If a tent falls on a man in the forest, should he make a sound?

(Given that we are only halfway through a three-day weekend, I have no idea where you are reading this from. And depending on how well your holiday weekend is going, chances are, neither do you. And for those of you who, instead of calling a friend or family member in the U.S., have opted to use the spotty Internet service from your Tijuana jail cell to read this week’s Flashback Sunday, I appreciate your commitment. As you know, this is the day we dust off a column from my blogging past, back when I though “Freshly Pressed” was a dating website for recently divorced journalists. So sit back and relax wherever you are — lawn chair, commode, alley way, Reno honeymoon suite next to a naked person you don’t know — and take a trip with me to the past. Who knows? You might even remember how you got here…)

imageOur family loves to go camping. In fact, we make sure to get out and pitch our tent — without fail — once a year.

Traditionally, this takes place during the busy Memorial Day Weekend so that as many people as possible can witness a 46-year-old man being attacked by his own tent. In my defense, I have to say our tent is very large; especially when it is laying flat on the ground.

If I hadn’t lost the step-by-step instructions that came with it, I’m sure the assembly process would be a lot easier because, as a man, I could use them to, step-by-step, blame everything on having lousy instructions. What this means is that over the Memorial Day Weekend my handiwork will again be mistaken for a hot air balloon that has crash-landed into our family’s camp site.

I bought this tent 20 years ago while living in Texas. As you know, everything is bigger there — including tents — which is why I tried to find the smallest model available. This turned out to be a tent called Quick Camp, which was a handy, two-compartment structure roughly the size of a jet hanger. Despite its size, the salesman assured me that the assembly process was very simple. He said that the entire thing could be erected in less than 20 minutes with a little planning.

And he was right.

As long as the plan includes staying out of the tent.

For some reason, it collapses on me every time I go inside. I’m not talking about an inconvenient buckling of the walls; this is more like an instantaneous implosion of water-resistant nylon that required the assistance of a search and rescue team:

“Listen up! Team ‘A’ will start at the west quadrant near the mosquito netting. Team ‘B’ will take the dogs and follow the perimeter until we can —”
Woof! Woof!
“Quick — over HERE! I think someone’s moving under this giant door flap!”

In spite of these experiences, I still feel it’s important for our family to go camping together. That’s because, as a parent, I know our kids really hate it. I mean, sure — it’s pretty exciting while Dad is flopping around under 200 yards of nylon. But once that’s over, and I’ve decided that we’re all going to sleep out under the stars LIKE REAL PIONEERS! they begin to realize that everything they know about civilization has been left behind.

And by “everything,” I mean cell phones and television. In the primitive world of camping there are no Smart Phones. No X-Boxes.

There is only dirt.

And time.

And if they’re lucky, enough fire to cook a marshmallow.

Eventually, as the shock of not having their devices wears off, children enter what I feel is the most important phase of their camping experience: Realizing that we, the parents, are the key to their survival. This epiphany starts the moment I pull out the old camp stove, give it a few pumps, then light the picnic table on fire. In that instant, the only thing that matters is reaching out together as a family and finding the nearest fire extinguisher.

So, during Memorial Day Weekend, if you happen to be in the neighborhood, feel free to stop by our tent.

The rescue team could probably use your help.

(You can write to Ned Hickson at nhickson@thesiuslawnews.com, or at the Siuslaw News at P.O. Box 10, Florence, Ore., 97439.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

42 thoughts on “If a tent falls on a man in the forest, should he make a sound?”

  1. Ha! I love it! We had one of “those” tents once, before the new pop-up varieties came on the market. You could build a solid concrete block bungalow in the time it took to put it up. But we still loved camping enough to go through it. Luckily, no search team members or trained rescue dogs were harmed in the process. Thanks for the memories. And Happy Memorial Day, too!

    1. Thanks, Marcia! Yeah, this is the old kind with the pile of metal poles that piece together. I think there’s about 40 of them. It seems that way anyway. Good times 🙂

      Happy Memorial Day weekend to you and your family as well.

  2. Oh, how I wish my husband and I had planned a beautiful camping trip for this holiday weekend. Alas, we shall have to make do with freshly-ground coffee, impressively large and abundant tech components, bug-free food, and A/C. Not the same (not at all), but do-able. Enjoy!

  3. How this takes me back to dragging my own hapless kids camping. I think that could be where they learnt the new and unusual swearwords that have stood them in such good stead as adults … so not all bad then!

    1. Thanks, Erica. It’s a fun challenge coming up with a new “back when I thought Freshly Pressed was…” each week. I think my personal favorite is still “…back when I thought Freshly Pressed was a monthly report on steamroller fatalities…” Have a great weekend 🙂

  4. Recently, my daughter told me why she prefers tent camping with me over staying in a hotel room — “Your snoring is a lot quieter with no walls for amplification”. That is why I love my daughter. She can use the word ‘amplification’ in a sentence.

  5. My only camping experience was in Australia. It lashed rain, the only time I remember it raining in the year and a half we were there. As virgin campers we were punching way above our weight having borrowed a large tent that could house half a nation. It took us many hours to put it up, much to our friends amusement. Eventually we finished barely talking to each other, only to discover we had put it up with the opening at the back, right up against bushes so we could not get in!

    1. LOL! Great story. Sounds like most of my camping experiences early on. I’m surprised we didn’t bump into each other. You know, backing out of our tents…

  6. D’ya think they’d let me keep my cellular device in my Tijuana jail cell? I’d prefer to wake up there instead of in the Reno hotel room, no doubt next to a beefy sweaty man, who has twisted me in the sheets while he snores drunkenly. I can see my cellular device but I just can’t reach it. Damn it Ned, why did you encourage me to go to Reno in the first pace and who is this bozo I’m married to? This is all your fault!

    1. I see the problem. Just a little miscommunication! I said you should relax this weekend with a nice cut of beef and watch Finding Nemo. Not “Find a beefy man to sleep with in Reno!” How crazy is THAT?! Do you need a phone card?

    1. I’m listening to Jason Aldean’s “Hick Town,” so it’s almost the same thing! Without the Cuervo, two-step, peanuts and cowboy hats. But still…

        1. The only thing I used bourbon for when I lived in The South was for for marinading bourbon and brown sugar salmon. Drank tequila while marinating them though!

  7. Oh. Hell no to tent camping. No flipping way.
    No bears. No deer. No skunks. No ants. No sir. And no potty? Have you no brain?
    I’ve done alot of crap [pun intended]
    But uh uh. I would be the happy soul to re -enter home sliding in with poison something covered up my ass and colon. I’ll gladly take cover in an rv or the Radisson and visit you for a marshmallow….during the day. Thank you. 😊

  8. Patient: “Dr. I dream I’m a teepee. Then I dream I’m a wigwam. I’m a teepee. I’m a wigwam…”
    Doctor: “You’re two tents.”

  9. I never got into the whole camping thing, myself—I went once as a kid with the Girl Scouts. ONCE. But I come by that dislike honestly; I once asked my dad if he liked camping as a kid, and he said, “No–camping is what people did before there was civilization.” Still, you manage to make camping sound entertaining, so hats off to you.

    1. Thanks, Madam W. Your dad sounds like a wise man. For me, the entertaining part is watching our kids come to the realization that being unplugged from their electronics doesn’t mean their hearts will stop.

No one is watching, I swear...

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