Every time we get rain in June I think about a 3 day camping trip some of my buddies and I went on back in June of 1985. We were a bunch of kids who loaded in a boat, traveled the backwaters of a bayou close to Bridge City Texas, picked out a camping spot, and spent 3 days in the woods. The only day we did not get rained on was the last day, the day we went home.
There were five of us – Allen, David, Jim, Kevin and Kevin. Between the 5 of us, we had 2 – 2 man tents. Which meant that one tents was going to be rather packed.
The three day camping trip is one of those times that you look back and wish you had kept a journal. Or at the very least brought a camera and taken some pics. I am not sure what day did we left on or what day did we got back. I think the trip was in June 1985, but can not prove it. School was out, and it was summer time, so the trip was sometime in June, July or August.
My gear included – some cans of food, sleeping bag, Montgomery Ward Western Field Model 550AL 12 gauge pump shotgun and some birdshot ammunition. Sometime around the camping trip I bought one of those hollow handled survival knives. I do not remember if I bought my survival knife before or after the camping trip. It has been over 25 years since my buddies and I went on the camping trip. Fading memories is just one of those things that happens.
Everyone knew we were in for a wet weekend. I had a small green backpack with a couple of cans of food, and my sleeping bag that was inside a plastic trash bag. The camping trip was supposed to be a true “roughing it” experience. We brought as little gear as possible – each person brought some kind of sleeping bag, a few cans of food, shotgun or 22 rifle, change of clothes, knife, flashlight, canteen with water purification tablets and that was about it.
I had that backpack for over a decade after the camping trip. In 2000 my wife decided to burn a lot of my stuff when we separated and divorced. The backpack was one of the many things she burned. Have you ever looked back and wished you still had something? That is how I feel about that little green pack. It exist only in my memory. That is what happens when you marry someone that is angry and vindictive, they burn your stuff when yall split up.
All five of us loaded in a small aluminum boat with a small outboard motor. The boat was launched at the intersection of HWY 87 and spooky bayou. There is no boat launch on the bayou. We picked the boat up off the trailer and launched it into the water by hand. The motor was something like a 9 horse Evinrude.
Traveling the bayou was like going back in time thousands of years. There was no sign of modern civilization, no power lines, no sounds, no highways,,, no nothing. Nothing but the sound of wind in the trees.
The place we decided to camp at was at the end of a cut off the main bayou that ended in a lagoon. The cut made a dead end into a lagoon that was maybe 75 feet across? Like I said, its been over 25 years since my buddies and I made this trip, so my memory is a little vague.
We pulled the boat into the lagoon, turned to the left and pulled the boat up on the bank.
Once the boat was secured we setup camp.
Once camp was setup we decided to start looking for food. One of the goals of the camping trip was to see if we could find our own food. We said we were going to find our own food, but nobody brought any fishing gear?
What I have never understood, why didn’t I bring fishing gear? We were in a great location to catch some catfish, but nobody brought hooks or line. Maybe someone did bring hooks and line, but we did not use them?
One of the reasons for the trip was to practice our food gathering and wilderness survival skills. Its still ironic that we did not do any fishing on a trip where we were supposed to practice our food gathering survival skills.
There were 5 of us, so we divided into 2 teams. Team A – 2 people, Team B – 3 people. We then headed out in different directions to find food.
Jim and I were on team A.
David, the other Kevin and Allen were on team B.
Jim and I set out through the woods where we shortly came across a field with cattle in it. We were not interested in the cows, but we were interested in the cow birds. From a distance of about 50 yards either Jim or I fired a shot from our shotguns in an attempt to take down a cow bird. Were too far away and the bird shot had no effect on the cow birds. All that happened was that the herd ran off, except for one rather large bull. It was one of those “oh crap” moments. The bull was looking straight at us. After a pause of a couple of seconds the bull started walking straight towards Jim and I.
I think it me that suggested Jim and I find some cover from the bull.
The bull was not running towards us, he was just walking at a steady pace. I think the bull was conserving his kick ass energy. So that when he got to his destination, he would not be tired. In other words, the bull wanted to kick someones ass, and that someone was Jim and I.
Jim and I retreated into a dense thicket where we hoped the bulls size would be a disadvantage. The bull walked into the thicket and stared Jim down. There was probably no more then 8 – 10 feet between the 130 pound Jim and the 1,000 pound pissed off bull.
What did Jim do? He aimed into the ground just in front of the bull and pulled the trigger on his shogun. the blast threw dirt onto the bull. What did the bull do? He did not even flinch. The blast must have had some kind of effect, because the bull slowly backed out and returned to the rest of the herd.
On the way back to the camp Jim told me he shot the dirt in front of the bull in hopes to scare it a little bit.
When both scout parties returned to camp, Jim and I told the others about our experience with the cow birds and the bull. The other Kevin did not believe us for some reason. Ok, the scout parties were reformed so Jim and I could take Kevin out to see the pissed off bull.
The New Scout Parties:
Party A – Jim, Kevin and Kevin
Party B – David and Allen
We made our way back to where we had seen the cattle, the cow birds and the pissed off bull.
If I remember right, (keep in mind its been around 27 years since this happened, so my memory has faded a little bit) the conversation went something like this:
Kevin – yall just shot at the cow birds and the bull chased yall?
Jim and I – Yep.
What did Kevin Do? He let loose a round aimed over the cattle. the cattle were in no danger, as the shot was aimed upwards, the bird shot was so small it would not hurt the cows, and we were probably something like 75 yards away. At that distance, the birdshot would have been like throwing sand.
Once again the herd ran off, and once again the pissed off bull started walking towards us. This time the bull was walking faster, and looked a lot more pissed off.
Maybe it was our primal sense for self-preservation that kicked in, but we all agreed that we needed to get out of there and quick. There was no way we could have outran the bull, so we climbed the first tree we came across. We were lucky enough to find a good sized oak tree with limbs low enough that we could grab onto. Up the tree all three of us went.
The bull arrived at the tree just a few minutes after we reached safety. Instead of just standing there and snorting a few times like he did last time, the bull pawed at the ground and snorted for what seemed like forever. The bull acted like it was past pissed off, it was in a bull-hulk rage.
The only thing that separated us from certain death was opposing thumbs. If the raging bull-hulk would have been able to climb that tree and kick all three of our asses, I am pretty sure he would have. But as it was, the bull was stuck on the ground, and we were in the tree.
After what seemed like a long time, the bull finally gave up, or got tired, but he turned around and went back to the herd.
I think we all climbed the tree with our shotguns. We talked about shooting the bull in self defense, but came to the conclusion that birdshot would have pissed the bull off even more. We did not want to get in trouble for shooting that bull, so we left that issue well enough alone.
We climbed down the tree and returned to camp where we told David and Allen about the raging bull-hulk.
As the sun faded into the distance, the campfire supplied a dim light that we could barely see with. The wood was so wet that it barely burned. Three of us slept in one of the 2 man tents, the other two guys slept in the other 2 man tent. The three of us were like sardines.
The second day consisted of rounding up firewood and trying to keep our gear dry between the spurts of pouring rain. With nowhere to go to get out of the rain, we stood under the canopy of trees to get some kind of protection. With wave after wave of rain, it was impossible to stay dry.
Allen told all of about Patty Feet, and asked us to make sure our boots were draining. If you wore waterproof boots in wet conditions for days on end, the boots fill up with water. This is why jungle boots have drain holes. So the water can drain out and not keep the feet submerged in water.
The evening of the second day is when things got interesting. Part of the camping trip was to try and live off the land. To help encourage us to find food, we decided not to bring enough food for all three days. On the evening of the second day we late our last meal, which was something like a can of beans. We were planning on going home on the third day, so we were going to be hungry for only part of a day.
After the group ate dinner, Allen and I were on dish detail. We rounded up the dishes then headed to the lagoon where the boat was parked. As Allen and I were washing the dishes, we noticed something moving in washed out spot under the opposing bank. Allen handed me his Ruger 10/22, I took aim and fired a single shot. What ever it was rolled on its side and started kicking. Allen and I loaded into the boat, paddled to the opposite bank and retrieved our prize. the animal we shot turned out to be a good sized nutria rat.
As Allen and I were field dressing and skinning the nutria rat, we agreed to tell everyone else that we had killed a rabbit. The nutria rat had very little fat on it. After the head, tail and feet were removed, it looked just like a rabbit, but maybe with a little more muscle mass then a rabbit.
Upon returning to camp we got some sticks and roasted the nutria rat over our camp fire.
Due to all of the rain the wood we found was wet. the fire never reached a roaring camp fire size, it was more like a small fire from wet wood.
For some reason Jim did not want to eat any of the the nutria rat. Instead of eating with everyone else, Jim ate some cornmeal mix he brought to fry whatever we killed. We did not have a pot large enough to fry the nutria rat, nor did we have grease to fry the animal. Jim ate so much of that cornmeal mix he became sick within the hour and started throwing up. He should have rat nutria rat with the rest of us.
With our bellies full, I believe everyone was able to get a good nights sleep.
The third day we loaded up and went home. After not being able to eat a full meals for going on 3 days we were all hungry. What I craved the most was milk.
The trip was one of those childhood adventures that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The memories have faded a little bit, but that is just one of those things that comes with age.
Over the past 25+ years I have gone on several more 2 and 3 day camping trips. None of them ever compared to that trip in June of 1985.
Copyright Kevin Felts 2012.
This article may not be republished without the written permission of Kevin Felts.