by Clint Tustison
“This is camping?” I thought to myself, lying in my tent, shivering, trying to get dry from the downpour happening just outside.
I had been a member of the local community Boy Scout troop for a few months when I finally had the chance to go on a real campout. I was ecstatic. This is what Boy Scouts lived for, right? Heading to the outdoors, building a fire, sleeping in a tent. I couldn’t wait.
My idea of what a campout should be was quickly dashed that evening as we arrived to the campsite just as sheets of rain began to fall. I was getting soaked, I was struggling to put up my tent, and I remember being afraid in my 12-year-old mind that I would soon start to cry.
Luckily for me, my older brother was in the troop and did what all older brothers should do. He helped me. He taught me how to put up the tent quickly so I could store my gear. He gave me some of his clothes so I could get dry.
The next day, he even organized a game of throw-the-dried-cow-patties-at-each-other in a nearby pasture so all the young scouts could get their minds off the previous night’s misery.
Most important, though, he made me laugh. He showed me that camping could be fun, even in ugly circumstances.
What started out as a terrible experience has since grown into a deep-seated passion, all thanks to an older brother who knew that a little mirth could fundamentally change how I viewed the outdoors and completely alter my perception of what it means to love nature.
Since that day 20 years ago, I have camped hundreds of times in all sorts of weather. Now that I have my own children, I’ve introduced them to the outdoors and the excitement it holds. It has not all been easy, though. They have had their own tough times camping in less-than-ideal situations.
They have learned that camping in the snow can be cold and wet if they don’t have the right gear. They know it can be hard to build a fire in the middle of a downpour. And they have realized, first-hand, that a tent not staked down in the middle of a wind storm can take on a mind of its own.
Those tough situations, however, have created lasting memories of fun times being outdoors with family. Those campouts and hiking adventures have also given my sons a sense of confidence to handle difficult circumstances, not only in the outdoors, but also in life.
As they face hard times in school, peer pressure from friends, or hard decisions, they can recall other tough situations. Outdoor experiences have taught them the value of being prepared and the importance of having a little humor when dealing with whatever life throws at them.
For that, the outdoors will always have a special place in my family’s heart.
Clint Tustison is an avid outdoorsman who loves hammock camping with his five boys. His writing has appeared in USA Triathlon, Guide Magazine, and Texas Runner and Triathlete. Connect with him at Clint Tustison