Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Maybe Then but Not Today

It could have been me in 1946.

I had just finished helping a neighbor stuff an attic with insulation. The itchy-scratchy kind. And it was August when a friend and I got done with the job.

We thought a camping trip would suffice as relief from the job and so Eddie and I gathered up survival rations and primitive camping gear and set out for the Hunter Mountain area of New York's Catskill Mountains. No backpacks. No tents. No sleeping bags. No insect repellent. Two bushel bags full of food a little like the picture above but not carried on a pole. And we were hitchhiking.

We arrived at the mountain in late afternoon ate our first meal, and proceeded to spread our primitive
bedrolls to get an evenings rest before setting out on the trails the next morning. What we didn't know was that flies, fleas, gnats, and mosquitoes had scheduled a convention in our camp site and we were their welcome guests.

The joy of camping and hiking was gone by morning and, rather than going back home, we decided to hitchhike to Niagara Falls and back. So back to the highway we went and it was not long before a farmer allowed us the privilege of riding in the back of his pickup truck for a few hours. When he reached his destination, we thumbed another ride in another truck for quite a while. (I think we ended up in Cooperstown of baseball fame by then.)

On the road again, we got a ride from a traveling salesman who got us all the way to Buffalo. On the way we cooked up a supper and he picked up a lady who turned out to be totally out of it from an alcohol binge and she was deposited at the front door of a Syracuse Police station. Then it was on to Buffalo where our driver allowed us to sleep on the floor of his Buffalo apartment living room.

I have no recollection of how we got to Niagara Falls but we made it there, and at the end of the day we decided to stay in a YMCA in Lockport. By this time we were getting a bit "ripe" and the "Y" had showers. The next morning we were on our way again - same clothes since we brought no change of clothes. Somehow we got to an open field between Syracuse and Utica where we camped in an open field. No bugs and 'critters' this time but the ground was really hard and sleep was hard to come by.
Seems to me that we started the day off with a breakfast of sardines and beans since there was not a lot of food left.

The next day we somehow made our way to Albany. How I don't know because we were really looking pretty shabby - an d left some body odor behind wherever we were. Not only that, but we were not very agreeable to each other - we were trying to decide whose crazy idea it was to take this trip anyway. We may have been out of food, but we had a little money in our pockets and decided that in the interest of getting home we would take the train the final 30 or so miles. By the way, it was well before the days of Interstate highways.

When Eddie and I met again some fifty years later we had matured a bit. we had a pleasant reunion but the question still remained: Whose idea was it to take the trip in the first place? And whose idea
was it to give up hiking to go to Niagara Falls? And was the trip a wise one to undertake?

Not on your life - but it was one of those things adventurous teenagers do - and sometimes still do.
But times were different then and we got away with it. I can't say the same for doing stuff like that today.

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