When I was a boy my best friend, Terry, and I considered each and every day a golden opportunity for having full on adventure. We considered ourselves explorers, scientists, naturalists living on an uncharted planet, managed by a bunch of Nazi like goons and their wives. We were brave, except when it came to girls, and were afraid of no creatures from the black lagoon. We played basketball almost every day after school, rode our bikes all over the place, read Hardy Boys mystery books and stayed up late to watch monster movies after midnight. But we made a lot of dumb mistakes, too. Once we almost set a country club on fire because we were smoking cigarettes down by the docks when Terry carelessly flipped his match into the grass at his feet. Almost instantly the grass caught on fire and started to spread. We took our tee shirts off and beat the blazes down, but were later caught when the adults wanted to know why our clothes smelled like smoke. I guess our faces were smudged, too. If I’d had my wits about me I would have started humming the Chimney Sweep song from the Walt Disney movie. But puns have to be made quickly or they expire right away. Plus, we were terrified at the anger on the faces of the adults.
One time Terry, Dennis, Bobby W. and I decided to go camping together. We took this activity very seriously, that meant lots of sweet snacks, of course, and our secret pipes and pipe tobacco. As I recall we got the idea for pipes from watching or reading Sherlock Holmes. We thought it made us look cool and collected. We were more able to have serious conversations about serious subjects stabbing our pipes meaningfully into the air around a roaring campfire. We also brought a transistor radio so we could listen to FM radio late in the night and hear the forbidden sounds of psychedelic rock, even though we weren’t really sure what that meant. It was the idea that we were getting away with something. What, we weren’t sure of, but it felt good to be making our own decisions.
Anyway we set off on a path right behind Terry’s house that led us pretty quickly deep into the spooky woods. There were creeks with lots of brown frogs to explore, fallen logs, mushrooms, the occasional wildflowers, which we ignored on account of all that girly stuff, birds high in the trees, and one of us always kept watch with a bb gun for wild animals like boars or bears just in case. Luckily no animals with jutting teeth or foaming mouths were to be seen. Suddenly we heard loud, tromping noises, someone laughing, and decided to hide in the nearby bushes. Turns out it was another group of boys just like us, although they seemed a lot meaner. We let them pass without a word. We were proud of ourselves for so skillfully hiding in place from these intruders into the realm of the unknown woods. We silently pressed on. It was getting late. We needed to make camp while there was still some light.
We finally settled on a sloping hill that had a little tucked away dent in it just right for building a good round fire on and being somewhat protected from an over hill surprise attack of some kind, should we need it. We got out our musty old sleeping bags and went to work on eating everything we had brought with us. I never ate so many cookies in my life. It felt good not to have to carry anything on our backs anymore. We smoked up a storm, listened to music, told stories from comic books, farted, laughed, looked at all the stars and pissed into the surrounding darkness with extreme satisfaction. I fell asleep pretty quickly after that. Then all of a sudden somebody was shaking me awake. Sshhh, be quiet, listen. All around us in every direction we could hear a kind of soft rustling noise. I was scared shitless. What could it be? Coyotes? Maybe those boys from the previous hours on the path, with sharp sticks and large rocks in their hands, they did have mean faces, remember? We made a quick, daring plan. On the count of One Two Three, we would shine our flashlights in all four directions at once and prepare to fight whatever it was that had surrounded us in our sleep.
My god, what a relief and a surprise! It was cows. We were surrounded by cows. We had wandered into a cow pasture. We laughed and danced and clapped our hands in utter astonishment at our good fortune. There would be no defending the hill tonight. Only the long walk back to civilization and the awkward goodbyes at the borders of the wild woods as we returned to our own homes and beds. But there was one more surprise in store for us. One of us saw something metallic sticking up into the air a little distance away. The decision was made to go check it out. As we got closer it became apparent that the strange saucer like object was a street lamp. We were at the end of a dead end street. We had camped next to the suburbs without even knowing it.