CAMPING OUT FOR THIRTY-FIVE CENTS A DAY
Women and their Work
To Draw From Nature Its Fullest Measure of Health and Beauty One Must Go Out To It, Meet It, Live With It, and Be Soothed To Sleep by Running Waters, Beneath the Pines and the Stars, Getting Back to Nature for the Business Girl Need Not Be An Expensive Procedure, As the Accompanying Article Will Show.
INA WINIFRED COLWELL
A HOLIDAY —to be a real holiday— is where one can go absolutely away from the environments of everyday life and promptly forget them! Often it is not possible to get very far away. The thinness of one’s purse, or the desire not to be too far away or not to take too long in going, are important facts to consider, and we are often apt to let them over-rule our actual getaway. But in this Canada of ours there are delightful havens of rest near to the great heart of nature which should not be overlooked, and which cannot be duplicated the world over in either beauty, grandeur or simplicity. There are ideal camping spots and to spare. Your local Board of Trade, Tourists’ Bureau or other similar organization will be only too delighted to tell you of sylvan spots which you never dreamed existed and practically at your “back door.” It is not hard to get up a camping party. The real trouble is to keep it exclusive, and not to let it get too large. There is a sort of charm about camping out, and the best part of it is that the strongest lure is embedded deeply in the hearts of those who have actually tried it. You will always find an experienced camper restless in the early summertime. Maybe you are restless yourself, as I am! Hearing experienced campers talk about other years aroused in me the desire to go. And I went. My feelings when I got there were hard to describe. We had selected a beautiful little sandy cove for our “home,” and already our tents were set up in what one of the girls termed a “perfectly gorgeous” grove of pine trees. We did not have any floor to our tents— that is, nothing over the heavy blanket of odoriferous pine needles. I had expected a board floor, but not for worlds would I desire one now. Give me the natural Mother Earth to sleep on every time.
One Rule Only—Over 15! WITH a sort of restless uncertainty as to the outcome of it all, I stood a little apart from the rest, and watched the other girls trying “to get used to it,”—tired business girls, college girls, girls who stayed at home—school girls even! Our only stipulation was that the girls should be over fifteen. I wondered just what it was going to be like. Apportioning the girls to their tents was rather fun, and we found ourselves shortly after arrival squatted before our respective suit-cases (we had each been limited to one only) which marked the approximate breadth of our new quarters, in whichever tent we happened to be. Girls who did not have bunkmates soon got them. A bunkmate’s extra blankets are quite as welcome as she is, and pinning up those blankets, with huge blanket pins, in the form of a great bag, small at the feet, wide at the top, was a practice to which we were soon initiated,
and the beds thus made were carefully rolled up in a heavy rubber sheeting and left until bedtime, while we, armed with pillow cases of various sizes and shapes, scooped up dry pine needles in anticipation of a delightful night’s rest. The selection of the “boudoir” came next. Only those of nervous temperament would sleep in the tents. For the rest of us there was the thrill of the stretch of sandy beach, the star-studded sky, the moon, and the gentle lap-lapping of the waves on the shore to lull us to
pleasant dreams. Here, too, was another lesson to be learned. Sleeping Under the Stars SAND, be it ever so soft at first, is no feather-bed, but the simple “scooping out” of a place for the hips before the blankets are laid down removes its flatness, and permits the body to lie at ease and take the rest to which it is entitled. Also, an overturned canoe, at one’s head, breaks whatever night wind there is, but in no way interferes with the gloriousness of one’s surroundings. Gerda had brought with her an air pillow patterned as a life preserver. This, she told us, when partly inflated, made an excellent “hip rest,” but as all these little preparations were being made, Mildred stood and laughed at us. “I haven’t any hips to make a hole for,” she said with what we later termed “freshie assurance.” ’“Besides, I’ve lain on the sand in the daytime, and I don’t see how it could be harder at night than by day.” As Mildred argued her point (she found out by actual experience how wrong she was, and the second night there was no one more particular about the “hole for her hip” than was Mildred!) I began to wonder once more whether or not I would not have been better off at home in my own bed, where comfort was assured, but I did not say anything for fear of being put down as a “poor sport.” If it had been possible to get home that night I think I would have gone, but we were far enough away from things to be completely isolated, and with considerable misgivings I watched the most wonderful sunset I had ever seen. The departing rays lit up our camping place with a roseate glow. No artist could paint that picture as it really is. No pen
that picture as it really is. No pen could describe it. One only sensed the great awe which beauty commands. After witnessing my first sunset I came to the conclusion it was well worth the possible terrors of a night in the open. And I soon learned that a night in the open acts on one’s senses like wine. “Sleeping out” is a contagious disease, as many people have found out, even though at first there may be some uncertainty. The Decidilum Tribunal THE sparks from our campfire were just beginning to fly upward when from the “Old Girls’ Tent” came the summons to all freshies to appear before the Decidilum Tribunal. With grave dignity the members of the tribe took their places before us. Huddled in their blankets, with masks over their faces, it was impossible to tell one from the other. The Decidilum Chief had concocted a sort of medicine-manlike face, and from her we were soon to learn our fate.
Helen, my bunk-mate, had whispered to me the advisability of shedding any unnecessary clothing. But we did not need to take such precautions. The Decidilum Indians would not consider a ducking of any kind. Nevertheless for their benefit we imitated cock fights, and jumping frogs. We sang nursery rhymes, and told funny stories without the ghost of a smile from any one of us, and we bravely gulped down a spoonful of “Decidilum juice” which would make us members of the wondrous tribe forevermore. Later on we found that what we really took was a spoonful of unsweetened lime juice. It tasted like a concoction of almost anything!
Then after being ordered to appear next morning with our clothes on “hind side to and wrong side out” we were formally presented to our chaperones, while the Decidilum Tribunal removed their masks.
OUR chaperones were all that cculd be desired—an entomologist a., d his wife, soon known to us as “Mister” and “Missus”—lovers of nature in all its phases, and unselfish enough to undertake the direction of a girls’ camp merely for the pleasure they got out of it. With them came their niece—a nurse from the Victorian Order, by the way, but she was rarely called upon to act officially. She was there for a holiday, too.
Choosing the camp chaperones is even more important than choosing the actual camp site. We quite realized that in this instance we were more than fortunate. Not a girl of us but did not realize that Mister’s word was law, and Missus, having no children of her own, mothered all of us.
With such chaperones, of course, there must not be a slacker in the camp. Each of us must serve our time as dishwashers, waitresses, cooks or errand girls. In the mornings there was posted up on the huge pine tree in front of the “grub tent” a list of those on duty for the day, and there was always the understanding that a girl who did not perform her duties cheerfully and well must make up for it the next day. Also a girl who deliberately broke any camp rule must go on duty the next day whether it was her turn or not!
The Camp Courtmartial
DURING my second year of camp this law was rigidly enforced by Mister. We found we had a “misfit” with us—a girl who continually complained about others but who was a regular slacker herself. The “inner circle” of the Decidilums held a meeting, and some two or three hours after Mister’s voice had clarioned “Lights out everybody!” we began to carry out our plans. With black raincoats over our pyjamas, swimming caps over our hair, and black silk middy ties covering the lower part of our faces we made our way silently down the beach to the spot where Doris, “the slacker,” was sleeping with her pals. The work of each girl was arranged beforehand. My particular job was to sit on Gladys, Doris’s bunk-mate, and apply a generous coating of pot black to her face. During the operation Gladys awoke.
“Who is it? What do you want?” she whispered.
“Ssh-h!” I cautioned as I blackened away. “We’re friends.”
If she had any doubts about the matter Gladys did not voice them. Instead, she whispered back gamely, “Sure, I know. Shake hands on it.” We shook.
Suddenly Doris awoke and it took three of us to hold her down and to keep her from screaming. She fought like a wildcat.
A more frightened damsel wanted to know why we had come and the opportunity was too good to miss. We began to sing softly—
“We’re here because we’re here, Because we’re here, because we’re here—”
When down the shore came Mister’s voice, interrupting our song—
“All girls making a noise will report for duty in the morning!”
That was all the noise we made, but it was not all the damage we did. Doris awoke in the morning to find everyone of her pals blackened and herself* not touched, while pinned to her pillow was
a note: “We only blacken good sports.” She took the next boat home, and we served our “convict duty” cheerfully.
The Question of Grub
rHERE was always the satisfaction that one day of duty meant three days in which to do absolutely nothing but enjoy the beauty of the place. The cooks must not only prepare the meals but plan them as well. If they did well, they were given three cheers; if they didn’t do well they were given three griffins, but both cheers and groans were taken with the same feeling of good fellowship. The dishwashers did all the clearing up of the day, and many a heartrending groan the dishwashers gave the cooks for elaborate menus which called for the scraping cf numerous pots and
pans. The waitresses set the table and “dished out” whatever the cooks brought them. Mister was always ready to advise and suggest. He was by no means a poor cook, and more than that, he knew that as the days went by, supplies must be increased to keep step with greater appetites, his own included.
The question of supplies is important. One year we camped on an island. We considered the fact that we had to go over to the mainland for supplies of little consequence—until a storm came up. It was impossible to launch the canoes. Our food supply finally dwindled down to oatmeal, and porridge three times a day is not appreciated, even by a Scotchman.
A farmer named Macdonald offered us his pine grove, for the privilege of keeping us supplied with provisions at market prices, and we found other farmers ready to make the same deal with us.
Macdonald even supplied our meat, but the more staple articles we brought with us or had them sent up by river boat. There was always plenty of berries, and one of our most popular camp dishes was commonly known—to us, at any rate—as “Berry Slump.” Sometimes we made it with blueberries, and at other times with raspberries, and once we were fortunate enough to discover a patch of huckleberries. The cooks who made a slump for us were almost assured of three cheers, and its cooking, as we did it, was a fine art. Mister generally superintended the making of the slump, which was nothing more than stewed berries and shortcake dough!
An Outdoor Stove
OUR “stove” was built after the manner of the Indian chipplequaggan, and here was another instance of where mere man was useful. Mister always built our “chip” for us.
Two young and erect birch limbs, an inch and a half thick, and about five feet apart, were fixed firmly in the ground. About each base were laid flat stones to ward off the greater heat of the fire. The birch limbs had to be selected with care,
for it was necessary to have on each a crotch left, formed by a younger and therefore slightly thinner branch, cut away, leaving about four inches of its base. Into these crotches was fastened another birch limb, parallel to the ground. Beneath this we built our fire. Ingenious pot hooks were formed by nailing together two branches with alternating crotches at the end. One crotch fitted into the handle of our pot, and the other clasped the horizontal bar above and so kept our cookery suspended over the fire.
I have found this a wonderfully effective way to cook, but on a hot day it is no easy job, and many a tempting menu has had to be given up because the cook forgot she had no oven with which to work! In the main, however, we did not miss the oven, and our
limited scope only offered more chance to show off our brainwork in thinking up new dishes when it came our turn to cook.
CAMPING out is never expensive. It is remarkable how cheaply you can live when the various middlemen are eliminated. We realized their necessity in many lines—in fact some of us belonged to that very class—but it was a holiday we were after, and aside from the expense, we found it so much more fun doing the actual work ourselves.
At our first business camp meeting, we made Dorothy and Hazel our “Keepers of Camp Finances.” On their shoulders rested the responsibility for unpaid bills. To begin with, each girl placed a dollar in the camp pot, and when more money was needed Hazel and Dorothy submitted their reports at the campfire and called for more funds to be paid at breakfast the following morning. We paid cash for everything, and so when breaking-up-camp time came everything was paid for, and no girl owed a cent. Also there were no “after accounts” to settle. We always liked to know the average cost though, and so far, this has not exceeded thirty-five cents per day per girl.
The Campers’ Reward
ALL our days were not sunshiny days.
On more than one occasion I have awakened in the middle of the night to find the rain pattering merrily on my face. This meant a scramble for the tents, blankets and all, subdued laughter, and continual bumpings to get settled again. We always covered our blankets with a heavy rubber sheeting, on top and under us as well, so there was scarcely a chance to get wet. The first raindrops waken the light sleeper and she wakens the rest.
Sometimes in the morning it was still raining and then there was the constant admonition: “Don’t touch your head against the side of the tent!"
Touching the side of a tent when it is
raining means a leak. We had only one remedy and sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. We ran our hands from the spot “touched,” quickly along the inside surface to the ground, or edge of the tent, and the water which would have leaked in on us would run down the path traced for it.
Pity the poor cooks on such a day! One must eat whether it rains or shines. The rainy day cook had one consolation however. She was sure of many cheers. She was also sure of her fire. She used fire balls.
We made the fire balls ourselves, tightly tying with strong twine balls -made of bits of cotton picked up here and there. These we immersed for the greater part of a day in melted wax; then they were thoroughly dried and laid away for the “rainy day,” when they were sure to be needed. We generally started the fire with them on a rainy or damp day, for the dry kindling often gets wet before the fire is actually started.
Rainy days often dampened everything about the camp but our
enthusiasm. There is a new sort of freedom to be found in the girl’s camp, and the more free the life, the happier the girl. She likes to be placed on a par with her brother—to run, to swim, to paddle—or better still to be placed absolutely on her own. She shows exactly what she is made of under these conditions and she generally emerges more womanly, a greater lover of nature, with a spring to her step, and a coat of tan which takes a long while to get rid of.
Bliss Carman speaks of
“That threshold of beauty—
Where Nature sits with unscrutable eyes
Guarding her temple of mysteries.”
Many, many times have we stood on that “threshold” and with the.coming of summer once more we find the lure for the “temple of mysteries” in our blood. Nature’s offer to all of us is unlimited, and more than that, she is always ready with new loveliness. We do not half appreciate this world of ours, I think.