Monday, February 18, 2019

Dad and Mom: Vintage Tiny Camp Trailer Owners

About Wednesday Mom would start getting ready for the weekend, first checking Dad and her clothes and bedding in the little Terry trailer they owned. Dad would be at work and we kids at school, but Mom would be getting ready for the our weekend camping up in the Sierra Nevadas, usually up around Taylorsville on Indian Creek.

She loved camping, I think because it took Dad away from the TV and all those things that got him so riled up. We kids also were getting older, and she had to know that soon we'd be not around so much--high school sports, friends and jobs. For my brother and me, though, during the ages of 10-16--those were the golden camping years for our family, with my older sister coming along every now and then.

By Friday afternoon, everything was ready to go. My brother and I had our satchels of camping clothes packed (I don't remember Mom packing them), Mom had the food packed except for the ice box, and we were ready for Dad to get off work. Sometimes he'd get home, bringing the ice, and off we'd head up Highway 70. Sometimes, though, Dad would be tired, and then we'd get to bed early and be on the road by 4 or 5 A.M. the next morning.

Now that I own a tiny trailer, there are a couple things I realize, based on my tiny trailer camping experience, that I've never really thought of before.

One is that Mom and Dad owned a tiny camping trailer, although it seemed pretty big at the time. I don't know what year, but the trailer was a Terry, and it didn't have a toilet or shower. Looking at photos of old Terrys, it was probably the 13-foot model, having that squarish look and the Terry logo on the front. I remember it having a stove and ice box refrigerator. My mom and dad slept in the trailer while my brother and I slept in an army surplus pup tent outside. That was mostly for ease and for our independence, though, because there was a small bed area up front if the table was knocked down.

The photos on this post are from the Little Vintage Trailer blog, where a 1964 13-foot box (16-foot total length) Terry travel trailer was premiered. Boy, looking at the photos sure brings back memories of some of the best and most sweetly simple times with my parents. Fishing, "rafting" the stream with our air mattresses, eating Mom's macaroni or potato salad, listening to the DJ Wolfman Jack on an old portable Zenith radio while gathered around the evening campfire, falling asleep to distant songs of coyotes--it was as if time held its breath and allowed us to think of nothing more than enjoying the day and the moment.

Mom mentions one camping episode in my memoir, A Day Out with Mom. She said to me, "One time your sister had a boy come along to camp with us. We were down at the creek, and your sister let that boy eat the whole bowl of potato salad. I said to him, 'How could you go and eat the whole thing?' and he said, 'Your potato salad is really good!' I was so mad at him! It was our food to eat, after all, but it was kind of funny.'"

I realize now how happy Mom was to get away. Her eyesight was bad, and she'd never driven a car. She only went somewhere when Dad went somewhere. She probably liked getting out of the house, especially since she had her tiny house to stay in while she and her family spent some quality time together among the pines.

Another thing I now realize--or have a name for--is that my family went boondocking! Dad would pull down an old logging road off federal land onto Indian Creek and camp there, next to the stream, a meadow across the way. It was our favorite spot. Others also camped there, but we were usually alone unless friends came and also camped with us. No piped water, no electricity, no toilets--just primitive or "off the grid" or boondocking. We kids saw it as "that's how you camp," not realizing that more established opportunities existed.

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All these years later I now realize how much my dad just liked to get away--heading into the Sierra Nevadas, pulling down some old, rough logging road no longer used, setting up camp, wrapping a tarp around three closely-spaced trees to provide privacy for the thunder pot. We were self-sufficient, and I realize now that those times camping were among the most relaxed and happy experiences I have of my dad and mom. Maybe that's the gift my mom and dad gave me with their tiny trailer and their off-the-grid boondocking--that nature sets up in the simplest, most efficient way, and that's something we should pay attention to and not try to complicate too much. It's something we should appreciate and enjoy.

That's what I remember most about Mom and Dad, that they just wanted some simple enjoyment, surrounded by family--and even with Wolfman Jack howling in the night, with a turn of a switch, there was silence, and in the distance, way up the mountain, a family of coyotes singing down the summer moon.

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