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?Roughing it' on the Fourth of July - Ed Brock

It was as the wife and I were strolling through the campground that we saw a second forest of satellite dishes.

"Now, why bother going camping at all?" I remarked.

But in the end it was only jealousy. In 10 years when we decide to take the little Brocks out for a journey into the wilderness we will surely do so with all the trappings of modern civilization.

For now, however, we don't even have an air mattress. My ribcage and the sides of my hips are still aching from that deprivation.

This was our first time camping together and it had been many years since either one of us had ventured into the wide, wild world on separate occasions. Thus, we picked an "easy" campground, Lanier Islands Resort.

And on Fourth of July weekend, no less, so we were far from isolated.

Granted, there was still an element of "roughing it." There was a comfort station very near our site, but the showers were hideous albeit not lacking in hot water.

And it rained. And we were almost always dirty.

It's a strange thing to do, camping. Of course, it's better when you do camping things, like fishing, hiking, hunting game with a pocketknife.

Actually, the only wildlife we saw was one nervous deer, some squirrels and our temporary neighbor's pug, a friendly little beast named Sonny. Not very wild but once or twice he attempted to lick us to death.

We did engage in some camping traditions. Namely, sitting around drinking beer. And then there were the campfires.

I had the opportunity to build two campfires over the weekend, and both were fine examples of why I would be dead if civilization ended tomorrow.

Having been a Boy Scout, I am vaguely familiar with the theories of taming the element of flame. In the first attempt I laid down some kindling in a fairly open arrangement around the little fire-starting stick I bought at Wal-Mart, but I neglected to build the little tee-pee shape with the larger logs.

As a result, much effort had to be expended to keep those logs burning, and the fun of the fire was overwhelmed by the sweaty, ash-ridden work of keeping it going.

The next night we did a little better. I carefully arranged my logs over an even larger stack of dried twigs and limbs and for a while it seemed to be catching.

But again, once the flammable flame stick thingy burned up the fire died, so we cheated and doused the wood with lighter fluid. Even then we constantly had to stir the thing and feed it strips of cardboard from an empty case for a 12-pack of Heineken while fanning it with pieces of the fast-disappearing Heineken case.

I did manage to roast a couple of marshmallows, though. I only lost one to the fire and just burned my tongue a little bit.

For the most part, however, our limited supplies of camping gizmos worked, the insects were relatively benign and it only rained a little bit. We broke camp Sunday and returned home with a feeling of having not only survived but of actually having a good time.

And then we watched TV at home like normal people.

Ed Brock covers public safety and municipalities for the News Daily. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 254 or via e-mail at ebrock@news-daily.com.