Campin' Out by Will C. Barnes
A Bit of Family Correspondence
Camp Roosevelt, September 5th.
Dear Daddy: I promised to write every day, if I could, while we are on
our vacation; so here goes: My, but we had a hard time getting out here.
Say, Dad, did you ever pack a burro? Haven't they got the slipperiest
backs? Our pack turned over about twenty times and scattered the stuff
all over the country. The sugar spilled out of the bag and wasted. Billy
says that don't matter, though, for we can use molasses in our coffee,
like the miners up in Alaska.
He kept running into all the open gates along the road (the burro, not
Billy). The way he tramped up some of the gardens was awful. Billy got
so mad he wouldn't chase him out any more, 'cause once they set a dog on
to him as he was chasing the burro out of a frontyard.
Billy says burros is the curiest things ever.
We tried leading him (the burro, not Billy), but he wouldn't lead a
single step. He ran away last night. Billy hopes he never comes back
We are camped under a big fir tree, with branches that come down to the
ground just like an umbrella. The creek is so close to camp that we can
hear it tumbling over the rocks all night. I think it's great, but Billy
says it's so noisy it keeps him awake. Billy makes me tired, he does;
for it takes Jack and me half an hour to wake him up in the morning to
build the fire. That's his job.
We called it "Camp Roosevelt." Billy wanted to name it "Camp Bryan,"
because his father's a democrat, but me and Jack says nothin' doing in
the Bryan name, 'cause this camp's got to have some life to it, and a
camp named Roosevelt was sure to have something lively happening all the
We are sure having a fine time here.
Your affectionate son,
P. S. Tell mother that tea made in a coffee pot tastes just as good as
if it was made in a tea pot. She said it wouldn't.
P. S. Pa, did you ever useto sleep with your boots for a pillow out on
the plains? Cause if you did I don't see how you got the kinks out of
your neck the next day.
Camp Roosevelt, September 7th.
Dear Pa: My, but the ground's hard when you sleep on it all night. We
all three sleep in one bed, 'cause that gives us more to put under us.
I'm sorry for soldiers who have to sleep on one blanket. We toss up to
see who sleeps in the middle, for the blankets are so narrow that the
outside fellow gets the worst of it.
The first night the burro ran off, and next morning Jack had to walk two
miles before he found him. Jack's the horse-wrangler. Isn't that what
you said they used to call the fellow who hunted up the horses every
morning on the round-ups?
We staked him out the next night (the burro I mean, not Jack) and we all
woke up half scared to death at the worst racket you ever heard in all
your life. And what do you think it was? Nothing at all but that
miserable burro braying.
Say, Pa, you know that quilt mother let me bring along, the one she said
you and she had when you first got married? Well, do you s'pose she'd
care if it was tore some? You see, on the way out the burro ran along a
barb wire fence and tore it, the quilt I mean. Lots of the stuffing came
out, but it don't show if you turn the tore place down.
This morning I woke up most froze, 'cause Billy crowded me clear off the
bed and out on to the ground. It's sure great to sleep out of doors and
see the stars and things. We put a hair rope in the foot of the bed last
night. Gee, but Jack jumped high when his bare feet hit it. He thought
it was a tarantula.
My, I wish we could stay here a year.
P. S. The little red ants got into our condensed milk and spoiled it;
leastways there's so many ants we can't separate the ants from the
milk. Billy left the hole in the top of the can open.
Camp Roosevelt, September 9th.
Dear Pa: You know Billy's dog Spot? Well, Billy said there was a
wildcat about camp, 'cause he saw the tracks. So I went down to a house
below on the creek and borrowed a steel trap they had. It was a big one
with sharp teeth on the jaws.
I wanted to set it on the ground, but Billy he says, "No, sir; set it on
the log acrost the creek, 'cause the cat would walk on the log and
couldn't help getting caught.
Besides, he said if we set it on the log and fastened it, when the
wildcat got caught he'd fall off into the creek and get drownded and
then we wouldn't have to kill him. Billy says that's the way trappers
catch mushrats, so they can't eat their feet off, when they get caught,
and get away.
Well, sir, we set the trap and tied Spot up so he wouldn't get into it.
In the night we heard the awfulest racket ever was and the biggest
splashing going on in the water. It even woke Billy up, and that's going
some, as Uncle Tom says.
It was 'most daylight and I sat up in bed, and there in the water was
something making a dreadful fuss. Billy he looks at it a minute and
says: "Why, it's Spot. Who let him loose?" Then we all jumped up, and
sure enough there was poor old Spot in the trap by one front-foot. The
chain to the trap was just long enough so he didn't drown, but was
hanging in the water by one leg.
Billy, it being his dog, crawled out on the log, unfastened the chain
and tried to pull Spot up. Some way he lost his balance and fell into
the creek right on top of the dog. Billy was real mad 'cause me and Jack
laughed so hard we couldn't help him a bit, Spot was pretty mad too, for
he grabbed Billy's leg in his teeth and tore a big piece out of
them—out of Billy's pajamas I mean.
Then Billy let go of the chain, and Spot climbed out of the water on to
the bank and tried to run off with the trap. Billy waded ashore too, and
we just laid down on the ground and hollered like real wild Indians.
Billy he said it wasn't any laughing matter and to come and help him get
Spot out of the trap.
Say, Dad, did you ever try to open a big steel trap—especially one with
a spotted dog in it? Spot wouldn't let us come near him. Billy coaxed
and coaxed, but, no siree, he wouldn't do anything but just snap at us
like a sure enough wild cat. Meantime Spot he howls something dreadful.
Then Jack he remembers how once in a storybook a man caught a mad dog,
so he runs to the bed and gets a blanket, and while Billy and me talks
nice to Spot from in front, Jack he sneaks up behind and throws it over
him. Then Jack grabbed the blanket and wrapped it around the dog's head
so he couldn't bite, and we both stood on the trap spring and managed to
get it open wide enough so Billy got his foot out (Spot's foot I mean,
Has he come home yet? 'Cause he's gone from here. My goodness, but
camping out's sure fun.
Your loving son,
P. S. Billy says he don't care anyhow, for Spot had no right to chew the
rope in two and get loose so as to get into the trap.
P. S. The wasps are thick here. One stung Jack on the neck and he
hollered awful over it. I made a mud poultice for it like you told me
once you used to do on the plains.
Camp Roosevelt, September some time.
We forget what day it is.
Dear Pa: It rained last night real hard. We didn't get much wet, and
anyhow Jack says camping out wouldn't be any fun unless you slept in wet
blankets once, like the cowboys and soldiers do on the plains. Billy
says his Uncle John says a wet bed is a warm bed, but I don't believe
him, for we 'most froze.
Pa, what makes the red come out of the quilts where they get rained on?
Jack says we belong to the improved order of Red Men now, and if my face
looks as funny as his does, with red streaks all acrost it, I'd be
afraid to go home.
You'd ought to see the fun we had drownding out a chipmonk what ran into
a hole in the ground. We packed the water in our hats from the creek.
Bimeby, the chipmonk, came out, and I ran after him. He was so wet he
couldn't run fast and I made a grab at him and caught him—no, he caught
me for he bit my finger horrible hard and I couldn't let go, or else he
wouldn't, I'm not sure which.
Billy and Jack laughed at me as if it was a good joke, but I couldn't
see where it was so very funny.
Do chipmonks have hydryfoby? Billy says he bets they do.
Your son, Dick.
P. S. Jack dropped the box of matches out of his shirt pocket into the
creek, and I had to go to a house about a mile away to get some more.
P. S. You can't make a fire with two sticks of wood, for we tried it for
an hour. All we got was blisters on our hands. The Indians must of had
lots of patience if they ever did it.
Camp Roosevelt, Thursday.
The man told us.
Dear Daddy: If the burro comes home please shut him up in the lot.
He's gone somewhere and we can't find him. Anyhow it don't make much
difference, for Jack says he'd rather carry his share of the stuff on
his back than bother with a pack burro again. There ain't going to be
much grub to take back anyhow. The man down the creek gave us some more
bacon for what the hogs ate up and said we were welcome to all the green
corn we wanted from his field. We had just corn for supper last night
and breakfast today. The salt all got wet in the rain and melted up, so
we didn't have any, but Billy says lots of times on the plains people
didn't have any salt for weeks at a time. I'll bet they didn't have
nothing but green corn to eat, though.
Please tell mother that I burned a hole in one of my shoes trying to dry
them out by the campfire. Also about six inches off the bottom of one
leg of my pajamas. They were hanging on a stick by the fire drying while
we made the bed. Billy said he smelt cloth a-burning, but we never saw
where it was till the harm was done.
If mother won't mind I'm sure I won't, for Billy says no soldier or
cowboy ever wore pajamas. It was my old pair of shoes anyhow, and they
always hurt my heel when I walked, so they don't matter either.
Camping out's sure lots of fun.
Your loving son,
P. S. The man down the creek says he's going to town pretty soon and if
we want to ride in with him we can. I wonder what made him think of it.
P. S. A wasp stung me on the lip yesterday. He lit on an ear of corn
just as I went to bite. It don't hurt at all, leastways I'd be ashamed
if I made as much fuss about it as Jack did when one bit him. Besides a
wasp bite on the lip's lots worser than one on the neck—that's what the
man down the creek says.
Dear Daddy: Yesterday we sure had a great time playing "Pirates"
without any shirts on—for Billy says pirates always dress that
way—just their trousers on, "naked to the waist," he says.
I was the pirate chief, and Billy was my crew. Jack he was the captain
of the vessel and stood on the log to defend the gangway of his ship.
We had cutlasses made out of lath and when we told Jack to surrender he
called us cowardly pirates and dared us to step on board his ship.
Then we went for him and was having a great old time when Jack's foot
slipped and he fell off the log into the creek. He got mad at me and
Billy, 'cause we laughed at him when he bumped his head on the log as
he went down.
I wisht we could camp out here forever.
P. S. What's good for a burnt finger where you burnt it trying to pick
the coffee pot off the fire to keep it from boiling over?
Dear Dad: If there's a funny smell to this letter it's on account of
the skunk. The man down the creek says if we bury our clothes in the
ground for two or three days the smell will all come off.
We are coming home tomorrow in his wagon. We're going to leave the bed
clothes hanging in a tree. The man said he wouldn't take them home if he
was us. Anyhow it don't matter much for a spark blew onto the bed one
day and burnt a hole right through them all clear down to the ground.
We put it out when we smelt it. It didn't hurt very much, for we changed
the blankets 'round so the holes didn't all come together, and let in
the cold, and it was all right.
Please kiss Mother for me and tell her most of the red's come off my
face and arms.
Billy cried last night 'cause he was homesick and wanted his Ma. He's a
sissy girl, Billy is. I'll sure be glad to see you and Ma, but I
wouldn't cry about it. Please kiss Ma for me.
Your affectionate son, Richard.
P. S. Say, Pa, do skunks out on the plains look like little kittens? The
one we caught sure did.