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  • Writer's pictureMarie Smysor Watson


Welcome, 2022! One week in and you're already performing better than your predecessor - keep up the good work! As for my readers, the holiday break was relaxing (or as relaxing as it gets in this house) but not terribly productive. I did finish up a big project, but otherwise managed to do little more than finish a few books and keep my boys fed and the house reasonably clean. At any rate, I'm happy to share this following piece with you - it's another reject from The Sun magazine's Reader's Write section. I thought it was pretty good (but writers aren't the modest type) - for whatever reason, it didn't quite make the cut. Anyway, since it's been sent to the slush pile, now I'm free to share it with you. I hope you appreciate the idea of camping, and the warmer weather that usually accompanies it - our -20 degree Friday here in these parts could use a bit of warming up (even just on the page), doncha think?

With restrictions lifted from the pandemic and vaccines months in our rearview, my father and I took off towards the end of May 2021. It was a somewhat planned trip from our respective rural Illinois hometowns. Our destination - Acadia National Park in Maine. Dad and I are outdoor enthusiasts, hampered only by money (me), age (him, but only slightly), and time (both). We clocked almost 2,800 miles in a Chevy Volt. Everywhere along the roads, blooming in ditches and empty parking lots was trash. While I don’t love it and never litter myself, it’s always been one of Dad’s most virulent pet peeves. What the fuck is wrong with people? he said on numerous occasions, while either hiking or driving.

It wasn’t as bad in the National Parks we visited - Cuyahoga Valley, Indiana Dunes, Seneca Falls, Acadia. Either visitors there are more afraid of Federal authorities or they aren’t the trashy type. In contrast, some of the worst offenders are at State Parks. It doesn’t matter what State, and if there’s a body of water inside park boundaries, the banks are always cluttered with human leavings - beer cans, styrofoam nightcrawler containers, candy bar wrappers. What the fuck is wrong with people? I think it too.

Last stop: Ohio. Two nights away from home, this particular State Park was on a Big Lake. Being the night before Memorial Day, we were lucky to find a campsite. Although there had been so much rain that part of the site still had standing water, we were able to find enough dry-ish ground to put up our tents. Our neighbors to the south were tent camping also. They gave us firewood and offered some beer. Our neighbors to the north were in a pop-up camper, partially obscured by trees. There were no signs of life at their campsite. Dad and I settled in with a fire and the last of the hotdogs. We went to bed early, drifting off to the ambient sounds of campground noise, and farther off, the Big Lake.

I was awakened a few hours later by 80’s rock and the smell of lighter fluid. The pop-up tenants had returned, drunk and rowdy. Nonsensical voices - a man and a woman - filtered over, amplified by the quiet. I stewed in my sleeping bag for a long time. It’s bad camping etiquette to be loud during posted quiet hours, although it does happen frequently. Dad, however, continued to snore from his tent, blissfully unaware. What the fuck is wrong with people? It took me almost an hour to drift back to sleep, due to the likes of Eddie Money telling me to pack my bags because he had tickets to Paradise. Don't be a tease, Eddie, I think sourly.

In the morning, after three cups of instant coffee, I ventured near the pop-up. Its inhabitants were quiet, although the fire still sent off wisps of chemical smoke. Coming around the tree, I finally noticed the decal on their camper, an explanation for last night’s behavior. White Trash from Hell, it read.

Definitely NOT the WTFH... Hi, Dad! (but peep them behind him)...

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