From Connections: Smoke and beans are a great combo

The writer is married to Connections' advertising manager, who also likes to camp out.

By John Warren

BIG SANDY, Texas--My wife and I just returned from a camp-out at Beaver's Bend State Park near Broken Bow, Okla. More than 70 people from Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas enjoyed a weekend of perfect camping weather.

Watching the kids playing kickball and nighttime capture the flag brought back many memories of church camp-outs I've participated in over the years.

The first such I can remember was back in the late '60s or early '70s at Franconia Notch, N.H. If I remember correctly, that was a father-son deal.

I don't remember for sure, so it could be that it just happened that no women showed up. Some people have never developed an appreciation for sleeping on the ground or eating a lot of canned beans.

Always a mystery

The bean thing, I must admit, is still a mystery to me. It could be a tradition passed down through the generations by our camping ancestors, but I wonder sometimes if it didn't begin with a father-son camp-out at which beans out of a can were the only food anyone knew how to cook. At the first few camp-outs they probably opened the cans with a knife because no one remembered to bring a can opener.

There are some things that never change.

One of these is the campfire. Young campers are just like moths drawn to a light. If you light a fire the kids are there in no time flat to add anything that will burn.

Have you ever returned from a camping trip and discovered that certain items had mysteriously disappeared?

My guess is that some child spotted that item unattended for a split second and it ended up in the bonfire.

A sing-along is another activity that seems like a natural part of camping out. At this latest camp the sing-along was a part of the Sabbath service. Almost half of the service was taken up with collective and individual singing.

If you are singing in the great outdoors you seem to have the idea that no one else can hear how you sound so you're tempted to join in at the top of your lungs.

No set time

Another thing that never seems to change is when the kids go to bed. You'll notice I didn't say go to sleep. There is no set time to go to bed, so the schedule is usually based on the endurance of the adults.

When there's only one adult left standing, it's time to round up the kids and bunk them down. One quick way to do that is pour water on the fire.

Only a novice camper would think all is well once everyone has been put to bed. Maybe half the kids will fall sleep from exhaustion.

The other half turn into monsters. From my experience, I can conclude only that it has something to do with the chemical reaction between the beans, Oreos and Coke. Whatever the cause, the kids don't even resemble their former selves.

Inversely proportional

One other peculiarity is that the level of enjoyment of the kids seems to be based on the corresponding level of exhaustion of the adults. After two days of sleeping on the ground with kids that smell like smoke and beans, and a total of four hours of sleep in two days, it's time to begin breaking camp. (Of course the kids are too exhausted at this point to be much help.) After everything is cleaned up and packed away you draw on your last bit of energy for the trip home.

Anyway, back to my original point: Camp-outs have always been around. They are worth the work and energy because our kids have so much fun being together. It doesn't seem to matter what activities are planned. As long as they are together they will have fun.

It doesn't matter if the campsite is at Franconia Notch in the White Mountains of New Hampshire or in the Kiamichis of Oklahoma, a camp-out brings people closer together.

A perfect campsite, beautiful weather and a good pot of beans just make it that much better.

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