When I was just a child of 9 or 10, many many eons ago, my parents and Grandmother took my sister,Karol and brother, Brian on our now infamous Smokey Mountain Vacation. Our campsite was one that I thought dreams were made of. We had the old Apache Pop-Up camper and what was known as an Umbrella tent that held 3 cots. Mom, Dad and my sister, and brother slept in the camper and Grandmother, Aunt Mary Helen and I slept in the tent. There was a line of trees behind us and on the other side was a small mountain stream. Having never even seen any mountains, I knew nothing of what to expect when Daddy told us kids to put on our swim suits and follow him. Now, Karol had to be careful because just 2 days before we were to leave on this fantastic trip, she fell off of a neighbor's swing set and broke her arm. Therefore, she couldn't get her cast wet. The stream was just wading depth no more, but we were told to get in there and rinse the traveling dirt off before bedtime. I do believe that the entire chain of the Smokeys heard our shrieks as we stepped into the icyness of the stream. Daddy stood and laughed telling us that the water we were in most likely came from inside a cave or a mountain spring that's why it was so cold. Brian and I quickly rinsed off and got back to camp. We went back to camp after karol carefully rinsed off and put our jammies on while Daddy built the fire for us to roast our weinies.
The next morning we got up and got done with breakfast and policing our area then we all loaded up into the cars and took off to see what we could see. Well, what we saw were lots and lots of wild black bears along the highway eating food that the people weren't supposed to be feeding them. This was Daddy's first encounter with a bear. He had one of those little 8 mm movie cameras and was squatted down filming this bear. The bear began to move about the area and MOST people moved back. Not my Daddy. He stayed right where he was filming. Mom began calling him quietly so as not to spook the bear, to no avail. Pretty soon a nice gentleman eased up behind Daddy and tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Hey mister, you might want to get back a bit or that bear's gonna lick your camera lens." Daddy slowly lowered the camera at that warning and stumbled backwards as Mom told the stranger "thank you". That was his first encounter which we laughed and teased him about for a day or two. Grandmother being the biggest tease.
A couple of nights later we all went to bed and the campground settled in for a good night's rest. After being in bed for about half an hour, Grandmother reading and Aunt Mary Helen writing a letter to hubby, Uncle Bill, while I colored in a book. All of a sudden there was a horrific growl and then there was something behind our tent standing scratching on the back of the tent. It was about even with Grandmother's head!!! The screams coming from inside our tent that night would have scared anything away. Nothing would have wanted to tangle with so many screaming females. Then, from out of the camper we heard Mom say, "Now Bob, it's time to stop. Others are trying to sleep." I thought Grandmother would choke him to death. Needless to say we in the tent slept very little that night.
OH, but it wasn't over yet. Daddy walked down to the restrooms (Glorified outhouses) and when he came back he once again was white as snow. On his way back he stopped to talk to a fellow camper 2 campsites down from us. He was told that at the time he was pretending to be a bear, there was a real bear in their camp eating 3 or 4 pounds of bacon and some steaks out of a cooler it had ripped apart!!! Grandmother never did let him live his bear escapades down. I'm willing to bet you a doughnut that she was probably still laughing on his account the day she passed on.
MY Goodness, what fun we had when I was growing up! We never took anymore truly long camping trips after that. We'd pack up and be ready to leave when Daddy would get home from work on Friday afternoons and he'd hook up the camper, we'd load up the cars and we'd head for one of several Indiana State Parks where Daddy would set us up in camp and he'd stay till Sunday afternoon then head home so he could work during the week and he'd return the following Friday and spend the weekend and come Sunday afternoon we'd break camp and head for home. I miss those trips so very much. My Ralph and I go camping now, or rather "glamping", but given my limitations it isn't anything like it was back then. My parents and Grandmother made sure us kids made great memories for our golden years. Thank you Mommy and Daddy and you too Grandmother and Aunt Mary Helen.