Dave, Hubbard’s resident renaissance man (See Episode 5), usually stays pretty much to himself, except for Tuesday evenings when folks gather in his garage to discuss politics, business, religion, or UFO’s. Last weekend was an exception and a surprise.
On Friday afternoon Dave showed up at the Lake Shady campground and reserved two camping sites. Russ, the campground manager, couldn’t believe his eyes when Dave walked through the door. “I didn’t know you were a camper,” said Russ. “Just this weekend.” said Dave. “I’ve got some buddies coming around and I want to take good care of them.” As Friday afternoon progressed, Russ noticed Dave pull in with two personal watercraft on a dual trailer. Next he returned with a 16 foot fishing boat, full of inner tubes, water skis, towropes, coolers, tents, and everything else a camper would be expected to have.
Russ watched as the ageing Dave struggled with the trailer hitches, lights, safety chains, and other paraphernalia. He pitched three tents, using a taut line hitch to secure the corners of each tent in case of high winds. He tied the knots quickly, never pausing for a second. Russ was impressed with his efficiency. During the process Dave paused once to stretch the kinks out of his back and winced once or twice when a bee crawled up his shirtsleeve and stung him on the elbow. Around 5:00 pm a fifteen-passenger van entered the campground, full of kids from the Hubbard orphanage. The kids were of both genders and appeared to be between the ages of 13 and 17. The bus stopped, the kids got out with blankets and pillows, and the driver sped away. It was quite a sight, Dave with 12 teenagers!
Dave explained which tent was the girls’ tent and which one was for the boys. “And I don’t want any finagling going on once it gets dark.” he said. “And the small tent is mine,” said Dave. “I don’t want you in there, period. Now let’s get over to the beach, it’s getting late and we have to get those personal watercraft off the water an hour before sunset.” The next hour and a half he instructed the older kids on the proper use of the speedy but potentially dangerous personal watercraft. In anticipation for this weekend everyone 16 years old and older had taken the DNR exam and had received their operator’s permit. The younger ones rode on the back with Dave. “Don’t jump boat wakes and no hotdoggin”, said Dave.
By 7 pm they were back at the campsite and Dave was cooking the burgers and brats. Generous helpings of potato salad, chips, and baked beans were available, although Dave pointed out the hazards of eating too many baked beans when sharing a tent with others. As it got dark they sat around a roaring campfire, talking about stuff that was important to them; the new school year, people they liked and didn’t like, and their plans for the future. Some were talkers and others were not. Dave particularly observed the non-talkers, trying to figure them out. The youngest boy that Dave had nicknamed “bugger”, never said a word.
Saturday was spent fishing, boating, water skiing, tubing, swimming, and anything that can be done with a boat and personal watercraft. Dave had to pull out the personal watercraft and fill them up at the gas station, a mere $58.00. As he filled up the tanks Dave could be seen muttering to himself, “Doggone it, I hate funding those terrorists. Why can’t we get this energy independence thing taken care of?” Saturday afternoon went well. Dave was mainly concerned about safety. He didn’t want to return any of those kids to the orphanage in worse shape than when they came. By the end of the day everyone was pretty tired, even “Bugger”, who had started to talk a bit more and interact with the others. The campfire was great, the crickets were loud and the stars were out in full force. Dave showed them how to find the North Star.
Sunday morning Dave fixed pancakes for the kids, but it was almost time to go. They silently helped him break camp and rig the equipment for transport back to Dave’s place, but Dave would spend most of the afternoon hauling the stuff out and putting it away in his garage. About 10 a.m. they took a brief hike through the woods, their boots snapping sticks along the trail. They heard the occasional scamper of varmints along the way, along with the songs of the birds. It was peaceful.
At eleven the mini-van showed up, along with its uninspired driver. The doors opened and the kids piled in, except for “Bugger”. Dave looked around and spotted him behind the van, out of sight from the others. As he walked to the back of the vehicle, Bugger came up to him with tears in his eyes and hugged Dave. As Dave put his arms around Bugger, the child said in a tearful voice, “I wish you were my Dad.” Dave cried too.