- At nighttime, there is nothing more relaxing than the sound of rain making music on my canvass tent
- When thunder rumbled, turkeys gobbled at the sound. I smiled.
- I looked to the west and saw what I was looking for. A rainbow.
By Larry Whiteley
It’s 5 am on an April morning. I sit at my desk writing a blog article about going camping. My wife is still sleeping. The television is on so I can check the weather for the day. The weather forecast was a lot better than the news. It was about nothing but coronavirus. Sunny days, cool nights with a slight chance of rain. I turn the television off and go back to writing.
My days are spent following stay-at-home rules. There are always things to get done outside in the yard, garden or workshop. I had practiced social distancing and gone fishing a few times.
In a moment of absolute brilliance, I thought why not go do what I have been writing about. I rushed in and told my wife we should escape the pandemic for a couple of days and go camping.
She said she would rather stay around home, but I should go enjoy myself. I stood there for a few seconds with thoughts rushing through my head of being alone for a few days in the outdoors. Alone in the wild.
I feigned disappointment and told her I would miss her. I packed all my clothes, camping gear, and food in the truck. I also grabbed a couple of locater turkey calls.
As I drove down the driveway, I knew exactly where I was going. I would escape to a place that I was very familiar with. I had spent many years hunting deer and turkey there. I would go to an open area on top of a hill I had often thought would make a great place to camp. From there I could see for miles looking over forested hills and valleys, but also with big open skies to enjoy. The creek in the valley below would be a bonus.
The stress and pressure from what was going on in the world with the coronavirus was gone as I drove up the hill. I pulled in by three trees that offered a great view. I just sat there for a moment. It was a totally different feeling than what I had been used to lately.
I pitched my tent and unloaded the truck. I got into my cooler for something to eat and drink then sat down in my camp chair to look around and take it all in. This is what I had come for.
The sun was warm. Sitting in the shade and with a little breeze, it was comfortable. I listened to bird songs. Crows were talking to each other. Buzzards circled in the bright blue sky. I looked up and said thank you to God for blessing me with this special moment in time. I also thanked him for my family and not giving up on me.
My afternoon was spent fishing the creek in the valley. The water was cold as I waded and fished but felt good. I lost count of how many fish I caught. Nothing big, but all fun. I tried skipping rocks and then just sat on the gravel bar looking for arrowheads and holey rocks. The sound of the flowing water was soothing. I took a nap.
When I woke up the day was starting to fade so I drove back up the hill. The night skies were spectacular with thousands of twinkling stars. Coyotes howled and owls hooted. I did some hooting myself listening for turkey sounds from their roost. There were none. I stirred the campfire. The night cooled and my sleeping bag felt good.
I got up before the light came, stoked the fire and put on a pot of coffee. As the day started arriving, I was already out with my locater calls and binoculars scouting for turkeys. It wasn’t long before I found where they were. I knew where I would be hunting when the season started. I went back to camp.
The smell of bacon sizzling in the skillet drifted through the morning air. A deer let me know they smelled it too. My second cup of coffee was as good as the first. Birds were singing again and turkey gobbles echoed through the hills. Squirrels fussed at me because I was in their home.
The day found me secretly watching deer and turkey go about their day. I saw an eagle, a fox, and a bobcat. Black bear roams these woods too. I didn’t see one. I hiked around. I found wildflowers and morel mushrooms pushing their way through decaying leaves. I checked deer stands and pruned limbs and cleaned brush from around them. I even found a couple of shed antlers. I was enjoying my time alone in the wild.
Before I knew it, the night was upon me again and the moon was big and bright. I sat around the campfire listening to night sounds and using my headlight to read “Friendship Fires” by Sam Cook. He doesn’t know it, but his style of writing greatly influenced me. Friends Dave Barus, David Gray, and Bobby Whitehead gave me the confidence I needed. They all shaped me into the writer I now am. I am using the gift that God gave me.
My eyes are heavy from all my activities of the day, the dancing flames, a crackling fire, and reading. I could hear thunder and see lightning in the distant hills. Tree frogs croaked and crickets chirped. Peaceful sleep came quickly.
Sometime during the night I awoke to rain making music on my canvass tent. There is nothing more relaxing than that sound. I easily drifted back off to sleep.
When my eyes opened again the sun was starting to shine through the trees. A light rain was still falling. When thunder rumbled, turkeys gobbled at the sound. I smiled. The sun glistened off the raindrops still clinging to the leaves and grass. I looked to the west and saw what I was looking for. A rainbow.
I sat there for a long time enjoying the beauty of the rainbow. Hundreds of purplish redbuds and white dogwood trees were all bloomed out painting the landscape. As much as I hated to leave, I missed my wife. It was time to go home to a different world. My time here will be re-lived in my daydreams and night dreams. It had been a wonderful escape from the pandemic. Alone in the wild.
Author note: All photos are courtesy of the Missouri Department of Conservation