Tag Archives: Work camping

So Proud!

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My apologies for two posts in one day, but my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods is now live and available for purchase in the Kindle Store. I couldn’t be prouder!

Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods
Click on the image of the book’s cover to go to Amazon to find out more or to purchase. (If you shop on Amazon using this or any other of my other other affiliate links, I receive an advertising fee.)

If electronic books aren’t your style, don’t worry! The paper version will be available soon.

Thanks to everyone who’s helped make this book happen…

How to Use a Pit Toilet

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This photo shows a pit toilet. Today I am going to tell you how to use one.

I shouldn’t have to explain to grown people how to use a pit toilet, but so many folks seem baffled when confronted with a toilet that doesn’t flush. Really, people, the process is the same, whether the toilet flushes or not. In the name of public service, today I will lay down instructions for pit toilet use.

#1 Knock before you enter. When did knocking on a closed door fall out of favor? People seem to either reach out and try to open a closed door or simply stand in front of a closed door waiting for someone to exit. (Sometimes no one is behind the door.) Has peeking under a stall to check for occupancy taken the place of knocking? Since pit toilets are totally enclosed, peeking won’t work. If you want to know if someone’s in there, you’re going to have to knock.

#2 Lock the door behind you. If you don’t, one of those people who opens doors without knocking is probably going to walk in on you.

#3 If you fail to lock the door behind you and someone opens the door while you’re taking care of business, try not to fly off the toilet in mid urine stream. Shrieking is permissible, but remember, it’s your own dang fault. You should have locked the door.

#4 Sit on the toilet. That’s right, sit. Sit all the way down,with both cheeks on the seat. It’s no dirtier than a city toilet. If you need to protect yourself from germs, bring disinfectant in with you and spray down the seat before you sit.

#5 If you must make a seat cover from toilet paper before you sit, deposit said seat cover into the toilet before you leave. You may not want your butt to touch the surface of the toilet seat, but the person who uses the toilet after you does not want to touch toilet paper your butt’s been on.

#6 By sitting (not perching, not hovering), your excretory openings should be pointing down, so your waste materials will fall (thanks, gravity!) and not end up splashed all over the inside walls (known as risers in the pit toilet business) of the toilet. The person who cleans the toilet will be grateful for your help in keeping the risers as clean as possible.

#7 Men, don’t spray urine everywhere. I don’t understand why men get urine on the floor and on the outside front of toilets. (I know this is not only a problem when pit toilets are involved.) My best advice to men: Pay attention to your aim.

#8 Toilet paper goes into the toilet, not on the floor.

#9 Trash (feminine hygiene leftovers, beer cans, whatever) goes in a trash can. Do not leave trash on the floor. Do not throw trash into the toilet.

#10 If you get some bodily discharge (blood, urine, feces, mucus, whatever) on the toilet or the floor, WIPE IT UP completely. No one else wants to touch it.

#11 Close the toilet’s lid after you stand up. Closing the lid keeps the stink in and bugs out. If you can’t bear to touch the lid with your hand, use your foot. Whatever way you’ve got to do it, CLOSE THE LID before you leave.

#12 If you are in a place with a pit toilet, there may not be running water. If hand washing is important to you (and it should be!) carry hand sanitizer or a jug of water and soap so you can scrub up after your visit to the pit toilet.

There are many situations in life when do unto others… applies. Pit toilet use is definitely one of those situations. Do your best to leave the restroom in a condition that wouldn’t make you gag if you walked in.

Grumpy Lady Returns

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The lady who was mad because a) her Golden Age pass didn’t waive the parking fee and b) the $5 she paid for parking didn’t get her a trail guide returned to the parking lot a week and a day later. (Read the first part of the story here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/?s=trail+guides.) I recognized the expression of displeasure and the 80s-era glasses on her face immediately, but even though she snapped, I’m back! when I approached her car, I acted as if I’d never seen her before. I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of being memorable.

The comment card I’d giver her the week before was lying on her dashboard, so I guess she hadn’t been upset enough to dash off her thoughts and drop it in a mailbox right away. She’d acted as if not getting a trail guide was the most important event of her day, so I was surprised to see the comment card casually lying upon her otherwise pristine dash.

The first time I encountered the grumpy lady, a young woman had been with her. The young woman had spoken nary a word while the older woman complained. This time the grumpy lady had two passengers, both of whom remained silent.

After snapping I’m back, the grumpy woman thrust a $20 bill at me. I accepted it. I handed her the day pass, then proceeded to get her change.

A lot of people pay their parking fee with $1 bills. If I don’t give those $1 bills people who pay with $20 bills, my little plastic accordion file ends up bulging, and at the end of the day, I might have 50 or 100 dollar bills to count. If I’ve accumulated a lot of ones, I’ll sometimes give one person $15 change in ones, especially if that person’s pissed me off. Sometimes people make snide remarks when I hand over a bunch of singles, but I figure money’s money and if they don’t want a bunch of ones, why do they expect me to want them? I wouldn’t say it aloud, but my attitude about change is you get what I give you and quit complaining.

So when it came time to give the grumpy woman her change, I decided to get rid of some ones. I gave her ten singles (because I didn’t have fifteen) and a $5 bill, but she wasn’t happy about all the ones.

Don’t you have many $5 bills, she demanded.

Not too many, I said. People have been giving me twenties today. I’ve been having to make a lot of change.

It was the truth. The trend on Fridays is $20 bills. I guess people hit the ATM at the beginning of the weekend and the machine spits out twenties. It was early in the day, and I had ten singles and maybe $25 in fives. Someone was going to end up with the ones anyway. Why not this nag?

What do you do when you run out of change? she wanted to know.

First of all, it’s none of her business what I do when I run out of change. But saying none of your business would have seemed rude and sketchy.

Secondly, what I do when I run out of change depends on the situation. If my co-worker is in the parking lot when I run out, I can ask him to change a twenty, or I can ask him to handle things while I go to the van and get change from my money bag. However, on Fridays, once I’ve done my cash out, I don’t have any smaller bills in the van. Sometimes if I can’t make change, I’ll tell people to see me after they walk the trail, by which time I may have smaller bills. Sometimes if people have a couple of ones and a twenty and I can’t change the twenty, I’ll just take the ones. And on rare occasions when I’ve had no change, I’ve let drivers park for free. (What else can I do? I can’t shoot $5 bills out of my ass, but OH! how glorious life would be if I could.)

But all of that is a lot to explain to a grumpy woman who seemingly wanted to find fault with everything I did, so I just said, People have to dig a little deeper.

By then she had her day pass and her $15, and she drove off to park.

I ran right over to my co-worker and said, That was the woman… and filled him in. He’d overheard some of our conversation and said about the woman, What a sour person.

Five or ten minutes later, the grumpy woman marched up to where my co-worker and I were sitting while we waited for incoming cars. The woman was carrying a disposable plastic water bottle, and she demanded, Where’s the water spigot? (Not excuse me or could you tell me or please, but with the attitude and tone of voice of You will fulfill my need for water RIGHT NOW!)

My co-worker calmly explained there is no water in the parking lot because the drought has caused the well to run dry. He had to explain the situation to the woman at least twice before she stopped demanding he tell her where the water spigot was. Then she said she guessed she’d have to go to the campground next door to get water. So my co-worker explained there is no water at the campground next door or at my campground down the road. She kept insisting she’d gotten water from the campground next door. My co-worker said it must have been more than three years ago because the campground hadn’t had water for at least that long.

Finally, she marched off and my co-worker made the victory gesture of arm bent at the elbow, hand balled into a fist, arm dropping while whispering, Yes! Usually denying people water is not a cause for celebration, but this woman’s unpleasantness made us want to thwart her.

Quite some time later, my co-worker and I realized we hadn’t seen the woman or her passengers cross the street to the trail, nor had we seen them drive away.

Image of how to divine water from http://www.tfmetalsreport.com/blog/6704/rhabdomancy

Maybe she’s out divining water, my co-worker said. I got a good laugh from the picture that produced in my head.

Maybe her passengers beat her with sticks and now they’re burying her in the meadow, I offered.

In any case, I was glad she didn’t feel the need to talk to me again.

 

Trail Guides

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Last season, my co-worker and I handed out a trail guide to the driver of every car that parked in the parking lot. These were nice trail guides: trifold, printed on both sides in color on heavy, glossy paper. We had trail guides early this season too, until right after Memorial Day.

The company I work for doesn’t provide the trail guides; they’re provided by an association promoting giant sequoias. The association recently did some work on the trial, and my boss told me the plan is to mount informational plaques on wood in front of the featured trees. He doesn’t know if this plan will do away with the trail guides or when the informational plaques will appear. In the meantime, as I told my boss, visitors are sad every day when I tell them I have no trail guide to give them.

My co-worker and I were discussing the possible demise of the paper trail guide. I noted they must cost a pretty penny, so doing away with them would save someone money. Also, I speculated 95% of them (a number I pulled right out of my ass) end up in the landfill, so doing away with them would be an environmentally sound step.

However, my co-worker countered, people like getting the trail guide. Being handed the trail guide makes them feel as if they’re getting something for the $5 they pay to park. I couldn’t argue with him there because I knew he was right.

My co-worker left for the day, and I was in the parking lot alone.

A car pulled in, and I approached the driver’s side. Through the window, I saw a driver who looked like a retired junior high school teacher–very uptight. When I told her about the $5 parking fee, she wanted to use her Golden Age pass. I explained we accept no passes and offer no discounts in the parking lot. She was surly, so I explained further that the private company I work for has a concession with the Forest Service and is allowed to charge the $5 fee to maintain the restrooms and the parking lot.

She snapped, The Forest Service maintains all the restrooms!

(I love setting people straight when they speak with authority but obviously don’t know what they’re talking about.)

I stayed very calm and said in a friendly voice, No ma’am. The Forest Service does not maintain these restrooms. The private company I work for maintains the restrooms and buys the toilet paper.

She had no retort on the topic of restrooms, so she asked about the campground next door. I gave her the information, even told her she could use her Golden Age pass there to get 50% off the camping fee. She said she was going to look at the campground.

I said something like Ok, Great! but in the privacy of my brain, I was thinking, Good riddance.

It wasn’t good riddance for long; she was back in the parking lot a few minutes later. I guess she hadn’t like what she saw in the campground.

I took the woman’s $5 and handed her a day pass.

Don’t I get a trail guide? she demanded.

We’ve been out of trail guides for about six weeks, I told her calmly. I don’t have any to give.

Can’t you make photocopies? she demanded.

This question made me chuckle aloud. I don’t even have electricity at the campground where I’m the camp host. I don’t have any way to make photocopies, I told her.

She was quite exasperated now. Surely the company you work for has an office, she said. They could make photocopies there.

The company I work for doesn’t provide the trail guides, I told her. They’re provided by an association…

I realized the conversation was unworkable. She would have a counterargument or another question in response to anything I said. I decided to try a new tactic.

Would you like a comment card? I offered.

My new tactic for complainers I can’t seem to placate is to offer a comment card. If the complainer accepts the card, the heat’s off me. Not only does the card distract them, but they quit complaining to me because their complaint is now moving on to a higher power. If the complainer does not accept a comment card, we both knows/he is not adequately invested in the complaint. The complainer usually quits talking at that point, and I certainly quit listening.

Oh yes, the uptight woman said. She certainly did want a comment card. If I’m paying $5, I want a trail guide, she told me.

Just like my co-worker had said.

I got the comment card for her. She didn’t hand it back to me, so she must have mailed it in to the president of the company for which I work. She wasn’t the type to decide it was no big deal after all.

 

Sanctuary

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I decided it was just too hot to sleep in my van in Babylon. Even with the back windows open and my little fan blowing on me, the heat kept me from taking my rest. I didn’t want to spend another night off the mountain.

The complicating factor was that the post office where I pick up my mail is only open from 8am to noon. If I left my campground before 5am on my first day off in order to get to the laundromat shortly after it opened at 6am, then left Babylon an hour or so before dark, I missed the post office completely. If I left Babylon before dark and drove all the way back to my campground on my first day off, I was looking at a 30 mile round trip to retrieve my mail on my second day off.

What to do?

I decided I needed to find a place in the National Forest not too far from the post office, a place where I could pull in around dark, spend the night, and hang out until the post office opened and I could get my mail.

As I drove between my campground and the post office, I paid attention to Forest Service roads, turn outs, and pull-offs. There was a place where I sometimes saw camper trailers parked that looked promising.

I also asked my co-worker for his advice. He’s lived in the area for many years and knows a lot of cool spots.

I described the sort of place I was looking for, and after thinking on it, he described the very spot I’d been scoping out. To sweeten the deal, he told me there was a creek (not visible from the road) beyond where the camper trailers parked and even pools of water. He said he thought I’d really enjoy myself there.

The next day, I was talking to one of my campers, and he told me he and his friends had gone to the same area the day before. He said it was really nice there.

It seemed the Universe was telling me to get my ass to the creek.

On my day off, I went to Babylon, did my laundry, used the internet for several hours, bought groceries and ice and gasoline, and headed back up the mountain.

I got to my new spot just before dark and was pleased to find it empty. Once I parked, I threw open the van’s side doors to let the cool evening air rush in while I ate my cold pizza dinner. I was delighted to hear the sound of the creek burbling by just a few feet away. Not since I parked next to the Rio Hondo in New Mexico had I been lulled to sleep by the sound of rushing water.

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The burbling creek. I hadn’t slept next to the sound of rushing water since I left New Mexico.

I walked over to the creek and looked around a bit. In the last of the light, I could see boulders on the edge of the creek, large rocks within. While there weren’t exactly waterfalls, in many places the water tumbled over and off rocks. I was excited for the warmth of the next day, when I would want to get wet.

Boulders at the edge of the creek.

Boulders at the edge of the creek.

After the interior of the van had cooled a bit, I got inside, closed and locked the doors, and hung my curtain. The mountain air coming through the open back windows was just chilly enough for me to want to snuggle under my down comforter. I slept well.

Once I’d picked up my mail in the morning, I was in no hurry to get back to my campground, so I went back to the creek.

There are a couple of reasons I don’t like to stay at my campground on my days off.

The first reason is my boss. He has no qualms about coming into my campground when he knows it’s my day off, parking his truck on my campsite, and talking to me about work-related issues or whatever dumb shit is on his mind. I have little enough patience to listen to him when I’m getting paid for it. Having to listen to him on my day off is an insult. I figure I’m better off avoiding him if possible.

The second reason I want to steer clear of my campground when I’m not working is visitors show up and want to chitchat after I tell them it’s my day off. I don’t mind answering questions if I’m there anyway. I realize people with information are few and far between in the forest, so if there’s a question to be asked, folks are going to ask it of whomever they see. However, I don’t feel as if I should have to listen to complaints about the condition of the road after I’ve said I’m the camp host, but I’m on my day off right now. (True story.) Again, I’m better off staying away and avoiding the annoyance.

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These trees grow on the side of the creek.

Other than trash strewn on the ground and a couple of piles of human waste (all of which I cleaned up as my own little public service), the creek was a lovely place. The water rushed by and tumbled over rocks. There were no mosquitoes or other annoying bugs. The creek was surrounded by trees, so only dappled light came through, giving my pale skin plenty of shade.

There were pools of water too, not very deep, but if I had stretched out, I probably could have submerged my whole body. However, the water was cold (at least to my standards), and I didn’t want to get all wet. I did shimmy out of my skirt and sit on a flatish rock wearing underpants and a tank top. I shrieked when my butt slipped off the not-as-flat-a-I-thought rock and my nether regions splashed into the refrigerator-cold water.

View looking up while sitting in the creek.

View looking up while sitting in the creek.

I sat in the creek for a couple of hours, mostly keeping only my legs and feet in the water. When I realized some people were parked next to my van, I rapidly splashed over to where I’d left my skirt. Of course, I slipped and sunk to my waist. Thankfully, I sustained no injuries. After pulling my skirt on, I waited until the people walked past me (I’m not sure they saw me sitting on a rock, reading a book), then left the creek and drove away.

I spent another couple of hours at the creek after an early morning run to town and stop at the post office. This time I rolled my jeans up past my knees and stayed in the shallows. I IMG_6541found a very flat rock in the middle of the creek and sat there to read my mail while dangling my feet in the water. Soaking my feet cooled my whole body. Hearing and feeling the water rush by lifted my spirits.

That creek is a sanctuary, a place to spend the night, a place to cool down when I’m hot, a place to go when I need more solitude than my campground can provide.

I won’t mention it to a single tourist.

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The water tumbles over and off the rocks.

I took all the photos in this post.

Missing Campers

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Site #3 was reserved for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. When I went to bed on Friday night, the site was still empty. As I moved through the campground on Saturday morning, I saw a tent and a car on the site. The campers with the reservation had arrived.

After I saw the campers moving around, I walked over to check them in.

They were a young couple; I’d be surprised if they were out of their 20s. They were nice. They seemed normal, vaguely athletic.

In passing, I mentioned that they must have gotten in late the night before. The woman said they’d missed the turned into the campground, drove right passed it, then drove a long way on the main road before they’d realized they’d gone too far and turned around. Although it is very dark in the area, there is a decent-sized sign at the campground entrance. It seems like if they knew the campground was less than a mile from their last turn, they’d have been driving slowly and looking carefully for the campground sign. But maybe they didn’t know they were close. Few visitors to the area use paper maps, and few visitors know how many miles they’ll be traveling between one landmark and another. Maybe this young couple, like so many other visitors, was relying on their GPS system to get them where they wanted to be. People don’t realize GPS systems rarely work on this mountain.

I noticed their car was something of a beater. It wasn’t shiny. A large patch of paint had peeled off the hood. I noticed the car because most of the people who pay to camp on the mountain have newer, shiny cars.

I saw the couple again a few hours later at the parking lot. When the car pulled in, my co-worker made an unkind statement about it, maybe because it was particularly noisy. Those are my campers, I hissed. Be nice!

I took their parking fee and gave them my usual rundown of what they needed to know regarding the location of the trail and the restroom. As I was doing this, my co-worker noticed the hood of the car wasn’t closed all the way. He pushed down on it a couple of times. The couple didn’t seem surprised or upset to hear the hood wasn’t latched.

The young man was driving the car and ended up parking it at the front of the lot where my co-worker and I could see it. As they parked, my co-worker made a comment about the car coming here to die. Beaters are much more common in the parking lot than in the campground, so the car must have sounded really bad to get so much attention from my co-worker.

After the couple walked the trail, they had a lot of questions about other hikes they could do. My co-worker and I each pulled out a map and showed them routes of nearby hikes that are popular. Then they left.

Fast forward to Saturday afternoon when I returned from the trail: the tent was still up on site #3, but I saw no car and no people there when I checked-in the campers on site #2.

On Sunday morning when I checked the campground for late night arrivals, I noticed there was no car on site #3. Wow! I thought. Those people must have gotten up really early to hike.

When I got back from the parking lot on Sunday afternoon, there was still no car on site #3, but the tent was still there. The seemingly deserted campsite was getting a little weird to me. Of course, maybe the people had returned while I was working at the trail and had left again before I got back to the campground. But while that scenario was possible, it wasn’t the way my campers usually behave. Typically, no one’s gone on a hike before 7am. People that gung-ho about hiking probably go to a wilderness area or do dispersed camping in a remote location.

I went up to site #3 to see what condition it was in. The tent was there, but not a single item was on the picnic table. Nothing but the tent was on the ground either. I didn’t look in the tent—that seemed out of bounds—but I was getting more and more worried about the campers.

Late in the afternoon (but well before dark), the people from site #2 drove over to my campsite. They were tired and had decided to leave early, but wanted to give me their comment card before they hit the road.

I asked them if they’d seen their neighbors from site #3 during the day or even the night before. They said they hadn’t. They’d never even laid eyes on the people, they said. They laughed and said they’d joked the tent on site #3 was a setup so they’d think they had neighbors and keep quiet.

The man from site #2 asked me if I’d been walking near their campsite around eight o’clock the night before. I said I had not. The man said they thought they’d heard a footstep nearby the night before, but they’d definitely never heard the neighbors’ car. He concluded that maybe it was an animal they’d heard.

After the people from site #2 left, I got more worried about the people from site #3. I hadn’t seen them or their car for over 24 hours. I remembered the old clunker of a car they were driving.  I remember their lack of maps. I remembered the woman telling me how they drove past the campground and went a long way in the dark before they’d realized their mistake. They seemed ill prepared to deal with being lost or having their car break down.

I wasn’t quite worried enough to make the twenty-five mile round trip to where my boss was stationed. I figured the couple would wander into the campground that night, and I’d feel silly if I had prematurely raised an alarm. I kept the door of my van opened until dusk. I kept my ears open too, listening for the sound of an engine on the other side of the campground, but I heard nothing.

The next day was my day off. I got out of bed before 4:30 and dressed and prepared for my trip to Babylon. I needed to do laundry and wanted to finish before the heat of the day settled. It was still dark when I left, but I made a special point to drive up to site #3 and look for the car. No car, although the tent was still there. Now I was worried! I was 96% sure the couple hadn’t arrived after dark and left again before daylight.

I waited until 7am to call my boss. He knew exactly what people I was talking about. They’d contacted him the night before. Their car had broken down. They’d had it towed to Babylon and had been waiting for the repairs to be completed. They’d called my boss in the hopes that their belongings wouldn’t be discarded. My boss told them not a problem (which would be his catchphrase, if he were a character on a sitcom.)

By the time I got back to my campground on Tuesday, the tent was gone.

I’m glad those people weren’t dead.

Horse People (Continued)

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From inside the livestock trailer, I heard a man’s voice say Good morning, so I said Good morning in return.

The man’s voice called the dog. The dog ran to the gate of the trailer, then away from it. The man continued calling the dog in a low, calm voice. At the time, I thought the dog was just being playful, was enjoying being off leash, didn’t want to give up its freedom. But now I remember the dog cowering just outside the trailer’s open gate, ears flattened against its head. Like the girl, the dog was silent.

When the man had the dog, I walked around to the open gate of the trailer. The man was tying the dog to a rope attached to the trailer.

I’d barely identified myself as the camp host when the man said to me, Well, you sure don’t waste any time.

I guess he meant I hadn’t wasted any time in coming over to collect the camping fee. I thought it was a strange thing for him to say. People who stay in a campground typically know there is a fee to camp, and most people are happy to pay up and get the task out of the way.

In that instant when the man spoke to me, my whole plan changed. Maybe the look on the girl’s face had finally registered as fear. Maybe I’m particularly sensitive to dangerous men. But what came out of my mouth was, I’ll make you a deal. If you clean up after the horses, I won’t charge you the camping fee. I know y’all got in late last night.

I didn’t fear for my own personal safety. The man didn’t do or say anything I could point to as a threat. But I had a suspicion that if the man got pissed off, I wouldn’t be the one he’d take it out on.

I think he thanked me. Then he asked, If we want to stay another night, should we talk to you?

The last thing I wanted in my campground was this bad vibe man, his cowering dog, his silent girl, and his six shitting horses.

Well, I said, I’ve got people checking in on this site tomorrow, and this really isn’t a horse camp.

No, he agreed. This really isn’t a horse camp. I guess there’s no water either?

No, I sadly shook my head, no water.

We’ll just have some breakfast, he said. Then we’ll get out of your hair.

I continued about my business cleaning fire rings. I kept a watch on the family out of the corner of my eye.

A woman and two younger children emerged from the pile of blankets and sleeping bags on the ground. I couldn’t determine the gender of the youngest child, but the middle kid was a blond girl, probably seven or eight years old.

Two things struck me as strange.

First, after breakfast was cooked (on a high standing stove), the people did not sit down to enjoy their meal. Although there were three picnic tables in the area they were occupying, they stood in a loose circle while they consumed their food. I couldn’t tell what they were eating or if they used plates, but standing during breakfast is not normal camper behavior.

Second, for most of the morning, the man’s voice was the only one I heard. He didn’t raise it high enough for me to understand his words, but I could hear it drifting through the campground. I didn’t hear the women’s voice once, and at least an hour passed before I could hear the kids. Whether the woman and children were whispering or silent, I don’t know.

The man did another weird thing while I was cleaning the fire ring on site #1. He let a horse wander off from the rest of its herd. He didn’t let it go far, but I wondered why he was allowing it to move around freely. Was he challenging me, hoping I’d say something so he could argue with me or have a reason to be be mad?

Typically I would have commented on the beauty of the horse (a muscular, brown creature), but my instinct was not to chit chat with these people.

When I finished cleaning fire rings, I went back to my campsite to get ready for the rest of my day. I started hearing the children’s voices echo through the campground. The kids were not screaming at the tops of their lungs, but I could hear their happy and excited voices.

I was beginning to think I was imaging things and there wasn’t anything weird about these people when I heard the man raise his voice. I was pretty sure he was reprimanding one or more of the children, and I clearly heard him say…yelling out loud! He was reprimanding the children for their happy, exuberant voices! (And really, if a kid can’t yell in a campground at 9:30 in the morning, where can a kid yell?)

Then I heard the twack twack twack sound of something (a switch picked up from the ground? a horse-related tool?) slice through the air and hit something. When I looked up, the man was walking away, but the middle child was standing frozen, with her arms held stiffly at her sides. I didn’t hear any children’s voices after that.

Once again, I was rendered mute by a grown man hitting a little kid, but this time I’d only heard the abuse. What could I do? I know how abusers work.  Anything I said or did, the woman or the kids would pay for later. I didn’t even have an excuse to talk to the girl and offer her some small kindness.

Sometimes I feel so useless.

The day after the horse people left, I walked through the area they’d occupied and could still smell horse feces. I started poking around with the toe of my boot and found the man’s idea of cleaning up after his horses was to bury the feces. Asswipe! I ended up having to clean up the horse feces myself, and it was a more difficult task now that it was covered in duff. I will admit I had fantasies of breaking that man’s kneecaps.