COLUMN: Slice of life - Getting a night out alone

by Meg Heiman

The original plan was to spend two nights camping with family and friends. After making it through thunderstorms the first night and, upon waking, hearing forecasts of continuing storms for the next couple days, one by one tent stakes were pulled up, soggy tents and sleeping bags were rolled up, and people began to bail out. <BR><BR>By mid-afternoon, I was the sole camper in our party remaining. No matter, I thought. I wasn’t about to let a little rain dampen my plans. <BR><BR>Granted, I did have the advantage of being in a pop-up camper and was spared the experience of sleeping in a water bed on the ground. <BR><BR>Looking back, if I had to pinpoint the start of my prideful attitude, I’m ashamed to say it showed its ugly face as soon as the first load of people and gear pulled out of the campground. <BR><BR>The big babies, I thought, and I established a clear line between them and me. They were deserters; I was tough. I even turned on my own family, mentally relieving myself of responsibility for what I saw as flaws in their character. Let them be that way, I thought. <BR><BR>As we all know, pride comes before a fall, and my fall began as soon as the last car pulled away and I realized I was left alone in the woods in the rain. My plan to read three books and have a night to myself suddenly didn’t seem so appealing. <BR><BR>They were going home to hot baths and warm meals and cozy beds. I was left in wet clothes with stale bread and peanut butter to sustain me and a thin mattress over a piece of plywood to comfort me. <BR><BR>They were no longer viewed as deserters, but I certainly was deserted. I had no car, no cell phone, and what I soon realized, no light. The batteries on my flashlight lasted long enough to get me to the outhouse early that evening but left me groping in the dark to find my camper on the way back. Pride had so swelled my brain that little room remained for thoughtful planning. <BR><BR>It’s interesting how one’s imagination - even an imagination that has been dormant for a long time - comes alive at night. Especially when one is alone at night in the woods in a thunderstorm. I had never spent a night alone in the woods before. I’ve rarely spent a night alone, period. <BR><BR>As I lay in the dark, careful not to let my head touch the canvas side of the camper lest it be an obvious target for an ax murderer, I couldn’t get my mind off the signs I saw posted around the campground concerning a “nuisance” bear. I wondered: How many synonyms are there for nuisance? Do bears like peanut butter? <BR><BR>And by my definition, a more accurate term for the thunderstorms that night would be lightning storms. How had I slept through the storms the night before? I put two pillows over my head and tried to think pleasant thoughts. <BR><BR>But I was sure I was going to die. Being in a metal-topped camper near water in the woods overrode any logic concerning the slim chances of being struck by lightening, and all of the horrific stories I’ve ever heard about people being struck and killed by lightening flashed in my mind. I wondered: Would my body still be smoking when they found me in the morning? <BR><BR>It was a long night. When my ride home arrived the next day, I was a humbler person. A less-apt-to-call-another-a-big-baby person. And the next time I entertain thoughts of a night alone, I’m booking a room at the Grand Ely Lodge. Enjoy!<BR><BR>HUMBLE PIE, AKA SHEPHERDS PIE<BR><BR>1 lb ground beef <BR><BR>1/2 c chopped onion <BR><BR>1 large can green beans, drained <BR><BR>1 can tomato soup <BR><BR>3 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered <BR><BR>1 egg, beaten <BR><BR>Milk <BR><BR>1/2 c shredded cheddar or American cheese<BR><BR>Cook beef and onion until meat is browned; drain. Stir in beans, soup, and 1/4 c water. Season with salt and pepper. Turn into 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. <BR><BR>In a covered pan, cook potatoes in boiling salted water about 20 minutes or until tender; drain. Mash while hot; stir in egg. Add enough milk to make potatoes fluffy. Spread potatoes over meat mixture or drop in mounds. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and bake an additional 10 minutes.