Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Snowy Egrets for Breakfast; also Ghosts of Camping Past and of Empires

Well camping at St. Andrews State Park, near Panama City Beach, FLA (July 22 - 25), was fun – actually we did little “camping”, no fire, no hotdogs, the only meals we ate at the camp site were breakfasts and those were granola bars and poptarts straight out of the box. It was hot and humid, the air heavy with mosquitos, and our tent contained two large box fans connected to a long extension cord out to the power box; not exactly a serene sleeping environment. On the other hand our tent was pitched 20 feet from the bay, with crabs scurrying in the underbrush along the lapping shoreline. Each morning and one evening a snowy egret landed on the over-water roots of a large pine tree that provided us with “thank god” levels of shade for our site. We sat in our folding chairs, 10 feet from the water and the 3 foot tall bird as it fished and waded, first to the left and then back to the right.

We also saw deer and an alligator and dolphins and a sting ray and fish and many other birds from cardinals and blue jays to woodpeckers to herons. The gulf water was warm and friendly.

One night Caralyn was having trouble falling to sleep and I told her tales of camping with cousins in my childhood. I told her of lifting cottonwood logs, building bridges to escape across swollen streams and of finding isolated cabins and locking their locations up as secrets among us cousins by piling our hands together, each with its fingers in a “V” shape and the last free hand sticking an index finger down the center to lock it up until that lock be remade by exactly those present and undone the same way. After that she slept, from enchantment or from boredom or from exhaustion I can’t be sure, but we did plenty away from the tent to tire all of us. We spent hours on the beach, sailed an excellent Pirate Cruise, played Goofy Golf, ate seafood, went to the arcades and dropped too many quarters into the machines that pile quarters and push them with a little moving wall, the droppee hoping to have more quarters pushed over the edge and out to him than he drops in the top. It was a good time but parts were uncomfortable and I don’t expect any of us to remember those parts in a few decades.

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