Meet Me At The Campfire

Memories of Cool Weather and Roaring Fires

By Jeff Salter

This week our topic seeks memories of campfires or bonfires. My discussion of bonfires will be brief, because I recall only one — either my junior or senior year of high school. It was the annual event right before the homecoming football game and the members of the team – presumably supervised by someone on the coaching staff – had constructed an enormous pile of timber and scrap lumber. Team members had been stationed there throughout the preceding night, in order to ward off any destruction of our pile by the rival high school. [And, yes that had occurred at least once. And it may have been reciprocated.] Once it was ignited – presumably by an adult who knew what he was doing (if not a volunteer fireman) – it immediately blazed up into a spectacular inferno. Don’t recall the weather, but presumably it was chilly — perfect weather for hugging your sweetie. Can’t actually remember this part, but I assume there was an accompanying pep rally — since the event was centered on the homecoming game of the following night.

campfire3

Campfires

But I do remember many, many campfires. Assuming you have decent weather (meaning, no rain), adequate clothing for the temperature, and the absence of skeeters — there’s hardly a more relaxing experience than sitting around a campfire with friends or family. And there’s something about being around a campfire that makes you want to have a stick in your hand. Not that you’re necessarily the one who’s actively tending the fire… but the stick gives you a direct connection to those flames. Just an occasional poke here and there, now and then. Probably goes back to caveman days.

Some campfires were made for singing. Others were made for silence. With some campfires, it’s okay to have one subdued conversation  right here and a different one over yonder. Possibly the best campfire venue is when you have a story teller… and the best stories for a campfire, of course, are ghost tales.

It’s difficult to remember a period in my life when I did NOT experience a nice campfire. I recall them from boy scouts, from the camp-outs some of us buddies had at the estate of our friend David Dwight, and from the camp-outs those same buddies had at other places (including “the Point” — where the Tchefuncta River meets Lake Ponchartrain). I remember campfires with the youth group at church — at least one of these after a hayride to the site.

I remember at least one campfire with just me and my Dad, which was the primary inspiration for the following poem.

SIMPLE THINGS
By Jeffrey L. Salter

I can recall a squat on cold haunches
as close to the fire as we could,
cooking the food and warming our hands
as smoke curled grey from the wood.

We skewered spuds and chunks of meat
on the blade of a hunting knife
not needing to state that what tasted best
were the simple things in life.
With an old pup tent and homemade bags
we set up our camp for the dark.

A camper pulled onto a concrete slab
(announced by a sissy dog’s bark).
They parked, leveled, connected the rig,
put lawn chairs under the awning;
their empty chatter and dreary TV
soon had all of them yawning.

Every convenience was hauled in that camper,
they “roughed it” for all they were worth;
they brought to the woods a portable house
and hardly touched actual earth.
Their whole life seemed plastic and metal:
every gadget had tangled wire.

We had good food and some level ground
and warmth from our crackling fire.
We were resourceful and eager to live,
you less a father than brother,
joined by our pleasure for simple things
and our simple love for each other.

2nd Honorable Mention — 1982 National Writer’s Club Poetry Contest

Originally written (free verse, 51 lines) for Simon A. Salter’s 51st birthday in 1971
Overhauled (structured & rhymed, 28 lines) in 1982

I remember campfires with our friends (the Odoms), with our daughter and son-in-law at various campgrounds, with my sister and her family in a park near our home in NW Louisiana, with in-laws and cousins at the former home of Rita and Charles Williams (my late in-laws).

Of all the campfires I’ve experienced, there is only one element which ruins it for me (I mean, besides rain or skeeters)… and that’s people with their faces glued to their cell phones. Folks, for heaven’s sake — you’re outdoors, in the beauty of nature, with friends and/or family, and around a beautiful fire. Turn off your stinking phone and look at the flames! Listen to the stories, sing the songs… whatever’s going on around that fire, involve yourself in it. Save the phone stuff for later!

End of lecture.

Question:

What memories do YOU have of campfires or bonfires?

[JLS # 403]

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
This entry was posted in author's life, childhood, Jeff Salter, memories, poetry, traditions, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Meet Me At The Campfire

  1. I love the poem, Jeff! I love that your father inspired several of your works. It’s wonderful that you appreciate the good times and give them such homage.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jbrayweber says:

    What a beautiful poem, Jeff.

    I admit I don’t like camping. I need running water and plumbing. But I do enjoy those simple moments and the outdoors. I’ve been to plenty of bonfire parties as a teen, they were always a blast and not always legal. Good times. And I have enjoyed those quiet moments roasting weenies and marshmallows with my dad by my grandfather’s fishing pond. Better times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Thanks, Jenn.
      And I think you’re right about the bonfires — many were not likely legal … or necessarily very safe. Teens and lots of booze don’t usually lead to the safest situations. LOL
      I have to believe — at the ones for our HS — there was a a responsible adult somewhere about. Our little town had a volunteer fire dept with one truck (as I recall), but surely one of those guys attended these bonfires.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jbrayweber says:

        Yeah, ours were not supervised and mostly harmless—as far as teens and alcohol were concerned. Sometimes, we had bonfires in someone’s yard. But we often had bonfires in the woods behind a subdivision on a bridge owned by a water company. Years later, I moved into a starter home in that subdivision and my house was near that bridge. Our 80’s graffiti under the bridge was still there. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Love the poem, I could picture you and your father camping and enjoying each others’ company.
    I agree about the phones, no need to have them out when you’re trying to enjoy time with each other.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      I’m getting to where I really hate how prevalent cell phones have become… replacing conversation with the person next to you and blocking out any appreciation of what’s going on around you.

      Like

  4. Patricia Kiyono says:

    I haven’t been near a campfire since cell phones became available, but I suppose that would ruin the ambiance. Definitely agree about the bugs. Lovely poem – I’m sure your dad loved it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Elaine Cantrell says:

    It’s a lovely poem, and a great tribute to your father.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As an Irishman, I’ve had plenty of Halloween bonfires – which is what we do back home; the one night the kids are allowed to stay out way later than normal in the winter – and November is winter in Ireland! We spent weeks collecting materials – stealing pallets from the local factories and old tyres. They weren’t as big as the bonfires you see in Northern Ireland in July, but they were cool. Unfortunately, I ended up in ER twice on Halloween. Once was my own fault – elementary knowledge of fire and oxygen at age 13 would have avoided the burn on my and – but at least I knew enough to jump into the nearby stream with my wellies on and dip my hand in water straight away. Saved me a scar. I got a scar at 19, though, through no fault of my own – bonfires were made for drinking around and some drunk wanker decided to pick a fight with my friends. We dispersed, trying to diffuse the situation, but he found me alone and my eye tooth went through my upper lip with a punch. He was the kind of guy it wasn’t worth filing charges against but he got his karma years later when a similar kind of guy stuck a knife in his heart and left his body to rot in the Wicklow Mountains south of Dublin.
    of campfires, I’ve much fonder memories. Many nights under the stars with a tent behind us and a bottle of whiskey passed around. Speaking of ghost stories… I lived in a shack on the outskirts of Estes Park for a summer in the 90s, and we had a barbecue one night when one guest we’d never met before regaled us with stories of his adventures of Ouija boards and sneaking into the Stanley Hotel to go to the Steven King room. I’ve never been so freaked out, and when the coyotes howled over a deer they’d killed twenty yards behind the shack that night, let’s say it took me a while to get to sleep!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Thanks for visiting, David. Sounds like you’ve had an adventuresome life so far.
      Love the recollection about the stranger telling spooky tales to you and your friends. That would definitely raise the hair on one’s neck!

      Liked by 1 person

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