Written by Tamara O’Brien Ralston as a birthday gift on Jan. 15, 1998 for her father Ron O’Brien
"Prepare to unload, " she intones in her best school teacher voice. "We have arrived."
Children spill out of windows and doors, racing to the creek. I long to join them, but feel I should help set up camp. I drag a weatherworn picnic table over. My mother deems it unacceptable and has me drag it away for some less discerning relative to claim. I help unload the car, but put things in the wrong place. I attempt to pound tent stakes, break the top off a stake, and impale my foot on it. I pump air mattresses with some success thinking it good for my thighs.
"When it comes to camping, I'm as worthless as tits on a bull," I say to no one in particular.
My sister, who is unofficially in charge of our campsite, responds, "I think it would be very helpful If bulls had tits - that way they could feed the calves instead of just strutting around the farm."
A good point.
"Ok, I am as worthless as a titless cow," I confess.
"True," she admits.
"I am going to go buy bottled water and red wine." I say, still hoping to be of some use. The thought of sucking water from a sprinkler head does not appeal to me, and I suspect red wine will help wash down the globs of congealed noodles I spotted in my mother's food box.
"Very Californian of you, but a good idea," my sister concedes.
I head up a dusty path to town, a distance of about three blocks. Next to the Pastime Tavern sits Kramer's Market. Signs in its windows promote cold pop and home-cured meats. The door creeks open on rusty hinges, and I enter, stepping through a time warp. It is cool inside, and deathly quiet. I notice a distinctive oily smell. Glassy dark eyes stare out from the heads of elk, cougar, bear, and birds that festoon the walls above. I wonder how many of these creatures ended up as home-cured meat.
"Looking for something?" A voice rises up from behind a metal rack of potato chips.
"Where is your wine section?" I ask
"Over by the meat counter, but it ain't exactly a section," A young woman's head emerges from behind the chips, smiling. I briefly imagine her mounted on the wall beside the moose, but suspect her body is still attached somewhere behind the Frito's shelf.
Where I live, the Seven-Eleven store has a better wine selection than Kramer's. I purchase the few bottles of red wine that boast a cork and a case of bottled water. The potato chip girl instructs me to leave the money on the counter. No grocery cart stands ready to transport my heavy load. I struggle back to the park, arms straining, sweat dripping.
"Am I having fun yet?"
(to be continued)