David and Andy are both younger than me. We used to fight all the time but somehow, we grew out of it. The three of us get along well now. In fact, I don’t know anyone else who I can count on, without hesitation or reservation, like I can depend upon my brothers.
Andy, the youngest, became a Mennonite minister. I jokingly refer to him as the white sheep of the family. He and his wife moved to Taiwan, and later to Hong Kong, where they worked as missionaries and raised a family.
Dave and I bought motorcycles about the same time and did quite a bit of riding together.
Then things changed. David got busy with work and with raising a family. Andy moved back to the states. He bought a motorcycle. I helped him set up a sidecar and taught him how to ride it. Now Andy and I spend a lot of time together, riding and camping.
We enjoy each other’s company, but all three of us rarely get together outside of family functions. We all live in the same town, but somehow finding the time is difficult.
That may be changing. I’m still working full-time, but my job is in flux and I have random extra days off. Andy and his wife have moved in with our parents. The folks are getting older and can use the security and help of having them nearby. David’s kids have grown up and he has more time outside of work. Surprise turned instantly to enthusiasm when he suggested the three of us go camping. I didn’t hesitate, and neither did Andy when the subject was broached.
Andy and I were going to take our bikes up and Dave was going to drive my truck, loaded with tipi poles and supplies (David’s Harley would not have been happy with the road into camp). Plans changed when a problem with my Triumph’s brakes cropped up as I was prepping for the trip. Dave and I ended up in the truck together, following Andy on his KLR. Walter Dog rode in the truck with us.
It was late morning by the time we arrived in camp. My brothers gathered wood and got a fire going while I put the tipi together.
Dave was a little skeptical of the lunch menu – Spam sandwiches cooked in the pie irons – but he decided they were pretty good after all. He said Spam had gotten a bad rap, and the trick to enjoying it was to pretend it was something else.
We found an ironwood bush (Holodiscus discolor) next to camp and cut some sticks to roast our dinner on — an eight-pound steelhead I had gotten from the Indian fish stand the night before. I slid the ironwood stakes up the middle of the filets and wove cross sticks through the meat to keep the fish in place as it cooked. I drizzled a little olive oil over it, sprinkled it with salt, and shoved bunches of sage under the cross sticks. I piled some pear wood on the fire and pushed the stakes into the ground next to it with the steelhead dangling over the flames, skin side out. When the flesh had changed from a reddish to a pale pink, I rotated the stakes to put the skin nearest the flames and let it roast for a little longer.
After dinner we retired to the tipi and relaxed around the fire, sipping Kentucky Mules and telling stories on each other.
Saturday morning, we had taco-things for breakfast. The day warmed quickly, which was nice; the hot sun drove the mosquitos away. We messed about camp, made forays to collect firewood and just relaxed, enjoying each other’s company and the ambience of being out in the woods.
In the heat of the day, Andy decided we should go exploring. He led us downstream, walking in the middle of Lost Creek. The afternoon was hot, but the water was cold. Dave brought along a flask of rum to fortify ourselves with. Walter raced back and forth with excitement, splashing water everywhere, dashing out of the creek to roll in the mud and then running back into the stream to urge us on.
Andy stopped at a deep hole to go swimming. Dave and I were reluctant at first (did I mention, the water was cold?), but Andy egged us on. Eventually, we both submerged ourselves. I have to admit, it was refreshing. Andy dove off a log into the deep spot a couple of times before we turned around and headed back upstream.
Back in camp we spread our wet clothes in the sun to dry. I mixed up some gin and tonics and we sat in the shade, sipping our drinks and eating snacks. We traded stories from our misspent youth; Andy told us some tales of hijinks he was involved in that neither David nor I had heard before. It seems the preacher had a wild side we never knew about (don’t worry, Andy – your secret is safe with me).
The gin was getting low; Andy rolled out a carpet and took a nap in the shadow of the tipi. Dave was nodding in his chair. I may have dozed a bit myself. It was one of those kind of afternoons: comfortable, companionable, and soporific.
That evening, Dave helped me put together chili and corn bread, cooked in the Dutch ovens. This time I used canned beans, so it didn’t take very long. We sat around the fire, adjusting the coals on the Dutch oven and listening to the chili bubble. Soon our camp smelled delicious and it was time to eat.
It seems like one moment you are planning and organizing, eagerly anticipating a trip, and before you know it, it’s all over and done. Dave says you shouldn’t worry about that so much. He says, if you had a piece of your favorite cake sitting on a plate, you wouldn’t think “What’s the point? Once I eat it, it’s gone.” No, you are going to eat that cake. You look at it, and you enjoy thinking how good it is going to taste. You eat it and each bite reminds you of other cakes you have enjoyed, and you enjoy that cake. When the cake is gone, you remember it and you look forward to the next cake. Life is like that. My brothers and I, we like cake. And pie. Pie is good, too.