Sleeping Like A Log


The first time I drove out West by myself, I was determined to do some “real” camping. No tents, no pre-cooked food, and only the bare minimum of comforts. I was going to be the young cowboy in James Taylor’s song Sweet Baby James. My Volkswagen and my tape collection were to be my only companions.

So I hustled through the eastern states, staying with family members, friends, and the occasional low-cost motel. I passed through Denver and got myself up to the high country. I rolled into a Forest Service campground early one evening and it was game-on.

The campfire was priority Number One. I scrounged through the woods at the edge of the campsite for kindling and firewood. My heart jumped when I saw the perfect piece of wood, so dry and ready for my soon-to-be-massive fire that it was bleached white. I picked it up and shrieked like a schoolgirl when I realized it was an animal bone.

This was the real deal. You don’t find bones at a state park campground in Rhode Island unless they’re human. I was in the big time now.

I made a big fire and cooked a raw steak, holding it over the fire on the end of a pair of metal tent poles. And then I rolled out my sleeping bag on the ground. No pad and no tent, I was doing this the old-school way. I lay inside the bag on my back and stared up at the starlight, which was softer than a lullaby.

The next morning I was awakened by a noise in the distance. It sounded like an animal vigorously digging through a pile of leaves. It was probably burying the camper in the next spot over, saving him for a late-day snack. I lay perfectly still on my side and stared in the other direction. Not knowing what I was up against, I didn’t make a move. I was as still as a fallen tree-branch.

The noise got louder. Whatever it was, it was getting closer. I heard the sound of paws furiously at work.

Something landed on my head and jumped off running. A second later another animal dropped onto my skull, bounded off, and kept pursuing the first animal. I watched as the two squirrels ran toward the woods. The little guy in front was not going to relinquish his nut. I cheered him on.

I’d always wondered where that phrase “sleeping like a log” came from. Now I knew. And I also knew that from then on I’d be using the tent.

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9 thoughts on “Sleeping Like A Log”

  1. I’m not sure of you’re a Tom Waits fan Tom but the next time you’re going out west, listen to his ‘Going out West’ song. It just makes the sense.

  2. Tent, nothing! Motels are good enough. Save the roughing it for survivalists.

  3. Sounds like my large-spider-on-bedroom-pillow story. It didn’t end well . . . funny story Thomas!

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