Whichever family it was that invented the sturdy house way back in the mists of time must have felt pretty smug.
I’ll give it to them — it was a huge leap to be free to wander without worrying you’d return to find your shelter had been blown away, knocked down by animals or carried off by passing strangers.
The invention would have been just about perfect if it weren’t for the pesky fact that with fixed homes came all the responsibilities of settled civilization.
It’s a trade-off that sure stands out once you shake loose of it, so a photocopied ad for a T-shirt that someone hung in the trading post at my son’s summer camp spoke to me.
“I don’t get homesick at camp,” read the message emblazoned over a forest scene, “I get campsick at home.”
Even as the adult who drew the assignment of sticking with the new campers to make sure they didn’t get lost during their first year out, nine nights under canvas gave me a refreshing break from real life.
Your world gets simpler when you camp, which is not to say less interesting.
The entertainment, for one thing, is at least as good as anything back home, and campfire skits are the least of it.
The raccoons are often the opening act — once the kids are good enough to set the stage.
Maybe it’s because our summer camp is deep in the Show Me state, but no matter how many times you warn the new kids about the critters that turn up when you don’t keep every bit of food locked away, some of them have to see for themselves.
Last year that led to a raucous nighttime show for our whole campsite when a boy who loved his snacks woke up to scratching near his bunk and ran screaming from tent to tent, chased for some time by a raccoon that evidently couldn’t get over how delicious the kid smelled.
There’s no telling where a rush of adrenaline might come from when you leave solid walls behind.
One day at my son’s camp, it came from a game of gaga ball — a sport born of the idea that children today aren’t tough enough to face the dangers of dodgeball. The kids must have been wondering what the adults might try next to take the thrill out of the game when one of their friends got carried out of the game to get a bloody knee stitched up.
There’s a lot more room for discovery and awe in the outdoors, too — as the kids saw when, instead of waiting for a pizza delivery guy, they trekked a couple of miles up hills, through woods and across fields to reach the closest pizza one night as a treat.
They were hot and hungry, but they stopped being in a hurry the moment their path crossed a cave that looked good for exploring.
And cliche as it is, the best discoveries on a campout do come from within, as one boy found out when he buckled down and managed to earn the highest rank in a swimming test about an hour after insisting that that he was a hopeless nonswimmer.
That campsickness came back yesterday when I was on a trail near my office at lunchtime.
But I have to admit that it wasn’t carried to me on a breeze through the trees or anything like that. It was the wind off a nearby porta-potty, which, I immediately remembered, bore an aroma identical to our campground’s.
I guess camp’s got its own drawbacks.
I still miss the raccoon show, though.
Richard Espinoza is a former editor of the Johnson County Neighborhood News. You can reach him at email@example.com.