I’m sure most of you have seen the Chevy Chase movie about their family vacations.
We were talking about rodeo trips the other night and I recalled our “vacation” with the kids in the mid seventies. Our nephew, Tom, was in the National High School Rode Finals in Helena, Montana. That is a long way northwest of here. He was a calf-roping finalist. This is before he became heavy. A lot of you won’t remember this skinny young kid.
Anyway, we went with Shirley’s sister and her husband Lynn. I’ve told you about him before. We’ve been lost a lot together over the years. And we took our kids. Our two and their two. And to make it a family deal, we took another of Shirley’s sisters, Donna.
Now doesn’t this sound like fun?
Did I mention we did this in a pickup? A one seated pickup. Not like the two seaters they make now. A one seater with a camper on back. Most of the time we crammed four or five in the cab and locked the rest in the camper.
Shirley and Leone hadn’t traveled much. They didn’t realize that there would be restaurants and stores between here and Helena. I guess they had watched too many westerns. And they evidently thought the trek would take months. They packed a quarter of beef into the icebox. Remember, this was a camper. A camper on a pickup box. Not something with a generator and a fridge. This was a damn camper.
And Donna had to shower every time we passed a town or a tourist stop with a shower. Every. Time. She is really a clean person.
By the time we got to Helena the meat had thawed and the blood had leaked out of the icebox and into the carpet. And it was about a hundred and fourteen above. Have you ever smelled meat that has gone bad because you had no freezer? I mean you can dump Ajax on that rug and it isn’t going to get rid of that smell. The kids locked in the camper hated it. They eventually became vegetarians.
Tom didn’t have any luck at the rodeo. But that was fine. It was a family vacation. And we could visit Yellowstone on the way home.
The catch was Lynn was working. And had to be back to work on Monday morning. Have you ever seen Yellowstone at night? With four crying, tired kids? That was forced to travel and try to sleep in a cramped camper that smelled like the bone pile behind the trees at the ranch?
They would just get to sleep and Lynn would see a scenic overlook or a historic site along the road. He would slam on the brakes and make everyone get out and look at the beautiful waterfall. Which you couldn’t see because it was two in the morning.
The kids would be crying. I would be crying. Leone and Shirley would be mad. We would get everyone our and they would still be rubbing the tears and the sleep from their eyes and Lynn would start hollering.
“Get in the pickup! Hurry up! Get in the camper! I have to be to work in the morning!”
And in we would go. Until the next scenic stop and he would hit the brakes. The process would start all over.
I still have nightmares. And every word in this story is true. I cross my heart.
Dean Meyer is a former legislator and ranches in southwest North Dakota. He has been a columnist around the state for years.