Humbled and Homesick
Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College
Humbled and Homesick
Diana Z. Blaney-Silva
"Dad, please let me go camping for the weekend with Delene. We'll be with her parents, and I promise we'll be good!" Living a sheltered life for seventeen years, I was elated when dad finally gave in.
"Okay, but you need to watch out for. . . ." I listened halfheartedly to another loving lecture about life and its perils, already knowing everything. Besides, I had experience in the out-of-doors from our many summer vacations spent in the mountains. So what could possibly go wrong?
Crunched up like an accordion in the backseat window of an old Studebaker, my stomach churned with butterflies as I waved good-bye to mom and dad. No one to boss me around for three days, and no little sisters to bug me. What a great weekend I was going to have! We arrived at Big Trees Campground just as the sun was setting behind the mountains, and my first reaction was, "Oh no, Boy Scouts! Hundreds of them." Pushing that thought to the back of my mind, I quickly helped set up camp. Delene and I wanted to be alone, so we set up our own little campsite, away from her parents. While we snuggled in our sleeping bags next to the campfire under the twinkling stars, we roasted marshmallows for s'mores and giggled about boys until we fell asleep.
Stretching and yawning, we woke up to a beautiful morning--until I saw all those scouts again. How depressing. It wouldn't have been so bad if they had been older and tall, dark, and handsome. Feeling hungry, we walked over to the smell of bacon and eggs frying on the campfire. Soaking up the aroma of the mountain air, I stood there deep in thought watching Delene's dad chopping wood wondering what exciting adventure was in store for us. Suddenly, I was seeing stars. Something had flown through the air and hit me hard across my neck and shoulders. I was stunned. People ran over to ask if I was okay. I just stood there for a few moments in a daze until my senses came back to me. When I saw the ax lying there on the ground, I was shocked. Delene's dad lost the ax while chopping wood, and I realized I was almost decapitated. The blade missed my neck by inches. I felt sick to my stomach. Everything happened so fast, but I was still alive. Relieved, I sat down on the bench until the stars in my head disappeared.
Breakfast was over so we grabbed our fishing gear and started our two-hour trek to the lake. Halfway there, Delene and I were bored and decided to go out on our own. "Just follow the river and when you come to. . . " were our directions back to camp; but to my eventual dismay, I quit listening, picked up my tackle box and fishing pole, and started walking down the path to the rushing river. The roar of the water hitting the giant rocks was deafening; but we were on our way, on our own, and loving it. Delene's life was even more sheltered than mine, so being on our own was big stuff to us.
Throughout the day, we climbed boulders, fished the river, took off our shoes, got our feet wet, and collected pieces of driftwood to take home. One, a masterpiece created by Mother Nature, had buggy eyes like Eddie Cantor, a huge nose like Jimmy Durante, and a cigar-filled mouth like Groucho Marx. What a treasure! We moved from one fishing spot to another and were separated by the big boulders that lined the river. I jumped barefoot off one of the boulders onto the sand, right on top of a coiled snake. I jumped up and down, screaming, but my voice was lost in the thundering sound of the river. I hopped to the rocks and ran until I found Delene who was just sitting there fishing. I yelled, "Couldn't you hear me scream? I just stepped on a snake--with my bare feet!" Her eyes got real big, and then we laughed.
Eventually, we left that spot; and within a few minutes, the river vanished under a giant mass of boulders. We could hear the river but couldn't see it. We climbed to the top (because that was the only way to go) and found a calm, dark-blue pond. We were amazed at how still the water was with the roar of the river all around us. We were hot and longed to swim but had no swim suits; and in those days, swimming in the buff would be scandalous. The boulders encircling us were piled another twenty feet high, so we took a vow of secrecy, removed our blouses, and swam. It was cool, refreshing, and devilish. I remember feeling I had just done the most risqué thing in my young life--swimming in my bra and shorts. We ate lunch, continued to fish, and hiked until late afternoon when we reached a fork in the river.
I could hear a cracking sound in the distance and didn't know if it was a gun shot or someone chopping wood. The steep walls of granite led us up high, away from the river; and I got a sick feeling in my stomach for the second time that day. Were we lost? What did Delene's dad tell her? "You can't remember!" I yelled in shock. We had two options: continue on in fear and risk being attacked by someone with a gun or an ax or walk all the way back up stream, over the mass of boulders, and back up the trail to the side of the mountain where we began our journey hours earlier. Not knowing what to do, we kept walking, getting further away from the river, where we found ourselves looking straight down the side of a mountain covered with thorny manzanita bushes.
We were getting too far from the river. In a panic, we threw everything down the side of the mountain and climbed on top of the thorny manzanita bushes, and rode down the mountainside one bush at a time (much like riding backwards on a horse). Between riding the manzanita bushes and sliding down the giant boulders all day, I had worn holes in the bottom of my new shorts and slacks. Mom was going to kill me--if I ever made it home. Unaware that the fork in the river was our campsite, we decided to quickly walk back up the river. The sun dropped behind the mountain by the time we reached our initial starting point, and we were running out of time. Exhausted and scared, I knew we needed to go left on the path; but Delene thought we should go right. Frustration flamed our first quarrel. In desperation, we hiked straight up the side of the mountain and sat down--not knowing what to do, where to go, or how to survive a night in the woods. It was getting dark.
Minutes (which seemed liked hours) passed, and we could hear voices in the distance. People were yelling. As they got closer, we could make out their yells: "DIANA! DELENE!"
We were saved! We frantically screamed, "Here we are! Here we are!" We picked up our stuff and ran down the dark mountain to our rescuers when I stopped suddenly. "OH NO! It's the Boy Scouts!" I cried under my breath. We were rescued by the little Boy Scouts I grumbled about the night before. I was so ashamed of myself, but very thankful. They were happy to see us and probably got a badge for finding two lost, goofy girls in the woods. They carried our stuff and wanted to walk behind us so we wouldn't get lost again--but I had holes in the seat of my pants. They insisted, and I insisted back. I was too embarrassed to tell them. After much discussion, I finally confessed, and they agreed to let me walk behind them. I took up the rear behind everyone and wondered what could possibly happen next?
We arrived by flashlight back at camp twenty minutes later, and all we could think about was crawling into our sleeping bags to hide. Sheepishly thanking the very brave young scouts, we poured our tired, achy bodies into our sleeping bags. "Ouch! Oh! Ouch!" I screamed, scrambled out, and shouted, "Delene, look! Giant Red Ants!" They were eating the crumbs from our bedtime snacks the night before. In disbelief, we grabbed the sleeping bags, shook out every last red ant, wearily found a spot closer to her parents, and finally fell into a deep sleep.
Breaking camp at dawn and getting back to my secure little world in Tracy was all I could think about Sunday morning. This smug, happy-to-be-free camper who almost got her head chopped off, who swam semi-nude, who jumped barefoot on a snake, who never caught a fish, who got lost in the mountains, who was punctured by thorns and scraped by boulders, who was eaten by red ants, and who was rescued by courageous Boy Scouts was humbled and homesick. At last, we were homeward bound. What could possibly happen next? BANG! THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP. . ."Oh no! Not a flat tire?"