(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published June 17, 2001.)
There's nothing like taking your family on a camping trip - getting away from civilization, sleeping under the open sky, looking up into the heavens and gazing upon an awe-inspiring vista of millions and millions of . . . what ARE those things? Bats? Very large mosquitoes? Oh NO! They've taken little Ashley!
So perhaps it's better not to sleep under the open sky. But you should still go camping, because it's the best way to get close to nature, with "nature" defined as "anything that you would kill if it got inside your house."
Exposure to nature is healthy, especially for children. Kids today spend far too many hours sitting around indoors, watching moronic TV shows such as Jackass and the evening news. By stark contrast, when I was a youngster, growing up in the small rural town of Armonk, N.Y., in a house surrounded by rustic woodland, I spent countless carefree hours roaming free in my bedroom, learning to make flatulence noises with my armpit. But I'm sure that if I HAD gone outside and interacted with nature, I would be a much healthier person today.
That's why I say: So WHAT if North America has more than 30 species of rattlesnakes, as well as 60 species of spiders that inflict what are classified as "medically important" bites? Let's start planning your family camping trip right now, using the "Q" and "A" format!
I know what raccoons are capable of. When I was a boy in rural Armonk, our garbage cans were regularly terrorized by a gang of brilliant criminal raccoons. I recall being awakened at 3 a.m. by loud noises, and looking out the window to see, by moonlight, my father, a peace-loving Presbyterian minister, charging around in the bushes in his pajamas, wildly swinging a baseball bat and saying non-Presbyterian words. Of course he did not get the raccoons; you NEVER get the raccoons. The raccoons were safe in their secret headquarters, recording my father via high-resolution night-vision videotape technology that humans would not develop for another 25 years. That particular video is still hugely popular on Raccoon Entertainment TV ("Tonight we present the classic episode, 'Crazed Minister in Pajamas' ").
Ten years later, I was a counselor at Camp Sharparoon, which meant that I had to go camping in the woods with a group of boys and a nutritionally balanced food supply consisting of 75,000 small boxes of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes. I tried to protect our food at night via the Boy Scout-handbook technique of suspending it from a rope strung between two trees; the raccoons, who were monitoring me via tiny cameras hidden in pine cones, thought this was hilarious. When darkness fell, they got the food down in seconds, using lasers. It would not surprise me to learn that they had paid the Boy Scouts to put that technique in the handbook.
(c) 2010, Dave Barry
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