The wilderness set

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Some person, who of course has not yet come forward, and who no doubt never had children, or in any case not one like ours, sent our three-year-old a $6.95 "Camping Kit." Who would believe you could buy a pup tent, backpack, canteen, flashlight, 15 Everstick Band-Aids, and a compass that points due west -- for under $7.

My husband, being one-sixteenth American Indian (more or less), was quick to recognize this as a setup. With amazing good humor, and very little foresight, he volunteered to spend a night in the untamed wilds with our untrained son. the wilds being our back-yard where the only things untamed are the ants.

The afternoon the "kit" arrived was spent giving our child a crash course on camping. The tent went up easily and came down even faster. Before bedtime it had collapsed six times, and my husband's sense of humor (or was that sense of adventure?) never faltered.

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They filled the canteen with grape juice and hiked around the yard with the compass, only to discover our house sits on the North Pole and the only way out of here is west. They hiked around to various scenic outlooks to see unusual white butterflies through binoculars which had cellophane lenses.

They loaded the little backpack with "pretty" rocks, and nuts and bolts found in the driveway (from our car?). The delicate straps ripped from the fragile sack, causing the pack to unload on the ground. This brough a quick wave of hysteria, which my husband quickly smoothed over by applying two Ever-stick Band-Aids to my son's arms.

They roasted hot dogs over a bucket filled with newspaper and ate fresh peaches for dessert (which was like sending monogrammed invites to every ant in the land).

The sun was still high in the sky, when they decided to hit the sack. It was the black clouds that made it seem like midnight. My son arrived at the tent entrance (which looked exactly like the exit minus two-thirds of my husband's body) with an armful of stuffed animals, his "blankie," his pillow, and his new flashlight.

"What do we do if it rains, Dad?"

"We go inside. Alwaysm camp near your home."

"What do we do if a bear comes, Dad?"

"We go inside. Alwaysm camp near your home."

"Oh," he said thoughtfully. "And what do we do if I have to go in, Dad?"

"Oh, no! You don't, do you?"

"Yes." He crawled deftly out of the tent, pulling the whole worn mess down on my husband.

Once in his bag again, and with the tent resurrected, the sweet angel whispered for the world to hear, "Dad, do we say our prayers when we go camping?"

"Yes, say some extra, OK?"

"OK, Dad, but there's something wet on my pillow."

"It's that darn ole canteen. Guess this was a disposable-type camping kit. I wonder if ants like grape juice?" (Do ants like grape juice? After fresh peaches it rates No. 2.)

It began raining lightly and the battered tent was going down for the last time. The weight of the light drops was just too much for cellophane. My husband still calm, and ever ingenious, moved the picnic table over the tent.

"Should I pray for the tent, Dad?"

"Please."

"Dad?"

"Yes, son."

"Dad, I think there are ants in here. Is that OK?"

"Sure, but let's see your flashlight so we can see how many." (What a pillar of courage!)

"The flashlight won't go on Dad, I think we're just supposed to pretend we can see."

"I think we were supposed to pretendm we went camping!"

"Dad?"

"Yes, son."

"Dad, are we having fun?"

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