked at me with sad, tired eyes, and said softly "I just wish we had gone fishing more."

The next day he was gone, dead at age 56.

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