How to Keep Ghosts at Bay… Blogging a Book

We tend to think of ‘wilderness’ as wild, remote lands. In truth, you can find a bit of wilderness in your back yard or a community park if you are willing to sit quietly and let nature come to life. This is another tale from the book I am blogging: “It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of me.”

I started sleeping outside in elementary school and would continue to for years. Here I am on a summer afternoon reading a Western. If you look closely, you can see US Army stamped on the back of the cot. It was of World War II vintage. My mother thought it was humorous to emphasize my big feet in her photo.

Between the third and fourth grade, I discovered a new way to enjoy nature. I moved my bedroom outdoors. It was partially to avoid sharing a room with Marshall and partially to escape my father’s house-shaking snores. But the real reason was that I loved being outdoors. I would move out as soon as school was over and stay until school started, or longer, if weather permitted.

At first, I slept on the ground in a cheap cotton sleeping bag. The ground was hard, the nights cool and the mosquitoes persistent, but these were minor drawbacks. I was free. If I had to pee, I’d climb out of the sleeping bag and find the nearest bush. If I woke up thirsty, a convenient garden hose was nearby. I would go to sleep watching the stars and listening to a giant bullfrog that lived in the ditch in front of our house. I would wake to cool morning air and chirping robins. Life was good. And then it got better. My grandparents bought me a real bed— a wood framed, steel spring army cot complete with mattress. I think that they may have been disturbed that their grandson lived outside and slept on the ground.

My paradise was marred by one thing, the Graveyard. It was always there on the edge of my sight.  White tombstones glared at me. As hard as I would pretend, the cemetery and its frightful inhabitants would not go away. So, I developed an elaborate set of defenses. The simplest was to sleep facing the opposite direction or to hide under the covers, ostrich like. A more sophisticated approach was to locate the bed where I couldn’t see the Graveyard.  Our well-seasoned cars worked in a pinch, but they weren’t quite large enough. Bits and pieces of the Graveyard would creep around their sides, peek over their tops and slink under their bottoms. A trellis built by my father, Pop, was much better. Its luxurious growth of honeysuckle created the perfect Graveyard screen. I set up a permanent residence behind it.

But even the trellis wasn’t enough to calm my imagination. I decided to hire protection. It came in the form of various family pets. Their job was to chase the ghosts away. Payment was made by allowing them to sleep on my bed. Apparently, the scheme worked. At least no ghosts attacked me during the years I slept outside. 

One of the family pets I hired for protection from ghosts. It’s hard to imagine that a ghost would find a fat cocker spaniel named Happy that liked to roll over on her back and get her tummy rubbed much of a threat.

The downside was I didn’t have much room. Two dogs, three cats, and me on a one-person army cot constituted a menagerie, or a zoo, if you counted the fleas. It was difficult to move. At first, I was very careful not to disturb my sleeping companions. I became a circus contortionist, frozen in place with body parts pointed in every direction. If this meant a restless night, so be it. It was a small price to pay for keeping the ghosts at bay.

Gradually, my attitude changed. I grew larger, the bed space shrank, and animals started sleeping on top of me. Meanwhile, the ghosts, who tend to hassle little people more than they do big people, became less of a threat. Therefore, I needed less protection. Neither of these factors led to the final banning of the animal kingdom, however. It was the shameless shenanigans of Demon the Cat and Pat the Greyhound that I will write about next Monday.


Blog-a-Book Wednesday… “The Bush Devil Ate Sam”: I’m off to UC Berkeley where a world-wide student revolution is about to take place. I find myself a lone voice in student government advocating for the right of students to participate in Civil Right’s demonstrations.

Travel Blog Friday… I’ve introduced you to the star fish and sea anemones that reside in the tide pools at Harris Beach State Park. Next I will feature the other denizens that Peggy and I found.

18 thoughts on “How to Keep Ghosts at Bay… Blogging a Book

  1. Oh I think you’ll find that fat Cockers lying on their backs having their tummies rubbed are a terrifying prospect for ghosts… they don’t want to be seen howling with laughter in public 😀

  2. Your mention of Happy the Cocker Spaniel brought to mind Happy the Beagle, who lived across from my parents. Happy was good-natured, but a little dim. He had a tendency to see the fire hydrant in my folks’ yard as prey. He’d go on point, and then stay that way — frozen from nose to tail — until someone came by, picked him up, and took him home.

    • Now that’s weird. Normally the first thing a male dog wants to do is lift his leg. Did I ever tell you about the doggy park connected to an RV campground in we stayed at in Wichita Falls that featured a number of fire hydrants stuck in the ground.

    • And they complain when we do. I had a basset hound once that would growl if I woke him up. 🙂 One of my ancestors was a companion to Daniel Boone… Grin. And most of my direct line ancestors were pioneers. –Curt

    • The guards were awesome. 🙂 As for the bed, our house was also a WW II relic. It was a prefab barracks that had never been used which we modified. It still stands today in Diamond. 🙂 Thanks, Karen. –Curt

  3. You and the menagerie piled on the outside bed – it all made me smile. Beautifully described Curt.
    (I see you’ve had to succumb to the evil block editor. I will *never*! Well I hope never. I really really hope they keep supporting the Classic editor)

  4. Curt, terrific writing and you recreate the escapades of your nights sleeping outside with a lovely sense of humour. Yeah, with an army of pets to protect you the ghosts had no chance! I’m glad your grandparents bought you a proper bed for your outdoors room and how thoughtful to build a trellis of honeysuckle against the graveyard!

    • Thanks, Annika. The ghosts were held at bay, that’s for sure. And I had the hound to do it. Not sure that Pop built the trellis with me in mind, but I’m sure he got a chuckle out of how fast I adopted it. 🙂 –Curt

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