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LARRY PENKAVA COLUMN: Recipe for disaster

Larry Penkava

Here’s a recipe Richard Garkalns will never run in his column, “Recipes from Richard.” He only publishes entrees he has tried and approved himself, after all.
This is my attempt at Recipe from Larry, approval optional:
First, take a two-man pup tent to the edge of woods behind the farm pond and let it rise with poles and stakes. Fill it with two teen-aged boys, a little brother, a medium-sized dog, a transistor radio and bags of snacks. Fold in blankets and pillows stolen from your aunt’s linen closet.
Sprinkle in incessant rain showers, mix with rumbles of thunder and spice with streaks of lightning. Allow to steep overnight with drips of rainwater seeping through the canvas.
That’s my recipe for The Longest Night Ever.
I can run my recipe, a la “Recipes from Richard,” since I tried it myself before publishing. My cousin Tom and I were in those early teen years before we were old enough for public work.
His little brother, Jeff, was probably 5 or 6. I don’t know the dog’s age, just that he smelled of wet fur.
A two-man pup tent actually has enough room for two small boys or one grown man. To cram all the stuff that we did in such a tent was our second mistake.
The first error was deciding to camp out when rain was imminent. But we were young, so what did we know?
Pitching the tent was the easy part, as I recall. We’d found a fairly level site with not too many rocks to jab us in the back.
Rolling out our beds and packing the other stuff at the head of the tent was the next order of business. Trying to persuade the dog to stay outside became futile after the first drops of rain fell.
They were quickly followed by more drops, which were soon accompanied by billions more. We had then passed the point of no return, even if we were so desperate as to admit to family members that our attempt at roughing it had revealed us to be tenderfoots.
Pulling up stakes, folding up our tent and bedclothes and hauling all our stuff a country mile in the rain was even less appealing than spending the night in a dark, damp space about the size of a pantry.
During those endless hours inside our 4-by-6 prison, we learned some practical lessons.
For instance, we had heard an old wives’ tale that wet tent canvas, if touched on the dry side, will begin to seep water. Our experimentation proved that theory to be very true.
Experimentation aside, it was practically impossible to keep from touching the canvas sides of the tent because we were bulged against them. Seepage became a word that would forever be anathema to us.
After eight hours, which seemed more like eight days, the first rays of sunlight told us that our long nightmare was over. I use the term literally, since any few winks of sleep were filled with images of being trapped in a watery grave.
We probably broke camp in record time, removing all our stuff and taking the tent down before trudging back to the farmhouse. The good news is that my aunt had a hearty breakfast awaiting us.
The bad news?
My uncle had a dairy barn full of cows to be milked. That was followed by the feeding of various animals, tending to the garden and mowing the yard.
By noon we were so exhausted we begged off lunch, choosing instead to lie on the still-made bed we had abstained from the night before in hopes of experiencing adventure in the wild.
It was the roomiest, driest bed I had ever slept on.
It was also the type of deep sleep that guys our current age can only dream about.
* Suggestion to cook: Use a bigger pot and cover with seepage-proof lid.

Larry Penkava, who has written Now and Then since 1994, never made it in the Scouts past Tenderfoot.