A Tale of Two Campfires part three

by Keith Fisher

I hope you have been following this story. I wrote it years ago and thought that with a little editing, you'd enjoy it. Remember last time? I had just tripped and hit my head after finding a trail where a modern road should have been.

I woke up to the sound of an ATV going up the road. The driver couldn't see me because I had landed in a clump of oak brush. Judging by my wristwatch I had only been unconscious about ninety minutes. I felt a nasty scrape on my head, probably from the fall.

The road that I remembered was right in front of me. I watched the taillights on the ATV disappear up the road and it turned quiet again.

With all I’d been through, I doubted my senses, but I heard the sound of an engine running. Using a log to push against, I carefully climbed up and turned around. My trailer stood about a hundred yards up the hill, right where it should've been. It seemed as though the whole hillside was illuminated from the lighted lanterns, and stoked campfire.

I shook my head and walked slowly up the hill. I later learned, my family was preparing to search for me. When I hadn't returned to fix dinner, my cousins roasted hot dogs. They assumed I’d be along soon to ask for help bringing a deer back to camp. I shook my head and thought of the deer in the other camp. Then I began to try and make sense of my experience.

At the demands of my camp mates, I sat down in my folding chair, in front of the fire, to tell my story.

"Fog, what fog?" My uncle asked when I began. "It was sunny all afternoon on my ridge."

Because of his surprise, I began to wonder if it all had really been just a dream. Or maybe someone slipped some strange mushrooms in my food. While I told my story, Jim, one of my cousins, began to turn pale as if he had seen a ghost. "That explains the guy I saw today."

As it turned out, Jim had been in camp earlier. He was sitting in his trailer when he saw a man dressed in a red plaid jacket, and old wool cap, come into camp. The man seemed a little shook up, and walked a circle around camp, stopping frequently, to stroke his beard and shake his head. Jim’s apprehension increased because the man carried a rifle.

Jim watched for awhile, hoping the man would just leave. He went over to a truck and looked it over, as well as a couple of the camp trailers. He leaned over to examine a propane lantern, and moved on to the Dutch oven tables and camp kitchen.

He reached for the Mair lid lifter, and grasped the handle. He seemed to catch on to the purpose of the tool because Jim saw him grin when he raised and lowered the lid. Next, he found a charcoal briquette, and after sniffing and crushing it in his hands he seemed to recognize what it was. When he noticed the Campchef two burner stove, he started toward it, but tripped over an ice chest. He looked down and opened the cooler. Jim said he had an astonished look on his face.

During the whole experience, Jim noticed the man hadn't stolen anything and didn’t seem to be threatening, so Jim stepped out of his trailer and approached the man. "Can I help you?"

The man looked up from his examination of the stove. "I'm sorry for intruding but you have some very strange things—I’ve been looking them over. My name is Robert." He extended his hand.

"No Problem. I’m Jim." They shook hands. Jim showed him the workings of the propane stove, as well as the butane lighter. Robert seemed so fascinated with the lighter, that Jim offered to let him have it.

"No, thank you, I just need some directions," he said. "I seem to be a little lost . . . well, maybe I'm very lost."

After drawing a map and helping Robert see where the road was, Jim said goodbye to a strange and bewildered man.

I spent the rest of my evening in silence. Nobody around our campfire seemed willing to say what he was thinking. We just watched the fire and slowly drifted off to our beds to sleep.

The next morning, I looked around our campsite, squinting and tilting my head. After looking from several angles, I determined our campsite was in the same place as the one I’d visited. I found the spot where I reckoned a cooler pit had been dug many years ago. I used my shovel and dug another one. I fashioned a lid from the welcome mat in my trailer and covered it with fallen leaves.

I didn't go out hunting that day, there didn’t seem to be a point. I remained in camp and using coals from the campfire instead of charcoal, I tried to make a stew. I even found a forked stick.

After a little practice, I baked a pretty good bread roll, using nothing but campfire coals.

I must confess, however, I did use my Dutch oven table. It keeps the pots off the ground and I don't have to keep bending over.

I don't speculate whether the man who came to my camp was the man Jake worried about. I hope Robert found his way back home. I wish I could have repaid a debt by feeding him from my Dutch ovens.

I don’t let strangers pass by anymore without offering to feed them. I’m not stupid, though, I take a good look at them first.

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