Category Archives: Work Camping

Help

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The technology at the store had let us down.

The internet had glitched out around 10am, and we lost our cash register system. We waited around for it to reboot, and when the situation didn’t take care of itself, The Big Boss had The Man unplug and replug some equipment. When that didn’t work either, we put in a call to the company’s cash register maven. She wasn’t in, so a messagw was left, then we sat around the store hoping for a technological miracle.

Luckily, it was a slow day. It was actually a really slow day. When it was all said and done, after 8 hours, we’d only sold a few stuffed toys, a map, a couple tubes of sunscreen, a few t-shirts, and a handful of parking passes.

We had to do each sale the old-fashion way. We wrote a customer’s items down on a paper receipt. Next we added together the prices of all the customer’s items, then multiplied the total by 1.08 to get the total with tax. If the customer didn’t give us exact change, we used the calculator to figure how much money to hand back. In 2017, it felt like a long and antiquated process.

The Man had been handling most of the sales transactions. I was happy enough to talk to people and avoid the math.

The young woman came into the store late in the day. She had several young children in tow. She asked if we sold sunscreen. I said yes and brought her right over to the (admittedly small) sunscreen selection. I showed her the small tubes and the two varieties of sunscreen sticks. She was immediately unhappy.

Don’t you have anything bigger? she asked.

I told her I did not.

Then she looked at the price, which increased her unhappiness.

I admit, $3.95 for a tiny tube of sunscreen is kind of steep. However, I didn’t set the price. Besides, what did she expect up in the mountains? When you leave civilization, you have to expect to pay more for luxuries.

I guess I shouldn’t have left the sunscreen at home, she said in a nasty tone of voice.

I agreed with her in my head, but kept my mouth shut. I knew anything I said would only make the situation worse.

She took two tubes of sunscreen up to the counter while her kids ran around the store. The Man began to write up the sale while I pretended to by busy nearby. I didn’t really want to deal with her bad attitude anymore.

The Man was punching numbers on the calculator when I heard her ask him in a voice dripping with disdain, Do you need help?

He very calmly said, No, and completed the transaction, but when the store was empty again, he was hopping mad.

I didn’t blame him. The woman had insinuated he was stupid because he was going slowly and making sure he did the transaction correctly. Sometimes even when we know people’s nasty attitudes are about themselves and their own unhappiness, it can be difficult to let the negativity slide off our backs like water off a duck.

Dispatch from the Woods

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The Man and I weren’t doing so well in Northern New Mexico. The invisible biting bugs were horrible, really tearing us up. The intense heat, unusual in the mountains, was making our days, but particularly our nights, difficult to bear. Living in the van together day after day was making us edgy and irritable. Something had to give.

Our lives changed with a call from my boss from the last two summers. The store that was supposed to open last season was finally(!) about to open, and he needed two more people to staff it. He wanted to hire me and The Man. We’d have a free place to set up camp for the summer, and he’d work us each 40 hours a week. Could we be there in six days? We said Yes! and hit the road to California.

I wanted to write a dispatch from the road, but we stayed in the Worst Motel 6 Ever in Barstow, CA, and the internet was down. I was too tired to find either another hotel or a coffee shop with free WiFi.

Crossing the Mojave Desert in a vehicle with no air conditioner was no joke. Part of our problem was not leaving Flagstaff until 1pm. I’d wanted to leave earlier, but it was afternoon by the time we packed up camp; drove to town; bought water, ice, and a few groceries; bought a solar shower, privacy tent, and tarp at  Wal-Mart; went through a bunch of rigmarole to find out Wal-Mart was out of Blue Rhino propane tanks and couldn’t exchange our empty one for a full one; went to a herb shop downtown so The Man could buy loose tea, and (finally!) filled up the gas tank.

It was hot when we stopped in Kingman, AZ to do the propane tank exchange. The Man and Jerico stood in the shade under one of the few parking lot trees while I went inside to pay for the new tank. The Wal-Mart employee who came out to make the switch expressed concern for Jerico’s paws on the hot asphalt.

Back on the road, we soon passed into California. At the agriculture checkpoint, there was a big digital sign like banks have announcing the time and temperature. 119 degrees! It had been a long time since I’d been in triple digit temperatures.

The Man grabbed our squirt bottle full of water (hippie air conditioning, he calls it) and sprayed me down while I drove. He also discovered that opening the windows let in air hotter than the air in the van. Over the next few hours, we did a lot of opening and closing windows trying to catch a breeze or let hot air out, trying to get comfortable. Surprise! There was no way to get comfortable in a van without air conditioning in the Mojave Desert that June day.

I stopped at the first Dairy Queen I saw and got us both Reese’s peanut butter cup Blizzards. I couldn’t drive and eat, so The Man took the wheel. The ice cream didn’t last nearly long enough, and we were back to using the squirt bottle.

Late in the afternoon, the sun moved down the horizon, and the temperature dropped to hot but bearable. Still, as much as I hated to do it, we got a motel room in Barstow. Maybe I could have gotten a little sleep in the sunbaked van had I been alone, but there was no way two adults and a dog could have been comfortable sleeping in there. Even if the van had cooled after baking in the sun all day (which it hadn’t), the body heat of three mammals in the enclosed space would have been unbearable. Even with the windows open, there wouldn’t have been enough air flow to keep us cool.

The air conditioner at the Motel 6 was not up to the challenge of the summer night. Although the air conditioner was on when we opened the door, we were not met with the chilly wonderfulness I’d been hoping for. The room was stuffy, and I had a difficult time deciding if it was cooler inside or out.

The a/c wasn’t a wall unit like in almost every other motel I’ve been in. All we had was a vent above the bathroom door and an ersatz thermostat on the wall. All we could really control were the settings “heat,” “cool,” and “fan.” If I stood in just the right spot a few feet from the bathroom door and stretched my arms over my head, I could feel a bit of cool air blowing out, but it was no match for the desert heat.

I slept poorly all night, although the warm room probably wasn’t as uncomfortable as the hot van would have been.

The Man and I were both awake by five the next morning. We each has another shower and got our things together. The morning air was cool, but we were hot again before we finally made it up the mountain.

When we finally made it to our destination, the tall green trees and the cool mountain air were a wonderful contrast to the drab heat of the desert. My memory hadn’t exaggerated how lovely my home of the last two summers is. I’m glad this place will be my home for the rest of this summer and hopefully into the fall.

If you’re reading this, it’s because the mercantile (the Forest Service doesn’t like the word “store”) has WiFi, and the employees are allowed to utilize it. That’s a definite step up from years past.

This photo I took shows the mercantile/visitor center where The Man and I work.

Special thanks to The Man for getting my computer to connect to the WiFi at the mercantile.

 

 

Heavenly Father

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When I worked in the National Forest parking lot, I often overheard visitors saying strange things.

One day a car pulled into the parking lot with three people inside. A young man in a green t-shirt was driving. A woman of middle age sat in the backseat. A very old, rather feeble-looking man occupied the passenger seat. I wondered idly about the relationships of those three people. A mother, son, and grandfather?Was the young man the son of the old man, the product of his late middle age? Maybe they weren’t related at all. Maybe they were friends or business associates.

The old man wanted to use his Golden Age pass to pay the parking fee. I explained I couldn’t accept the Golden Age pass in lieu of the $5. I could tell he wasn’t happy about the situation, but he didn’t argue. The young man drove the car off to find a spot to park.

Later, as I sat in my chair between approaching new arrivals, I heard a woman’s voice from behind me.

I’ve been thinking about it, she said. The Heavenly Father is a record keeper. First day…Second day…

What in the world is she talking about? I wondered. Is she talking to me?

I looked over and saw the young man in the green t-shirt. Next to him stood the middle-age woman. She was the person I’d heard talking.

I took this photo of the iron ranger the old man was using as a writing surface.

The very old man was standing close to the iron ranger. He had a small piece of paper or perhaps a tiny notebook on the flat top of the iron ranger, and he seemed to be writing something. Perhpas this note-taking was something he did often?

Even a heathen like me could figure out the woman meant God when she said Heavenly Father. But record keeperFirst daySecond day? I assume she was referring to the Book of Genesis where a list is given of what God created on each day of the week. Was she equating the old man and his note-taking to Ulmighty God? (Also, if God is an all-powerful being, would he really have to keep records? Wouldn’t he just know what he created and when? Is it even possible for God to forget?)

I thought what the woman had said was interesting (and weird), so as soon as they walked off, I wrote down her words verbatim. When The Lady of the House visited me at my campground, she saw the piece of paper upon which I’d written the words. What’s this? she asked.

I told her the story of the very old man and the young man in the green t-shirt and the middle-aged woman who said the words.

Mormons, The Lady said.

What? I asked, confused. What did Mormons have to do with anything?

Mormons call God “Heavenly Father,” she said. The Lady has two best friends who belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so she is my go-to for all questions related to the religion.

I had no idea, I said.

Yep, she said. If you hear people refere to the Heavenly Father, they’re probably Momons.

She’d just cleared up part of the mystery. Even though I’d already been pretty sure the Heavenly Father was God, it was good to have confirmation. But why was the old man taking notes? To assist a failing memory? Was he planning to write a book?

I have a theory that if a person lives long enough, all questions will be answered, but I’ll probably die before I understand what was going on with those three people that day in the parking lot. I doubt those mysteries will ever be revealed.

 

Do You Grow?

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It was in the last days of my second season as a camp host when I went to the group campground to check in the astronomy club staying there for the weekend. When I asked around, I was told the person who’d made the reservation had not yet arrived. A nice guy in my age group offered to sign the permit, so I wrote down his address and other pertinent information.

I meant to give him a fire permit too, so using their camp stoves would be legal, but I realized hours later that I’d forgotten to do so.

The next morning when I went back to the group campground, I had the fire permit ready for the same guy to sign. I’d simply copied the man’s address from the camping permit onto the fire permit. When I found the man and asked him to sign the permit, he jokingly asked if I’d memorized his address.

I explained I’d copied his address from the camping permit. Then he asked if I planned to visit.

I began to wonder if the man was flirting with me. Men never flirt with me, so I’m not sure I could recognize flirting if it actually happened. His being in my age group made flirting more probable, but I decided he was just being friendly.

I told him I couldn’t visit because I didn’t even know where his town was.

It’s in Santa Cruz County, he told me. We have a big organic farm. You could park your van on our farm.

(I don’t know exactly who the other people included in his “we” were.)

I made a bland comment about it must be nice to live on a farm. Then I  said, Do you grow…?

I meant to end the sentence with something clever, but nothing clever came to mind. (That’s what I get for I opening my mouth with no plan on how to end what I’ve already started to say.) Instead of ending the sentence with something at least reasonable, if not clever (beets? pumpkins?) I simply let the sentence hang there unfinished.

Then I realized, Santa Cruz County and Do you grow? when taken together have a definite marijuana connotation. What if he thought I was asking if they grew weed on the organic farm?

I’d never ask a stranger if he grew pot. It seems like a rude question, even in California, seeing how marijuana is federally illegal and all. It’s none of my business if someone is growing weed. It’s safer for everyone to keep marijuana cultivation on a need to know basis, and I don’t need to know!

I’m not sure if the man recognized my awkwardness. He started talking about the zucchini he and whoever else lives on the farm grows. He told me all about the big, big zucchini.

Any flirting that may have been going on was entirely incompetent.

 

Update on House and Pet Sitting

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There was recently a discussion about house and pet sitting in one of the online van groups I’m in. Before I posted the two pieces I previously wrote about house and pet sitting (http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/23/how-do-you-find-houses-to-sit/ and http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/24/more-on-house-and-pet-sitting/), I reread them and found I said I’d share my experiences getting gigs through House Sitters America. I’d totally forgotten that promise, but I’ll make good on it today.

To recap:

A year’s membership with  House Sitters America (http://www.housesittersamerica.com), cost $30. The website’s FAQ (http://www.housesittersamerica.com/sitter-faqs) explains the process this way:

House sitters register to list their profile on the House Sitters America database.

Here they can be seen by US homeowners via the website. These homeowners are able to contact the house sitter directly to discuss potential house sitting.

Registered house sitters are also able to contact any of the homeowners through their adverts.

Once one registers as a house sitter via the House Sitters America website, one can choose the state(s) where one is interested in working. A potential house sitter can set up alerts so s/he is notified when an job in the state(s) of interest is advertised. At that point, a potential house sitter is able to contact the home owner who placed the ad.

I’ve never had a homeowner I didn’t know contact me to ask me to sit. I’ve always been the one to initiate contact after receiving an alert or seeing a homeowner’s ad.

I got four house sitting gigs from the first $30 I spent to join House Sitters America (HSA). The first job I got through the site led to me sitting again for the same woman a few weeks after the initial time she hired me. The woman would have hired me a third time, but I was unavailable when she needed me.

I got the second two gigs through HSA for the time after my camp host job ended and before the temperatures  in the Southwest were pleasant. The first job, which lasted ten days, involved caring for two sweet little dogs. The second job lasted three weeks and involved caring for an extremely independent cat. Neither of the jobs paid any money; in both cases, I had a free place to stay (with running water and electricity and fast internet and a refrigerator and television) in exchange for tending to the pets.

From reading the ad for the first job, I figured out I’d be dealing with a guy. Through our correspondence via the House Sitters America messaging system and subsequent phone conversation, I learned he’d be traveling to Hawaii, where his wife was already living. My years of conditioning kicked in and worries started running through my head. What if this is a setup? What if he’s going to lock me in a closet? What if he’s a rapist? Please note, I had no bad feelings about the man himself. He didn’t say anything weird or creepy. I had no negative gut reactions. My instincts told me he was fine. Yet, the worries I’ve been conditioned to have were there.

Instead of passing up the job, I took precautions. I communicated with my trusted friend, the woman I check in with every day when I have phone service. I told her the man’s first and last name. I gave her his address and phone number and email address. I let her know what time I was set to meet him, and asked her to check in with me if she hadn’t heard from me within an hour of that time. When I arrived at the house, I let my friend know I was there. When the man turned out to be a really nice guy (nothing creepy, no red flags, no negative gut reactions), I texted my friend to tell her all was well. I guess something bad could have happened, but I knew someone was looking out for me and would at least know where to begin searching for me if I disappeared.

It’s been very interesting to me to see how different people deal with leaving their home and pets in the hands of a house sitter.

The woman I sat for in my first job through HSA was going on a cruise and would have no cell phone service for most of the time she would be away. When I asked her who I should call in the event of an emergency, she became very defensive and asked me what I thought was going to go wrong. (I think she is one of those people who believes thinking about bad things invites those things to happen.) I tried to tell her I didn’t think anything bad was going to happen, but wanted to be prepared in the event something did. She did not want to discuss anything negative and didn’t leave me with a telephone number for a vet or a plumber or a neighbor or a maintenance person or anyone. I was on my own! Luckily, I didn’t need any of the telephone numbers she hadn’t left for me.

The couple with the independent cat I sat for were the polar opposite of the woman who refused to talk about anything negative. I had both of their cell phone numbers and was encouraged to call or text them if I had any problem. They left me the phone numbers of both their vet and their next door neighbor. The man walked me through the house with a checklist and showed me how to work the appliances.  In the laundry room, he showed me  how to turn off the water input valves on the washer when not in use He told me where the breaker box was and how to shut off the main water valve and main propane valve if any problem occurred. The woman insisted on driving me into town and showing me the locations of the post office and the library and the grocery store. They were both super nice people. I enjoyed talking to them and appreciated being prepared for every situation they could imagine.

The guy whose wife was in Hawaii was somewhere in between the two extremes. He showed me around the house and explained the operation of the newfangled, computerized washer and dryer. He pointed out the magnet on the refrigerator with a phone number for a 24 hour emergency vet. He let me know I could call or text him if I needed anything, and that was that.

I have been very happy with House Sitters America. I’ve gotten four house sitting gigs through the website, all of which have turned out well. Early in November, my HSA membership was up for renewal, and I plunked down my $30 to continue with the service. I think House Sitters America is a great resource for people who want to expand their house sitting possibilities beyond family, friends, and friends of friends.

I took this photo of the view from the back deck of the house where I sat with the independent cat.

I took this photo of the view from the back deck of the house where I sat with the independent cat.

More About the Man Who Died

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On my last Saturday on the mountain, I was working at the parking lot when Mr. Jack, one of the sheriff’s department volunteers, pulled in. Mr. Jack is about eighty years old, has totally white hair, and likes to talk…a lot. I don’t exactly cultivate friendships with cops (even volunteer cops), but I try to stay on friendly terms with Mr. Jack.

We chatted for a few minutes about it being the end of the season before I asked him if he had heard anything else about the dead man I’d found in a pickup truck the week before. (Read about that experience here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/10/11/something-terrible/.) At first he said no, but then he said something, something, suicide.

I said something aloud, maybe oh, no! or maybe even damn!

Mr. Jack said, Oh, you didn’t know… I could tell he felt pretty bad about blurting the news out that way. Obviously, he thought I’d already heard.

He told me a note had been found in the truck. He didn’t say where. He didn’t tell me exactly what the note said, either (maybe he didn’t know), but whatever the note said, the sheriff’s department decided it meant the man had lit a charcoal fire in his tightly closed truck with the intent to kill himself. I suppose he succeeded, although I bet to his family, it felt like a failure.

Mr. Jack said the young man was only twenty-four.

I teared up. I couldn’t help it. I felt so sad for the young man and his family.

I’ve dealt with depression since I was a child. I’ve had suicidal thoughts at various times throughout my life. I know depression can be immobilizing. I know depression has kept me from achieving goals. I know times of suicidal thoughts are dark and scary times. So when I say I feel sad for the young man and his family, I don’t mean I feel sad in some abstract or theoretical way. I’ve felt like I couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t put one foot in front of the other, felt like I couldn’t go on. I’ve longed for oblivion. I don’t know what exactly this fellow was facing, but I have a pretty good idea of how he felt when he decided he just couldn’t make it through another day in this world.

To me, in most circumstances, folks who chooses suicide are not in their right mind. Barring terminal illness, I can’t see a mentally healthy person making such a choice. Many people have negative things to say about individuals who have ended their own lives. Because I’ve felt hopeless and useless and low myself, I have great compassion for people who’ve had suicidal thoughts, people who’ve attempted suicide, and people who’ve completed this desperate final task.

I keep thinking about IF I had crossed paths with the youmg man at some point before his death, would I have known he was in crisis? Would I have been able to say or do anything to help? Could I have stopped him from killing himself or at least helped him live one more day, maybe one day long enough to get over being suicidal? What could I have possibly done or said?

I wonder why I was the one who found the dead man. I know someone had to find him, and I was the logical person, since no one had been staying in that campground and I was the camp host on patrol. But was the Universe sending me a message? I know we humans tend to want to find meaning even where there is none, or maybe we simply overlay our own meaning where none was intended.

I’ve found a meaning in this experience. Whether the Universe sent the man to me to teach me this lesson, I don’t know. But if the Universe is saying something to me here, this is what I think it is: Don’t do that suicide shit, because someone is going to have to find you, and why would you wish that on anyone?

Point taken, Universe. Point taken.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline’s website (http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/#) says,

The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, [as well as] prevention and crisis resources…

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

On the website, folks can click on the phone number in blue to Skype or on the word “CHAT” on the top left of the page to instant message with someone. I added the phone number to the contacts in my phone.

 

 

 

Something Terrible

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Something terrible happened.

A young man died

and I found his body.

I woke up Thursday feeling kind of off. I still had enough sick-time hours to cover my workday, so I left the campground I was babysitting and drove the few miles to my campground. I spent the day working on my book and taking down my privacy tent and generally resting up for the weekend. After eating dinner around 4:30, I felt well enough to put on my uniform and check-in some campers who’d just arrived. As I prepared to drive back to the campground I had to babysit, it occurred to me that I hadn’t been to the group campground I was responsible for since the previous morning. So after emptying the iron ranger at the parking lot, I headed over to the group campground.

I didn’t see the pickup truck until I was on the road running through the middle of the group campground. It was parked as far to the left side of the road as possible. It was still partly in the road, but there was just enough room for a vehicle as large as my van to pass it.

I thought the pickup probably belonged to a hunter. It was deer season, and hunters in pickups were all over the place. I thought the hunter had left the truck there and had gone out past the meadow and into the trees to look for a buck.

I noticed a bag of charcoal in the back of the truck. It had been opened, some of the charcoal removed, then the top edge rolled closed, In addition to telling the hunter s/he was parked in a $126 per night campground, I wanted to make sure s/he knew charcoal fires were prohibited.

I didn’t think I would actually talk to the person who’d driven the truck into the campground. I thought I’d end up leaving a courtesy notice under a windshield wiper, but I decided to try to make personal contact before I wrote out a notice.

Hello! Hello! I called out when I left the van. I looked around the campground, but I didn’t see anyone walking about or sitting at a picnic table.

I approached the passenger side of the truck and peered through the dusty window. To my surprise, I saw someone sitting in the driver’s seat. Judging from the person’s short hair and flat chest, the person was male. His face was unlined, young. He seemed to be sleeping—eyes closed, mouth slightly open—although the position of his head and necked looked extremely uncomfortable.

I knocked on the glass of the passenger side window with a series of knuckle tingling thumps—no gentle taps for this camp host in a hurry. The young man’s eyelids did not flutter. His shoulders did not twitch.

Wow! I thought. That kid’s really sleeping hard!

I had a new idea.

I went back to my van and sounded the horn. Honk! Honk! Honk!

Then I laid on the horn for several long seconds—Hooooonnnnnkkkkkk!!!

I walked back over to the truck and peered through the dusty window again. The young man had not moved. At this point I started getting worried.

I rapped loudly on the passenger side window again but saw not a flicker of movement.

I began to focus on my attention on the young man’s chest.

Throughout my nervous life, I’ve concentrated on so many chests—those belonging to children and pets I was caring for, those belonging to the boyfriend I hoped would die in the night and the boyfriends I hoped would live. Always, if I stared at the chest long enough, always, the chest would eventually move. This time though, the breath had run out. I saw no rise, no fall, no movement, no nothing.

I beat on the window with the flat of my fist. Bam! Bam! Bam!

No response. No movement of the young man’s chest.

I thought I should try knocking on the driver’s side window. Maybe the young man was just a really deep sleeper. Maybe the young man was chemically altered. (But his chest wasn’t moving. I knew his chest wasn’t moving. I knew what it meant that his chest wasn’t moving.) I tried to get to the driver’s side window, but the truck was parked up against trees and brush and there was no clear space to easily slip through.

I went back to my van and honked the horn, then laid on it again. When I got back to the truck, the young man had not moved a muscle. Although I was beginning to have to believe he was dead, I pounded on the window a few more times; of course, I received no response.

I stood there and wondered what I should do.

I’ve seen enough cop shows on TV and read enough mystery novels to know I did not want to be the hapless individual who stumbles upon a murder scene and destroys evidence or gets accused of the crime. This didn’t look like a crime scene, but what did I know? I didn’t want my fingerprints all over everything.

Should I try to do CPR on this guy? I haven’t had CPR training in nearly twenty years. Would I remember what to do? Better question: Would CPR do this guy any good? I remember reading or hearing somewhere that CPR can sometimes keep a person alive until EMTs arrive on the scene, but CPR alone is probably not going to save anyone’s life. Even if I got past the brush and dragged the young man out of the truck and performed CPR on him…No professional medical person of any kind was likely to happen down a winding dirt road and into the group campground to take over from me and save this guy’s life.

I decided the best thing I could do was call 911.

Of course, I was nowhere near a telephone. So I jumped in my van and drove fifteen miles to the campground where my boss was stationed. There was a landline there. I drove as fast as I dared on those mountain curves. (Slow down. I’m in a hurry, I  heard a former co-worker quote her grandmother.)

When I arrived at the campground, my boss wasn’t there. The camp host didn’t know where he was or when he’d be back. I was on my own.

I called my boss’s cell phone first and left a message on his voice mail saying I’d found someone I thought was dead and was calling 911.

The 911 call was a farce. The dispatcher had me spell my name but still got it wrong when she read the letters back to me. She asked me the last time I’d been in the campground, and I said between 7am and 9am the day before. She said, So 10am yesterday? Was she even listening to me? Finally, she asked if I could go back to the campground to guide the first responders to the body.

Yes, I said. I can do that.

I sat at the end of the road to the campground for nearly an hour before a deputy arrived. He had me drive in first, while he followed behind. I parked in front of the truck and got out of the van. The interior of the truck was dark, and I couldn’t see the young man in the driver’s seat. I hoped he’d woken up, left the truck, walked out into the meadow to take a leak or shoot a deer, or anything at all, really. I was totally willing to look like a fool for calling 911 if only the young man could be alive.

The officer shined his flashlight into the cab of the truck. The young man was still there.

He hasn’t moved, I said softly.

The officer tried to open the passenger side door. Locked.

Then he squeezed between the truck and the trees and the brush and tried the driver side door. Unlocked. He opened the door and the overhead light came on. I saw the officer reach in and put his fingers on the young man’s neck to check for a pulse.

In a few moments, the officer stepped from the side of the truck and said to me, He is deceased.

Then the officer rummaged around in the back of the dead man’s truck. He told me there was a small charcoal grill behind the passenger seat. He said it had evidence of charcoal that had been lit, but whether the young man had been trying to kill himself or stay warm, he didn’t know.

Medical personnel arrived and the officer and the EMT both squeezed between the truck and the trees to look at the dead man. They managed to get the door open and the overhead light was on again. The officer pointed out the charcoal grill and said he thought the man had died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

If carbon monoxide had killed him, his face would be red, the EMT said. Carbon monoxide poisoning would make his face red like a tomato, the EMT said.

I can vouch for the fact that his face was not red at all.

The deputy and the EMT agreed the young man must have died from suffocation. The fire used up all the oxygen in the tightly closed truck, and the young man had nothing left to breathe.

The EMT left, and the deputy took my statement. I told him I had a group scheduled to arrive in the campground the next afternoon. He said the mobile morgue was on its way and the body and the truck would be going in the morning.

I went back to the campground where I was spending the night. I felt empty and old. I kept remembering how the young man’s face looked while I was trying to wake him. I know it’s a cliché to say I kept seeing his face, but it’s true.

I don’t know if I should write about what happened. It seems so personal, not so much for me as for him. Should I write about a stranger’s death? I was there, for part of it at least, so now this death is a part of my story too.

Please, if you’re going to leave a comment on this post, please be compassionate. I don’t want to read anything negative about how this young man died. I don’t want anyone telling me what I should have done. I did the best I could under the circumstances. I think the young man probably did the best he could too. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions, but this time, please share the negative ones with someone else.