It was my day off, but I was hanging around my campsite, tending to chores such as airing out my bedding, taking an inventory of my pantry, and organizing my food supply. I’d taken a shower in my new privacy tent, using my pump-to-pressurize pesticide(less) sprayer. I was wearing my pink house dress, sitting at my picnic table, writing and feeling good.
Only one site in the campground was rented, but those folks had driven off to do something hours before. I knew they were coming back because they’d told me so before they left.
I heard a vehicle pull in on the other side of the campground. I heard a human voice say some words I didn’t understand. I heard footsteps move in the general direction of the rented campsite. I assumed I was hearing the people who were staying on the rented campsite, and I wondered vaguely why they hadn’t driven directly to their spot. I figured they’d just needed to grab something fast and it was quicker to park on the other side of the campground and cut across the empty sites on foot to get to their site.
When I looked up, I could barely make out past the trees and the restroom building the vehicle parked across the way. It was a big white pickup truck. I remembered the campers who’d left for the day had a small silver pickup with a camper shell on the back. As I was contemplating the vehicle that seemed to not belong in the campground, I heard things being moved around on the rented site. Day off or not, I decided I needed to investigate.
I walked over to where I could see the campsite. There was a woman on it. She was not the woman staying on the campsite. This woman had long white hair pulled back in a ponytail. She was wearing unfashionably long shorts that were too tight around her middle.
I said, People are coming back to that campsite.
She said, Oh! (I’m sure she was surprised to see me standing there in my pink dress with my brow furrowed.) I was just picking up trash. I thought this stuff was abandoned.
I’ve been known to do some trash picking myself. In fact, I’d say trash picking is one of my favorite sports. I know what abandoned items look like. They look dirty, like dust has blown on them, like rainwater has washed mud onto them and now the mud has dried into a thin coating of dirt with bits of vegetation embedded in it. Stuff that’s been abandoned tends to be bleached by the sun, and perhaps some pieces are broken. Abandoned things probably have old cobwebs on them and there may be rodent droppings on them too. Abandoned items are strewn about, and one sees them in the same place over a period of days or weeks. The things on that campsite did not look abandoned because they weren’t. The owners hadn’t even been gone a full work day.
It’s not abandoned, I said. The people are coming back, I repeated.
I’ve just been picking up trash, she said again. I’ve been getting all kinds of stuff.
She moved back toward the truck, where the fluffy black and white dog waited silently in the open bed.
I’m the camp host here, I told her. If you come back here, I don’t want you taking my stuff.
Oh no. I won’t, she said. I’m just picking up trash, she maintained.
As she approached the truck, she called out, Is this a free campground?
No ma’am, I said. It costs $21 a night to camp here.
Oh dear! or Oh Lord! she said as she got in the truck.
Maybe she was just wanting to pick up gear that had been abandoned. I didn’t want to discourage (or think the worst of) a fellow trash picker, but I certainly don’t want anyone taking my gear when I’m gone, and I can’t have someone coming into the campground and running off with things that belong to my campers.
Hours later, after the woman was long gone, I realized what I should have said to her.
Ma’am, I’m the host in this campground. If anything is abandoned here, the maintenance men and I will handle it. Please don’t take anything out of this campground.
Now I have my speech ready if she comes back.
I took the photo in this post.