Our Thanksgiving dinner spread the length of a couple of tables near a stand of moss covered oaks and cypress. The thought of not sitting at a table with china and silverware at first seemed odd, but then I thought back to the first Thanksgiving. Our setting was much more in tune with the Pilgrims and Indians. This arrangement had an unexpected bonus, too, the chance to meet new people.
The camper in the next site saw the bald eagle as I was moving closer to get a photo. When it flew back into the trees he thought he saw where it landed, so we moved farther into the grove as he told me he had never seen a bald eagle in Florida. He was in his thirties, olive skinned, and his dark eyes lit up at such a sighting. Unfortunately we didn’t see the eagle again. The only birds above us were a flock of buzzards. They didn’t mind having their picture taken.
Do you have any idea how much you can learn about a person in a few minutes while you walk back to camp?
“See that small tent?” he said, pointing to a dark green, small pup tent by the larger one. I’m working on a design for a bear proof tent. That one is much stronger than our large, commercial one, but not strong enough.
“My next one will be made from high tensile strength airplane cloth.” This is where he got really excited. “With that cloth you can make a hole only if you really hammer something into it, and then to rip it takes 600 pounds of tensile strength.”
I took it word for it that that was really strong.
I asked what he did when not designing bear-proof tents. He had been a pilot for a cargo company before the economy went down. Now he buys and sells cars. That led to a discussion of the economy and presidents’ effect on it. We were on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but discussed the influence of Obama, the Bushes, Clinton and Reagan, agreeing on some points while remaining a chasm apart on others.
As we neared our camps I wondered about his wife, still sitting in her camp chair. Did she have these conversations with him—or with strange men she wandered into the woods with? And was she hot sitting there wrapped from head to foot in a long garment with a scarf around her head? So yes, you can learn a lot in a short walk in a campground, but you can also end up with a lot more questions than answers.