Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Pillows in the Chicken Pen

By Dawn Harshbarger

“Mom, what do you think of this one?” Krysta and I were shopping for shirts for Jorgan,
her older brother. She held up a gray T shirt with green words printed across the front.
They framed a picture of evergreen trees and a row of tents.
The words were: CAMPING IS IN-TENTS.

“Camping is in-tents,” I said out loud, trying to get the hidden meaning that escaped me.
I repeated the phrase softly to myself and then burst out laughing at the mischievous look on Krysta’s face. We both caught on at the same time. 
My mind went back over forty plus years of camping.
I remembered late nights and mosquitoes.
Sometimes setting up a tent in the dark with tired children doing their best to help
brings out the worst in parents. Or it may help them find strengths they didn’t know they had.
The word “intense” fails to capture all the drama in those situations but it comes close.

Now I’m getting ahead of my story.  Many years ago my family lived in Northern Minnesota
in Lake of the Woods county.  Our address was Graceton which was only a wide spot in the
road. There was a post office and a church on one side of the road. Across the road and over
the railroad tracks was an old depot. The trains never stopped there anymore. They just blew
shrill whistles and zoomed by.
There were four girls in our family and they were named Dawn, Ladina, Trenda and Maria.
Every summer my dad took us fishing on Lake of the Woods. When I turned ten we started a
new adventure, camping. Dad had purchased a tent at a reduced rate from a company in Indiana that made pop up campers. The tent had no floor because it was designed for a camper trailer.

Dad was a carpenter. He could build just about anything. He took a tape measure and a saw
and cut boards with notches at just the right spots and cut the boards to just the right lengths to support the tent. The trailer had two plywood boards that folded out to make two double beds. There it sat, perched in the air, supported by steel poles at four corners with a little trailer in the middle, looking like a canvas house on stilts. We girls loved that tent. We begged to sleep in it any chance we could.

One hot summer day we had permission to sleep in the tent all by ourselves. This was long before personal computers that tell you a storm is heading your way. (Expect rain in gushing torrents in one hour with wind gusts of 40 - 50 miles an hour.) We settled down for a slumber party unaware what was headed our way. I was probably eleven, Ladina was ten, Trenda eight and Maria five going on six.
The hens in the chicken pen clucked good night to each other. Robins sang their evening songs as they hopped around on the newly mown lawn, looking for the last worm of the day. I don’t know how long we slept but sometime in the middle of the night thunder crashed. We shivered under the blankets. Lightening, zig zagging across the sky was visible through the screen windows. The wind was whipping around the corners of the tent. 

Maria sat up. “I’m scared!”
Trenda wriggled around and popped her head out from under the covers. “Let’s go in.”

Ladina said, “I think it’s a bad storm. We should go to the house.”
I said, “Oh, come on. Let’s not be babies. We can stay out here! It’s not that bad!”

Just then there was another clap of thunder and another flash of lightening.
There was a patter of rain on the roof of the tent.
A gust of wind hit the side wall. 

Maria cried. 
Trenda jumped out of bed.
Ladina said, “I’m going in!”
Before I could protest Ladina unzipped the tent door.
Trenda got out and helped Maria down the steps.
Ladina grabbed a pillow and slipped out.
I shrugged my shoulders then climbed out too, zipping the door behind me.

We four girls flew across the lawn. But no matter how fast we ran sheets of rain
drenched us before we got to the house. The wind slammed the screen door shut
behind us. The storm raged outside the house. Windows rattled. The evergreen trees
in the wind break bent over in the wind. We were safe and warm inside the house.

Dad and Mom came into the kitchen as we rushed in.
“This is a bad storm. I’m glad you came in!” Dad said, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
Before we had a chance to snuggle into our beds a violent gust of wind tore a patch of
shingles and tar paper off the roof. The next instant it seemed an enormous hand was
pouring water from a gigantic pitcher into our living room. Fortunately, the living room
was a step down from the dining room so the whole house didn’t get wet.

The storm soon passed and rain water stopped flowing into the house.
Mom made floor beds for us in the dry part of the house while Dad started moving books
and furniture to higher ground. We went to sleep knowing that our parents were working
together to figure out a solution for this huge dilemma.

The next morning roosters crowing woke us to a rain splashed world.
We ran outside to see what had become of the tent. The plywood beds
were twisted and the tent had come loose from one of the corners. Our blankets
were strewn across the yard. Our pillows were in the chicken pen.

“Look what would have happened to us if we had stayed out here,” Maria said.
We all shuddered at the thought.

This was the beginning of my camping adventures. I saw firsthand how my parents
set out to solve the problems that storm brought to them. Dad fixed the roof on the house.
He made the tent as good as new. Together, Dad and Mom sorted through soggy belongings
and got the house in order again. They didn’t let this disaster keep our family from many hours
of traveling across the U.S. and Canada, pulling our little camper trailer behind us.









Tuesday, May 10, 2016


I like quotes.
They are written on scraps of paper all over the house.
When I remember one and want to use it I can't find it.
Then days or weeks or months later it shows up.
 - Usually in a book doubling as a book marker.

Here is the quote I looked for when I wrote about the sun rise.

If your efforts are sometimes greeted with indifference,
                                 don't lose heart -
                      the sun puts on a wonderful
                              show at daybreak,
                      yet most of the people in the
                        audience go on sleeping.
                                                                 - Edu Francisco Teixeira

Here's another one.

Life is not a final,
It's daily pop quizzes.
                 - Ann Crittenden
 (I found these quotes in an old Reader's Digest but failed to write the month and year.)

Krysta and I have been taking a writing class.
One evening a week . . .
This doesn't excuse the long silence but partly explains it.
A story is coming . . .

Have a good evening!