Shit, man, I had never been camping before. I lived in Arizona during my “formative years”, if that even is a thing. By formative years, I mean from, like, six to sixteen, with a brief sojourn in Minnesota…but another time for that. So my father, I suppose, fashioned himself as a rustic man. By rustic I mean that he believed himself to be a wilderness-type fuck. Not like today, where everybody has their flint fire-starters and their panda bear safe nylon acrylic portable fire-starters. NO! More like a misguided dude who grew up with the machismo built upon the knowledge of muscle cars who thought that the love and knowledge of muscle cars would transfer over to anything deemed “manly” on the planet we inhabit. This, of course, would include camping.
During these years in Arizona…Wait…Let me back up.
We lived in south Phoenix. A suburb called Ahwatukee. It wasn’t even a suburb at the time. It was just an area around South Mountain. Yeah, that’s how fucking early I lived in Arizona…the forefathers of the city of Phoenix looked south and called that mountain “South Mountain”. Fucking brilliant.
So, anyways, my parents split in 1980, which, in those days, meant that my dad had us boys every other weekend. His favorite hobby was shooting guns, so that’s what we generally did. My dad loved it. My brothers loved it. I loved it. I didn’t love it just because they loved it…I loved it. I like guns. I’m not stupid enough to shoot myself in the mouth or have a gun go off and kill my dog or even stupid enough to pull one out every time I see a person of color. I leave that last tidbit for those who are trained to have guns. Fucking earth…fucking humans.
Anyway, south of South Mountain was the Pima Indian reservation. I say “Indian” because that is how I knew them at the time. I would say “Pima Native American” reservation, but that would be to assume that they wish themselves to be called “Native Americans”. How could they be native to America if they were here before America existed? That’s fucking pompous, at best. I know a popular term nowadays is “First Nation Peoples”, but what first nation is that? The indigenous peoples of this patch of earth were not of one nation. They were different nations, many of which did not even know that the other existed. Do you think the Sioux knew of the Arapahos? And if they did, I apologize…my white skinned ancestors weren’t brought here as slaves until the 1600s, so I don’t exactly know the demographics of pre-white-folk “America”. Oh, wait…that’s another topic for another time. White Irish slaves…you’ll be hearing about that later. Bank on it. Point being, I really don’t know who knew who on this earth at that time. I would bet sound money, though, that the Sioux didn’t know about the Chumash tribe of what is now known as Malibu. And if they did, I’m sure the
Sioux would be pissed about the Chumash people’s tax bracket. The point being…how fucking “one nation” is that? Why would I address them as a whole? They are proud peoples of different patches of land, just like the French, Swedish, or Spanish. We don’t call those people, “Old, Known-to-White-People Nation Peoples”. So I guess I’ll just say the Pima people.
Anyway, the Pima people, at that time, held a wide open desert. Just dirt roads and a few never-to-be-remembered automobiles of days gone by rusting on the side of the roads. The only road maintenance ever done was to make sure there was a three foot ditch on each side of the dirt road to allow the annual monsoon rains to flow down without washing out the roads. This usually happens in August in Arizona. The roads typically “washed-out” anyway. Where the fuck am I going with this? Oh, yeah…camping.
So, my dad had this great idea to take us camping. To be honest, and to totally thwart my previous paragraphs, I’m not even sure it was on Pima land. What I do know is that, on the way to our campsite, we travelled to the center of the Pima reservation and asked the Pima peoples for permission to shoot guns on their land. In hindsight, I really respect my dad for doing that. For all of his “Born in 1943 inherent racism”, he respected the people native to whatever land he was on. I remember the chief of the Pima peoples shaking my father’s hand and them laughing together. We ended up shooting a shitload of bullets at one of the many left-for-dead vehicles that had rotted and rusted under the Arizona sun on the side of one of those dirt roads.
After we had spent enough of my dad’s money through artillery, we drove to a spot way out in the desert. We built a fire. We shot guns at nothing in the twilight. We usually only shot this many bullets when we were rattlesnake hunting (that is another story, as well). As the fire died down, late in the Arizona night, my father said, “Time to go to bed, boys”. I remember looking around for a tent. No, no…you silly kid. My dad laid a blanket out in the bed of his truck for us three boys to “camp” on. This was my first introduction to camping.
My dad slept in the cab of his pickup truck. Gun in hand.