In case you have read any books on the subject, or perhaps
dallied in actual training yourself, let me rid you now of the notion that
this is an easy thing. Positive reinforcement, use treats, blah,
blah, blah. Right. This all assumes that the dog has average
puppy dog intelligence.
My dog is smarter that I am. Oh, he can sit, stay,
lay down. Sometimes he even deigns to heel while we walk.
However, Trucks has figured out the deal—he does good, he gets a treat.
You may have heard something about the canine sense of smell. As
soon as I get within a five foot perimeter of this creature, he can tell
if I’ve got the goods. And, as you may have guessed—no treat, no
trick. In fact, Trucks goes so far as to sit for a moment, then lay
down, before I even give a command, if he smells his fake Oreos.
But, if I don’t have them, forget it. He just bows at me and
proceeds to do his little doggy dance, wanting to play and jump.
People tell me he will outgrow this when he gets out of the puppy phase...
in two to three years. I can only sigh and be grateful for my
patience and his sweetness. Who could resist that sweet face?
Now that you have read this far, I’m sure you will be
unsurprised at the following experience. One Tuesday evening in
February, I was invited over for a Buffalo-rib supper—another one of those
fish I never knew about—at a couple of friends’ house. Around 10 or
so, one of them—we’ll call him Pablo—decided we should all go camping.
Now, I don’t know about you, but camping in the middle of winter in
20-degree weather was not something I would have ever rationally
considered doing. But, these outdoorsy people were constantly
surprising me with new ideas I’d never considered. I was
appreciating it more and more. So, I sat on the couch while Pablo
and “Eugene” gathered every sleeping bag between them (four), a couple of
comforters, a roll of toilet paper, three pillows, and a flashlight.
I was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt so I just assumed I would have plenty
of warmth between those and the sleeping accoutrements. Oh, was I
It took thirty minutes and two dirt roads to get where we
were going. Three people in a two person truck. One girl.
Yeah. Guess who didn’t get a real seat. I got a lap and thirty
minutes of my head at an extremely unnatural angle. This camping
location, courtesy of moi, was on the bayou at an abandoned lodge, deck
overlooking the water. The deck was just under a bluff, with a
fire-pit a foot away, so we decided to set up there. Let me just
emphasize that the deck was over the water. With open air
underneath. In February.
We pulled up, walked up, and began the breaking and
entering minus the breaking—abandoned, the house hadn’t had a locked door
in years. After a cursory exploration that revealed several hidden
cellars and escape hatches I’d never found until Pablo got a hold of the
place, I was saddened to hear of the termite damage he could see.
There went the purchasing plan. Anyway...
We first decided to build a fire. And by we, I mean
they. My only fire building had been done in a fireplace, usually
with four or five attempts before anything remotely like flame appeared
for more than two minutes.
I stood around until Eugene realized I could be holding the
flashlight for them. For you see, these boys were not content with
the sticks and small pieces of wood they were finding. Oh, those
were fine for getting it going, but apparently what we really needed were
those huge logs laying several feet down the slope. I could only
shake my head, assuming between the two of them they would be unable to
bring up even a small one. I was wrong. Let’s leave it at
A nice fire was quickly roaring, with a magnificent log
draped across the pit. Two feet across, it would burn all night.
We laid the blankets and sleeping bags close to the fire, and all climbed
in. There was no choice but sharing the sleeping bags or getting
hypothermia; we chose to keep our toes. Even with the fire and two
layers of sleeping bags, I could not feel my feet. The air from
beneath was freezing me out—ears, nose, everything but my core. Well
and so, I just accepted that a light doze would be my sleep for the night.
We lay, looking at the stars, talking, and for a moment in time, I thought
I was in the most beautiful place on God’s Earth. Until 20 minutes
later when, awakened from our repose by a crashing sound, we jumped three
feet high when we saw the flaming log rolling slowly toward us.
Pablo, nearest to it, caught it and adjusted its position to one of more
stability. Disaster averted. Later, Eugene brought our
attention to the skunk sniffing at the edge of the deck. We made a
deal with it—we left it alone, it left us alone.
came early, but it brought with it heat and a beautiful sunrise.
Since there were classes to attend later, we forced ourselves to
eventually get up and return to civilization.
Concluding Thoughts and a List
I’m not sure if it was the bugs, my newly discovered
arachnophobia, or the time I got lost in a state park that did it, but I
changed my major to writing. I love new adventures, and I’d do any
of the above again in a heartbeat, but that does not mean my career should
be comprised of such things. Luckily, I’ve met some people who are
also interested in a homesteading lifestyle, and I am slowly being
schooled in the tricks of the trade. Here are some things I have
learned so far:
It’s ok to use bugspray. It does not make you less
of a man. It may prevent mental irritation.
When learning to shoot, actually learn to shoot the
small stuff before you even attempt the big boy toys. In fact, lift
weights and practice balancing for several weeks beforehand.
A good dog is worth his weight in gold (and body
heat) even when going though the puppy thing.
And, he’s smarter than you. Accept it.
You need a lighter. Even the wild men on the
mountain use a lighter to start fires now.
When camping in winter, do it on solid ground, not
by water, and with two sleeping bags per person, both good to at least 20
You need a knife. A pocketknife if nothing else.
Even in a crowd of outdoorsman, there will eventually come a time when
everyone will have forgotten theirs.
If you borrow a knife, check it for blood and fur.
Girls can do anything guys can do. But, never
underestimate their usefulness.
Always carry a bottle of water.
Toilets can be overrated.