Katy Camps Out
One summer when I was a girl, Uncle Lonzo's boys made a camp at the sugar shed. The boys were allowed to spend the night there when the weather was warm and on one occasion four of us girl cousins were allowed to spend a night there ourselves.
It was Juliette's birthday and she begged her mother, Aunt Bea, to let her have Sarah and Sophronia, Aunt Mary's and Aunt Min's daughters, and me come out to the farm to spend the night at the sugar shed. Juliette was the only daughter among eleven sons and since she rarely asked for favors, Aunt Bea and Uncle Lonzo readily agreed. We four were much of an age and always liked being together. We had also been planning how we could spend a night at the boy's camp for weeks before. Now remember, this was before everyone had a telephone so we'd been sending postcards back and forth.
Aunt Min drove us from town in her buggy saying she didn't mind spending the night in the sugar shed since she claimed she could sleep anywhere. The only dissension came from the boys who did not care for the idea of a "bunch of girls messing up" their camp. That may have been the start of the trouble, though I have always suspected Sophronia's brother Artie, who devoted much time and thought to bedeviling his sister and cousins, was at the bottom of it all. He'd joined the party on our ride from town out to the farm with just that intent.
The afternoon of Juliette's birthday was spent in carting feather ticks and quilts to the sugar shed to augment the boys' straw beds. We had an early corn roast at supper time. It had taken some searching to find enough good ears to feed the whole family but we managed to fill in the empty spaces with fried chicken, biscuits and butter, cold baked ham, pickles, pies and a huge birthday cake.
The evening ended with the usual family sing and then everyone left except Aunt Min and her four intrepid campers. We washed our faces in the swift running brook and crept into our strange beds by the light of the dying campfire. Aunt Min was soon snoring gently. We whispered together as girls love to do, having giggles over the silliest things, and enjoying ourselves hugely. One by one we drifted to sleep lulled by the music of the brook and miriad insects with an obligato of "peepers" from the marsh nearby.
I don't know how long we'd been sleeping when the horse which we'd left grazing near our light wagon suddenly burst into loud snorts and neighs and, breaking its tether, made for the barn and the safety of its stall. Everyone woke up except Aunt Min.
"Do you s'pose it's Indians?" Sophronia whispered.
The boys had been at great pains to talk loudly all day about such interesting items as wandering Indians, panthers, ghosts, and wild dogs.
"NO! I don't." Juliette answered decidedly. "I think it's the boys."
And with that sage remark, she covered her head with the quilt and went back to sleep. The rest of us were town-bred and made of weaker stuff. We lay shivering under Grandmas warm coverlets, waiting for we knew not what.
For what seemed like hours we heard owls hooting, dogs yipping, and other strange sounds from all around the camp. Finally a weird call came from the very edge of the clearing.
"That does it!" Juliette cried, scrambling out of her shake-down and scooping up a stick of firewood as she ran toward the sound.
"Jim, that's you and I know it."
Her aim was better than she meant it to be for the night now rang with real cries of pain. The wood had found its mark on Jims arm, leaving a deep bruise that lasted for days. Worse than that was Juliette's sprained ankle caused by running barefoot over the rutted ground.
That was the extent of my camping experience and the boys' too for that summer. They were so heartily ashamed of themselves for spoiling their sisters birthday that they fetched and carried for her like the best of beaus all the time she was laid up with the sprain.