Summer time camping: Wild and woolly

Farm Forum

Camping, camping, camping! It must be the thing to do in the summer time. I think it’s become America’s number one recreational activity. The highways and byways are crowded with campers heading out of town for the thrill of living wild and free in the wide open spaces.

Our own kids and grandkids have joined in the camping fervor and enjoy this activity so much so that if we want to plan a Green family activity, well, we have to plan it around everyone’s summer camping schedule.

Gramps and I, on the other hand, haven’t caught the present day camping fever and probably never will. Gramps says he has camped out enough in the wide open spaces to last him a lifetime. For, he farmed in that time period when tractors lacked cabs and the only AC was the South Dakota breezes. He further relates that he’s been bitten by every known bug in existence. ‘Nuff said.

But for me, summer time camping held a certain kind of allurement during my childhood days. It proved to be wild and woolly and darn right fun. And the story goes like this.

The perfect camp ground

My childhood farm home was blessed with many unique places for kids to investigate and explore. One such place was the sheep pasture located right beside our house yard. Dad liked to keep a close eye on his ewes in the summer time and so this pasture residing right beside our farm home was the perfect spot.

Besides the perfect location, the sheep pasture also included other perfect elements like big old trees for kids to climb into, over, under, and through. As far as we kids were concerned, it was the perfect place to go camping especially when the cousins came for a visit. And that’s exactly what we did every summer.

1950s style camping

Our style of camping was a far cry from today’s definition of camping. For instance, our camping trailer was a little red Radio Flyer wagon. It was big enough to haul all our necessary equipment for camping under the shade trees, and yet light enough for young 8 and 9 year old girls to pull with ease even when the wagon was loaded with our little sisters. Babysitting little sisters could be a real drag at times, but if we wanted to go camping; we had to take them along.

As I recall, Cousins Paulie Kay and Carol Jean would help me load up the wagon with the necessary camping items along with a quart jar full of Kool-Aid and some cookies for a mid-afternoon snack. After loading the camper (wagon) we would head for the trees making sure to close and securely lock the house yard gate behind us. Locking the gate was one of the rules we had to follow if we wanted to go camping. For if the yard gate wasn’t secure, the old ewes would wander into the house yard and invade mom’s garden. Woe to the kid who forgot to lock the gate. Uffdah!

Camping supplies

Today’s camper enthusiasts seem to load their campers with everything but the kitchen sink. All we girls took along were our precious pots and pans in order to make our delectable mud pie cakes and cookies. This cookery equipment included several large empty coffee cans, a battered pie tin, and a discarded cookie sheet from the junk pile.

We didn’t need to take spoons because they were easily accessible. You see, the sheep pasture trees plus our South Dakota winds always supplied us with lots of nice-sized tree branches scattered conveniently about the campsite. We could pick and choose whatever size branch we wanted, made from whatever type of wood we preferred: American Elm, Chinese Elm, Cottonwood, Green Ash, Apple Tree, etc.

Not only did the trees supply us with spoons, they also supplied us with brooms. The big old cottonwood tree’s branches made the most perfect brooms and were quickly put into use to clean up our campsite. That was one of the drawbacks to camping in the sheep pasture; the old ewes liked it too and made their smelly deposits every night. Yuck! Let’s move on to more pleasant activities.

Cooking for the crew

We girls would set up our camp complete with fire pit, tables and chairs. There were always enough old dead trees or stumps around to help us make our camp. After setting up the camp, we would begin cooking and if I do say so myself — we made some pretty awesome cakes and cookies.

Making the tent

Those were some wonderful times camping in the sheep pasture, but there was one time disaster struck with a vengeance. It was the time we wanted to be real campers and sleep outside.

After spending a long afternoon in the sheep pasture, one of us came up with the idea that we should try making a tent and sleep outside. Since the cousins were kind of afraid of the old sheep buck who traveled with the ewes, they wanted to make the tent in the house yard rather than the sheep pasture.

For some wild reason, Mother gave her permission to use one of her old quilts to make a tent and we girls loaded up our camping trailer and headed into the house yard. We were so excited about this new change of events that we forgot to do one very important thing. Yup! You guessed it. We forgot to shut and securely lock the yard gate. Gloom and doom was looming.

Making the tent was a snap. We just threw the big old quilt over the clothes line and secured the top with clothes pins and the sides with some rocks. Then my mom even allowed us to use some old pillows and blankets for bedding. We three big girls were all set to sleep under the stars. We could hardly believe it! Oh, the excitement. We felt like real campers.

The wild

and woolly part

Time sure passes slowly when you’re waiting for it. And so it was in this case. It finally got dark enough for us to go to bed. We said our prayers and then told a few ghost stories. It was so much fun and we were so excited and then it happened. We all fell asleep.

Sometime during the night, Paulie Kay and I woke up to a noise. We listened for a while and then decided it was just the wind, but the noise continued. So-o-o, she peeked out of the tent and started screaming, “Run for your lives!” Which we did– straight into mom and dad’s bedroom. Things got a bit wild for a time until the facts became clear.

The facts included: an unlocked yard gate; old ewes entering the yard; a scary hungry sheep buck loudly nibbling on the grass beside our tent and scaring the heebie-jeebies out of three little girls who ran for cover. Oh, my! What a memory!


Camping was definitely wild and woolly and a whole lot of fun in the old days. Maybe it still is? I wonder about the woolly part? Hm?

Jane Green and her husband, Jim, live near Clark. Contact Jane for some public speaking, to order one of her books, or to register your comments. Email her at