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0407 FG: Tales of a Hay Hauler: The ‘father and son’ outings

Brad Nelson Published on 07 August 2007

The pie
We got started later than planned, which was not unusual for my household. The outing site this year was the Ensign Ranch, west of Cle Elem, Washington, just a few miles off of the freeway and yet right beside the freeway.

We were loaded up with a camper on a pick-up so we did not have to face setting up camp in the dark. The dark, by the way, descended on us about the time we got to Ellensburg.

The sponsors were providing the evening meal at the outing but being bright boys, they would want to have things put away, cleaned and secured by the time it got dark.

We stopped in Ellensburg and loaded up on provisions adequate to make up for missing supper. Among the things we picked up were a couple of cheap frozen cream pies. From Ellensburg, it was about half an hour to the Ensign Ranch.

We found our group and got there in time for the story telling around the campfire. We were correct in figuring that the food would be put away by the time we arrived, so we roasted our hot dogs over the campfire in the dark during the story telling and closing for the evening. We finished off our meal inside the camper, where at least we had light.

The next morning as the troops were beginning to stir we noticed a number of youth wandering about, impatient for the breakfast crew to produce something edible.

I asked my son Ryan if he wanted to be in on making somewhat of a commotion. He wanted to know how big of a commotion and if this were something he would get in trouble for.

I shrugged my shoulders, handed him about three-quarters of a left-over cream pie and a fork and told him to go outside and find a place to sit near the passing crowd and just eat the pie.

I was correct. The passing crowd of starving teenagers were incredulous that Ryan, or anyone else for that matter, had pie and they still had to wait for a few more minutes for breakfast.

The wait
I overheard one of the locals commenting about the annual father and sons outing. “It seemed like I spent my whole life sitting on the steps of the house with all my stuff packed waiting for my dad to come home and take me to the father and sons outing.

I always got to go. One of my uncles would always pick me up but it was never the same as the few times my dad actually broke loose from the farm and took me.” As I heard these comments memories of my own youth flashed back.

The first time I remember my dad being able to go on the father and sons outing was an eye-opener for me. Our family had just acquired our first “second” car. It was a 1951 Chevy 4-door sedan.

Dad opted to take the old Chevy, so we loaded up and off we went. I was in my early teens and felt like I was an expert camper from the Boy Scout outings

I had been on. I was amazed that Dad knew how to set up camp and build a fire. I had forgotten that Dad had spent more than just a couple of summers living in sheep camps where a horse-drawn cook wagon was the only supplies they had as they followed the sheep through the forest rangelands where the sheep grazed.

Most of the time one of the crew was the cook and the powers to be let each group decide who cooked. Dad said that the rule was that anyone who bellyached about the food instantly became the new cook.

On one occasion the fellow cooking was sick and tired of the job and went to drastic measures to get relief. He gathered up some moose droppings and fashioned it into a pie.

That evening one fellow loaded up a piece of it onto his plate and then let out a howl, “Hey! This is moose dropping pie!”The words no sooner escaped his lips than he realized that he might have just become the new cook. So still on the same breath, he added at the same volume, “But it’s good moose dropping pie!”

The tent, 2007
Anymore, I make it to the outings I can where grandsons are involved. This year I made two outings, back to back on two week-ends. The first one was just out of Spokane.

The highlights of this outing were the dessert baked in Dutch ovens over charcoal, which prompted me to ask for that style of Dutch oven as a father’s day gift.

Then I had to make the five-year-old understand that no matter what the older kids had told him, there were no ghosts in the camp. He had apparently seen the shadows of people inside a tent in the dark and believed for a moment that he had really seen ghosts.

I showed him another tent with a lantern inside and people inside it getting ready for bed. But the clincher was when I told him that there were for sure no ghosts in our camp because “All the ghosts in the world were afraid of his grandpa!”

The other outing was back at the Ensign Ranch. We made it before dark, but after the food for the “evening meal provided” had been put away for the night. Just about dark, Dan was on his cell phone giving directions to a fellow as to how to find us.

When he arrived with his troops we offered to help him with his tent. He assured us that with the help of his sons he was smart enough to set up a tent in the dark. He would not even need to read the directions.

When he had not joined us at the campfire some forty-five minutes later we went to see what the delay was. About five of us helped him find the directions. It seems his wife was sent on the errand to get them a tent big enough for the whole family.

As we helped him put it up in the dark the comment was made that it was big enough for the 101st Airborne Division. We got the big pieces in place and left him to finish it with his sons as not to further wound his pride. He made us promise not to tell his wife that he had to read the directions.

We slept well. It’s much easier to fill a queen size air mattress with the 12-volt pump close by than to use lung power. (This is what I had to do on the Spokane outing.) I had to leave early the next morning but Dan and his sons spent most of the day fishing and exploring.

Years back I postponed a load of hay to insure I made it to my oldest son’s high school graduation. The fellow I was hauling for made the following comment: “A year from now your bank account won’t notice the difference over one missed load. But if you miss something like your son’s graduation, that will make a difference for the rest of your life.” Amen.  FG

Brad Nelson